How to Use Collaborative Problem Solving to Deal With Children's Behavior

By Erica Loop
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Whether your preschooler is having an emotion-fueled outburst in the middle of the mall, your third grader stomps off of the soccer field in an angry huff or your fifth grade student throws her pencil across the room when she can't solve all of the problems on her math assignment, using a collaborative approach can turn her behavior around without having to enforce a harsh punishment. A collaborative problem solving technique emphasizes the parent's ability to empathize with the child, working as a team to together solve the behavioral problem at hand.

Step 1

Identify the social and emotional skills that your child is lacking as root causes of his disruptive behaviors, such as an inability to share easily. Observe your child during at-home play times, talk to his teachers or talk to him -- if your child is an older elementary or middle schooler -- about what he feels his areas that need improvement are.

Step 2

Use a formal developmental assessment or a checklist to further identify specific areas that are problematic for your child, such as difficulties with transition times, expressing thoughts as words, managing emotional responses and other, similar abilities.

Step 3

Empathize with your child. Get her story or point of view when it comes to what's going on with her behavior. Ask what her concerns are about her own behavior. Keep in mind a younger child may not have the vocabulary to express what her areas for improvement are. Give a younger child the words that she may need, such as, "When you had to wait your turn for the swing at the park, were you feeling angry at the other child who was taking her turn?" Understand that these problems or issues are challenges for your child, and empathize with her struggle to overcome them.

Step 4

Express your own concerns about your child's behavior. Use a thoughtful, kind approach, clearly stating what you feel is problematic about his actions. For example, tell your sixth grader that you are worried that he may fail math class if he refuses to study or continues to disrupt his class-time with loud behavior.

Step 5

Brainstorm a solution to the behavior problem together with your child. Create a list of possible solutions -- either verbal or written -- making sure that you both agree upon the problem and the answer.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.