Mummy! Daddy! I can’t reach my shirt in the closet. I can’t find my football. I can’t put my books on the bookshelf by myself.
How many times do you hear your name being called because your child needs help to solve a problem? And, how many of those times has your child asked for help without even trying to solve the problem himself first? Maybe he hasn’t thought to use a stool to reach his shirt. Perhaps the football is in plain sight but he didn’t bother looking. Or, maybe he just doesn’t want to clean up himself.
As parents, our first instinct is often to help our child which can, no matter how good the intentions, be a detriment to the child’s growing process. While parents are supposed to protect and to help their children, they’re also meant to help them grow and learn. Sometimes doing that means stepping back and letting children solve their own problems.
Experts assert that problem solving should begin in very early childhood when the brain is still developing. As children grow, their brains become better equipped to handle what they have learned. In fact, between birth and five years children tend to learn the fastest.
To help your child learn to solve his own problems:
Encourage your child. Your child needs to believe in himself and know that he can count on himself as he grows up. Part of that means knowing he can solve problems for himself. When he comes to you for help – whether it’s because he can’t reach his shirt in the closet or he is having an argument with a friend, encourage him to think for himself. You can reach that shirt. What can you do to be tall enough to get it? Ask him questions in an attempt to get him to find a way or ways to solve his problem.
Acknowledge your child’s emotions. One way your child can learn how to solve his own problems is to understand his emotions. Young children will learn how to identify their emotions. You can aid in that learning process by helping your children identify his emotions. For example, he may become frustrated when he can fit the book on the bookshelf because it’s turned the wrong way. You might say, “You’re frustrated because you can’t figure out why the book won’t fit on the bookshelf. Can you look at the book and think of how it might fit?” Your child may then turn the book sideways so it fits just right.
Ask questions. Your child may approach you with a problem. Maybe he’s having trouble with a friend or thinks his teacher doesn’t like him. Start by asking him questions to learn more about his problem. Listen to him carefully without interrupting so he can say everything he needs. When he’s done talking, repeat what you heard so he knows you were listening. Then ask questions that might help him find a way to solve his problem. What happened to cause a problem with your friend? Why do you think your teacher doesn’t like you? Talking can often help children find the solutions to their problems.
Explain that we all make mistakes. No one is perfect. Children often want to please their parents and adults in general so they feel bad when they make mistakes. Explain to your child that it’s okay to make mistakes. We all make mistakes and we learn and we grow from our mistakes.
Hold back. You notice your child has made a mistake – maybe it’s as simple as trying to jam the wrong puzzle piece into the wrong spot. You know it’s wrong, but if you jump in and tell your child what he’s done wrong, he’s going to lose the valuable opportunity to figure it out for himself. Just watch your child and you’ll be surprised at how he figures out what he’s doing wrong and how to do it right. Children will gain self-confidence when they learn how to solve problems on their own.
Sometimes, of course, your child won’t be able to solve a problem on his own and will need your help. You know your child best so you can assess the best time to intervene.
Inspire your child to use his creativity to solve his own problems by sharing the story of The Light Switch: The I Can Do Anything Story. In this powerful ebook, a two-year-old boy can’t reach the light switch to turn on the light. His father, the author of the book, explains that anything is possible and he can turn on the light switch once he becomes taller. Maybe, his father says, something could help him become taller now. Hit with inspiration, the little boy runs into the bathroom and gets a plastic step, solving his own problem.