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Okay, parents of teens! Picture yourself having one of those “tough discussions” with your child. (Okay, it’s really an argument.) You’re sternly insisting, “It needs to be THIS way!” Your teen is emphatically arguing, “No, it has to be THAT way!”

You could shake your finger and put your foot down. Your teen could walk out the door in a huff. Or, you could both agree to get sticky!

Here’s how you get sticky: Pull out a pad of sticky notes and on two, write desired outcome. You get one and your teen gets one. Each of you writes down the result you would like to get from the discussion. Stick them on the table and notice whether your outcomes share anything in common. If there are no similarities, notice that, too, and agree that you will work for win-win. This means that both of you are hoping to get at least part of what you want, while being willing to give up something, too.

On the next sticky, write Parent will not be flexible about… Write anything you consider non-negotiable on it, and put it on the table. Try to limit yourself to one or two things, or your teen will think he’s lost before you’ve even begun.

Now you get to brainstorm! The goal of brainstorming is to unleash your creativity in finding solutions. When brainstorming, there are no stupid ideas, no ideas too crazy, and no we-can’t-do-that-so-don’t-bother-writing-it-downs. Keep putting ideas on the table, one per sticky, until you run out of possibilities. It is important for the parent to keep this light. Be silly, be fun, be serious, be so full of ideas that your teen can’t help but join in with at least a few possibilities!

When you’re out of ideas, look them over and eliminate any that don’t follow the 4 R’s of Solutions: Related to the problem, Respectful to all involved, Reasonable (it’s possible to actually do it), and Revealed (we all know what the consequences will be for doing or not doing whatever). Ask your teen to help you with this part so he is participating in the thinking process that this requires.

Next, eliminate any that fall into the category of “parent non-negotiables.”

With the ideas that are left, determine which ones you can use that lead to the outcomes you and your teen set out at the beginning.  Stickies allow you to combine ideas easily, especially when working for a win-win.  Write out the solution, try it for a week, and then discuss its effectiveness.  Save the brainstorming stickies that you didn’t use, in case you need to come back to them to create a different solution.

This process won’t work for every issue you and your teen face, but it can be an effective way to practice problem solving together.  Your teen will learn skills for negotiating, compromising, and creative thinking, and both of you will experience working together as a family team!

Eva Dwight is a parent, family and personal coach. For more information, go to

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