Family and Consumer Sciences
1787 Neil Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43210-1295
Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Delaware County.
Many parents feel discouraged when their children bicker or resist requests made of them. How do we teach children to cooperate and resolve conflict?
If we want children to stop fighting, we must teach them new skills for resolving conflict. They need to learn problem-solving skills and develop avenues for generating lots of alternatives for getting what they want in socially acceptable ways. We also want them to become independent and accountable.
It has been found that a child's ability to get what he or she wants in an acceptable manner is directly related to the number of solutions or alternatives the child can think of in a situation. A child who can think of five ways to get what he wants will generally display more socially acceptable behavior than the child who can think of only one or two ways.
Here are some general steps in teaching problem-solving skills to children.
Spend some time focusing on feelings. Children see things primarily from their own perspective. They may be completely unaware of how their behavior affects other people, except when another person interferes with their needs. To negotiate solutions that are fair to everyone, children need to know how others feel.
Resist the temptation to suggest ideas as most children might assume their own thoughts are not good enough. If a child needs new ideas, suggest them later or ask the child to imagine how someone else they know might handle the situation.
Resist the temptation to judge the ideas. Adults will not always be around to tell a child that his/her idea is not good and to suggest another. In the long run, adults will be more helpful by encouraging children to evaluate ideas themselves and see why they are unacceptable.
The process of teaching problem-solving often seems tedious, and parents may be tempted to just tell a child what to do. But that does not allow children to gain the experience of thinking of what to do for themselves.
Elizabeth Creary (1984) Kids Can Cooperate, Parenting Press.