Three Steps to Good Problem-Solving

STEP ONE: Know what you want and need.

Children take this first step as toddlers – figuring out that they have a mind of their own. They don’t always know how to get what they want. Much of the time they can’t have what they want. They don’t know when what they want is not good for them. As they try to make things happen, adult expectations and rules can stand in their way. They become overwhelmed with anger and frustration which they show with lots of “no’s” and temper tantrums.
What parents and caregivers can do: Remember that, although this is a challenging time with kids, it is a necessary step toward them being able to think for themselves and take that first step toward good problem-solving. Remember that knowing what they need and want is their first step toward getting it.

STEP TWO: Learn you can’t have everything you want and need and that tantrums are not the way to reach a goal.

What parents and caregivers can do: Require young children to do what they are told to do even when they complain so they can learn that there are limits to what any of us can and cannot do. When we solve problems, we must do so within the limits of safety.

STEP THREE: Learn better and smarter ways to let others know your needs and wants.

What parents and caregivers can do: Teach children things like asking for help and using words instead of whining, hitting, pushing, or taking. Teach them to not give up and stick to their goals long enough to be successful. Let children struggle when they can’t get the puzzle together or the toy to work. If they need help, let them ask for it, rather you’re your jumping in and solving problems for them. Give “pieces” of help and point them in the right direction – letting them see the solution on their own.
(See What It Means When Children Say “No!” for more about children and problem-solving.)

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