Tween/teen problems? Try this solution talk guide



IT IS very common for our children to collide in their values with that of their parents. In the previous discussion, we learnt that using problem talk in the form of blame and shame is not helpful. The good news is that parents can learn how to talk to our tweens/teens in a way they would listen.


The first step involves converting the problem into goals. Instead of focusing on the problems, it is better to be clear about what you want to see happen. With a clear goal in mind, we can engage our tweens/teens in the following ways:

  • Describe the problem calmly and give your child the benefit of a doubt. For example, you might say after describing the problem situation “You probably do this because...
  • Describe what you want to see happen instead. This is the goal you wish for instead of the problem(s). The clearer you are about this goal to your tweens/teens, the easier it will be to achieve them. We cannot assume our tweens/teens know what we want.
  • Explain the benefits of achieving this goal. Our tweens/teens usually are not good at co-operating when they cannot see any benefits to what we ask them to do.
  • Express confidence in your tweens/teens to accomplish this goal. When our tweens/teens feel affirmed by us even in a conflict, they are more motivated to make changes toward a new goal. One way to express confidence in them is to draw on their past successes in dealing with similar situations.
  • When it is finally achieved, don’t forget to celebrate! Every small step taken by our tweens/teens in a positive direction needs to be appreciated and affirmed.

The above steps refer to just one possible approach to engage your tweens/teens in solution-focused coaching rather than indulge in problem talk. There are no guarantees in any approaches. However, when parents are able to focus on solutions rather than problems and at the same time draw on their strengths rather than highlight weaknesses, there is a far greater chance of success in coaching your tweens/teens.

Teen angst

Starting with late tweens and becoming fullblown among teens, children experience a state of ambivalence in their lives. Sometimes, they feel like they are invincible “nothing is impossible”. At other times, they can feel absolutely hopeless “everything is impossible”. Fathers who have good relationships with their teenagers will need to coach them during such days.

When your tweens/teens come to you for help, they are confused, discouraged or disoriented by some events in their lives and their focus tends to be only on the problems they face. They are unable to see possibilities in this state. This is a good opportunity to help them regain clarity in their lives.

Questions to ask

The task of a coach is not to take over but to help your tweens/teens focus on building solutions. To shift their focus away from problems, ask them “what do you want instead of the problem?” By describing what they want, your tweens/teens have a clearer picture of what this new preferred future is for them. The more detailed the new preferred future is, the clearer the picture and, therefore, the greater likelihood of achieving the solutions.

Questions that will help fill in the details are:

  • What difference would it make for you if this new preferred future happens?
  •  “What else would be different?

Sometimes all it takes is to help your tweens/teens build a clear picture of their new preferred future to enable them to find their own solutions. If your tweens/teens still lack confidence in reaching this new future, then you, as a coach, need to help them draw on the strength which they used to overcome similar challenges in the past. This sends a powerful message to your children that you believe in them.

Finally don’t forget to celebrate when your teens succeed in achieving the new preferred future!

Reflection pointers for fathers

  • Remember a time when you wanted to achieve a goal. What helped you achieve the desired outcome? How can you apply that experience to your child?
  • What is the predominant strength or positive trait in your child? How can you leverage on that to coach your child into getting solutions?
  • What is your preferred future for your child? Can you positively reflect it upon him/her?
  • When a child feels that his/her father really believes in him/her, a new vigour of confidence arises in him/her.

Action pointers for fathers

  • Ask your children tonight what they would like to eat tomorrow. Download a recipe and try to cook it for them. Make a backup plan to order something they will definitely like to eat in case your attempted cooking session is not good.
  • Do something to brighten your wife’s day. Buy her some flowers on the way home from work. It will also show your children how you love their mother.


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 (4-5 June 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.

  • Eat With Your Family Day 2010 (27 May 2010)

This year EWYFD will be launched on 27th May 2010. We have prepared a line up of programs and highlights to make this an enriching experience for everyone who participates. Make it a point to eat with your loved ones on that day and let that be an impetus to spur you to make family meal an important appointment on a regular basis. Further details will be released to you soon.

  • Father-Teen Trekking Expedition (27-30 May 2010)

Embark on an exciting trekking expedition amongst the mountains of Cameron Highlands. The Father-child pair will take on Bukit Irau and find a time of mutual encouragement and a priceless bonding moment. The element of an adventure with one another will be a shared experience of a lifetime.


Click here for other articles on "Fathering Matters"


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