Discovering the Root of the Problem

What is every parent’s automatic reaction to becoming aware of a problematic issue with their child?

Yes, they try to fix it. Immediately!

Sometimes it is a good idea to stop and wait. Get to know your child better, and perhaps let several hours or days pass by prior to reacting.

When the brand-new bottle of milk goes sour within a day or so, we may be quick to blame the kids who leave the milk on the table, instead of returning it to the refrigerator. However, in delving into the issue, we might discover that our spouse left the groceries in the trunk of the van for hours, while it was parked in the blazing sun.

In solving the problem, in this case the spoiled milk, it is wise to view the entire picture prior to jumping to conclusions or blaming others. While it is entirely possible that the children are not vigilant in returning the milk to the fridge, when we open our eyes and look to find the root of the problem, we often can discover a more prominent issue that needs to be remedied.

My son’s teacher told me about an eight-year-old boy that was caught taking cash from his mother’s purse. Naturally, the boy’s parents were extremely incensed. These parents were a paradigm of honesty, and could hardly bring themselves to believe that their own flesh-and-blood son had been stealing. Their basic instinct was to reprimand and punish the child for his actions.

Thankfully, they had a good relationship with one of his teachers, and decided to speak with her prior to lashing out on their son. The teacher, in turn, spoke to the child, who explained his behavior as follows: “I don’t have any good friends in school, and I feel unpopular. So I decided that if I would buy snacks to give out to the kids at school, they would like me more and become my friends. That’s why I took some of my Mom’s money.”

What a different picture has been painted by gaining understanding of the root of the problem! The child felt guilty about taking the cash without permission, however that was secondary to the loneliness he experienced school. It was the friendlessness, not desire to steal money, which lead him to take the money and purchase snacks.

Obviously, the boy had to be reprimanded for his dishonesty. However, in discovering the root of the problem, the parents were able to help him increase his social skills and make the time to invite classmates over to their home in order to fun and gain friends.

A problem requires a reaction, however discovering the root of the problem will likely deem a different course of action to be appropriate than originally thought.

Stop. Think. Discover. And then, act.


  1. I whole heartedly agree with trying to find the root of the problem before jumping to any conclusions, but I would have been happier with the outcome of this problem if the parent calmly and lovingly asked the child about his reasons for taking the money rather than going to the teacher….in this case you are indicating that the parent has a better relationship with the teacher than with her own child…..

  2. this article has very poor word choice. I get the point about not jumping to conclusions and looking at things in different ways to get to the root, but is it effective to view a parent’s role as “lashing out”? Disciplining your children is a 24/7, difficult, and most times inconvenient responsibility. Speaking about this imparitive duty in negative terms such as those used here (lashing out, repremanding, punnishing) seems to imply that parenting can be a warm fuzzy choice – not the serious responsibility that it is. All challenges are teachable moments and teaching our children should be paramount to every parent.

  3. I think you are doing a great job! God Bless.