Magda Gerber, the creator of the Resources for Infant Educarers (RIE) philosophy, once said,
“Parenting, or raising a child is an impossible profession. The most impossible profession. Number one, we raise children with the knowledge of the past. It’s already obsolete.”
Per this statement, it can seem absurd to envision that we are trying to raise children for the future when we cannot predict the future. However, Gerber believes that if we come to accept this absurdity, we can help our children to navigate the world ahead of them by developing problem-solving skills.
The good news is, all children are born with the innate ability to use this skill. Infants battle cognitive, physical, emotional, and social aspects of the world from birth. In order to grab a ball in their hands, a baby needs to figure out how to open his/her fist and hold onto something. This is problem-solving at the most basic level. Therefore, it is the duty of parents to preserve, protect and nurture their children’s problem-solving ability.
How then can we raise children who are courageous problem solvers?
Here are some tips for you!
Simple Things Parents Can Do to Work Towards Raising a Problem Solver
1. Make room for play that encourages problem-solving
Children learn critical skills through open-ended play. Free play cultivates important skills such as problem-solving, creativity, collaboration, communication and confidence. Without content curated for them prior to play, your child will come up with his/her own ideas and design play sessions around the equipment that are available. This is part of problem solving, where your child can play with no structure and restrictions.
When your child is playing with friends, observe the conversation and do not mediate their arguments unless it escalates. Most of the time, you may notice that your child is able to resolve issues without your help. Taking reasonable risks also develops problem-solving skills as children need to mentally calculate risk factors before proceeding with their actions.
2. Learn to step back when raising a problem solver
As parents, instinctively, you want to rescue your children from any distress that they face. As difficult as it is to see the sadness on their faces, it is important to know that negative emotions are a part of your children.
Acknowledge their emotions and let them know you are available. However, rather than jumping in with solutions, direct them to think of the solutions for themselves. By asking them questions, you are giving them a chance to practice problem-solving.
If your child left his/her pencil case at home, you could say, “It must be frustrating to have forgotten your pencil case. You are going to need it for school. What do you think we can do about that?”
First, offer your child the empathy that they need. Then, ask the questions that suggest you will not be solving the problem for him/her. In this instance, the answer is not that you will go home to get it for him/her. Your child could still go through a school day without his/her pencil case, despite the inconveniences.
The natural consequence of this action would be that your child would have no writing material for the day. Using some critical thinking skills, he/she should be able to solve this problem easily and address his/her need by borrowing some stationery from friends.
3. Coach your child through problems and concerns
While stepping back in certain situations can help to stimulate problem-solving abilities, there will be moments where your intervention is necessary. In cases of being unfairly treated at school or being bullied, your support is quintessential to your children.
It may seem a lot easier to swoop in and meet the authorities at school to demand for an answer. However, in the long run, you are not equipping your child with the skills to resolve the situation. Coach your child to deal with situations. You can discuss with him/her on ways to approach the other person when they have problems with your child.
Critical thinking skills will be at play here where your questioning approach will stimulate their response. Rather than, “Mummy and Daddy will go down to school and talk to the bully!” as a reaction, you can ask, “If you face this situation again with the bully, what can you say to him? What do you think you can do within your power to stop him?”
4. Learn to applaud your children’s mistakes
Too often, when our children make mistakes, our first reaction is to tell them off.
When children are being put down for their efforts, they stop trying. Problem-solvers require the necessary support to understand their mistakes and correct them.
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills work together. If you want to raise a problem-solving child, you need to give him/her time to think through the mistakes made and to work them out.
Seeking support in raising problem solvers
While problem-solving skills may come naturally to some children, others may require some guidance to develop it further. To enhance their children’s academic abilities, some parents opt to seek out for enrichment programmes that focus on the development of soft skills.
Our MindChampion Junior and MindChampion Programmes comprise specially tailored programmes for your children to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills. During the enrichment programmes that are tailored for primary schoolers, your child will be encouraged to develop self-confidence in handling the problems and challenges that he/she faces in school and in life.
Register your interest for our enrichment programmes for by submitting your details here!
Written by Danielle Hee