3 Powerful Words for IPS (Independent Problem Solving)


A resourceful student is able to solve problems peacefully.  Problems can be defined as a conflict, disagreement, fight, difficulty, trouble, worry, struggle or complication.

In the guidance office, students are encouraged to use IPS (independent problem solving).  When a conflict occurs, they can share, trade, take turns, ignore, use empathy, move away, use I statements, or sometimes get help.  Today I’d like to share 3 words students use to improve communication when there is a problem between two people.  These direct words allow children to start a conversation and get to the root of the problem. But, these words only work when children commit to being a genuine listener and agree to looking deep inside themselves. When they blame, point fingers, and resist change, these 3 words are of no value. Both parties must openly share what they would like for the other person to keep, start, and stop doing.

1. KEEP - What do you want your friend to KEEP doing?  This allows both parties to look at what is working in the friendship.  It might be as simple as “I want you to keep making me laugh.”

2. START - What do you want your friend to START doing? This allows students to brainstorm ideas to improve the friendship. Including, using kind words, helping, smiling, sharing, and listening are just a few verbs children might use to improve friendships.

3. STOP - What do you want your friend to STOP doing?  This allows students to see behavior that could be annoying to any friendship. Word such as gossiping, staring, cutting in line, excluding, pushing, or whispering are examples of actions they want to stop. When a student uses the word bullying here, make sure they define the behavior that they want to the person to stop doing.  

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Tenacious Tim is one of the 26 stories from the Powerful You book. Tim created change in himself by using the 3 powerful words KEEP, START, and STOP. He was willing to listen openly to the other person and see changes he needed to make within himself. Tenacious Tim was glad that he learned at a young age that the only person he could change was himself!

Allow your students to connect with Tenacious Tim by holding this laminated educator card at eye level. Give “turn and talk” time by responding to the journaling questions on the back.


Video of the Week

Watch the video to see how I share the 3 words with students and foster independent problem solving through communication and breathing and stretching. This week's video features Tenacious Tim from Powerful You.


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Julie Frizzi