Teaching children problem solving

November 16th, 2011 @   -  No Comments

Imagine your child  having a problem in school with his classmate. It seems they do not get along and the teacher has called you to discuss this. The teacher says that your child’s behavior needs to change and he needs to find a way to get along with the other student. How would you handle this problem? Will you, as some parents do, choose to deny that your child has a problem and place the blame on the other child? Or perhaps, you would give your child a long lecture about the need to get along with his/her classmate?  When your child is facing this or any other problem, there is an even better way to handle it. What’s more, it will allow your child to learn skills that will be of use in different situations for the rest of his/her life.

Do not solve all your child’s problems for him/herWhen a child faces a problem, many parents automatically try to solve the problem themselves. But this is not the best way to teach your child a very important life skill. If you provide guidance in the problem solving process but allow your child to solve the problem himself/herself, it would be much more beneficial. Guidance does not mean providing or implementing the solution for your child, it is teaching the process of looking at a problem and finding the best solution for it.

Defining the problem clearly

By guiding your child, the first step is to help him/her define the problem clearly. This is achieved by asking your child questions that zero in on the problem. Using the example above, a parent may ask “Why do you think you and your classmate are not getting along?” Depending on the child’s answer, the parent can ask more questions for further clarifications until the problem is understood by everyone.

Developing several solutions

Each problem can have several solutions that vary in effectiveness. Teach your child to brainstorm various solutions. Ask your child “what do you think are some ways to solve the problem?” Another possible question is “What have you done in the past that worked in this kind of situation?” The goal is to use questions to encourage the child to think and problem solve on his/her own rather than solving the problem for him/her. During the brainstorming stage, do not judge the proposed solutions. For example, if the child in the above example suggests hitting his classmate so that he would no longer  complain, this suggestion should be included in the list of possible solutions. The less judgment from adults, the more comfortable the child will feel in offering solutions and being creative. Most of the time, children are able to come up with several solutions when given the chance.

Choosing the best solution

Before choosing one of the suggested solutions, go through the compiled list and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of each solution in order to determine which is the best one. One of the important lessons you can teach your child at this stage is to take into consideration others’ feelings. Islam does not teach us to look out only for ourselves. After all, we will be held accountable for everything that we do that will affect other people. The best solution is the one that makes everybody happy. So one of the questions parents can ask is “How do you think your classmate would feel if you hit him?” This is much better than telling the child that hitting his classmate is wrong. When the child evaluates the suggested solution on his/her own and recognizes its merits over the other solutions, s/he will be much more likely to implement it. After evaluating the list of possible solutions, allow the child to pick the one that is the most beneficial for everyone involved.

Evaluating the solution after implementation

Once the child implements the chosen solution, evaluate its effectiveness with him/her. If the solution was effective, praise the child for solving the problem on his/her own and finding an appropriate solution that made everybody happy. If the solution was not effective, discuss with the child what went wrong and how it can be fixed. Perhaps there was a better solution on the list that can be tried.

Relying on Allah

Problems are a part of life. Children need to learn how to deal with problems and rely on Allah to bring forth the best results. Praying and making dua (supplication) is helpful and much more powerful than anything that we can do as human beings.

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