Tween/teen problem-solving: Align with preferred futures



IN THE previous article, we addressed the foundations of coaching your tweens/teens. We can now talk about the coaching process. One helpful approach to coaching our tweens/teens is to focus on solutions and not problems. This is a paradigm shift. Too often when we encounter difficulties with our tweens/teens or when they consult us on problems they are facing, we look only at the problems. The trouble with looking only at the problems is that we may be boxing the
solutions too narrowly.


Know their preferred future

When helping our tweens/teens to solve their problems, it might be more helpful to explore what their preferred futures are. This way, we can focus on solutions that blend with their preferred futures.

In this new paradigm, when our tweens/teens present problems, as coach we help them reach solutions that will set them towards their preferred futures. The clearer we are of what our tweens/teens want, the easier it will be to help them solve their problems.


Don't take over their problem

It starts with seeing your tweens/teens as valued people who have wonderful resources to deal with challenges. Our role as coach is not to take over their problems and solve them our way as this will hinder the process of growth and learning for them. When we, as fathers, “over function", our tweens/teens will “under function”.


Coaching to arrive at their own solution

So see your tweens/teens beyond their problems. Explore what their preferred futures are when helping them solve their problems. Look for resources in them rather than deficits. Explore what they are already doing that is contributing to their preferred futures. As you or your tweens/teens see even a little light in your dark tunnel, it opens up more possibilities to reaching the preferred future.

Remember your tweens/teens are more important than their problems. If you can help them explore what they want, you are on your way to coaching to seek their own solutions.


Principles of solution coaching

Now that we do the mindshift to focus on solutions and not problems when coaching our tweens/teens, let's look at three basic principles of the solution coaching process.

  • First principle

The first is “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it! Even though this is common sense, many fathers make the mistake of trying to change things for their tweens/teens even when there is no problem. If your tweens/teens are managing their responsibilities well, don’t insist on change just because they are not doing it the way you want. Allow your older tweens/teens to find their own balance. Likewise when they ask for changes when nothing is wrong, remind them  gently that the desired change might not be necessary.

  • Second principle

The second principle is to “identify what works and do more of it.” As coach, one of the most important tasks is to
find out what works for your tweens/teens and commend them for doing it well. Not only should they be affirmed, they
also need to be encouraged to do more of what works. Motivating them is integral to the great coaching process!

  • Third principle

The third principle is to “identify what doesn’t work and do something different.” As creatures of habit, we often try to solve problems in a particular way regardless of whether it is appropriate or not. Dr Paul Faulkner, a marriage and family therapist wrote in his book:  “If you keep on doing what you always did, you will keep on getting what you always got.”

Thus as a parent coach, it is helpful to point to your tweens/teens when their approach does not work and encourage them to explore different alternatives to the problem. The solution very often is found beyond the problem!


Reflection pointers for fathers

  • Your tweens/teens may have insights and ideas that you did not know exist with regards to their present situation, be it studies, school, friends and family; and also with regards to their future. Do you know about their ideas and opinions and how they feel about their choices? When was the last time you had a conversation with your tween/teen alone to find out about it?
  • As fathers we try to fix 'things' the way we did for our own problems; “if it works for me it should work for you.” That may or may not be true.
  • As every coach in an athletic team knows, player performance is enhanced when they are trained according to their strengths; likewise your role as a father and coach should go according to the way your child works.


Action pointers for fathers

  • Look at the calendar of the year. Plan your leave early to coincide with your children’s birthdays and school holidays. The earlier you apply for your leave the higher chance it will be approved.
  • Go for a picnic with your family. As a family, prepare the sandwiches, beverage, pick out games to bring along and decide on the venue. (eg. the beach, Botanical Garden, Zoo, etc)
  • Rent a DVD that is suitable for the family, get the soft drinks and order pizza. Make it a Movie Night for your family.


Note: This article is part of a series first broadcast on 'Parenting Today' 93.8FM. A Certified Solution Focus Therapist, writer Edwin Choy is co-founder and director of the Centre for Fathering. He would like to hear your personal experiences in coaching your teens to help him improve his training workshop for fathers on coaching. Please email him at


What's happening at Centre for Fathering (CFF)
  • Father-Child Bonding Camp (June 4 - 5, 2010)

Our June Camp is open for registration now. Encounter the bonding experience of a lifetime to build a strong connection and relationship with your child.

  • Vacancy for a full time 'Counselling & Family Life Educator'

The CFF is looking to fill this position. Please refer to NCSS (National Council of Social Services) website, under 'Career' for the full details.

  • CFF celebrates its 10th Anniversary this year

The CFF is grateful for your support in their movement to promote and enhance the role fathers play in their family and it is looking to expand its reach to meet more people that believe in getting fathers more involved in their children’s life. The CFF has evolved over the years and have found the obvious truth that the majority of fathers are at their workplaces. The CFF is thus calling its readers and well-wishers to highlight its services, target its website to their contacts or forward this webpage to them. CFF staff are more than willing to make a trip to your company to present its services if needed.


Click here for other articles in the "Fathering Matters" series


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