When a problem arises, it is important that the proper distribution of the problem is maintained. The adults should own the part of the problem that is theirs. The children should own the part that is theirs. The adults should not stress out about the part of the problem that is not theirs. The children should not stress out over the part of the problem that is not theirs. Stress should not be redirected into an activity that ignores the problem and makes stress temporarily go away. When stress arises, the problem needs to be solved.

Poor Example:

          Mr. and Mrs. Thomas did not get along. They could not seem to work things out in their relationship. Mr. Thomas had a gambling problem that he would not admit to. Mrs. Thomas had tried to talk about the problem, but when she did, Mr. Thomas called her names and belittled her. Over time no one talked about the gambling problem, or any problem for that matter.

          They had a little son named Timmy. Often, little Timmy would get into trouble. Timmy had a gimpy leg and Mrs. Thomas felt sorry for him. When Timmy got into trouble, he blamed it on his disability. Sometimes Timmy would act so bad that Mrs. Thomas would call Mr. Thomas and ask him to discipline Timmy. Mr. Thomas would go into discipline mode and ground Timmy. He would also give Timmy a good talking to. Mr. Thomas generally did not overstep his bounds and did an adequate job at parenting.

          However, whenever Mr. Thomas was in the middle disciplining, Timmy would call his mother and ask her to save him. Mrs. Thomas would then come into the room and yell at Mr. Thomas for being too harsh, not understanding Timmy’s disability, and demanding that Timmy be left alone. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas will then begin to argue and fight about Timmy, while Timmy went outside to play. Timmy did not usually stay grounded.

          Timmy and Mrs. Thomas had an understanding between them. They understood that they had a special relationship. The special relationship was felt to be strengthened by the knowledge that they were both resentful toward Mr. Thomas and his harsh words.

           Mr. Thomas felt isolated, irritable, and depressed. He did not feel particularly close to anyone.  Mr. Thomas did not like feeling that way. He often tried to get rid of the feeling by leaving the house and gambling.

          Mr. and Mrs. Thomas felt an aboding tension of unresolved problems. Timmy also felt the tension. Whenever Timmy started feeling uneasy, he would begin to act out.  When his mother attempted to scold him, he took advantage of his relationship with his mother and ignored her directives. He also ignored her threats to use consequences. When this happened, Mrs. Thomas would call Mr. Thomas in to discipline their son and the whole scenario would start all over again.

Good Example:

          Mr. and Mrs. Thomas recognized that they were fighting with each other through their son. They also recognized that Timmy was being manipulative and working a split between them so that he could get out of being grounded.  It was further noticeable that the more strained their relationship was, the more Timmy acted out.

          Mr. and Mrs. Thomas came up with a plan. First, the couple accepted their responsibility for their problems. They went to marriage counseling and learned how to communicate in a kind manner. Mr. Thomas accepted that he had a gambling problem and sought help for the addiction. Mrs. Thomas accepted that she isolated Mr. Thomas and attempted to rebuild a relationship with him. The couple also decided to stop arguing with each other about Timmy.

          Next, the couple taught Timmy how to accept responsibility for his problems. Because Timmy had a disability, the couple decided together what behaviors Timmy was and was not accountable for. They determined the consequences that Timmy would receive for the behaviors that he was accountable for. They also decided on a plan to help Timmy cope with his disability. 

          The next time that Timmy began to ignore his mother, his mother stood firm with Timmy. She did not call Mr. Thomas in to help her. She stood her ground on her own. When Mr. Thomas heard the commotion, he came into the room on his own. Mr. Thomas told little Timmy that he was not going to treat his mother with disrespect. He also told him that his mother’s consequence would be carried through. Mrs. Thomas told Timmy that he should listen to his father, while he was talking. Timmy’s response was to blame his behavior on his gimpy leg. The couple explained that he, not his leg, was accountable for his poor behavior.

After the couple sent Timmy to his room, they got a baby sitter and went out to eat with the money they were accumulating from Mr. Thomas’s decline in gambling. The couple was pleased that they had learned to resolve their problems instead of placing blame on each other.