It can seem a daunting task to spend the time teaching your little kids to be problem-solvers when you can just solve the problem for them yourself. Use this easy 5-question process to teach even your preschoolers how to start solving problems for themselves.
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Teaching preschoolers everything from tying their shoes to solving their own problems is overwhelming at times. If for no other reason than it just takes so much time. It’s easier to just do it for them, isn’t it?
But spending the time when they’re young gives them the practice they need to become adults who can solve their OWN problems (or know how to best get help with their problems).
When we tell our kids what their problem is and how to go about solving it, not only do we take away their ability to work on their own problems, but we subtly let them know we don’t think they can do it themselves.
Whether your kiddo can’t reach the fruit basket for a snack or is battling over a toy with their sibling, this easy 5-question process will help you retain the mental energy you lose so easily as a mama of strong-willed kiddos and it will train your kids to start working on their own problems.
Based on Danny Silk’s Webinar “How to Really Help Someone with a Problem,” these 5-questions can be used for anyone – even your preschoolers. The key is consistency, empathy, and guidance, especially for a child who’s not used to thinking through their issues this way. Want to see how you can apply this principle for adults? Check out the webinar at the end of this post.
what the bible says about raising problem solvers
Have you ever tried to help someone with a problem but it seemed as though they didn’t really want your help? Every time you told them what to do to fix the problem, they just gave excuses for why it wouldn’t work until one or both of you were so frustrated you just threw your hands up and said, “Forget it!”
My guess is you’ve experienced that more times than you’d like and too often with your very own children.
The problem often lies in the fact that they don’t see themselves as having a problem. If you listen closely, the problem is someone else’s or outside their control.
You cannot help someone who doesn’t have a problem.
Matthew 7:6 (NIV) says, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Trying to impart wisdom upon someone who doesn’t think they have a problem is similar to throwing pearls to pigs. They will do nothing but trample that wisdom and potentially become angry and turn on you.
Instead, when someone is knee-deep in their emotions over a problem, you would be wise to ask questions first. Give them time to work on their own problems. Empower them. Spending more mental energy solving someone else’s problem leads to codependence – not empowerment.
God modeled well this system of asking questions in Job 38:1-3. Job has already lost everything and listened to his friends tell him over and over again what his problem is.
Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. (Job 38:1-3, NIV)
Ask questions. Let your kiddo answer. Ask more questions. In this way, they’re learning to work on their own problems – with your love and guidance.
Next time you hear their tiny footsteps storm down the hallway screaming for Mommy, walk through them with this 5-step questioning process. And watch them flourish. You can get a printable for yourself as you learn to guide them and one for the fridge for your kids who are a little older who are ready to walk through the process on their own. Sign up to get both for free here.
the easy 5-step process for raising problem solvers
#1 what’s the problem?
Have your kids ever come to you with a problem but didn’t know how to communicate what the problem actually is? It can be frustrating. But it’s just as frustrating for your little ones. Teaching them to identify what the problem is to begin with eases frustration levels all around.
It also teaches them to communicate problems throughout their entire life!
Guide them through who was involved, what happened (including when and where it happened), and how everything happened.
As you guide them through communicating the situation to you, you can also determine whether or not you even need to know about the problem. Sometimes they’re just tattling and that can lead to a much simpler solution.
No matter what the problem is: show empathy. In a non-patronizing way, join them in their pain without adding to the chaos. Be a non-anxious presence and show empathy and compassion. This is how you get them to continue talking.
#2 what have you done about it so far?
After you talk them through identifying the problem, ask them what they’ve done about it so far. Even preschoolers (like my 4-year old Freckles) can tell you what they’ve tried. Most of the time, you already heard some of the things they tried – screaming, calling names, hitting, etc.
Your first reaction is probably to yell. It’s a typical gut reaction but you have plenty of other options when you feel like yelling. Use one of those instead.
When your child knows you’re going to ask what they’ve done about it so far, it gives them an opportunity ahead of time to start problem solving before they come for help.
#3 how’d that work out for you?
Their own solution probably didn’t work out well for them or else they wouldn’t be coming to you now. But asking them how it works out for them gives them the opportunity to think through what they’ve already tried and encourages them to think about more potential solutions.
Even at a young age, they know what they’ve tried didn’t go well for them.
#4 what do you think you should do next?
Give your kids the opportunity to think of other potential solutions. Talk through solutions and even offer suggestions after they’ve tried to come up with some of their own.
Depending on their age and experience doing this, you may need to provide suggestions earlier and more often than with other kids.
Every suggestion should come in the form of a question. Remember, you’re helping them with their problem. Asking them what they think about the next steps keeps them engaged in the problem-solving process. It keeps them working on their problem as well instead of giving the reigns over to you to find the solution.
#5 how can i help?
Once they come up with a potential solution, asking how you can help will continue the problem-solving process. They’ll determine whether or not you can help with the solution. Sometimes they just want someone to listen to and understand what they’re going through.
adults who solve problems start as children who solve problems
Like anything you teach your children, you will need to guide them through this process. Although it’s an easy way to empower your children to begin solving their own problems, it takes time for them to develop the skills to do it.
More than likely, your children didn’t learn to ride a bike, tie their shoes, or potty train in one night. It will take just as much patience, empathy, and compassion to train them to solve problems as well.
But the reward is just as great as learning any of those skills. If not, greater.