5 tips to raising problem solvers

Leslie Penkunas//October 10, 2019

5 tips to raising problem solvers

Leslie Penkunas//October 10, 2019

As parents, watching our children struggle through life’s challenges can be difficult. We want to help our kids face their obstacles, but having children solve their own problems is an essential skill they need to learn.

Kids as young as 3 or 4 years old can be taught basic problem-solving skills. This is something that can be reinforced at every age, as kids grow and mature into teens and young adults. In fact, these are skills we all can benefit from practicing and using in our own lives.

Here are some steps to teach this important skill:

  • Identify the problem. Stating the problem out loud or writing it down may help kids recognize the problem at hand.
  • Think of multiple solutions. Challenge your kids to think of at least five potential solutions, even if they are not “good choices” or seem silly. Encourage them to be creative and think of many different choices.
  • Explore the possible consequences for each solution. Help your child to identify both the pros and cons of each solution.
  • Choose a solution. After exploring the possible outcomes, encourage them to pick the solution they think is best.
  • Try it out. Encourage kids to try the solution they chose. If it does not work, have them try another solution.

By encouraging your kids to use these steps when problems arise, rather than avoiding them or reacting impulsively, they will improve their problem-solving skills. Parents may still offer guidance or suggestions to their children without solving problems for them.

One way to offer suggestions is to practice brainstorming and solving problems together. You also can ask your child for help when you have a small problem of your own.

Another good thing to do is share some of your mistakes and model the use of these skills for situations in your life. This will help your child see that everyone, of every age, encounters problems that they must tackle. Allowing kids to make mistakes can be an opportunity for them to learn how to move forward.

Even if it feels difficult, let your kids experience the consequences of their behavior, when it is appropriate and safe to do so.

For example, if your child leaves their notebook at home, don’t rush to school to drop it off.  Instead, that evening, talk to your child and help them come up with a solution to remember their assignments and supplies in the future. By letting these situations become learning experiences, you will help your kids to become more independent and better at solving their own problems.

Above all, don’t forget to let your kids know how proud you are of them when they use these skills to face their problems. Remind them you are always available to talk about and offer guidance for their problems yet encourage them to independently find their best solution.

Teaching kids these steps for problem-solving will help them struggle less with future challenges.

patty-herman-from-philhavenPatty Herman is the clinical director of Applied Behavior Analysis services for WellSpan Philhaven