Among the skills parents should teach their children, problem solving is often overlooked. A person’s ability to solve problems quickly and effectively plays a huge part in the way he handles challenges, and ultimately, the path of his life. Providing children with the tools and experiences to be proficient problem solvers prepares them for the problems that will inevitably show up in their personal and professional lives.
In her online article for the PBS website, “I Figured it Out!”: Helping Kids Become Tenacious Problem Solvers”, author Deborah Farmer Kris gives some expert advice in nurturing our children’s imagination and creativity. First and foremost, we must encourage our children’s curiosity. When they are young, children constantly are asking the question “Why?” Instead of reacting to this question as a burden, parents should enthusiastically respond “Let’s find out!” By responding in this manner, we show that their question is to be respected and that there are ways to find out answers.
Second, Ms. Kris recommends that we do not give answers to a problem to our children right away or step in too quickly to resolve it. We should help them reframe or clarify the problem and search for answers. Ask such questions as “Have you tried this already?” or “Tell me more about the situation.” Help them to think about the challenge and come up with their own solutions. I’m a lawyer and law schools use the Socratic method to train students to think critically. A law professor always asks questions of the students, forcing them to think critically and search for the right arguments.
Third, honor their “tenacity”, the ability to continue trying to find solutions for a problem rather than giving up easily. You can say, for example, “That was a challenging puzzle, but you stayed with it.”
Fourth, help your children to be good observers. Encourage them to look for clues or search around for material needed for a project. Spending time in nature is a good way to develop good observation skills as they can use their five senses.
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