Teaching Your Child Problem Solving Skills

by | Oct 26, 2021 | Family, Tips

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Steps To Success.

Are your children good at solving their own problems? Or do they run to you whenever something doesn’t go their way? Learning to problem solve is an important life skill. We owe it to our children to prepare them for a life time of successful problem solving.

Girl with glasses with finger on lips, problem solving

Learning to solve problems is not a fixed skill, because it can be learned. Children are capable of navigating and solving problems on their own with support and practice from adults. Why is it important 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 we, as parents, help our children have the skills to do this? Our job is to teach our children how to solve problems.

Basic Steps In Problem Solving

  1. Define the problem – break bigger problems into chunks
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Pick a solution
  4. Test the solution
  5. Review the results
  6. Start over

Parents can model these steps for their children. You can also walk your child through these steps and support them as they progress.

How To Practice Problem Solving

One way to practice problem solving with your child is to be ready to ask them questions. Children are naturals at asking for help when they are struggling. Parents who quickly solve problems FOR their child miss an opportunity to teach the problem solving steps. You can be ready to support your child by arming yourself with basic questions.

QUESTIONS FOR PRACTICE WITH YOUR CHILD

  • 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?

It is important for you and your child to reflect on the process and realize that the first time might fail, but to continue to use the information to find another solution. Encourage your child through the failure. Make failure a learning experience and not just a bad ending. When children are given problems to solve and fail in the process they build character, stamina and confidence. This shows children that when we persevere the intrinsic reward is an incredible feeling.

Model For Your Child

It is so important for parents to model how to solve problems. Think aloud to define your problem. Verbalize the problem with your child so they understand that this is something that 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 very important for children to understand that failing is not a bad thing, but only helps to solve the problem. These strategies will help your child to know that problem solving is part of life.

Strategies To Write Down

Using this acronym, SODAS, parents can help their child to progress through problem solving.

S=Situation- What is the situation you are trying to solve? Can you define it?

O=Options- What are your options? Are there many ways to find a solution?

D=Disadvantages- What are the disadvantages of some of your solutions?

A=Advantages- What are the advantages of some of your solutions?

S=Solution- Choose the best solution.

Teaching Problem Solving

boy on floor with book, problem solving

Step 1  -What Am I Feeling?: Acknowledge how your child is feeling. All feelings are okay. It is best to be calm when solving a problem so if they need a quiet place for a moment offer that.

Step 2  -Identify the Problem: Have your child say the problem out loud. Then repeat it for them to hear.

Step 3  -What are the Solutions? Brainstorm some solutions with your child. Write all of them down. You may need to help your child with this so they can stay focused and not get frustrated by having to write.

Step 4  -Go through each solution and discuss what would happen for each one. Look at the positives and negatives of each one. Reassure your child that the first solution chosen may not work so you may need to try another one.

Step 5  -Decide on which one they will try. Determine when and how that will happen.

Step 6  Reflect on the solution tried and if it worked.

Use Resources for Problem Solving

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.

Decision Makers

It is important for parents 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. As parents, we can give the information and the perspective we have in order to enable them to make the best possible solution. It is important to stay calm, practice empathy and offer choices.

Practice Together

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 solutions to figure out the actual solution.  A few examples would be

  • not wearing a coat outside when it is cold
  • getting a bad grade on a test
  • not turning in homework

As the parent, it is important to support and encourage your child on how to solve the problem. 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.

Maximum 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.

Teaching your child problem solving skills

by Dr. Kim Grengs, Ed.D., Parent Coach

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