The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Health & Family

February 28, 2013

Sarah Coyne: Empower children to find own answers

JOPLIN, Mo. — I've often said that if it weren't for all the refereeing required of mothers, my job would be a perfect joy. I could focus on teaching basic skills to my children -- picking up after oneself, taking pride in a job well done, refilling mommy's plate of bon-bons -- and never deal with the hair-ripping stress that accompanies sibling battles.

My mood is directly dependent upon how well my children are treating each other, which isn't necessarily a healthy correlation, but there it is. When they get along, tossing the golden rule around in selfless handfuls, our days are lovely.

But when they cannot see their way through even the simplest disputes without devolving into screams, our days can turn very ugly.

Who wants to spend hours each day telling kids how to solve their problems? Who wants to stop everything to decide the winner of each sibling argument, all day long? Not me.

Imagine my surprise when I realized I don't have to be the referee; that it's more important for kids to learn how to solve their own problems than it is for me to ensure calm, happy days.

Robbing our children of the tools necessary to negotiate, empathize and think critically -- all the things I do when I step in to strong-arm an argument into dissolution -- is handicapping them with an inability to cope with social friction.

It's one thing to step back and let the little fighters duke it out on their own. It's quite another thing to put problem-solving tools into their hands and demonstrate the techniques. One makes nasty grudges and angry homes, while the other leads to peaceful families and confident kids.

So, what are these magical problem-solving tools? I've seen them listed on several websites and in a handful of parenting books, and while their authors might differ over minor details, they all paint with the same broad strokes.

When our kids come to us tattling about a disagreement, there are generally three steps to follow if we're trying to teach them how to solve their own problems.

Text Only
Health & Family
Facebook
Poll

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined. Do you think those kinds of measures should be taken?

A. Yes.
B. No.
     View Results
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
NDN Video
Trump: DC Hotel Will Be Among World's Best Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Republicans Hold a Hearing on IRS Lost Emails Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel Raw: MH17 Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Disabled Veterans Memorial Nearing Completion Last Mass Lynching in U.S. Remains Unsolved Home-sharing Programs Help Seniors Ex-NYC Mayor: US Should Allow Flights to Israel Clinton: "AIDS-Free Generation Within Our Reach" Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball