3 Ways to Help Kids Become Problem-Solvers

Mar 10, 2024

When your kids are struggling, if you’re like me your first instinct is likely to step in to help them and either do it for them or tell them what they should do.  This is how we’re wired as parents which is a good thing in that it helps us protect our kids from danger and look out for their survival.  Unfortunately, this instinct can also hinder our child’s ability to develop their own problem-solving skills.

Problem-solving skills are critical in life.  They enable you to get through the multitude of daily challenges that come up every day, they can make you a lot of money in a career, and they help keep you from being a victim to whatever circumstances life throws at you.  So what can we do to help our kids become good problem-solvers? 

Here are three ways that you can intentionally support your child in developing strong problem-solving skills.

#1 - Stop stepping in to solve your kids' problems or telling them what they should do, and start asking what ideas they may have for solving it themselves.

Yes, kids need parents to help guide them in working through challenges and making good decisions — but when we step in to do things for them or tell them how they should do it, we take away the opportunity for them to figure out how they might solve it on their own and we send the message that we don’t believe they can figure it out.

Instead, consider asking them questions like:
What do you think you should do?
How can you figure this out?
How do you think you can make things better?

If they respond by telling you “I don’t know” (which they most likely will), give them a little push by asking the following:
But what if you had to guess, what’s just one thing you might do?
Now that you’re guessing, any other ideas?

#2 - Plant intentional thought seeds like I can handle thisI can figure this out, and this will be easy. 

In last week’s article, I shared how our brains are extremely literal, and when our kids think I can’t handle thisI don’t know what to do, or this is so hard, their brains will work to prove those thoughts true so it is hard and they can’t figure it out.

When my daughter was in elementary school, she was consistently placed in classes without any of her close friends.  As school approached, we talked about her disappointment at not being with her friends, and we came up with ideas and plans for what she could do to stay close to them.

I also talked to her about what she could do to get to know the new kids in her class, and I kept repeating how good she was at making new friends and how easy it was for her.  I wanted her to think intentional thoughts, so she could help herself and make it easier.  I knew that how she thought about the situation would affect how easy or hard it was for her — so I worked to intentionally plant thought seeds to set her up for success. 

When we plant intentional thought seeds with our kids such as I can handle thisI can figure this out, and this will be easy, our kid’s brains will work to filter and prove those thoughts to be true.

#3 - Teach your kids how their brain works and reinforce your child’s identity as a good problem-solver.

By the time my daughter was in 6th grade, she was telling her friends if you say I don’t know you’re not going to be able to figure it out.  I had taught her some of the basics around how her brain works, and how she could use it to solve problems.  (Granted, it didn’t mean that she used it all the time but she at least knew some of the basics!)

When you take a step back and start asking your child more questions about how they can figure things out instead of doing it for them, and then you point out and reinforce that they are great at coming up with ideas and potential solutions — you help them see themselves as a good problem-solver.  When they think of themselves this way, their brain filter continues to support this self-concept which helps them continue to come up with ideas and solutions for problems.

This week I encourage you to get a little more intentional about building your child’s problem-solving skills and invite you to try asking them more questions.  These are just a few of the tools in my Confident Parenting Toolbox that I share with parents.  I’m going to be talking about how to solve problems and help kids become good problem-solvers all month!  Follow me for more tips and strategies. 

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