I’m sharing a post over at Toddler Approved, all about helping kids learn to take an active role in problem solving. To keep things exciting, this post includes ninjas, snowmobiles, trains, and motorcycles. Well, sort of. Here’s a little taste:
But what if we got a little less practice, and let our kids get a little bit more? I’m confident we’d still be able to maintain our own problem-solving prowess, and hopefully our kids would develop a bit of their own.
Let me give an example of what that difference might look like.
Not too long ago, I came upon two boys in a play group. They were playing in a play structure, or more accurately, they were arguing in a play structure. Each had his own idea of what imaginary form it would take on and how the play would follow. Was it a train or a dojo? Tough questions for a pair of preschoolers. Each glared as he tried to push the other out.
The common approach as the “adult referee” is to step in and ask, “Who was here first?” Problem is, every kid thinks he was there first. (You know, when he looked at it twenty minutes ago or visited last week, he was there first.)
Next attempt, the grown up usually jumps in with a solution. Perhaps suggesting the boys take turns. “You play first. Then when the timer goes off, you trade.”
There’s nothing inherently wrong with either approach, and sometimes it’s the route you have to take to smooth things out. But both approaches put the adult in the driver’s seat and pits the children against each other. “I win. You lose.”
Slide on over to Toddler Approved to find out how two squabbling boys actually ended up having fun together!
And don’t forget, the Parenting with Positive Guidance Ecourse starts next week! Register today with the TEAM discount code and you and your parenting partner can both register for LESS than the price of one registration!
rick ackerly says
I really like the story of the two boys facing off against each other. I disagree with your statement that “there is nothing wrong with” the adult stepping in to end the conflict (and I think you do, too.) Humans need practice at making conflicts creative. The more practice they get the better. It might be necessary for an adult to watch the proceedings and perhaps provide a little conflict coaching to one or both of the boys, but to raise fully functioning adults for a democracy or a thriving business, we need people who are good at conflict. Therefore, we don’t want to solve conflicts and make them go away, but rather give them practice.
Hi Rick! Thanks for reading! I completely agree that we need kids who are good at conflict. In saying there is nothing inherently wrong with the other approaches I had three thoughts —
1- That approach is what I would consider a sin of omission rather than commission. The approach itself is not damaging or abusive, but it misses a crucial proactive opportunity to teach and coach.
2- Those solutions could be good ones, and may even be suggestions in the coaching process, but are better when they come from the kids as solutions, not from the adults as directions.
3- In listening to John Gottman recently as he talked about emotion coaching, he pointed out that the approach can be overwhelming and seem impossibly time-consuming to many parents. But what they found in research is that the parents who were “good emotion coaches” weren’t doing it 100% of the time. Closer to 20-30%, yet they were effective. I want parents and teachers to understand that though the thought of coaching every conflict may be an overwhelming thought now, you start with just one. I like the quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” I think if they’re willing to start with one, they’ll be doing it more often that not before they know it.
Thanks again for reading!
How about the adult just being there to help mediate and to teach the kids HOW to communicate. Ending the conflict won’t teach them how to solve problems, but helping them talk it through will.
Great point! I often say that there are many times when what we perceive as the failure to behave properly is actually a failure to communicate properly. When we can aid in that communication process, we give kids a very valuable tool!
Toddler Approved says
Loved this post Amanda! Thanks so much for sharing it over at Toddler Approved with my readers! I have already utilized these strategies with a rough playdate we had yesterday!