The Importance of Problem Solving with Your Child
A 2010 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy found that kids who lack problem-solving skills are at a higher risk of depression and suicidality. Additionally, the researchers found that teaching a child problem-solving skills can improve mental health.
Learning to negotiate solutions to everyday problems and make decisions for themselves will help your child to gradually become more independent and responsible. It also helps them feel confident and good about themselves, which is an important part of mental health and wellbeing.
When their mental health is supported, children are better learners, have stronger relationships and are better able to meet life’s challenges.
Kids who feel overwhelmed or hopeless often won’t attempt to address a problem. But, when you give them a clear formula for solving problems, they’ll feel more confident in their ability to try.
Raising a Problem Solver
When problems arise, don’t rush to solve your child’s problems for them. Instead, help them walk through these problem-solving steps. Offer guidance when needed, but encourage them to solve problems on their own.
Make sure your home is a protective “laboratory” where your children know they can experiment and practice problem-solving skills without fear of the pain of judgment and failure. Create accepting environments where children feel free to express their ideas without fear of being wrong or of not being taken seriously.
Here is what you can do to help your child learn to be a problem solver
Be a Model for Problem Solving
Be willing to make and admit mistakes. It is reassuring to children to discover that adults make mistakes too. So let children see some of the mistakes you make and involve them in working out a solution. They feel important and, at the same time, learn that making mistakes isn’t really such a bad thing after all. Instead, it’s an opportunity for learning.
Remember the goal of problem-solving with your child is to:
• Have your child feel part of the solution and not the problem
• Never make the child the problem only the behaviors,
• Acknowledge your child’s ability to solve problems
• Focus on behavior and consequences
• Help your child grow, not to feel punished
Four Step Problem Solving Model
1. Identifying the Problem
We need to know what the problem is before we can solve it. Seeing the problem for your child’s point of view can make all the difference in finding a solution that will work for them. This step can be difficult as children do not always have the words to tell you how they feel or know exactly what the problem is. Finding a quiet space where your child feels comfortable and relaxed may help them to start talking about it. Using your Dynamic Listening skills will also help your child to feel understood and supported talking with you. Just stating the problem out loud can make a big difference for kids who are feeling stuck. Acknowledge children’s efforts, let them know that what they are doing is important.
2. Finding a solution
The Tools of Solutions
A. Creative thinking is the ability to look at a problem in many ways. Basic to being a creative thinker is a willingness to take risks, to experiment, and even to make mistakes. Encourage children to practice critical and logical thinking by asking them open-ended questions, such as “How many ways can you sort these blocks?” helps them develop the ability to be creative thinkers.
You can also use a problem-solving approach to help your child become more independent. If s/he forgot to pack their soccer cleats for practice, ask, “What can we do to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Let them try and develop some solutions on her own.
Develop at least five possible solutions.
Even a silly answer or far-fetched idea is a possible solution and often lead to very practical ones. The key is to help them see that with a little creativity, s/he can find many different potential solutions.
C. Listening. Asking questions about things that don’t make sense to them is another way children express critical thinking. When a child wonders, “Why do I have a shadow on the playground but not inside?” or “Why can’t I see the wind?” you don’t need to respond with an answer. Instead, listen to them to encourage them to express their ideas.
If (S)he’s unable to come up with a solution, step in and help them think of solutions. But don’t automatically solve it for them. Encourage your child to utilize support people to assist them with problem-solving. These could be family members, friends, educators and teachers. This will promote help-seeking behaviors in your child and enable them to feel supported when they have a problem.
3. Deciding on a solution
What would happen if?
Identify the pros and cons of each solution
Help your child identify potential positive and negative consequences for each potential solution identified.
How will you know if this works?
Reinforce children’s solutions. Let children know that their ideas and efforts are valued.
This is the time to also discuss how to implement their solution. Picking the right time, place or circumstance will make a difference in a successful outcome.
4. Try it
5. Follow up
Once your child has tried the solution, check in with your child as soon as possible. Did it work? If not, why not? What could your child try next? Remember to give your child lots of support and encouragement if the solution didn’t work out. Sometimes we have the right solution but need to practice it many times. Other times, we may need to try a different solution.
Allowing children to experience the consequences of their decisions can provide useful lessons in responsibility. It is easier for children to accept difﬁcult or disappointing consequences when they feel supported and cared for as they learn to correct their mistakes.