Problem-solving is a skill that will not only give your child confidence, it will save you some headaches long-term.
Perhaps this scenario has played out in your home on numerous occasions:
“Don’t do that,” says Mom or Dad hundreds of times a day (or at least it FEELS like 100 times). Parents then become frustrated while the child becomes resistive to everything the parent says.
The whole cycle of unproductive, ineffective parenting could be reversed with a question, instead of a demand. The question of “Why are you doing that?” should make the child stop and think about their actions, instead of becoming tone deaf to your demands.
Asking that question is a first step in teaching your child to solve their own problems. Early in childhood, a parent needs to teach a child to make simple decisions. Your child needs to start learning the skill of thinking for themselves. Those problem-solving skills are not caught, however; they are taught.
Problem-solving skills are taught by example.
A child observes a parent making right decisions and learns by imitating the parent. If a parent gets easily frustrated and blames others, a child will imitate that. If a parent lives in denial and doesn’t acknowledge problems, the child will learn to do the same.
To say that the skills are not caught, and then say that kids learn by example may seem like a contradiction. However, teaching a child includes both example and verbal guidance. A child can see a parent’s behavior, which is very important for them to see, but when that goes hand-in-hand with a conversation, that makes a greater impact.
Parents must set the example for how to calmly think through and solve problems, not only in areas like work or finances, but also in problems with your child. For instance, when your child challenges you with their behavior, do you exhibit calm and thoughtful problem-solving skills or do you vent and blow up?
Problem-solving skills are taught verbally.
Taking the time to talk through a problem-solving process with your child and guide them on how to reach a solution is time-consuming. Not only must you guide them through the process, but you must also be willing to answer their questions along the way. Let’s be honest; it is not an easy way to parent. It is exhausting and in the process, it is easy for parents to lose their patience.
Being a teacher is a huge part of a parent’s job. Maybe not a teacher of math or social studies, but a teacher of life and the skills that are needed to grow to be a productive adult. If you accept this fact, then you must also acknowledge that teaching is time-consuming.
Can you imagine if your child’s pre-school teacher yelled, “Go sit down and write your name” over and over, instead of guiding the kids on how to write the letters first?
Teaching your child problem-solving skills starts with guiding them through very basic skills, like questioning why and what and understanding the meaning of consequences. At first, it feels much harder than simply barking commands, but the end result is much more rewarding for both you and your child.
Problem-solving skills are taught by reviewing.
When your child tries to solve a problem on their own, you can help them by reviewing the process with them. How did they reach the conclusion? Take time to play back the positive and negative steps they used to solve their problem, explaining, examining, and if needed, correcting those steps.
Let’s say your child problem solves a conflict with a sibling. Perhaps it did not work and the fighting continued. It’s easy to react with frustration and just separate them, without any discussion. You could do that, but you are leaving on the table a great opportunity to teach them problem-solving skills.
Instead, take the time to talk to them about how they reached that solution, why it did not work so well and what might they do differently next time.
There’s no way around it. Teaching a child to solve a problem initially takes a lot of time. But it is time and grief saved in the long-term because eventually, a child will learn how to make good decisions for themselves.
Your goal as a parent is not to train your child to simply cope. Coping means surviving in spite of the problems. Coping allows the problems to go unsolved, falsely believing that in time they will simply go away.
Solving problems means that children learn to take steps now that will ultimately lead them out of the problems and into a solution. Solutions don’t happen instantly. They come through steps, often baby steps.
Mile by mile, life’s a trial. Inch by inch, it’s a cinch. That saying may over-simplify things, but there is some truth to it. Problem-solving is often an inch-by-inch process and it is a skill that too many children are not learning because it’s the inch-by-inch where parents lose patience and give up, defaulting to repetitive demands that are not teaching their kids to think on their own.
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