Shady Oak believes in preparing children for adulthood by building on “6 Pillars”: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and [Capable] Problem Solving. This is the last week of our series exploring each Pillar in practical detail.
Every parent has “problem days” where nothing seems to go right. So does every child; and too many parents assume full responsibility for solving those problems as well as their own. Kids need “rescuing” less often than protective instincts would have us think.
Before you jump in to tie a shoe or settle a play-date argument, consider: Why do you feel you should help? What’s the worst thing that could happen if you do nothing? If you realize you’re about to act from impatience or “poor helpless thing” pity, better reconsider your intentions, before you and your kids develop a “Mom fixes everything” habit that can only cause worse problems down the road.
At any age, capable problem solving depends on answering the following questions. Teach them to your children early on.
What does everyone involved really want?
Ever heard of the two people arguing for sole possession of the last orange in the fruit bowl? After they grudgingly cut it in half, one threw away the peel from her half and ate the fruit; the other threw away her share of the fruit and grated the peel into cake batter. If they’d mutually considered their true goals, each could have had a larger share, and more positive feelings as well. Be sure that the problem you’re looking at is the actual problem that needs solving.
Are we considering all possible solutions?
It’s easy to get fixated on “this way or no way” thinking; but by making up your mind prematurely, you may be blinding yourself to the true best option. Consider writing down all possible solutions (including brainstormed and outside-the-box options) and reviewing them one by one. The best approach should make itself clear.
Are we allowing time to implement the best solution?
Some problems can’t be solved in a day; and if you have a major problem, it may take multiple days to pinpoint a solution and months to effectively implement it. Do it anyway: better to suffer the acute growing pains of a complicated solution, than years of chronic pain from the same old reactions that never “work” for long.
What solution will have the best long-term impact?
If your well-chosen solution will take a while to show results, write the ultimate benefits (self-confidence, improved effectiveness, better family relationships) in big colorful letters, and post them where you can easily review them when you start to get discouraged. Then, whenever you reach a milestone in problem-solving, celebrate that victory and anticipate more of the same!
This is just Bold & Italicized - Blessings to parents and children of all ages!