Even when the problem is “misbehavior,” it is more effective to focus on solutions than on punishment. Consider the following scenarios and the long-term results.
Scenario One: 8-year-old Seth loses his baseball mitt. Mom lectures about how irresponsible he is, and that he will just have to go without because maybe that will teach him to be more responsible. Five minutes later she is taking him to the store to purchase a new mitt—still going with the lecture about how he needs to be more responsible.
Now imagine you are Seth. What are you thinking, feeling, and deciding? Are you thinking about how grateful you are that your mom is giving you such good advice? Are you deciding that she cares so much? OR are you thinking how easy it is to just tune out the lectures and wait until she is ready to rescue you again?
Scenario Two: 8-year-old Samantha lost her softball mitt. Mom empathizes, “That must be disappointing.” Samantha whines, “Will you please, please, buy me another one so I won’t have to miss the game?” Mom says, “No, but I’m willing to brainstorm with you on some ideas for solving the problem now and tomorrow, I’ll be happy to sit down with you and brainstorm with you how you can earn enough money to buy another one for yourself.”
During the brainstorming for immediate solutions they came up with the following:
1) Look harder for the mitt.
2) Borrow a mitt from a friend.
3) Play without a mitt.
Samantha chose No. 2 and found plenty of friends who were willing to loan their mitts. The next day they brainstormed several ideas for extra jobs Samantha could do to purchase another mitt.
Imagine you are Samantha. What are you thinking, feeling, and deciding? At first you might be feeling mad at your mom for not rescuing you, and might be thinking she is the worst mom in the world. However, after you engage in brainstorming and decide to solve the problem by borrowing a mitt from your friend, you are probably feeling capable and proud of yourself. Whether consciously or subconsciously, you are deciding that you are very capable.