R. Brooks: The Power of Parenting
“What charitable activities have your parents been involved with in the past few months?”
“What charitable activities have they and you have been involved with together in the past few months?”
Parents would be well-advised to say as often as possible to their children, “We need your help” rather than “Remember to do your chores.” In addition, parents who involve their children in charitable endeavors, such as walks for hunger or AIDS or food drives, appreciate the value of such activities in fostering self-esteem and resilience. Responsibility and compassion are not promoted by parental “lectures” but rather by opportunities for children to assume a helping role and to become part of a “charitable family,” a family that is engaged in acts of compassion and giving.
9. Teaching Our Children to Solve Problems and Make Decisions. Children with high self-esteem and resilience believe that they are masters of their own fate and that they can define what they have control over and what is beyond their control. A vital ingredient of this feeling of control is the belief that when problems arise, they have the ability to solve problems and make decisions. Resilient children are able to articulate problems, consider different solutions, attempt what they judge to be the most appropriate solution, and learn from the outcome (Shure, 1996; Shure & Aberson, 2004).
If parents are to reinforce this problem-solving attitude in their children, they must refrain from constantly telling their children what to do. Instead it is more beneficial to encourage children to consider different possible solutions. To facilitate this process, parents might wish to establish a “family meeting time” every week or every other week during which problems facing family members can be discussed and solutions considered.
Jane, a nine-year-old girl, came home from school in tears and sobbed to her mother, Mrs. Jones, that some of her friends refused to sit with her at lunch, telling her they did not want her around. Jane felt confused and distressed and asked her mother what to do. Mrs. Jones immediately replied that Jane should tell the other girls that if they did not want to play with her, she did not want to play with them. While this motherly advice may have been appropriate, quickly telling Jane what to do and not involving her in a discussion of possible solutions took away an opportunity to strengthen her own problem-solving skills.
As another example, Barry and his older brother, Len, constantly bickered. According to their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Stern, they fought about everything, including who would sit in the front seat of the car and who would use the computer. Len was frequently reminded by his parents to be more tolerant since he was the older of the two. They warned him that his failure to comply with their request would result in punishment. Len’s response was to become angry and distant, feeling he was being treated unfairly. Eventually, the parents sat down with Barry and Len, shared with them the negative impact that their arguing was having on the family, and asked them to come up with possible solutions to particular problems and to select what they considered to be the best solution.
Much to the surprise of Mr. and Mrs. Stern, their sons came forth with solutions that were noteworthy for being grounded in simple rules. The boys decided that they would take turns sitting in the front seat as well as alternating every half hour in the use of the computer.
As Shure (1996) has found in her research, even preschool children can be assisted to develop effective and realistic ways of making choices and solving problems.