Teaching Kids to Solve Problems

25 Apr

I remember when kids were taught about the importance of wearing seatbelts or the dangers of smoking – they passed that information along to adults in their lives. “Grandma, please don’t smoke” or “Daddy, don’t forget to buckle-up.” The modern day version is not texting while driving – even when stopped at a light.

Along the same lines, I think we should spend more time teaching kids about problem solving so they can remind us when we get off track and don’t try to work through things. After all, there are few good mentors for this skill– whether it’s confrontation on reality TV or candidates for office.

kids solving a porblemHow do we teach our kids to solve problems?

First, we need to encourage them to describe problems that they encounter … and in their own words. We may want to jump in and help, but it is really important for them to be observers and verbalize in their own way.

Once they know what the problem is, children should be given the opportunity to come up with their own solutions. This is a very important second step because it encourages option generation and not the blind acceptance of an external solution provided by an adult.

An effective tool to assist children to understand the various solutions they have proposed is to walk them through the implications of each idea. That way, they can figure out which ones may work better and why and even that some might not work at all. This develops cause and effect reasoning.

Hopefully, as children gain confidence, they will be able to anticipate problems before they happen and look to work with other children to help them solve them.

And always encourage children when they have attempted problem solving techniques – then later, they can encourage us to do the same!


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