Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Problem Solving Using Beliefs, Goals, Why, and How

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Before you read this post, be sure you have read these two posts:

Beliefs and Goals (Toddlerwise)


Why vs. How

Here is a refresher of the equation:

Belief + goal = Why + How = Solutions that Satisfy Needs

Toddlerwise says "Take whatever you believe about life and turn these values into goals. Let the goals determine your training priorities, and use methods to facilitate your goals while meeting your child's needs" (page 78). So you have sat and thought through and written down your beliefs and set goals based on those beliefs. You then know your why. Here is a breakdown of the equation a bit:

Belief + goal = Why
Why + How = Solutions that Satisfy Needs
Now that you know what you are trying to accomplish and why you are doing so, you can decide how you are going to get that done. Brainstorm. Think through the options. You know the phrase, "There is more than one way to skin a cat" (by the way, I love cats)? There is more than one way to meet your goals. This is covered extensively in Why vs. How .
So that is the "Mayberry" way of using this equation. This would be prevention at it's finest (Prevention : Everything is smooth.
Then you have the real world way of using this equation. Not to say "Mayberry" never works, because it does. I am a firm believer in prevention. It makes everything much easier. It is a lot easier to use "Mayberry" with subsequent children because you have been there, done that. You are better and looking to the future and seeing potential pitfalls or gaps in your parenting. It is all more second nature to you.
But you will always have that oldest child. With that oldest child, you will always be a first time parent. Don't get me wrong, I love oldest children (I love both of my children ;) ). I myself am an oldest child. Let me tell you, we know that we are able to work our parents over. We know how to work the system. We understand the fact that our parents have as much experience in this parent/child dynamic as we do. We don't have other children to worry about, or a house, mortgage, etc. We have more time to strategize.
You will also have those quirks in younger children that you never faced with your oldest. You think you have parenthood all figured out when they throw you a curve ball. Parenthood is an adventure. So you will need to be able to use this equation in a practical way.
So you have a problem. You see a Need. That is not strange. You will have problems constantly as you are raising your children. The moments without any problem and any need are few and far between. That is because we can always be improving on something. Parenthood is round-the-clock job :).

Let's approach this equation differently to solve this need. Here are the steps as outlined in Toddlerwise. I would encourage you to stop, sit down, and think through this. Don't just think about it while you are changing diapers and doing the dishes. I find certain chores to be great brainstorming times, but you should first sit down and go through the steps, then continue on with your normal brainstorming.
  • Start with a question: What behavior are you trying to fix? What is your need? What is the problem. Do we have a discipline problem? A sibling problem? Are you wondering what age to start preschool? Is there a playgroup starting up? Are you considering potty training? You have a need and are looking for the solution.
  • Beliefs and goals: Think about what your beliefs and goals are on this topic. If you have already thought them through, then you will have the benefit of knowing what they are in more of a vacuum situation rather than in association with your current need. Not that you want to only look at each belief in a vacuum setting--you don't. But if you first think through your beliefs, you know what you believe and can apply the other factors to the situation, knowing already what that fundamental belief is. Remember that you cannot have beliefs that are antagonistic to each other. This doesn't mean you will never have values that you have to choose between; you will have your hierarchy of goals. For example, we find visiting family to be of great worth. We also value our children getting regular, complete sleep. Sometimes those two values conflict with each other. Sometimes one gives, sometimes the other, and sometimes both give a little to form some sort of compromise.
I will then add:
  • Why: you can know understand the why. You can formulate it. You see your need, you know your beliefs, and you have set your goals. Keep the why in mind.
  • How: apply the how. Give it a try. See how it works.
  • Evaluate and Adjust: be honest and asses if the "how" is working to meet your goals. If not, pick a new how. You don't pick a new goal or pick a new belief, you pick a new how. Some things might be put off for a bit. Take our potty training experience. We tried it, but he wasn't ready. I decided to wait and try later when I thought he was ready. I didn't set a new goal. I didn't decide I don't want him potty trained after all. I simply changed my approach. We waited until he was ready, we changed a few of our "hows," and we had great success (see the posts under Potty Training for more on this). Sometimes, you might have set the wrong goal. Maybe you set the goal that your child would be pitching in the majors by 12. If you set the wrong goal, of course you should fix it. My goal with potty training was that he would be completely trained 1-3 months after starting. That didn't happen. We tried for a week and a half and it just wasn't working. We were both putting 100% of our energy into it, but it wasn't working. So we stopped all together for several months. When we started again, he was completely trained within a few days, with minimal effort on either of our parts.
So why is this equation something that is so important to you as a parent? Other than the obvious as outlined in this post, it goes back to the fact that no book or blog can give you the solution to each need and problem you encounter. It is completely impossible. There are so many different circumstances out there. There are so many different cultures, traditions, religions, etc. that all impact who you and your family are. No two children are alike, so no one solution is going to work for all children. It is of great benefit to your family for you to be able to problem solve based on your family. Again, I encourage you to really learn the principles and theories behind the -wise series. Learn from the examples in the books. Look at those examples and see how the theory was applied. Look through the posts in this blog to help you get ideas and problem solving tips. Then problem solve with all of that knowledge you have from the books, the blog, your family, and your life experience.

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