Jul

24

2014

TEACH YOUR CHILD PROBLEM-SOLVING AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION SKILLS

Suzanne Hartman, M.A., LPP

Skilled craftsmen know that producing quality work requires the use of precision tools.  They stock their toolboxes with the equipment they need to efficiently complete their task.  “Craftsman” tools from Sears come with a lifetime guarantee.

Children need appropriate “tools” for their personal toolbox.  These are the skills they will use for lifelong success in building relationships.  While they may not come with an unconditional warranty, they offer children clear advantages in terms of greater confidence and fewer worries.

Conflict is a normal part of life.  Between individuals it often starts as a disagreement.  It is not to be feared, though children often do, because it may involve uncomfortable feelings that are difficult to manage.  Frustration or anger may fee like “the problem”, leading to an aggressive solution to satisfy impulses.  It leaves no time to discover that the “problem” presents an opportunity to solve a difference of opinion and achieve greater understanding.

Help your children identify their feelings.  They need to be able to understand and express them in a healthy way.  Start by acting as their “mirror”, pointing out the feelings you observe in their behavior – for example, “It looks like you may be feeling frustrated”.  Encourage them to recognize and accept their feelings, asking what may be causing them and what problem they represent.  Teach them the art of “madness management” – without name calling, teasing, bullying, or making excuses.  Then you can walk them through a step-by-step method for solving problems:

  1. Define the problem.  Listen carefully to help you child identify the main issues without blaming others.  It is important to get all the facts first before making any assumption about the cause.  It is the initial step in working toward a solution.
  2. Brainstorm ideas.  This means listing any and all possible solutions to a problem.  Welcome all ideas and thoughts without judgement.  Successfully solving conflict demands that each person’s point of view be considered important. Help them seek win-win solutions – compromises that meet the needs of all parties.  This involves some of our most basic “tools” – sharing, taking turns, negotiating and cooperating – skills that do last a lifetime.
  3. Choose the option that seems most likely to work and make a play for applying it to the problem.  Be sure to review its effectiveness together!

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