Who Owns the Problem?


By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | July 3, 2012

Before problem ownership came to be, I was constantly besieged with deciding how to handle an issue, if it was important or serious and what consequence to give. It often filled my time and mind with stress; being a parent should be fun. Like turning on a light bulb though, one tip I learned that reduced my stress was deciding who owned the problem.

An example: I got both kids up for breakfast, dressed and then off to school. If one child forgot their homework or book, they owned the problem. They could decide if they wanted to take their consequence from the teacher (drop in grade, detention, etc.) or if they wanted me to drive to the school and bring it to them for a $5 fee. More often than not they chose for me to bring the homework/book to them at school.

No, I didn’t need the $5 that would come out of their allowance but the ‘pain’ of losing it would make them more careful about getting their things ready the night before. Doing this eliminated all the usual arguments: “Why did you forget?” “Why didn’t you do it last night?” Deciding who owned the problem also erased any temptation to say anything labeling them as thoughtless or careless.

You cannot find your favorite blouse? As I look at the pile of clothes on her floor, “Gee, maybe it’s right where you left it?” She already knows who owns the problem and looks away, no pleading, no nagging.

The dog wasn’t fed in the morning? The child responsible for feeding the dog can ‘pay’ another child to do it for them or they can trade one chore for another. Here they learn negotiation skills as a bonus. (The dog will always be fed regardless.)

Deciding who owns the problem does not apply in every case such as sibling fights or playing hooky from school but it is a technique children can easily learn and take with them into their adult lives. The stress reduction is immeasurable and the relationships remain intact.

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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