Q&A: Teaching children to problem-solve

Q: How can we teach our daughter good problem-solving skills? Whenever she encounters a challenge, such as putting together Legos, she quickly abandons it and runs to us for help.

A: Teaching children to problem-solve begins with parents modelling AND verbalizing how to solve common problems. Modelling alone is not sufficient. We must explain the process we used to arrive at the solution. Instead of simply having your daughter watch you fix something around the house (or put together Legos!), verbally walk her through the steps.

Also, parents should praise their children when they attempt to solve problems. At a children’s therapeutic  treatment centre, one of the treatment goals was to foster better problem solving skills. Any time the staff noticed a child working on a project, they would say, “Nice problem solving. I like how you…”  The staff always encouraged their attempts and explained what they had done that was positive.

It’s important to find the balance between encouraging your children to ask for help and simply solving the problem for them. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to teach them to ask questions—but then allow them to wrestle with the solution. If we immediately solve all of their problems for them, they won’t learn how to think through the problem-solving steps.

Finally, take advantage of teachable times when your children make mistakes. You can use this opportunity to probe ways they could have handled the situation differently to get more positive results.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.

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