Letting Kids Figure It Out

letting kids figure it out

How are you going to find a way to use words to solve problems?

Use the five-step problem solving method.

In last week’s post we laid some ground rules for our family: that we will work together, as we are all in the same boat; and that we do not act or speak in a manner where the intention is to harm others.

Let’s look at this simple, yet powerful, problem solving technique that can work from the backyard to the boardroom.

Step 1: Recognizing a Problem
When we start to sense conflict, we say, “Stop. I think there’s a problem.” Many times hearing this statement helps those in conflict disengage and shift their focus. The act of stopping for a few seconds may help us see our actions and change our behavior without any other intervention. If the quarrel continues, we need to make sure the children in conflict stop before we move to the next step in problem solving.

Step 2: Identifying the Problem
As facilitators, we have to listen to make sure the problem is clearly stated, as well as get agreement from everyone to work on the problem before we move on to the next step. “Are you all willing to work to solve this problem?” you may also need to allow for some “cooling” off time before you can continue problem solving.

Step 3: Brainstorming for Solutions
Of course, as adults, we’ll see solutions to the problem before the children. State one or two possible solutions, and ask the children if they can think of any more suggestions. Be careful not to push for a quick resolution or try to force your own solution. Remember, you are teaching the process, so give the children time to think of other solutions. Be sure to evaluate all suggestions before moving on to the next step. It is helpful to write these solutions along with their corresponding pro’s and con’s.

Step 4: Choosing the Best Solution
After the group agrees that they have considered all the reasonable solutions, it’s time to pick the best one. Restate all the solutions and have the children choose the best one. State the selected solution clearly.

Step 5: Checking Back to Make Sure It’s Working
This is the step that is easy to forget. It is important to check back with each person to make sure the solution is working. If not, call back the children, and restart the problem solving process again.

I’ve used this five-step problem solving method to help three-year-olds and adults learn to solve their own conflicts. Knowing how to use this technique, and having it as a ground rule in your family, will help you as a parent guide your children to a peaceful place, where the focus is on problem solving and not about who started it.

Perhaps you’ll feel a bit like King Solomon in the process.

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