Here’s the takeaway: The real issue’s often under the surface in both personnel and parenting. Use IDS to Identify the real issue so you Discuss only what matters so the Solve satisfies those involved—even a kid in full meltdown.

Scene: My kindergartner’s melting down because her younger sister gets to go someplace special with Mom, and the kindergartner has to go to … kindergarten.

It’s 15 minutes ‘til go time. My wife’s frustrated and about to lose it, so she asks me to take over. I take Lillian to a quiet room where she can’t hear Lucille bragging, “I’m going to Mommy’s Pretend Hospital and you don’t get to go.”

This is a pretty cool trip—”Mommy’s Pretend Hospital” is the simulation lab at the nursing college. Most important, Lucille gets to be the patient on the day my wife Jami’s teaching child health assessment. Lillian’s been the patient several times before, and loved it.

Identify, Discuss, Solve

What’s the real issue? Is it that Lillian can’t go and be the patient on child health assessment day anymore, because she’s in school? Or something else? Hmm … let’s IDS this, shall we?

We sit down in Daddy’s Reading Chair and talk.

Me: What’s wrong, Lillian?

Lillian: (Sobbing) Sissy gets to go to Mommy’s Pretend Hospital and I don’t.

Me: How does that make you feel?

Lillian: (Sobbing) Sad.

Me: What do you want to do at Mommy’s Pretend Hospital?

Lillian: (Sniffling) I want to go to the candy jar, ride the elevator, and see the pretend patients.

(Mommy’s Pretend Hospital has these wicked cool simulation mannequins. You can intubate them, start an IV, resuscitate them, and more.)

Me: So you want to go to the candy jar, ride the elevator, and see the pretend patients? That’s something we can do. Not today, but soon. Is that what you want?

Lillian: (Intrigued) Yes …

Me: Mommy and I will talk and find a day you can go to the candy jar, ride the elevator, and see the pretend patients, OK?

Lillian: OK! (runs off)

Wow! What just happened?

I’m not Superdad. IDS saved the day with my kid. And, it’s proven to save the day with adult businesspeople on matters big and small. Here’s how:

Identify: What’s the real issue, the disease underlying the symptoms? Here, the issue wasn’t that Lillian wanted to be the patient. If I’d thought that was the issue, I would have just said over and over, “I’m sorry, honey, you can’t go because you’re in school.” And each repetition would have been wildly ineffectual and largely inaudible, because sobbing.

Discuss: Only when everyone in Daddy’s Reading Chair agrees on what the issue is do we move to discussing a solution. Otherwise, we would have spun our wheels as I tried to calm a 5-year-old down with, “I’m sorry honey, you can’t go because you’re in kindergarten. Now, can we please get you dressed for kindergarten?”

Solve: With a bias toward action, someone in Daddy’s Reading Chair takes a to-do that makes the issue go away forever.