“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin
If you could help your child develop one significant super-power that would help them succeed, wouldn’t you? Whether you want your child to get into an Ivy League school, have great relationships, or just to be able to take care of the thousands of frustrating tasks that come with adulting, it’s the skill of PROBLEM SOLVING that will help them get there.
In a recent Harvard Business Review study about the skills that influence a leader’s success, problem-solving ranked third out of 16.
Our job as parents or teachers is not to solve everything for them—it is to teach them how to solve things themselves. Using their brains in this way is the crucial ability needed to become confident, smart, and successful individuals.
My dad, a veteran child psychologist, watched my son’s obsession with Superheroes during his toddler years. As he watched him idolize Spiderman and Superman, he realized there was room for another type of Superhero. Enter: NORMAL MAN. That’s right, my dad created a Superhero with the gift of “sensing confusion” and the ability to “solve problems” as he saw them arise in his community. My son LOVED it and bought right in. Goofy? Yes. Genius? I’d say! My son fell for it and to this day, he has many (now teenager) friends who believe that NORMAL MAN, a problem solving Superhero, was a real guy who just didn’t quite make the cut in the Marvel Cartoons they watched and read about.
Now what about tips to help your child become their very own NORMAL MAN (or WOMAN!)?
HERE ARE SOME SIMPLE WAY YOU CAN ENCOURAGE PROBLEM-SOLVING AT HOME
- Acknowledge children’s efforts, letting them know that what they are doing is important. Offer verbal support: “Look at all the different ways you’re trying to make that piece fit in your puzzle. You’re working hard to figure it out, aren’t you?” Remember too, that just by sitting quietly next to a child, you can communicate: “I understand what you’re doing, and I know it’s important.”
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- Ask your kids for advice when you have a problem. This teaches them that it’s common to make mistakes and face challenges. It also gives them the opportunity to practice problem–solving skills. Plus, when you indicate that their ideas are valued, they’ll gain the confidence to attempt solving problems on their own.
- Ask age appropriate questions: For smaller children, ages 3 through 5, you could ask them to “show me the hard part,” allowing them to narrow down their frustration. For a 5 through 7 year old, ask “how could we work together to solve this?” For an older child, say 8 through 11 years, you could ask them to put their problem on paper and listen to them process a solution.
Instead of giving up or getting frustrated when they encounter a challenge, kids will learn to manage their emotions, think creatively and learn persistence. Isn’t that exactly what we want our children to do when they someday leave the nest?
Sarah Cavanaugh is a Marketing, PR and Communications Specialist with over 25 years of experience writing, building effective marketing campaigns, and creating brand awareness. Sarah can usually be found walking her neighborhood, drinking coffee and watching Saturday Night Live skits on YouTube. She lives with her two active teens and husband in Grand Rapids. Find her at www.CavanaughCommunications.com.