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Teaching Young Children Problem-Solving Skills (page 2)

By — Pearson Allyn Bacon Prentice Hall
Updated on Jul 20, 2010

The objective is not to solve the problem in a particular way for the child but to help him discover his own alternatives to violence.

Adults often short-circuit this kind of learning by putting children in time-out. Or they solve the problem themselves: “He had it first; give it back to him.” “If you’re going to fight over that toy, you can’t play with it.” Those adult actions don’t teach the problem-solving skills so necessary for the future.

Skillful intervention makes a difference. We can teach children nonviolence in the preschool years. Of course, teaching alone won’t eliminate violence. Other factors come into play. If the child sees violence at home, on the streets, or on TV, the modeling effect comes in. Or if the child is a victim of abuse, the likelihood of his becoming a perpetrator is increased.

Safe Start is a nationwide program designed to deal with the roots of violence through prevention and intervention. Supported by the Ounce of Prevention Fund, a public/private partnership based in Chicago and built on decades of research on child development, this program is a most promising approach to reducing violence through focusing on children ages birth to 5. Brain research points to the impact of early emotional experiences on brain development, altering both structure and brain chemistry. Early experiences set up patterns of response that can last a lifetime. The program stresses prevention approaches that include helping adults understand how to teach children self-control. Adults in the program learn how to set limits, discourage unacceptable behavior, model appropriate behavior, and reduce the risk factors for violence. Early intervention includes quality early childhood education programs for children, including specialized teacher training in violence prevention. Safe Start approaches are making a lasting difference. Safe Start puts out a six-page brochure called “Safe Start: How Early Experiences Can Help Reduce Violence,” an Ounce of Prevention Fund paper by Theresa Hawley (2000). It can be obtained from the Ounce of Prevention Fund, 122 S. Michigan Ave., Suite 2050, Chicago, IL 60603–6198; (312) 922–3863.

There is no single simple solution to violence. If we are to create a peaceful world to live in, we must take a many-pronged approach. A good prong to start with is to help children learn effective nonviolent problem solving in the early years.

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