Parenting Tips 2

Help Learn Problem Solving

All kids squabble from time to time. Instead of struggling to play judge and jury, try something new. Make your children responsible for finding a way to work it out. You will have to supervise to make sure that older children don’t take advantage of younger children, but even children as young as three can learn how to solve problems with a brother or sister.

If they are arguing over a toy, put the toy out of sight and say, “You can have the toy when you have figured out a plan to play with it that you both agree to.” Most often both of the children want the toy enough that they are willing to work together to get it back. Even young children will work out plans: “She’ll play with it for five minutes and then I’ll play with it for five minutes.” As long as they both agree to the plan, you can give the toy back. If children agree to taking turns, you might offer them a kitchen timer to help. This is a simple trick that really helps them succeed. Sometimes they enjoy using the timer as much as the toy!

Sometimes one child doesn’t want it enough to work out a plan and walks away or refuses to talk. If this
happens, give the toy to the child who was willing to try to work it out. Say, “Since she doesn’t want it
enough to talk about it you can use it now.”

For reluctant problem solvers you can set a timer. “If you won’t work out the problem in five minutes then I’ll decide for you.” It is always best to make the solution in favor of the child who was willing to work out the problem and less favorable for the child who did not put in real effort to work out the problem. This is a great consequence for not problem solving—kids learn that it is better to work with others than to refuse to try to work things out.

Source: Parents Count. Better Kid Care, Pennsylvania State Cooperative Extension, March, 2005. 



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