A column that tackles behavioural problems from toddlers to teens
My daughter always demands I help solve her latest drama. But so often I don't know what to say.
"Mom, at lunch today I told Kiera that she was stupid, but I really didn't mean it the way it came out. And Kiera was really mad at me. I tried to explain, but all she does is say how could a friend ever say something like that – which she says she no longer considers me as. What can I do? My life is ruined."
She demands an instant answer. And her life (or social life at least) seems to hang in the balance.
"But, Mom. What should I do? Tell me."
What not to do
Don't worry too much about coming up with an immediate solution. If you can think of something helpful to say that's always good. But so often immediate solutions don't seem readily available. But there is good news. Even without clear resolutions, things generally have a way of working themselves out anyway. Current crises become yesterday's news.
Also, you don't want always to be the magical problem solver, always there to supply the answer. You want them to realize that they can work out solutions on their own. But even more importantly, you want them to learn that they can go out and face the world – on their own – and that they will survive.
What to do
Offer a solution, if you can. Encourage them to figure one out on their own. But solution or not, you want to support them while at the same time encouraging them to go back out into the world and deal with what's out there. Sort of like a corner man in boxing.
"You'll see. Even though it seems like a disaster now. Things have a way of working out over time."
Which they will not buy.
"She's going to hate me. I've lost my best friend."
But hang in there. Remember, your role is not so much problem solver, as supportive coach who is forever encouraging them to get back into the ring.
Ultimately your greatest reassurance to them is that you know – which they simply do not – that things do have a way of working out. Your reassuring message: I am just not nearly as worried as you are. And I'm confident that you'll figure something out. You'll be okay.
Clinical psychologist Anthony E. Wolf is the author of six parenting books including I'd Listen to My Parents if They'd Just Shut Up. E-mail him your thorny questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.