Help Children Become Independent, Resolve Conflict

April 10, 2019, 9:05 am | Barbara Dunn Swanson, Laura Sternweis

Children playing with blocks by LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS.AMES, Iowa – One of the goals many parents have for their children is to watch them grow into independent young people. However, independence brings its own set of challenges, says Barbara Dunn Swanson, a human sciences specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

Children, from a young age, want to do things on their own, said Swanson, who specializes in family life issues.

“Watching your child move from crawling to learning to stand, and then take that first step, is exciting. As children master skills, they become more independent – which requires parents to be patient,” Swanson said.

“As young children learn to be independent, there is potential for conflict; but conflict is a normal part of everyday living. Although we may think of conflict as negative, conflict also can be positive because it can help us grow and develop skills,” Swanson said.

Parents can foster an environment of learning and discovery to help their children learn how to resolve conflict in a healthy way.

“Developing skills to resolve conflict comes with age. We have to think in terms of readiness. A 2-year-old 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,” Swanson said.

When children learn that their behavior has direct impact upon others, they learn to manipulate situations in both good and bad ways, Swanson continued. Helping children identify solutions to conflict is important. Parents can model good conflict resolution skills at home, so that children can learn the skills and practice at home, at 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. Let children explain how they see the situation and then make sure that all parties listen to all sides. That’s the first step to resolving the issue,” Swanson said.

The Science of Parenting, from ISU Extension and Outreach, has information for parenting preschool and elementary children, as well as guiding teens.



Audio file available: For use in 2019

Transcript. Narrator: How do you handle a toddler tantrum? Go to the Science of Parenting. When should you teach your child about money? Go to the Science of Parenting. Should your teen put the cell phone away? Go to the Science of Parenting site – for research and information from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Make informed decisions for your family. Go to and search Science of Parenting. Or find Science of Parenting on Facebook and Twitter.


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