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The Secrets to Raising a Smarter Child
- By Inderbir Sandhu, Ph.D


Teaching Problem Solving Skills to Children - Methods and Techniques

By Andrew Loh

Training your children towards solving problems is an intelligent task. It is a painstaking process that takes some time to make your children adept at the skills of problem solving. However, it is a worthwhile task that provides your children an opportunity to develop a wholesome personality. Teaching the basic aspects of problem solving is an exciting event that provides both you and your children some thrilling moments. While there are no specially designed methods that you can use to teach your children problem solving skills, there are a number of useful techniques and methods that are simple and effective. Using such methods will make your children learn about basics of problem solving.

One of the most important techniques that you can teach your children is to let them know what a problem is and how they can understand it. For an adult, this may look like common sense, but for a child understanding a problem itself could be a big problem. Your children may make lot of mistakes, while they are learning problem solving skills. In fact, there is nothing wrong in making mistakes. We have all done it in our life. The first thing that you should is to teach your children how to handle mistakes and most common blunders. When your children keep trying, they will eventually find solutions to any dicey problems. Children who are good at solving problems are not afraid of making any mistakes. They may make a number of mistakes until they find solutions to problems. Mistakes and blunders are the foundation stones that will allow your children solve problems that they encounter in their life.

Teaching problem solving skills to your children depends largely on your child's behavior and temperament. Not all methods are suitable for your children. Some methods work very well for your child, while others may not be suitable. However, your child can easily learn any technique you prescribe and suggest, because their young mind is ready to learn new things and fresh techniques.

Here are some simple methods and techniques to help you train your children problem solving techniques:

Observe and accumulate detailed information about a situation: When you reserve some time to look at the existing problem, you can easily learn a lot about your children present problem solving abilities. The main goal of this step is to check whether your children have the ability to solve problems on their own. With this step, you can also get clues about methods to train your children find a solution to the existing problem.


You can ask a series of questions to your children to cull additional details about the problem. For example, you can ask the following sensitive questions to your children, when they are facing a problematic situation.

Mom to her daughter: What is happening? Why do you look so tense?
Daughter to mom: I don't know. I do not know what to do!
Mom to daughter: Why do you think so? Why do you say this?

Now, the daughter will start complaining about the problem she is facing. The answer could be just a plain complaint or a simple “I don't know”.


With this simple exercise, you can learn how your children initially respond to an existing problem and to check if the situation demands your active involvement.

Assist your children know the problem and tell more about it to you: When you ask simple questions to your child, you can help them detect and identify the actual problem. It takes some time for your children to involve themselves in problem solving scenarios. However, your children can easily apply their minds to the problem solving exercise. They feel very confident that you are there to help them in the process.


Mom to daughter: Why do you think you say that? I am your mom! I can help you solve your problem.
Daughter to mom: I just can't draw this figure
Mom to daughter: Why do you feel so? Is it tough?
Daughter to mom: Yes! I feel so angry!


Now, you know why the girl is so anxious and angry. She cannot draw that figure and that is giving her some problem.

Discuss about solutions to the underlying problem: This is a critical step of teaching problem solving skills. You may wish to provide some simple solutions to solve the problems. Alternatively, you can suggest different ways of solving that problem. However, make sure that you are not doing your children's work on your own. Let them do it!


Mom to daughter: What do you think you should now?
Daughter to mom: I should draw it now. However, I do not know how!
Mom to daughter: Let me tell you how to draw it. Will you draw the figure now? Before I tell you, I want to know your own ideas. Please tell me how you can draw it.
Daughter to mom: Yes!


In this scenario, you can see that the mom is reassuring her daughter that she is there to help her. At the same time, she is also urging her daughter to do the work on her own, by seeking ideas from her. At this time, the mom will listen to her daughter and her ideas, and later try to suggest her some solutions. Children will try to develop their reasoning power apart from learning how to find solutions to problems.

Assist children to decide on a series of solutions to try and adapt: As far as possible, parents may wish to explore different solutions to a given problem. Reviewing solutions to a given problem will help children know and assess different solutions to different problems. Exploring problems and later finding a solution will help children streamline their brain to think about problem solving, in a simple and judicious manner. The most important question that your children must ask their mind is very simple and straightforward: “What is the best and simple way to fix this problem?”

Your inputs are very precious for your children. With the right type of inputs, they will feel confident, bold and innovative while solving problems. When your children give some ideas, they may ask you which solutions they should try. More often, this is the time they would like their parents' active intervention. Focusing on problem solving skills will help your children learn the most judicious and simple ways of solving any problems.

Problem solving can be active as well as passive. In a passive model of solving problem, children will observe their elders and other seniors for learning problem solving skills. They try to find out some basic models after watching their elders and other siblings. On the other hand, active mode of solving problems will involve solving multiple problems at the same time. For example, your children may have a series of problems that need to be solved at the same time. Let us say that you have the following tasks in your hand.

  1. Go to library to pick some books for your child

  2. Fill up gas in your car and hence go to a gas station

  3. Buy some groceries at a grocery shop

  4. Go to the park and play for some time.

Note: Library is far away from your home, while gas station, grocery shop and the park are in between the library and home.

Now, you may wish to ask your child where they should go first. Your child may give some answers which may be right or wrong. Do not bother about the quality of answers your child has just provided. Answer to yourself in a loud voice in the following manner:

“The library is farthest from our home. Next, is the grocery store and the gas station, while the park is the nearest to our house. Hence, I will go to the library first, pick up some books, drive back and fill up gas in the gas station, buy groceries in the grocery store, and finally go to the park, which is nearest to our house.”

This self talk will spur your child into instant action, because you have given him or her some clues to solve the underlying problem. With these simple methods, you are teaching your child how to solve simple problems that occur every day and hour. Problem solving is a simple process. Every problem has a series of solutions. Your children should know how to evaluate a problem, scrutinize different solutions and use the one that is suitable for solving the problem. As a parent, you can help your children achieve these simple objectives.


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