Developing Conflict Resolution Skills

One of the goalKneeling mother and son discussing conflicts many parents have for their children, is to watch them grow into independent young people. Independence, however, comes with its own set of challenges. Children, from a young age, want to do things “on their own”. Watching a crawler, learn to stand, or perhaps even take a step is exciting. Mastery of skills along with independence is achievable, and requires parents to practice some patience!   As young children are learning independence, there is the potential for conflict. Conflicts are a normal part of everyday living. Although we usually think of conflicts as very negative, conflict can also be positive because it can help us grow and develop skill.

The ability to resolve conflicts is learned. Parents, as the first educators of their children can foster an environment of learning and discovery that can include healthy resolution of conflict.  It is true, developing the skill to resolve conflicts comes with age. We have to think in terms of readiness. Two-year-old children may not readily understand how to resolve conflict, but over time, can learn problem-solving techniques. Helping youth to recognize opposing points of view is important; as is learning that actions have consequences.

When children learn that their behavior has direct impact upon others, they learn to manipulate situations in both good and bad ways. Helping children to identify solutions to conflict is important. Parents can model good conflict resolution skills at home, so that children too, learn the skill and can practice it at home, school and into their future.

Talking through conflicts when they occur is a good way to make sure that something positive can come from the situation. Letting children explain how they see the situation and then making sure that all parties listen to all sides is the first step in creating peace in the situation.

Additional information for parenting preschool and elementary children can be accessed here. 

Resources for guiding teens can be accessed here.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development

colorful hands raised with white backgroundAs a nationally recognized youth development program, 4-H has a one hundred year history assisting youth to develop into competent, contributing members of society! Through participation in a variety of activities, educational opportunities and club meetings, youth are developing the ability to make good decisions, improve their communications skills and learn to lead!

Over the years, the “magic” that is 4-H has been summarized into “essential elements” or building blocks of healthy development.

The safety of all 4-H members is a priority. Every club leader receives training to ensure that the leader is capable of providing an appropriate 4-H program. Extension staff work alongside the club leader to provide guidance and suggestions for club development. The need for “belonging” is strong and with this in mind, the club setting meets the need for belonging.

Another essential element is the need to experience “mastery.” As we age, we all desire mastery, whether in our work life or family life. The way we experience mastery in 4-H is through our 4-H project work. The 4-H club experience will give youth the chance to develop a set of skills with many opportunities to master the learning environment!

Gaining a sense of “independence” is the goal we each strive for every day! Parents provide the love, boundaries and environment necessary for youth to gain independence. With the support of friends, family and the community, youth can learn to be self-directing, making choices based on their own skill and ability. 4-H project selection supports youth and their ability to choose the activities that meet their needs. While members of the 4-H club make decisions about subjects to study, they may also choose to complete group community service projects.

Community service allows 4-H members to learn to give back and to practice “generosity”! Many 4-H clubs participate in community service projects that provide youth the experience of helping others while learning valuable decision making, communication and service skills.

4-H continues to meet the needs of youth, why not explore how 4-H can benefit your family! Learn more about Iowa 4-H! Reach out to your County Extension Office.

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Celebrate National 4-H Week

Each year, during the first full week of October, National 4-H Week is celebrated! As parents of young children, you may wonder why so many people have joined 4-H over the years. The answer is as varied as the learning experiences offered in 4-H! Some join to learn a new skill; others join because they know friends who have joined; others join 4-H because of the adult volunteers who organize the clubs. You see, 4-H is over 100 years old, making it one of the longest running, most recognizable youth organizations for boys and girls nationwide. Nationally six million kids are enrolled in 4-H, through-out the United States.

The learning opportunities in 4-H are centered around the essential elements necessary for positive youth development by providing youth with supervised independence, a sense of belonging with a positive group, a spirit of generosity toward others and a wide variety of opportunities to master life challenges. 4-H is safe and supervised, something all parents would agree is important today.

4-H involves “learn by doing” experiences that will encourage youth to experiment, innovate and think independently. 4-H clubs are involved in community service projects, livestock projects and leadership and citizenship projects all designed to assist members in developing skill and ability in a variety of areas.

In addition, quality youth development programs like 4-H evolve around the following five traits:

  • Connection – helping youth connect to peers, adults and their community
  • Character – helping youth show respect, loyalty, responsibility and integrity
  • Competence – helping youth to achieve mastery in social and academic areas
  • Caring – helping youth develop empathy for others
  • Confidence – helping others and an ability to make a difference.

Parents, if you are looking for a meaningful investment, why not give 4-H a look! Contact your local county Extension office. Find your county Extension office. Follow this link to get more information on 4-H! Learn more here!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Connecting Home and School

Did you finally get all of the school events in your personal calendar? Have you purchased the last minute supply requests? Often we focus on getting children ready for school to start that we overlook how we can continue to support the school learning while at home.

Dare to Excel is a resource, available in both Spanish and English. Created by ISU Extension and Outreach this resource provides families with ideas on how to extend the school learning while at-home. Monthly newsletters,  September through May, feature the seven Proven Parenting Practices that research has shown helps children become better learners.

 

Download the newsletters below or share the links with your friends, family and schools.

Let us know if you did any of the activities and what learning you were able to extend.

Connecting School and Home- Dare to Excel

Children spend many hours at school. Creating positive school/family connections are vital to school success.  Also available in Spanish.

Find more resources at Everyday Parenting

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Lori Hayungs, M.S.

Mother of three. Lover of all things child development related. Fascinated by temperament and brain development. Professional background with families, child care providers, teachers and community service entities.

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Routines Promote Healthy Emotional Development

I catch a glimpse of the calendar and know that school will begin shortly, and that means many families will get back into a routine that will include hustle and bustle to get family members to school, day care, work, and sporting events.

For children, settling into a routine that includes school, homework, sports, playtime and family meals is very important. Children and youth do best when routines are regular, predictable, and consistent. When we eat and sleep with regular consistency, our bodies adjust and we feel good! Conversely, when we avoid sleep and eat the wrong foods, we pay the price in how we feel!

A study published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics reports that family routines support children and their emotional development. And it is the social / emotional health that enables children to thrive in the classroom.

Routines that include singing, bedtime snacks, storytelling and connection with family caregivers are helpful for a good night’s rest. The nurturing we do to help children adjust to “back to school” is proving to be helpful in long term adjustment in both school and home settings.

Talking about the upcoming school routine can help alleviate any anxiety your child may have. Keep communication lines open with your child so that they can feel comfortable discussing with you the fears or questions they may have about the new school year. As a family, your routines are making a difference!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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New Blogger, Mackenzie Johnson, shares research and reality

Hello hello! I’m Mackenzie, and I’m so excited to be joining the Science of Parenting blog team! A little about me – I have an infant daughter, I enjoy cooking from scratch, and I’m a total geek for research on the interaction of parents and children (even studied it in college)! These three facts about me actually all roll together into one of my biggest passions – learning about the phenomenon of how parents get the opportunity to help raise new adults “from scratch”!

In my education, I’ve learned a lot about parenting styles, stages of child development, strategies for guidance and discipline, etc. So when I thought about becoming a parent, I had big plans. Oh boy, I had all kinds of plans! I said things to myself like “I will do things this way” and “I would never do that” … Then I held my tiny infant in my arms, and suddenly everything changed. She came into the world with her own temperament, her own challenges, her own quirks. I found out that my plans weren’t panning out how I thought- no matter how much effort I put into them! “What now?”, I asked myself, “I know that research suggests this is the best way to do this, but my plans aren’t working!”

Over a few months, I’ve been able to get some clarity on what I like to refer to as “balancing research and reality”. The research suggested that _______ is the most successful strategy, but I had to balance that information with what my reality was. With certain things, the research-suggested strategy just wasn’t working for us… But Instead of feeling terribly guilty about it, I’ve come to find a level of acceptance. I realized that I wasn’t a failure, but rather a parent who made an educated decision about what was best for my family. In certain circumstances, it was better for my family to change the way we were doing things than to continue on a path that wasn’t working for us. And because I had learned about the research, I was able to make an INFORMED decision for MY FAMILY.

That’s the perspective I hope to bring with me to the blog: understanding that research is here to empower us to be able to make informed decisions about what is in the best interest of our families. So no parent-shaming here. No condescending words to belittle anyone’s parenting. No telling you that there is only one way to do it. Instead, we will work to give you access to information so that you can decide what is best for your family.

So yes, I’m truly excited to be joining the Science of Parenting team, because I just can’t think of a better parent-empowering movement to get behind.

Mackenzie Johnson

Mackenzie Johnson

Parent to a little one with her own quirks. Celebrator of the concept of raising kids “from scratch”. Learner and lover of the parent-child relationship. Translator of research with a dose of reality. Certified Family Life Educator.

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Gratitude Diaries

Little girl looking at her mother
Little girl looking at her mother

I’m reading the Gratitude Diaries by Janice Kaplan and loved the chapter on Raising Grateful Kids.  Her stories about UN-grateful preteens and young adults who resented the sense of obligation that comes with “thanking” their parents made me think about how we approach gratitude with our kids.  Do we demand that they be grateful for all we do for them?

 

Modeling appreciation is the best way to teach gratitude.  How often does our family hear us express gratitude for our job or coworkers? For the checker at the grocery store? For access to safe, nutritious food? For the privilege of transportation to get where we need and want to go? When was the last time your kids heard YOU say thanks to their other parent for something that just gets done at home? Have your kids seen YOU handwrite a thank you note to a friend for taking time to have lunch together? or bringing in the garbage cans that blew down the street?  Appreciating the small things keeps us from taking things for granted. Learn more ways to raise grateful kids in this video Teach your kids the gift of giving.

My granddaughter signs ‘Thank you’ to her Papa when he gets her a drink of water.  My heart swells when I see her learn this simple act of gratitude.  It starts early and extends throughout our life.  I started using the Five Minute Gratitude Journal to keep me focused on looking on the bright side of life.

Thank someone this week for who they are, or what they did, or that they are in your life. . .  and tell us what happened to YOUR heart. To their attitude. To the relationship.

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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At Home with Nature

Children running on meadow at sunset

My childhood memories of nature include holding soft baby kitties, bicycling on the dusty gravel road, watching ants in the grass, hanging upside down in the swing in the big oak tree, collecting rocks, and digging tunnels in snow drifts. What are your favorite outdoor memories? Did you know that those experiences, in an unstructured, extended time frame, form the foundation of curiosity, learning and development of empathy? Scooping and dumping sand, making mud pies and stacking wood scraps were how you might have begun to learn physics and mathematics? Climbing a tree, running on uneven ground and carrying branches help a child develop body awareness, strength and visual spatial skills. Want your kid to be able to parallel park when he learns to drive? Give him outdoor experiences manipulating large natural materials and chances are he’ll be at the head of his driver’s ed – or graphic design – class. Kids also learn to manage risk and problem solve when they have early experiences in natural settings. Pokémon Go the virtual reality game may be a way to get kids outdoors, however unless they pay attention to the surroundings and explore those spaces, it does not substitute for actual experience with nature. Geocaching is another way for families to explore the out of doors.

I’ve been a certified Nature Explore trainer since 2009.  Thousands of Iowa early childhood professionals – teachers, child care providers, naturalists, parks and rec staff and parents – have learned to use tested design principles to help children connect to nature. Imagine my joy when I was invited to participate in a research project on Nature Explore backyards in Iowa City.  It was magical to watch  families embrace the concepts and open their backyards to transformation.  My memory of watching a toddler explore sound in his family’s new outdoor ‘classroom’ sustains me whenever I do a design consultation or teach a workshop. Excerpts from that research are in the book At Home with Nature.

My own backyard contains the Nature Explore principles and I’m having fun seeing how they will change over time as my 16 month old granddaughter grows up. Watching her pick and eat berries for the first time, check out the wren’s nest and sing back to the momma and papa birds, stack river stones, fill a pail with pinecones, turn sea shells over and over in her tiny hands and swing in the mosquito netting hammock all fill my heart with gratitude and hope for her future.

How do you help your kids connect to nature?

Kristi Cooper

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Chores Teach Responsibility

kid-thinking280

“It’s not fair”; “I don’t have time”; “It’s not my job”; Words often expressed by children who are asked to complete some household task!

Taking responsibility for a household task can assist children learn essential life skills, including taking responsibility, and expressing generosity. Families who work together to make decisions, keep the house clean, and care for one another, can use that energy to tackle even tougher issues! Don’t give up parents! Teaching your children to accept responsibility through assignments at home will create strong children!

Barb Dunn Swanson

Barb Dunn Swanson

With two earned degrees from Iowa State University, Barb is a Human Sciences Specialist utilizing her experience working alongside communities to develop strong youth and families! With humor and compassion, she enjoys teaching, listening and learning to learn!

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Overindulging: What’s Best for Our Children?

Young boy (6-7) about to destroy toy car, girl (3-4) crying, mother sitting in armchair

As parents, we want what’s best for our children. But as a parent I’ve experienced the urge to provide experiences and material possessions that I wasn’t fortunate enough to have had as a child and as an adult I have the financial means to provide for my child.  I have learned that this urge needs to counter with the question of “what is best?”.

How do we know what’s best? I ask myself this question every birthday, and every holiday.  I have used a couple questions to keep my urge to give under control.  The first question I ask is “Is this gift or experience good for them?”   In other words, does giving this gift promote or prevent learning?  Then I evaluate the financial impact that this gift will have on our family budget.  Does it use too many family resources that should be used or saved for something else?  College isn’t many years away even for an infant.  Even little purchases add up over the years.  The last question I consider is that of need.  Is the gift something I want?  Does it benefit me more than my child?  Am I using the gift as a way to compensate for time, I wish I had spent with my child?

Overindulging and buying too much has become epidemic among parents. As parents we need to question our purchases and respond with moderation and mindfulness.  Even with good intentions, the results of giving too much can be harmful.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Spoiling Grandkids

This week we welcome guest blogger Kristi Cooper. Human Sciences Specialist in Family Life and new grandma.

were grandparnetsI had no idea I’d be taking my own advice years after I wrote about the overspending of grandmothers and aunts on new babies. I’m very excited to provide my 11 month old granddaughter with as many new experiences as she can handle.  Her parents are practical and their home is small so the oodles of toys, clothes and other baubles that are bestowed upon her by well-meaning relatives create stress. Besides, my grandgirl is pretty happy with simple household surfaces to pound and pull up on, and a human or two to keep her entertained.

Marketers of baby stuff focus on female consumers – aunts and grandmothers in particular – because their hearts are as big as their wallets. By keeping our wallets closed and our hearts open we can avoid turning our grandchildren into beggars and entitled teens. Here are 5 ways to love those precious little ones without creating strained relationships, stress over stuff and maintain our financial wellbeing.

  1. Gift of Talent/Skills We all have the need to contribute to our family and community. Share age-appropriate activities with your grandchild or grand babyPlay together – Teach a game from your childhood such as kick-the-can or hide-and-seek.
  2. Gift of Words Talk Together – Encourage grandchildren, nieces, and nephews by highlighting the positive values you see in them. Ask about their goals in life. Talk about how they can reach those goals. Point out the characteristics that you admire in them.
  3. Gift of Time Nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention – sharing conversation and activities. Work together  Do household chores, homework, bicycle repair or volunteer in the community with your younger generation. Working together teaches skills, work ethic and the value of contributing to others.
  4. Gift of Objects – We all like to receive objects that have been thoughtfully selected just for us. Keep material gifts to a minimum and consider the life-span of the object.  Create together – Choose toys  and consumables like art materials that stimulate critical thinking, imagination and are age-appropriate. Ask yourself, who is doing the thinking – the child or the manufacturer?
  5. Gift of Touch/Self Care – Wrap these gifts in plenty of hugs and kisses, bedtime backrubs, tickles and laughter. Practice relaxation techniques so you can be fully present for your grandchild.

YOU are the best gift your grandchild can receive!

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Kristi Cooper

Kristi’s expertise in caregiving, mind body skills and nature education inspires her messages about healthy people and environments with parents, professionals, and community leaders.

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Goal Setting and Traveling Life’s Twisting Roads

Road SignThere are many similarities between goal setting and traveling down life’s highway.   How do we help kids learn how to achieve goals when the path life takes you isn’t typically a superhighway.  Rather it’s a curvy, twisting, mostly uphill dirt road scattered with potholes and mud puddles.  At least that’s how many people would describe the path their life has taken.

I don’t think that we are fair with our kids, if we paint a picture of success that is void of the obvious potential obstacles that may get in their way. I’ve found goalsetting to be more productive with my kids, if together, we can anticipate the difficulties that might lay ahead.   As adults we already know that it’s much easier to travel down a road that has signs posted that help you avoid potential perils.    We’ve learned that it’s easier to drive with your headlights on, in other words, being prepared for the conditions and what lies ahead.

My other piece of travel advice. Never travel without a roadmap.  A roadmap—is essential for the experienced and inexperienced traveler. In goalsetting—the map is the plan.  A plan that has been made with all of the anticipated obstacles in mind… will make success much more probable!

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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Summer Learning Can Continue through 4-H and Scouts

I grew up on a farm in northeast Iowa and my summers were spent picking up rocks, cutting volunteer corn from soybean fields and learning from 4-H.   4-H was interwoven

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into the culture of rural life.  Learning was at the center of summer and 4-H was the catalyst.  Fair projects provided the incentive for me to learn many things.  I learned about the science of cooking—why eggs turned green if boiled incorrectly, the process of canning and using a pressure cooker, tying a variety of macramé knots, the details of furniture refinishing, photography and the effects of different light exposures to only highlight a few.  Learning didn’t stop when the school bell rang, in fact, learning moved into high gear.  For me learning that was purposeful or necessary to do something was powerful.  I learned early the importance of how to learn and the joy and satisfaction that can come from learning.

How can we encourage this kind of learning today? Kids are still joining and learning through 4-H and the Scouting organizations are still running summer camps.   I’m seeing my 15 year old off to Scout camp this weekend for a two week stint and he can easily give testimony to what he has and will learn at camp.  Youth programs like 4-H and Scouts offer valuable opportunities for youth to learn not only practical, technical skills, but life skills like communications and getting along with other youth and adults.    Sadly, more should and could take advantage.  Summer youth programs can provide a unique opportunity for youth to learn in a relaxed environment outside of school.

It’s not too late to get your child enrolled!  It’s not too late for learning!  Call today.

Janet Smith

Janet Smith

Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.

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