Most parents want their children to be equipped to handle life when they are grown. The skills needed to do this are ones that we can help them with right now. Rather than handling situations for them, and hence taking responsibility for our children, we can show responsibility to our children by helping them to problem solve and handle conflicts on their own. Myrna Shure has addressed not only the philosophy behind helping children learn how to think rather than what to think in her book Raising a Thinking Child: Help Your Young Child to Resolve Everyday Conflicts and Get Along with Others, but has gone the step further so often requested by parents by going through numerous examples of how exactly to do this.
Shure begins by explaining the principle concepts of Interpersonal Cognitive Problem Solving, generally referred to as I Can Problem Solve (ICPS), which has been successfully used in home and institutional settings for decades. According to the book, ICPS will help you:
increase your awareness that your child’s view may differ from your own; see that helping your child think a problem through may in the long run help more than immediate action to stop what she is doing; provide a model of problem-solving thinking for your children – as a thinking parent, you might inspire your child to think.
ICPS will help your children:
think about what to do when they face a problem with another person; think about different way sto solve the same problem; think about the consequences of what they do; decide whether or not an idea is a good one; realize that other people have feelings and think about their own feelings too.
The concepts in the book were not new to me. As part of striving for a consensually living family, we try to brainstorm solutions as a family or help our children think through their own problems to come up with their own solutions. When people develop their own solutions, they are much more likely to implement and follow through with them. What makes Shure’s book unique is that she goes through specific key words to use during dialogues and has numerous examples to help parents new to using this type of technique.
Reading through the examples, I was struck with the thought that the process and word choice was almost patronizing to children and adults alike. I couldn’t imagine going through the examples with my children. However, as I continued through the book, I was immediately struck by the example given where the mother stepped in, using ICPS techniques with her children when the father, who had less opportunity to practice these techniques, was frustrated and reaching his limit. That was the moment when I realized the value of the given examples for families, children and parents, who are new to such concepts and are looking for key words to help them in the learning process.
As the title implies, the examples in the book are geared toward families with young children. They would need to be adapted quite a bit for familes with older children (or even some familes with younger children) so that the kids didn’t feel as if they were being spoken down to. However, the main philosophical concepts are relevant to all families and individuals for thinking through conflict and resolution.
Shure shows in her examples that children are empowered by solving their own problems. Yet, she also advocates liberal use of praise in order to get children to practice these new found skills. In my opinion, the book and concepts in general would be strengthened by removing the use of praise.