Raising a Problem Solver

Jumping in to help our kids is a natural instinct, particularly when they’re very young. But teaching them to manage their own problems – and imparting the confidence we have in them to do so, even at a young age – is often a more meaningful solution. In fact, problem solving is being touted as the most critical skill for 21st century learners.

Read on for some simple steps that you and your children can take together to help them become creative problem solvers.

  • Step Back! Resist the urge to jump in immediately, unless there’s a safety concern, of course.
  • Talk It Out. Ask your child if there’s a problem, and if so, what it is. Learning to identify the issue – and the accompanying emotions – is the first step to solving the problem. Whether it’s a sock that doesn’t feel quite right or a problem with a friend at school, the process is the same. Acknowledge the emotion, but don’t solve the problem!
  • Brainstorm Solutions. Ask your child what he or she thinks might be an effective way to solve the problem. Be patient. It might take your kiddo a while to come up with even a few viable solutions. After all, you’ve probably swooped in to solve this problem many times but to your child, it’s brand new territory. Then share a few of your ideas. Discuss all of the options and let your child decide what feels best.
  • Let Them Fail. Unless it’s unsafe, let your child execute the solution they’ve chosen, even if you know it’s not the best, and let the natural consequences fall where they may. Ask them how things went and what they could have done differently for a better outcome.
  • Role Play. Addressing problems gets easier with practice. Play time is a great way to work through tough topics in a no-stress, playful way. So grab those stuffed animals or action figures, set up a scenario that needs solving, and guide your little one through it. Practice makes perfect!

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