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What Mom never told you about teaching your child to solve problems

By Susan Pohorski

Quarrel - offended sistersRecently, a friend and I were reminiscing about how our daughters fought with each other when they were young. He recalled one episode when his girls were shouting at each other over some conflict and his wife locked them in the bathroom and would not let them out until they resolved the argument.

Do you have a whiner in your family? One who brings you every little struggle or insult from a brother or sister? How do you handle these situations? Do you send them to different corners until they calm down, or make them talk it out?

Teaching your children how to handle conflicts could be the most important lesson you ever give them.

“I have discovered that people who can think in a problem-solving way are more likely to find success and are better adjusted socially than those who cannot think that way, or haven’t learned to,” writes Myrna B. Shure, Ph.D., in her book “Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others.”

Shure says the secret lies in teaching children how to think, not what to think. Help your child understand feelings, find alternative solutions and consider consequences.

Children who learn to solve typical everyday problems are less likely to become impulsive, insensitive, withdrawn, aggressive, or antisocial, Shure continues. They are also happier because the ability to think straight relieves emotional tension.

“The thinking child can appreciate how people feel, decide what to do, and evaluate whether the idea is or is not a good one,” she adds. Who doesn’t want that?

Karen Bogenschneider, family policy researcher for the University of Wisconsin-Extension, says, “Studies show that families are the most important contributor to the development of productive and competent workers.” The Extension is teaching parents of four- to 7-year-olds in Clark County how to raise thinking children.

Have you tried the Interpersonal Cognitive Problem-Solving (ICPS) methods Shure teaches? What’s your approach?

For more on teaching children to resolve conflicts: