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Teaching Problem Solving — Good Parenting

Welcome to Good Parenting, our weekly online series on parenting advice with Annapolis, Maryland, expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Headshot2011Teaching Problem Solving — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I run a multi-level Girl Scout troop of 17 from Daisies to Seniors, and at least once a meeting, two or more girls will get into a squabble. Usually it’s petty stuff – who they want to sit next to, or an ongoing argument about the correct lyrics of a pop song. It throws everyone off. The girls will take sides, complain about the disruption, and or find distractions such as their cell phones. As you can imagine, the planning that goes into each meeting requires a tight time-table or we don’t accomplish everything we wanted to for each age level. What’s the best way to quickly end the commotion and get back to the business of the meeting?

Not Now, Please

Don’t miss  last week’s column Getting Dad to help out with dinner — Good Parenting

Dear NNP,

A scout meeting can be a wonderful backdrop for learning the soft skills that are so important for us to know, conflict resolution among them. I mentioned some specific Brownie badges recently  that might suggest constructive activities for fostering good relationships among all the girls.

In addition to certain badge activities, group games are a nice way to promote harmony among a diverse group and can become a routine for your meetings. Here are some suggested games  for your meetings. Cooperative rather than competitive games will have the best results for enhancing relationships among the troop members.

In addition to the prevention of problems by helping the scouts value one another and practice kindness to each other, you can teach problem solving when a conflict arises.

  1. Identify the problem. (Guide the girls to focus on needs – not assign blame.)
  2. Brainstorm for solutions. (Adults add resources the girls might not think of using.)
  3. Choose a solution to try. (Get consensus that this is the best choice for the situation.)
  4. Evaluate the solution. (If the problem persists, or the solution causes a new problem, repeat the steps.)

For the where to sit problem, you might suggest a circle game that involves changing places and you start the next activity in these spots. For the lyrics battle, use two minutes of meeting time for someone (could be a spare adult if you have one) to look it up on the internet, or assign anyone with an interest in the answer to bring in a printed copy for everyone to sing from at the next meeting. If necessary, screen for appropriateness, of course.

This process should be fairly quick and gets easier the more you use it with the children. The Seniors might be tasked with running the rest of the troop through the problem solving steps after a few demonstrations. For reference, one or two girls can make a poster listing the 4 steps.

If you start to view conflict as an opportunity to pay attention to one another’s needs, assess available resources, and work together to make things better, your scouts will gain skills they can use the rest of their lives.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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