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Problem Solving Skills - Part One

Why Problem Solving Skills Matter - Part 1

Someone who has the skills to solve their own problems means that they have increased confidence, more social and situational awareness, better at taking calculated risks, knows how to manage time, and are patient with oneself and others.

This sounds like benefits that we are all eager to have in our lives. Let’s dive in and discuss how we can both teach and gain problem solving skills.


Parents and guardians are the first and most important teachers for their child’s problem solving skills. Your mindset sets the scene for how your child reacts to problems. Realizing that your reactions are impacting those around you is a great step in teaching skills. Here’s some tips to create a healthy mindset around problems.

Don’t hide your own problems

When you are faced with your own problems, talk about them out loud and go through your process with your child. For example, you forgot a key ingredient to make dinner, it’s late, and everyone’s hungry and hangry. Take a breath and talk about what skills you are using to solve this problem.

Practice common scenarios

Think through problems that your child faces daily. Is it sharing? Is it waiting in line? Using words? Riding a tricycle? Making friends? All of these scenarios are hard for children to first process and then apply good problem solving skills. Take some time to set up these scenes and practice with your child before it happens in the classroom.

Role Play

This is where you can get silly and have fun. Get out puppets, drama, art, Legos, dolls, or superheroes or their favorite trains and go through your child’s common problems or even your own! Play with your child and see if superman could help you both out!

The Skills

All of the above are great tips, but if you are not practiced at problem solving or aren’t quite sure what to teach, here’s some great steps for YOU to know how to problem solve.

  • Identify

Easy, right? Sometimes though, we might think we have to move the mountain, when we’re really supposed to just walk over it. A good tip is to keep it simple. Going back to the dinner issue, you might actually be upset at your partner who forgot to get the whole list, or you were busy and distracted and now you feel guilty, or it was a lot of little things that led you to not be able to prepare dinner. But take a breath… Really, you are just hungry and need some basic food. That’s your problem, I need to feed my family. Then, you can move on to the next step. This will help teach your child how to identify their true problem.

  • List

You have now identified the problem, but now you need to solve it. The key here is to open your mind to all possible solutions. For children, including silly solutions can help them accept their own creative solutions as well as diffuse the intensity. The dinner issue- a couple of solutions could be: 1) Make do with what you have. 2) Yell out for Spiderman to help you. 3) Fly to Italy and eat there. 4) Go out to eat. 5) Order in. 6) Go out to the store. 7) Call a friend and ask for help. 8) Go outside and eat bugs.

  • Weigh

Some of these solutions are easy, some are hard, and some are kinda silly. Take the time and go through any and all solutions with your children. We could go outside and eat bugs, but there’s not any yummy ones there, so instead, I think I’ll call my neighbor for help. This helps to develop the skills where they can practice thinking through the consequences.

  • Choose

Once you have gone through and weighed the consequences for each solution, tell your family/children your decision. This helps your child to realize that they DO have a choice in their actions.

  • Execute

Once you make your decision. Follow through. Call your neighbor and ask if they have any extra noodles for your spaghetti. Show your child that they can follow through with a choice.

  • Analyze

Afterwards, when you are calm and the problem is solved. Take some time to talk about your decision. What went well? What other solution could have worked? Ask your child what they think. This helps them recognize that the next choice doesn’t have to be the same.

Effective problem solving skills are vital for children to learn and develop. Positive, repetitive interactions both at home and in the classroom create confident children who are able and eager to interact with their world.

Part Two of Problem Solving Skills is a guide for each age group.

Click here to read it!

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