Problem-solving is one of the most important life skills that any parent should teach their kids. It’s good when we can start to help our children learn problem-solving skills when they are preschoolers and then follow them to work with them up through their teenage years. However, the truth is, many adults are not even sure how to teach a child problem-solving skills.
For many of us, problem-solving may be quite simple. It is just something we do without thinking about the process. But I believe it will be more helpful if parents can teach children a more formal strategy to solve their problems as well as make healthy decisions in their lives. It’s important that besides raising a positive child, you should also make every effort to teach your children problem-solving skills so they can be more confident to make decisions in their lives.
There are times in your child’s daily life requiring him to make decisions and solve problems. And whether the kids cannot find their homework or forget their lunch, good problem-solving skills will be useful. They are the key to supporting them to manage their life.
According to a 2010 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy, children who lack problem-solving skills can be at a higher risk of depression and suicidality. Also, some researchers indicated that teaching kids problem-solving skills can help improve their mental health. Parents can start to teach basic problem-solving skills during your child’s preschool years and help them sharpen their skills into high school and beyond.
Why kids need problem-solving skills?
Kids of all ages face a variety of problems every day, ranging from their academic difficulties to social matters like some problems on the sports field. Parents and teachers can try to directly help solve the child’s problem. However, the best way to help them is teaching them problem-solving skills.
It is said that kids who lack problem-solving skills usually tend to avoid taking action when they face a problem. They’d rather choose to invest their time in avoiding the issue than make effort and put their energy into solving the problem. This explains why many kids often fall behind in school or have difficulty maintaining their friendships.
Other kids who lack problem-solving skills can still make decisions, but without realizing their choices. For example, a child will choose to hit his classmate who cuts in front of them in line. It’s because he is not sure what else to do. Some kids can walk out of class when being teased by others as they know no way to make it stop. Sadly, those impulsive choices can lead to even more serious problems in the long run.
When kids can learn problem-solving skills, they have confidence in making their own decisions. Supporting your kids to learn how to identify their options is a good way to help them ensure they are making healthy decisions for themselves.
How to teach a child problem-solving skills?
Teach your kids how to evaluate the problem
Kids who feel hopeless will not attempt to deal with a problem. But everything will change when you can give them a clear formula for solving problems. They will be more confident to try solving the problems. Here is how to teach a child problem-solving skills
Identify the problem
Stating the problem out loud is an effective way to make a big difference for kids who are feeling overwhelmed. Help your child realize what problem he is having. For example, parents can state: “You are not sure if you should take the dancing class.” or “You are not hard enough to get good marks”.
Develop possible solutions
Teach your kids to develop at least 5 possible solutions (if possible) to deal with the problem. Here, I suggest using the brainstorming method to do. Emphasize that all the solutions they think of don’t necessarily need to be good ideas. Try to follow them in this step and help your child if he finds it hard to come up with ideas. Even a silly answer can also be a possible solution. The main purpose is to help them see they can find different potential solutions with a little creativity.
Determine the pros and cons of each solution
For each potential solution they identified, parents should help them analyze potential positive and negative consequences.
Pick a solution
Encourage your child to come up with the most suitable decisions once he has evaluated the possible positive and negative outcomes.
Test it out
It’s time to solve the problem. Tell them to try the solution he chooses and wait to see what happens. If the method is not effective, he can always try another way from the list created in step two.
Practice solving problems
How to teach a child problem-solving skills? Don’t forget this important step!
Many parents rush to solve their child’s problem because they are too worried for their kids. However, you shouldn’t do this! Instead, help them with the problem-solving steps. You can offer guidance when the child needs help, but it’s better to encourage them to solve problems on their own. In case they are unable to come up with a solution, support him with some suggestions. Never automatically tell them what to do.
You can still need to offer a consequence for misbehavior, but make it clear that you are trying to look for a solution so your child can do better next time.
Kids often develop creative solutions that even adults can’t think of. So, don’t hesitate to provide plenty of praise when your children practice their problem-solving skills.
Allow for natural consequences
There are times natural consequences can also teach your kids problem-solving skills. Determine appropriate times to allow your child to face the natural consequence of their action. Just make sure that it’s safe to do so.
For example, let your teenager use all their money during the first 20 minutes for what they want when you are at an amusement park. After that, let him go for the rest of the day there with no money left.
This leads to a discussion about problem-solving to help the child make a better decision next time. So, it’s effective when parents can consider natural consequences as a teachable moment to help work together on problem-solving.
Knowing how to teach a child problem-solving skills means we are giving them a skill set that plays an important part in their academic success. Help your child be confident people who can always find possible solutions to the basic problems on a daily basis.