Individual Problem Solving

Your Child Can Solve Problems… if you get out of the way.

  1. Your child already knows how to solve problems… but may not know that she/he knows. Stop and think about it: your child figured-out how to walk, to speak, and to wrap you around his or her little finger… clearly, problem-solving is built-into your child.  The big problem (and it is a big problem because you love your child so much) is for you to get out of the way… for you to not solve the problem for your child.  Helping your child be a better problem-solver is like a coach helping you get in shape: you (not the coach) have to do the exercises… your child must solve the problems (not you).
  • Your child has plenty of problems she/he wants to solve every day. Depending on age and what happened that day, problems may range from, “I can’t put my shoes on!” to “I can’t get into college!”  As a parent your job is to encourage your child to solve problems for himself/herself… your problem is not for you to solve the problem… that will make things worse for your child.
  • Follow the problem-solving roadmap:

  • Ask questions.  Don’t do the work. Your goal is to develop a child who can solve problems.  Your goal is not to solve your child’s problems. With that in mind…
 Do Ask QuestionsDon’t Do the Work
Problem?“What is the problem?”“What do you want?”“What has upset you?”“The problem is _______.”“Do you want to __________?”“I can see that _____ has upset you.”
Reward?“Why do you want to solve that problem?“How will solving that problem benefit you?”“You know, if you solve this problem, then you’’ be able to ____.”
Three Solutions“Give me at least three ways you can solve this problem (and it’s OK if some of them are really silly)“I see several ways you can solve this, for example ____, ____, and ____.”
Best Solution?“Which solution looks best to you?” [_____] “What do you like about that solution?”“If you really take a hard look at all the factors, I think the best way to go is ____.”“What I think you ought to do is ____.”
Celebrate (or try again)“How did it work-out?” [     ] “Good for you! How is that going to make things better for you?”  [     ].“How did it work-out?” [     ] “That’s disappointing.  What are you going to do next?” “You did an excellent job because you ______.  I knew you could do it.”“The reason it didn’t work this time is because _______. What you need to do next is _____.”