Parents, stop trying to fix everything for your kids! Fixing their problems isn’t helping them to learn how to problem solve on their own. Learning to solve problems is not an inborn skill, because it can be learned. Children are capable of navigating and solving problems on their own with support and practice from adults.
It’s so easy to go into “fix it mom” mode that it will take practice to “let it go.” Why is it important for your child to be able to solve problems independently? To be a critical thinker and successful in life one must be confident in their ability to solve problems. The big question is how do you help your children have the skills to do this? Your job is to teach your children how to solve problems instead of fixing their problems. All parents want their child to grow up to be independent successful contributing members of society.
HARMING MORE THAN HELPING
By always solving or fixing our kids problems we are:
- Sending the message that our child isn’t capable of solving their own problems. And that you lack trust in their ability.
- Robbing our child of essential life skills.
- Denying our child the opportunity to gain self-confidence by failing at first and then figuring out a solution.
DO THIS INSTEAD
- Listen to what your child is telling you.
- Repeat what they are telling you so they know you are listening.
- Express empathy and have confidence in your child.
- Ask questions.
- Offer encouragement.
- Appreciate their independence.
STEPS TO HELP THEM IF THEY ARE STUCK
Sometimes your kids will get stuck. They might really need your help. That’s why it’s important to learn how to help them and not take over the problem solving from them. These steps help you and your child learn how to approach solving problems.
- Define the problem – break problems into chunks
- Brainstorm solutions
- Pick a solution
- Test the solution
- Review the results
- Start over
QUESTIONS FOR PRACTICE WITH YOUR CHILD
It is important to reflect on the process and realize that the first time might fail, but to continue to use the information you have to find another solution. When children are given problems to solve and fail in the process this builds character and confidence. This shows children how when one perseveres the intrinsic reward is an incredible feeling.
- Have I ever seen a problem like this?
- How did I solve this problem before?
- Why do you think this happened?
- How might you do this differently next time?
- What do you notice?
- What makes this work?
MODEL FOR YOUR CHILD
It is so important for parents to model how to solve problems. Think aloud what the problem is. Verbalize the problem with your child so they understand that this is something adults have to do daily. Ask yourself questions and talk through multiple possible outcomes. Admit when you don’t know the answer and admit when your solution failed. It is so important for children to understand that failing is not a bad thing, it actually helps to solve the problem. These strategies will help your child to know that problem solving is part of life.
Reinforce the importance of using resources when solving problems. For example, when you are struggling with solving a problem make sure to reach out to those that may have more experience or knowledge. Share this with your child so they observe that reaching out to others is another strategy in solving problems. It does not mean you are weak, it means you are working smarter by acknowledging others’ support.
DON’T FIX THEIR PROBLEMS
It is important for you to let your child make decisions by problem solving. This creates and builds the confidence necessary to be successful in life. Children can make informed decisions. You can give the information and the perspective you have in order to enable them to make the best possible solution. It is important to stay calm, practice empathy and offer choices.
It is not enough to show or tell your child how to problem solve, they need to practice. They need to experience the natural consequences of their solutions. This is good for children to experience so they know that it may take a few tries to figure out the actual solution. A few examples would be:
- Having an issue with a friend.
- Having an issue with a teacher.
- Not completing homework.
- Not making the team he wanted to.
You should support and encourage your child in how to solve the problem and not fix everything. You will be the guide on the side, using the tools given, to collaborate and come up with solutions. Your child will learn to think and advocate for themselves.
Maximal learning and growth happen when the child is reaching and stretching from what they know to acquire new skills. Our job is to teach our children how to solve problems.
Don’t Try To Fix Everything For Your Kids
BY DR. KIM GRENGS, ED. D., PARENT COACH