How to Raise a Problem-Solver

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

We want our children to be able to recognize problems and have the initiative to tackle the issue and find a solution. Yet most conventional parenting practices involve parents solving the problem for the child. Methods such as spanking, time-out, and removal of privileges put the problem in the parents' hands, considering the problem solved when the punishment is issued. This causes parents to “police” their child's behavior continuously because the child isn't learning how to solve his own problems or correct his own mistakes.

I believe we need to give the problem to whom it belongs – the child. Otherwise, how will she learn to solve them without constant parental direction? Here are 4 questions to ask your child each time a problem arises that will help her grow to be a problem-solver.

What caused you to do this?

This question gets children thinking about the relationship between their environment and their actions. “What caused you to hit your sister?” “What caused you to get a bad grade this semester?” “What caused you to leave your room a mess?” We want to get children thinking about cause and effect and understand how feelings affect their behavior so that they can learn to make better choices in the moment.

What was the outcome of your choice?

This question serves two purposes. It teaches the child that their behavior is always a choice that they made (whether there was provocation or not, the choice was their's), and it builds empathy because they begin to see the affect their choice has had on those around them. “Look at your sister's face. How did hitting her make her feel? How do you feel about that?” “Would you have lost your baseball glove if you'd have kept things in their place?” “When you don't do your chores, how does it affect the rest of the family?” The point is to help them see their actions don't only affect them but others as well.

What could you have done differently?

Here is where the child brainstorms better options or is taught better options by the parent or caregiver. Here's what this may look like so far:

“What caused you to push your brother down?”

“He took my toy. I was mad.”

“What was the outcome of your choice to push him down?”

“He's crying.”

“Yes, he's crying because that hurt him and made him sad. What could you have done differently?” 

“I don't know.”

“Let's think about it. You could have asked me for help when he took your toy. You could have chosen to let him play with it and picked another toy for yourself. You could have taken a deep breath and asked him to give your toy back. Which choice will you make next time?"

How are you going to fix this?

This question puts the responsibility for solving this problem squarely on the child's shoulders...continue reading at Creative Child


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