Learning to problem solve is often difficult even for some adults, but it is one of the most important skills we learn and need in life. So why not start teaching our children to solve problems at an early age. Im not talking about the “how can you get the triangle into the box kind of problem.” Im referring to the “what if she would have pushed you back,” kind of problems. When it comes to solving life’s problems we usually find out the best solution after we have already made the mistakes; which is okay and needed sometimes as well. But, if we teach our children problem solving early, they may avoid some mistakes in the future.
Here are a couple ways to help teach your children problem solving…
- Provide them with “what if” scenarios. I think parents often try to protect their children from “all the bad things” that could happen, and they forget to teach them how to appropriately deal with disappointment and conflict with themselves and others. Below are some examples of “what if’s.” If you child answers with an inappropriate/negative response, that is your teaching opportunity. If they respond appropriately, then praise them for how they would handle the negative situation.
- “What would you have done if Joe wouldn’t have shared that toy with you.”
- “What if your Suzie told you to stop being friends with Julie, what would you do?”
- “How would you feel if you would have lost the game, or if coach didn’t let you play.”
- Use “in the moment” opportunities to teach problem solving. This is called “Guided Discovery.” Another innocent fault of parents is their desire to “fix” everything for the child. If you see they are struggling or upset/fighting about something; guide them in finding a solution to the problem. But, remember, it called “guided discovery,” this does not mean “I won’t help you, figure it out on your own.” Here are some examples…
- Brother and sister are fighting over the ipad, you hear them fighting so you intervene. This is a good time to ask each child what the problem is and what they could do so both of them would be happy. Try to teach and show them compromise and negotiation.
- Your teens car won’t start. Instead of taking over and fixing it for them, have them look at the owners manual, or do some research online to diagnose the problem.
By teaching problem solving early, you are starting to instill confidence in your kiddo, while also exercising a part of their frontal lobe in their brain that usually doesn’t develop until a little later in life. So good luck, and start problem solving with your kiddos!