How to solve problems with your children without threats, bribes or limits.

Freya Dawson
7 min readJan 22, 2019


Can you guess what most of the parents I hear from say they want?

They want to solve a problem they are having with their child!

Maybe you are in the same boat. Something is driving you crazy and you’re at the end of your tether.

You’re a mum or dad that has a commitment to peaceful parenting and you don’t use harsh punishments like smacking or shaming. But in times of stress things come out of your mouth that shock you. You are suddenly aware that you sound just like your mother or father.

You find yourself resorting to threats even though you don’t want to follow through with them. In desperation you offer bribes but the “price” keeps going up! Setting limits and making rules seem to be a breeze for other parents but you end up in constant battles that go nowhere. These old tactics just aren’t working.

How do you end the struggles, find peaceful solutions and not feel like your children are walking all over you?

I’ve got the answer, even though it’s probably very different to what you’ve come across before. You might think its too way-out-there at first. It’s a process that has worked for me time and time again to tackle every sort of problem that I’ve had with my children.

This approach is something I’ve been teaching my friends and clients for years but I haven’t written a blog post about it ……. until today.

Creative Problem Solving : the way to find solutions that everyone in the family is happy with.

If you want a strong foundation of respect and clear communication in your family and a process that delivers solutions that last, you need what I call Creative Problem Solving.

Even though many have been resistant at first (I’ll tell you why in a minute), they quickly discover how powerful and effective this approach is for solving both short and long-term family problems.

Why? It’s because Creative Problem Solving can help with all of the things that parents struggle with the most.

Things like……

  • battles over screen time and gaming,
  • ensuring your house is livable for everyone and not constantly engulfed in children’s mess,
  • worries over whether your children are learning the skills that they need,
  • concerns about children lashing out in anger at friends or family members,
  • avoiding meal-time dramas and food issues,

As well as helping you find solutions to problems like this, Creative Problem Solving teaches the whole family a process that will work repeatedly and empower everybody. This skill is priceless. Because it gets everyone in the family involved it gets you off the hook. You no longer need to be chief “fixer” in the house.

It is a process that your family will WANT to be a part of because they know its in their best interests.

What is Creative Problem Solving?

Now that you know that Creative Problem Solving (CPS) is the key to finding peaceful solutions to your family problems, lets talk about what it is.

CPS can be a little bit like an informal family meeting where everyone is treated with respect and listened to. Everyone affected by an issue is involved, including children, but there are no strings attached. There are no bad consequences that hang over anyone and no threats are ever used.

I do the deep dive into the details of CPS in my book Joyful Parenting and my Joyful Parenting Course. What I’ll give you here are the essential elements. Enough to get you started to bring CPS into your family right away.

Creative Problem Solving is based on 5 key principles. You’ll need to decide whether you can commit to these if you are going to make this work. Only you have to understand these principles, not the rest of your family. It only takes one person to make the change. Other family members are going to follow your lead. It might seem scary at first, but I’ll talk you through some common fears in a moment.

Remember — you’ve already tried the other, traditional alternatives and you’re not happy with the results, so its time to give something else a try. Right? You’re never locked in to anything.

5 key principles

  1. Involve everyone. Make sure everyone who is affected by an issue gets to help find the solution. This means children too, even if they are young. I’ve done CPS with 2 and 4 year olds. Listen respectfully to what children want and how they feel.
  2. Everyone has to be happy. Keep looking for a solution until you’ve found one that everyone is happy with or can at least accept. Don’t say Yes when you actually mean No. Don’t agree to anything that you can’t genuinely accept. Otherwise you will just resent it.
  3. No force. In this process nobody gets forced to do anything they don’t want to do. That means no threats, no confiscating possessions, no emotional manipulation. Make requests rather than demands.
  4. No special treatment. Parents don’t get to pull rank and say “I get what I want because I’m the parent”.
  5. Question your thinking. For this process to work it helps enormously if you’re willing to question your judgements about your child, your rules for behaviour and your judgements about yourself. You can question any thought that triggers an intense emotional reaction. Ask yourself: “Can I be certain about that?” or “Can I absolutely know that is true?” This opens up new perspectives and helps you look outside the box.

You can apply these principles and get started right away. If the issue has been bothering you for a while and you’ve been fighting with your children its a good idea to start with principle 5 and question your thinking about it.

Can you be certain that the amount of screen time your child has is harming them? Do you absolutely know that you can’t cope with the house this messy? Are you certain that the lollies your child is about to eat are going to ruin their health?

The more you can open your mind and see things from a new perspective, the more likely you are to find the solution that everyone is happy with.

This process is the best way for you and your family to find the solution that will suit your unique situation. No process of Creative Problem Solving is ever the same. Each solution will be unique.

But I can’t do that!

As you may expect, some people are resistant to this process at first. If that’s you, don’t worry. You’re not alone.

The number one reservation people have to this process is that they think that they are going to get walked all over; that their children will get to do whatever they want.

Do you fear becoming a doormat that never gets their own way?

That is not going to happen if you follow the 5 principles I set out above. Principle 2 says that Everyone has to be happy. That means parents too. Don’t stop looking, listening and questioning until you have found a solution that you are happy with!

The process of Creative Problem Solving doesn’t have a time limit. That doesn’t mean you all have to sit together in a family meeting for days. It simply means that the subject remains open to discussion and new suggestions for as long as it takes for the right solution to be found.

You may have other reservations too. I understand this. Trying a process like this can be a big step outside your comfort zone. You might feel quite vulnerable. I did too when I first started out. But then I remembered that my “comfort zone” wasn’t really comfortable at all! I wanted to live peacefully with my children, not in a state of stress-overload and conflict.

Creative Problem Solving takes some practice, so give yourself some time. And it takes a while to build up trust, especially if you have used threats or punishments with your children in the past. You may need to tell them clearly and repeatedly “I will not force you to do anything you don’t want to do.” and “We will wait until we have a solution that everyone is happy with.” I had to say this many, many times to my children until they really trusted it.

Let me tell you, the wait and the practice is all worth it. This process is a game-changer. Once you have mastered it you can relax and enjoy being in the flow with your children, knowing that you have the tools to solve any problem that comes up. Because we all know that things will continue to come up! There is always some new challenge when you have a growing family.

I have been using Creative Problem Solving with my husband and two boys for over a dozen years now and it has never failed us. There is ALWAYS a solution waiting to be discovered, especially if you keep your mind open.

Are you willing to give it a try?

If you still have doubts, please share them.

Is there part of this process that you don’t understand? Let me know in the comments and I’ll do what I can to help.

Do you think you have the impossible-to-fix problem or the impossible-to-deal-with child?

Do you doubt whether this process could work in your unique family situation or with your unique child?

Let me know if there is something you are struggling with and I will tell you whether Creative Problem Solving can be used to find a solution.

With Love,

Originally published at on January 22, 2019.



Freya Dawson

I’m a parenting, unschooling and spiritual mentor and writer. I help parents live with their children without stress or struggle.