Children are impulsive. And to avoid mishaps, parents often resort to simply telling children what to do. Yes, it may be simpler. But it removes the opportunity for a valuable lesson: teaching kids how to make effective choices. Clinical psychologist Erik Fisher says most first graders understand that they have many choices when deciding how to act, but they often rush head-long into the wrong ones. In his book, The Art of Empowered Parenting (Ovation Books, 2007) he encourages parents to slow down a child's thought process, so she can practice problem-solving.
What does he mean by slowing things down? Well for one, teach children to weigh their options before jumping head first into a decision. Here are three things you should teach your child to ask himself before making a choice:
- Is what I am going to do (or did) a good idea?
- Could it hurt, harm, or interfere with anyone, anything, or myself?
- Is there a different or better way to do it?
Note: While stealing Jimmy's lunch box may not be a better alternative to pulling his hair, don't lose hope: your child's ideas will eventually become more reasonable with practice.
If you think these questions are too complex for your first grader, think again. It's important to introduce your child to these questions early on in her development, says Fisher.
One way to help simplify the concept of problem-solving is to give visual and auditory clues to each question, in order to help your child remember, he says. Take the questions above, for example. A band aid would be a good visual cue to help kids represent and remember Question # 2.
Emotional boo-boos are no fun. And you can help your child with some preventative First Aid. The consistent application of these question gives kids the opportunity to slow down long enough to think about their choices. It may be just what your child needs to bring out his emotional intelligence.