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Focus on Solutions

Many parents and teachers have reported that power struggles are greatly reduced when they focus on solutions. Focusing on solutions creates a very different family and classroom. Your thinking and behavior will change, and so will the thinking and behavior of your children.

The theme for focusing on solutions is: What is the problem and what is the solution? Children are excellent problem solvers and have many creative ideas for helpful solutions when adults provide opportunities for them to use their problem-solving skills.

The Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions are the same as the Three Rs and an H of Logical Consequences. In fact, the first 3 are identical. They are presented again here to help change the tendency toward the use of Logical Consequences in favor of Focusing on solutions.

The Three Rs and an H for Focusing on Solutions

1. Related

2. Respectful

3. Reasonable

4. Helpful

The following is an excerpt from the book Positive Discipline in the Classroom that illustrates the amazing difference in brainstormed suggestions when students first focus on logical consequences and then focus on solutions:

During a class meeting, students in a fifth-grade class were asked to brainstorm logical consequences for two students who didn’t hear the recess bell and were late for class.

Following is their list of consequences:

1. Make them write their names on the board.

2. Make them stay after school the same number of minutes they were late.

3. Take away from tomorrow’s recess the same number of minutes they were late today.

4. Take away all of tomorrow’s recess.

5. Yell at them.

The students were then asked to forget about consequences and brainstorm for solutions that would help the late students get to class on time.

Following is their list of solutions:

1. Everyone could yell together, "Bell!"

2. The students could play closer to the bell.

3. The students could watch others to see when they are going in.

4. Adjust the bell so it is louder.

5. The students could choose a buddy to remind them that it is time to come in.

6. Someone could tap the students on the shoulder when the bell rings.

The difference between these two lists is profound. The first looks and sounds like punishment. It focuses on the past and on making children pay for their mistakes. The second list looks and sounds like solutions that focus on helping the students do better in the future. The focus is on seeing problems as opportunities for learning. In other words, the first list is designed to hurt; the second is designed to help.

Focus on Solutions Success Stories

Focus on Solutions


From the book Positive Discipline Parenting Tools


There were two Positive Discipline sayings that were drilled into my head growing up:

  1. Mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn.
  2. Are we looking for blame or are we looking for solutions?

One of my favorite memories from my childhood was my mom complaining about the dishes that were left in the sink. My brother quickly responded, “Are you looking for blame or are you looking for solutions?”

I think all my mom could say was, “Touché.”

This week I went out of my way to repeat that very same question— “Are we looking for blame or are we looking for solutions?” I interrupted my boys several times when they were arguing and kindly reminded them that I had faith that they could find a solution to their problem. If they weren’t able to solve the problem, we would stop whatever activity they were doing until they could both agree on one or several solutions. My youngest son willingly joined the problem-solving “game” and came up with the idea of using a timer. It’s so great to see the seeds that I’ve been planting for so long finally grow.

Focusing on solutions is the foundation for successful family meetings. It helps parents avoid the temptation to lecture about items on the agenda. It also helps children stop complaining.


One of the most important things to remember when focusing on solutions is to involve your children in the process. I learned that the hard way when trying to find a solution to the clothes on my son’s bathroom floor.  

Focus on Solutions: Part 1

Gibson was trying to set a Guinness Book of World Records for clothes on his bathroom floor. Every morning I observed the pile of clothes in his bathroom getting bigger and bigger, while the hamper in his bedroom remained empty. I decided to continue to observe him in his natural habitat for a while and see if he would pick up the clothes without a reminder from me.

Focus on Solutions: Part 2

My son might make it in the world after all. Without any prompting from me, he finally picked up the clothes in his bathroom and moved them to the hamper in his bedroom. Of course, he then started a new pile on the bathroom floor. But even though he is not following the system we agreed on, he apparently does have a system. Sometimes I guess we need to allow our teenagers to figure these things out on their own, even if it doesn’t exactly match our schedule or preferred method.

Focus on Solutions: Part 3

On my blog, some people recommended putting a hamper in Gibson’s bathroom to solve the problem of clothes on the floor. After all, how hard could it be to drop his clothes in a hamper that is two feet away? I finally had time to go to buy a hamper, and you’d think the problem would have been solved. But the next day there were more clothes on the floor in the bathroom right next to the brand-new (but empty) hamper!

Focus on Solutions: Happy Conclusion

Did you notice in all the scenarios above who was not involved in the solutions? I never once asked Gibson if he had any ideas for solving the problem. Finally I put the issue on the family meeting agenda.  

During the family meeting I asked Gibson if he had any ideas for a solution to the problem of clothes on the bathroom floor. He said, “Sure—you could buy a bath mat. I only put the clothes on the floor so I don’t have to step on the wet floor when I get out of the shower.”

What? Can you believe how easy that was? It was such a simple solution to the problem. I had been battling the problem of clothes on the bathroom floor for weeks on my own and all I needed to do was involve my son in finding the solution. After purchasing the bath mat, I was able to remove the hamper from the bathroom and we haven’t had clothes on the floor since.



Online Learning

Positive Discipline offers online learning options for parents, teachers, and parent educators. Learn in the comfort of your own home and at your own pace. You have unlimited access to our online streaming programs, so you can watch and re-watch the videos as often as you like.