How to nurture problem-solving skills in children
How to nurture problem-solving skills in children
We all encounter problems on a regular basis at home, work, in general, etcetera, but resolving these issues effectively and moving forward is second nature to us. However, this is an extremely important life skill for a child, as they will need to develop this essential skill to make healthy decisions in life.
Like us, children also face problems daily, and children who can solve problems by themselves will be more confident, independent, less frustrated or disheartened, and happier. In this blog, we will read about why nurturing a child’s problem-solving skills is essential from an early age and how to do this.
Why are Problem-Solving Skills important?
As parents, it is our natural tendency to not want our children to struggle, and it is almost a reflex response to jump to their rescue and fix whatever is causing them distress. Rather than running to their rescue at the first instance of trouble, we should give our children the chance to attempt and resolve their issues on their own. The driving force behind solving our children’s problems ourselves, is majorly to protect them from distress and a feeling of failure, but this actually affects them in the opposite manner, by sending them the message that they are not capable of handling the challenges by themselves and that only relying on us or only we can actually solve their problems.
This way your children do not develop problem-solving skills which may lead them to avoid trying new things or ignore situations they find challenging all together or do not know how to respond when presented with a challenge and so on. It can also lead your children to place blame on parents for the things that do not go right for them now and later in their lives, along with seeing failure as something to be ashamed of or feared, instead of looking at it as a critical component of the learning process.
Apart from these, children who lack problem-solving skills may spring into action without recognising choices, i.e., being volatile, violent or rude in situations that they are not sure about, or do not know what else to do. These impulsive choices may create bigger problems instead of solving anything in the long run.
Problems do not always have to be seen in a negative light, rather, problems help build resilience, perseverance, and strong character, as they afford opportunities to learn and see things differently and evoke lateral thinking. The benefits of problem-solving skills on our children’s mental health are many. As problems are often varied and complex, problem-solving skills as well cannot be a one-stop solution for all. This will help children cope with as many challenges as they face and resolve a wider range of issues with efficacy instead of frustration or breakdown. Along with helping improve your children’s independence, confidence, and resilience, it will also have a healthy impact on relationships; be it friendship, business relationship, family, or work.
Nurturing problem-solving skills in children:
1. Evaluating the problem:
Children, when overwhelmed by a situation or problem, will not attempt to address it, but if you help them with a logical strategy, they will feel more confident in their ability to try. The first step here is to identify the problem. You need to ask your children to say it out loud and help them in the process. Then you can help them develop possible ways to solve the problem, emphasizing that all solutions that you come up with may not necessarily be effective.
It is important to show your children that with little effort, creativity, and brainstorming, they can come up with many potential solutions.
You have to teach children to look at the pros and cons of every solution they’ve come up with, and once they have evaluated the positive and negative outcomes, encourage and help them pick a final solution and test it out. If the first solution that they choose does not work out, they can always try another or more from the brainstorming session they’ve done.
2. Observe how your children problem-solve independently:
We have to understand that when children are trying to problem-solve, it may not always look like a thinking activity, it can be an argument, an experiment or anything else of the sort. Focus on the process that your child uses to come up with ideas and be patient while you encourage your child to try newer, more plausible ways to look at the problem, from different perspectives, but make sure that you do not step in too early, as that can stifle their thinking.
3. Acknowledge efforts:
When you’re being either an active part of helping your child problem-solve or are being an observer, it is important to offer support respectively. Verbal and non-verbal encouragement will help children continue in their thinking and learning process. It can be something as simple as saying, “you’re trying to figure it out and that’s good” or even just an understanding not, a smile, or even just sitting quietly next to them, can make your child feel understood and their efforts appreciated.
4. Practice problem-solving:
Put into practice the above-said points when you come across an actual situation. For example, when you come across a behavioural issue, try a problem-solving approach. As they already know about the problem-solving steps, help them walk through it and show how you are trying to deal with the situation at hand. If the child has not completed a said task, you can sit with them and go through the consequences of the misbehaviour, but also clarify that you are invested in seeking a solution, so that the problem does not repeat itself. You can get them involved in the process by asking them things like, “what can we do to make sure that this does not repeat,” and help them come up with their own solutions.
5. Create open environments:
It is important for children to have space where they feel free to express their ideas and opinions without fear of being wrong or of not being taken seriously. Give them space where they can experiment, as well as practice problem-solving skills without any constraints or hassle. Remember to provide plenty of appreciation when your children practice problem-solving skills.
Along with the above-said things you can also model problem-solving, which is similar to point 4, i.e. teaching them how to practice. So when you come across a problem, discuss your thought process as to how you work through the process of problem-solving: your plan, your brainstorming, and your solutions. You can also ask them to pitch in with their ideas and opinions when appropriate. Remember that problem-solving skills comprise all areas of your child’s development: physical, emotional, social, cognitive, creative, et cetera. So it is crucial to encourage and help them build these skills as early and as effectively as possible.
At Sherwood High, we believe children do not have to rely only on their memory and learning, but also need to identify techniques available to deal with situations both inside and outside the classroom, by using their own initiative, logic, and reasoning. We believe in teaching children that facing a problem is a powerful opportunity to see themselves as independent problem-solver, in order to build resilience and for a better healthy, happy life ahead.