Need help teaching your child problem solving skills? Check out these six steps to teach kids how to identify and solve problems with ease.
The first step in problem-solving is working out exactly what the problem is. This can help everyone understand the problem in the same way. It’s best to get everyone who’s affected by the problem together and then put the problem into words that make it solvable.
- ‘You’ve been invited to two birthday parties on the same day and you want to go to both.’
- ‘You have two big assignments due next Wednesday.’
- ‘You and your sister have been arguing about using the Xbox.’.
Help your child or children describe what’s causing the problem and where it’s coming from. It might help to consider answers to questions like these:
- Why is this so important to you?
- Why do you need this?
- What’s the worst thing that could happen?
Try to listen without arguing or debating. This is your chance to really hear what’s going on with your child. Encourage your child to use statements like ‘I need … I want … I feel …’, and try using these phrases yourself. Try to encourage your child to focus on the issue and keep blame out of this step.
Make a list of all the possible ways you and your child could solve the problem. You’re looking for a range of possibilities, both sensible and not so sensible. Try to avoid judging or debating these yet.
If your child has trouble coming up with solutions, start them off with some suggestions of your own. You could set the tone by making a suggestion first – funny or extreme solutions can end up sparking more helpful options. Try to come up with at least 5 possible solutions together.
Look at the pros and cons of all the suggested solutions in turn. This way, everyone will feel that their suggestions have been considered.
It might help to cross off solutions that you all agree aren’t acceptable. For example, you might all agree that leaving your children to agree on sharing the Xbox isn’t an option because they’ve already tried that and it hasn’t worked.
When you have a list of pros and cons for the remaining solutions, cross off the ones that have more negatives than positives. Now rate each solution from 0 (not good) to 10 (very good). This will help you sort out the most promising solutions.
Once you’ve agreed on a solution, plan exactly how it will work. It can help to do this in writing, and to include the following points:
- Who will do what?
- When will they do it?
- What’s needed to put the solution into action?
Once your child or children have put the plan into action, you need to check how it went and help them go through the process again if they need to.
Ask your child the following questions:
- What has worked well?
- What hasn’t worked so well?
- What could you or we do differently to make the solution work more smoothly?