How to Teach Your Child Problem Solving Skills!

Whether your child can’t find homework or he/she forgot lunch, good problem-solving skills are the key to help them manage life.  You can begin teaching basic problem-solving skills during preschool and help your child sharpen skills into high school and beyond.

Kids face a variety of problems every day, ranging from academic difficulties to problems on the sports field. Yet, few of them have a formula for solving those problems. Kids who lack problem-solving skills may avoid taking action when faced with a problem. Rather than put energy into solving the problem, a child may avoid addressing it. That’s why many kids fall behind in school or struggle to maintain friendships. Other kids who lack problem-solving skills may spring into action without recognizing their choices. Their impulsive behavior may create even bigger problems for them. For example, a child may hit a peer who cuts in line because he/she not sure what else to do. Or a child may walk out of class when teased because he/she can’t think of any other ways to make it stop.

Teach Kids How to Evaluate the Problem

Before kids can solve the problem, they need to identify exactly what the problem is. In fact, just stating the problem can make a big difference. For example, a child who can say to a parent, “Kids are picking on me at recess,” may begin to feel a little bit of relief. Once kids identify the problem, teach them to develop several possible solutions before springing into action. Try to brainstorm at least four possible ways to solve the problem. Then discuss the pros and cons of each approach. It is important that kids learn to recognize the possible positive and negative consequences of their behaviors. Once your child recognizes several options and the possible consequences of each, decide which choice is best. Teach kids that if they choose a course of action and it doesn’t resolve the problem, they can always try something else. Encourage them to keep trying to solve a problem until it is resolved.

Actively Discuss Problems Together

When problems arise, don’t rush to solve your child’s problems for him/her. If you see your child struggling, give them a chance to figure it out on their own. If your child is unable to come up with a solution, step in and help him/her think of solutions. But don’t automatically tell your child what to do. Say, “What are some things you could do about this?” If your child can’t come up with any ideas, offer one of your own. Remember, even a silly answer or far-fetched idea, is a possible solution. The key is to help your child see that with a little creativity, he/she can find many different potential solutions.

Help your child practice problem-solving in real-life situations. If your child forgets to do homework, don’t rush to take away privileges. Instead, sit down to discuss the problem using the problem-solving process.  Your child may have several ideas about how he/she can do better. Try to reach a solution together. Provide plenty of praise when your child is brainstorming and evaluating options.  Once you try a solution, revisit the discussion again. Talk about whether it worked or decide if you want to try something different.

Allow for Natural Consequences

Natural consequences also teach problem-solving skills. So, when it’s appropriate do to so, allow your child to face the natural consequences of his/her action. Just make sure it’s safe to do so. For example, let your teenager spend all of his/her money during the first 10 minutes you’re at an amusement park if that’s what he/she wants. Then, let your child go the rest of the day without any spending money. This can lead to a discussion about problem-solving to help her make a better choice next time. Consider these natural consequences as a teachable moment to help work together on problem-solving.

Teaching kids how to solve problems from a young age leads to the development of essential skills like critical thinking and grit. As well as, understanding that it’s fine to experiment and stumble as you find your way are all part of the learning process.

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