Feb 16, 2010

Do You Like When People Send You Solutions?

Sending a "Solution Message"

Have you ever been just about ready to do something considerate for a person (or initiate some change in your behavior to meet a person's needs) when all of a sudden that person directs you, exhorts you, or advises you to do exactly what you were going to do on your own?

Your reaction was probably, "I didn't need to be told or "If you had waited a minute, I would have done that without being told." Or you probably got irritated because you felt that the other person did not trust you enough or took away the chance for you to do something considerate for her on your own initiative.

When people do this to you, they are "sending a solution." This is precisely what parents often do with children. They do not wait for the child to initiate considerate behavior; they tell her what she must or should or ought to do. All the following types of messages "send a solution":

"You go find something to play with."
"Turn that music down!"
"Be home by 11:00."
"Go do your homework."

"If you don't stop, I'll scream."
"Mother will get angry if you don't get out from under my feet."
"If you don't get out there and clean up that mess, you're going to be sorry."

"Don't ever interrupt a person when she's talking."
"You shouldn't act that way."
"You shouldn't play when we're in a hurry."
"Always clean up after yourself."

"Why don't you go outside and play?'
"If I were you, I'd just forget about it."
"Can't you put each thing away after you use it?"

These kinds of verbal responses communicate to the child your solution for her--precisely what you think she must do. You call the shots; you are in control; you are taking over; you are cracking the whip. You are leaving her out of it. The first type of message orders her to employ your solution; the second threatens her; the third exhorts her; the fourth advises her.

Parents ask, "What's so wrong with sending your solution--after all, isn't she causing me a problem?" True, she is. But giving her the solution to your problem can have these effects:

1. Children resist being told what to do. They also may not like your solution. In any case, children resist having to modify their behavior when they are told just how they "must" or "should" or "better" change.

2. Sending the solution to the child also communicates another message, "I don't trust you to select your solution" or "I don't think you're sensitive enough to find a way to help with my problem."

3. Sending the solution tells the child that your needs are most important than her, that she has to do just what you think she should, regardless of her needs ("You're doing something unacceptable to me, so the only solution is what I say").

More tomorrow...

*Excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. book

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