Being able to problem solve is an essential life skill. This skill will prepare your child to tackle problems and respond to setbacks, to have the confidence to solve issues whether those might be academic or friendship related. By working on these skills when they are young, you can help your child to develop the resilience and confidence needed to respond to the inevitable ups and downs that life presents along the way. We also know that problem solving is one of the key skills required in the world of work, with The World Economic Forum listing 5 of the top ten skills for 2025 top ten skills for 2025 as problem solving related.
A large percentage of effective problem solving skills is about confidence. Does your child see themselves as someone who is capable and has good ideas? A simple way you can help cultivate this is by asking them for their help. When there is a problem or a decision to be made, make it known to your child that you need their input. Being asked for advice makes us feel competent and gives the message that our ideas are worthy.
In order to learn how to approach solving a problem, we have to see it modelled to us. Find opportunities to be explicit with your thought process when you make decisions. Rather than just telling your child what you’ve decided, allow them an insight into how you’ve used your critical thinking skills to ask yourself the right type of questions to come to a solution or decision. As your child becomes more familiar with this process you can even include them, asking them ‘I wonder what else I need to know here… what am I missing?’.
Allowing your child the independence to make their own decisions and solve their own problems does 2 things. Firstly, we give them the message that we believe they are capable and secondly, it forces them to think for themselves. Our instinct as parents is often to step in and help our child but allowing them the space and opportunity to apply their problem solving skills can be far more effective.
If we want our child to have an open attitude to solving problems, then this is what we need to ensure they see modelled around them. Reflect on your own mindset when a problem arises, do you panic? Do you doubt yourself? Do you perhaps model set jobs and strengths within the family ‘We’ll have to wait for your father to fix this’. Think about how you can demonstrate a willingness to be curious and to believe in your capability to solve problems; you’ll then hopefully see this reflected in your child’s mindset.
It’s impossible to apply problem solving skills without making some mistakes and wrong decisions along the way. Encourage your child to understand that this is to be expected and is part of the process! In order for this to be truly understood, our children have to see and feel this within the family. Rather than focus on your child’s mistake, highlight and praise the fact that they were confident enough to give it a try. Ask them how they can use their mistake to continue to move forward with their problem.
We have a range of courses and sessions which help children explore creative problem solving. We have specific online sessions for children aged 5-7 called ‘Can you solve a problem?’, ‘Thinking outside the box’ & ‘Thinking creatively’. For children aged 8-10 we have sessions on ‘Steps to solve a problem’ & ‘Judgement & decision making’ and for 11-13 year olds a session on ‘Independent decision making’ and one on ‘Assessing risks’. You can find out more about these 60min online sessions below.
This article was written by Louise Treherne, Director of Character Education at Role Models. Louise has a degree in Psychology, 12 years experience as a teacher, including 5 years as a Senior Deputy Head at a London Prep school. She now works as a Professional Coach and Educational Consultant.
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