The greatest gift that you can give your child is the power to manage his own life. Children encounter various problems of different degrees every day. Whether your child forgets his soccer cleats before a big game, can’t find his math homework, or has trouble navigating the playground, developing effective problem-solving skills will empower him and make him a more confident person.
Most children do not have innate skills for solving problems. In fact, rather than solve problems, many children will simply avoid their problems. If your child refuses to address basic and more complex problems, he can fall behind in school and struggle to maintain friendships.
Your child can begin learning problem solving skills as early as preschool. During circle time or just by listening to a story, preschoolers can begin to identify problems and learn different ways to solve them. If your child is able to vocalize the issue, whether it be an academic or social struggle, he has overcome the first obstacle to problem solving. Being a comfortable sounding board for your child is incredibly important as it gives them a safe space and person with whom to deal with problems. Once the child admits that there is a problem, you can encourage him to brainstorm possible solutions to the problem.
Rather than giving your child the answers or intervening on his behalf, ask questions. Why do you feel this way? What can you do about this situation? What would you want someone to do if they felt this way about you? How can you manage without your lunch, your soccer ball, your math homework? Encourage your child to come up with four possible solutions to the problem. You can guide your child by discussing the pros and cons of each approach. And make sure that your child writes down these solutions and keeps them for future reference.
At times your child will be unable to solve certain problems. Continue to avoid running to the rescue. Instead, remind him that if the choices he initially made do not solve the problem, he should figure out another way to work through the problem. Your child must also learn that he cannot solve every single problem. Let there be math problems he can’t solve, soccer games from which he must sit out, or a friend with whom he cannot reconcile. Let him understand that he must deal with disappointment and learn to understand how to overcome disappointment. In the end, these skills will help to build confidence and will empower your child.