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Teaching Children Social Skills and Conflict Resolution

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In Sticks and Stones, Scott Cooper presents adult principles of assertiveness training in a form that children can understand. He explains to parents how they can teach principles of self-expression, disclosure, deflection, verbal repetition, and problem/conflict resolution skills. This Verbal Toolbox is divided into seven categories called Ways, each named for a different type of bird.

For example, to teach assertive self-expression, Cooper uses the Way of the Blue Jay. If your child finds it difficult to deal assertively with bothersome people, the expressive Blue Jay can teach her to tell people directly how she feels about things. Conflict resolution is taught by the Way of the Dove. Simple techniques such as The Coin Toss, Solution Time for more serious disputes, and my favorite, The Cone of Silence, teach children to find solutions to their differences and conflicts.

I can see that this book will be dog-eared at my house before long. It's a great reference for those times when you want to address a specific problem your child faces. You need to think creatively to introduce the illustrations of the birds into your child's awareness. They are powerful metaphors that children can grasp with their unconscious minds. Use them in story form, as an introduction to family meetings, or as a natural extension in the following family project - an exploration of birds in your town. The specific techniques can be integrated easily into your parenting repertoire, especially when conflict between children arises.

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