How to Raise a Problem Solver

How to Raise a Problem Solver

Are you as worried as I am about the children of the new generations and their ability to solve problems?  With the increase in the number of helicopter parents (parents who “swoop” in to make everything all better) and a generation of highly sensitive kids, how well are our children going to be able to identify and solve their own problems?

This isn’t actually a new problem but it seems to be getting worse.  Many years ago I taught college courses part time and it was back then that I noticed an increase in the number of parents coming to see me during my office hours, complaining about the grade I gave their young adult child.  Instructors today tell me it’s gotten even worse, with some parents even popping in to see the class for themselves.

Making the commitment to raising your children to become problem solvers first requires that you accept the fact that every problem can only have one owner.  That person must be held responsible for solving the problem but can certainly seek out and incorporate help from others around him or her to solve the problem.  If your teenager puts a dent in the family car, she owns that dent.  She may obviously need help in getting it fixed, but she still owns it.

To begin with, every time your child or teen comes to you with a problem, you must first determine yourself whether your child owns the problem or you own the problem.  If you own the problem, take immediate measures to solve it quickly.  If your child owns the problem, be ready to help him or her solve the problem.  The following incident is an example to learn by.

My son came running into the house one Saturday, holding his arm and complaining about a small abrasion from a fall he took out in the yard.  A quick examination of the boo-boo and a few questions left me feeling confident that there was no internal damage and there really wasn’t any blood that I could see.  Because I did not feel that there was anything I needed to do that my child couldn’t do for himself, it became his problem to fix.

I first acknowledged that the minor scrape was a problem for him by saying to him, “It looks like your arm might hurt.”  He nodded.  I then helped him begin problem solving by saying to him, “What do you think you could do to make that arm feel better?”  My coaching him to solve the problem felt uncomfortable to him so he said, “You’re my Dad, YOU do something.”  I replied with, “You’re right, I am your Dad and I’ve always done things in the past, but this time, I want to know what YOU think you can do to make that arm stop hurting.”  Instantly, my son said to me, “Can we wash it off and put a bandage on it?”  I replied with a smile, “What a great idea!  I could help by getting the box of bandages down from the cabinet for you.”

Within a matter of minutes and of course, with some “Ouches!” he washed the boo-boo and applied the bandage, and off he ran to continue his play outside.  Today that young man is in his early 20s and solving problems every day as a much sought after restaurant manager!  Let your children and teens solve their own problems with your guidance and coaching, while you’re nearby to help them do it.  What problems will YOU begin letting your child solve on his or her own today?

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