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Home » Positive Ways to Talk and Listen »

Imagine Solutions Together

Girl: I don't want to be a little sister anymore! Dad: How big would you like to be? Girl: Huge! Bigger than my sister!

Grant the Wish in Fantasy

"Instead of criticizing the behavior or feeling, which automatically gets you into a power struggle, you are granting the wish through imagination. Instead of saying, 'Stop wanting that, it makes no sense,' or 'I can't do that for you now,' you are encouraging your child to imagine what he wants and then to describe it."

John Gottman, Ph.D.

Author, Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child

Grant in fantasy what you can't give in reality. If your child badly wants something that he can't have, encourage him to imagine what he wants — and talk about it. You might say, "What would you do if we could stop the car right now?" or, "I bet you wish Mommy was here right now. What would you want to do with her?" (And then, stand in for Mommy and do it, if the request is reasonable and possible.)

Ask a child what he wants to happen or would like to change. If your child complains about something specific, you might ask him to suggest some improvements. For example, if he says, "I hate music class because Mr. Block is so mean," you might first ask, "What's the meanest thing Mr. Block did?" Then, follow up and ask, "What do you wish your teacher had done instead?"

Use dialogue to find solutions. By first letting your child vent negative feelings, and then asking him to imagine a different scenario, you are encouraging him not only to discuss the problem, but to become part of the solution.

NEXT: Lighten Up!

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