Helping Your Child Problem Solve
Here are some steps you can take to help your child problem solve:
1. Let the child verbally explain the problem to you first. They may not see it the same way as you do. But just like when the IT person asks me to define the problem I am having, you can be sure I am not describing it the same way they see it. Your child may need help identifying what the exact problem is. Maybe they can’t tie their sneaker at school but the problem is because they can’t figure out how to reach their foot - not that they don’t know how to tie their shoe. This process also helps them begin problem solving or what we could also call scientific thinking.
2. Give your child time to come up with his or her own solutions; don’t just automatically provide the answer. As they are trying to figure out their solution you may need to assist a little. You can actively discuss the problem together, but the key word here is a little. Just give them a little feedback and then the time to help them walk through it. For example you could talk through what is and isn’t working and why. This helps them learn the concept of cause and effect, and with this they will be more likely to apply that same knowledge in a similar situation the next time.
3. Ask them to think through the solutions they find. You may need to ask them, “What will happen if you do that?” So they can again start to put together that cause and effect. Using the example above, their solution could be to take their seat belt off so they can reach their sneaker. If you then reply with, “What could happen if you do that,” they may answer, I would fall out of my chair. Then they would need to move on to finding solution number two.
4. This step may be the hardest for some parents, but occasionally you may need to allow your child to experience natural consequences. This means that sometimes when a child makes the wrong decision, there are negative consequences. We have all experienced those negative consequences at some point. Mom said, “Don’t jump on the couch. But I still jumped on the couch and then I fell off and got hurt.” This happens to children all the time. And to some who may be a little more strong-willed, it may happen to them a great deal. But for kids with a disability they may have shockingly few personal testimonies of this. Because whether its mom, dad or teacher, they aren’t allowed the space or opportunity to make the wrong decision. But allowing them to do so (when relatively safe) will help them immensely with their future problem solving strategies.
5. When or if your child does come up with an appropriate solution, be sure to give him or her an appropriate amount of praise. Make sure this praise is also age appropriate. Often a simple great job or a high five is sufficient.
1. What are some problem solving scenarios you may have been “just doing” for your child instead of letting them figure it out? List them – accountability is always greater when it’s in writing.
2. What are some puzzle solving tips you can implement related to their disability to help get them started?
What are some problems or puzzles your child has come across that you have had to work through?