The Chinese proverb states, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This saying can be aptly applied to teaching our youth good problem-solving skills.
You may find that it will initially take an investment of time to teach these principles of problem solving to your children, but expect to reap long-term dividends as your children learn to solve problems and make wise choices for themselves.
Parents are often amazed to discover how capable and resourceful their children are when given the chance to solve their problems in their own way. All children will inevitably encounter problems of all shapes and kinds in their lives; that’s simply part of growing up. Through dealing with these challenges, they learn problem-solving skills, which are essential to success in life. Kids have unbelievable and largely untapped potential for finding good solutions to their problems. It’s wise to invest time in helping your child develop his or her problem-solving skills. Teaching children how to solve problems is an essential skill that is worth their learning while young, as it will greatly aid them in the future.
However, one tendency of parents is to too quickly rectify the problem or too easily provide the answer to the problem. If you try to solve all your child’s problems, you will stunt your child’s ability to solve problems on his own. Don’t take over the fixing of the problem unless you have to. Instead, help the child find the solution. This shows that you have faith in your child’s ability to learn to handle the problem constructively.
At first you will have to walk your child through each step of the problem-solving process, and it may take much more time to complete the process than if you had just solved the problem for him or told him the answer. But when you solve your child’s problem, you’re taking away a valuable opportunity for him to learn. The learning process, however slow, is part of a child’s development and growth.
Little Sara borrows her friend’s doll, but while playing with it, she rips the doll’s dress.
“Mommy, I ripped the doll’s dress!” Sara whimpers.
“Don’t worry, Sara, I’ll sew it tonight and you can give it back to Melissa later.”
Mom has fixed the problem and Sara is happy. But what did Sara learn from this encounter? “If I have a problem, ask Mommy. She’ll solve it.” So the next time something happens, she will promptly come to Mommy for solving the problem again.
In the case of the ripped dress, here’s how it could turn into a problem-solving learning scenario:
“Mommy, I ripped Melissa’s doll’s dress!”
“Oh my. Yes, that is quite a tear. Hmm, what do you think we should do about it?”
“Um, I don’t know. Tell Melissa I’m sorry?”
“Well, that would be good to do. But how do you think she’ll feel getting her doll back with a torn dress?”
“She might be sad.”
“Could we do something to help that?”
“Maybe we could fix it? Could we sew the dress?”
“Excellent solution! How about tonight you and I work on sewing the doll’s dress?”
Mommy has taught Sara how to find a solution to her problem. By helping sew the dress with her mom, Sara is also now a part of the solution. Next time Sara encounters a problem, she may still go to Mommy for help, but she’ll be aware that there will be a way to figure out a solution to the problem, and she’ll realize that she can and should play a part in the solution. As Sara practices this problem-solving method day by day, she will learn to figure out solutions on her own, and will have honed a valuable lifelong skill.
Not all problems in life are easily solved, and you will have to help your children understand that, as they encounter bigger challenges. But the daily steps you take to encourage their problem-solving skills will provide them with greater personal resources to cope with the more challenging problems of life as they grow older.
Teach your children to take responsibility in finding solutions to their problems, and in so doing, you will be teaching them a valuable skill that will benefit them throughout life.
© TFI. Used with permission.