Teaching Problem Solving Skills

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February 27, 2013 by middleearthnj

Below are the essential steps for solving problems. We have written them as the parent working with the child to solve the problems, which is something to do with elementary and middle school students. Encourage them to use these steps in small decisions so that by the time they are faced with a big decision they are used to the process. As the child enters high school, the parents should remind the youth of these steps, but allow the teen to work through these steps on their own.

  • Properly identify the problem. Teach youth to clearly understand their difficulty and what specifically is distressing them.  Ask them: “How is your current situation different from how you would like it to be?” Encourage them to approach the process with a positive attitude, viewing the situation as an opportunity to improve things.
  • Generate several alternative solutions. Try sitting down with the teenager and brainstorming a list of possible solutions to the given situation. Ask the child what they have tried before in similar situations, and what outcomes they experienced. Ask them to predict likely consequences, both positive and negative, for each possibility. Encourage the teen to not limit themselves, but to come up with as many options as possible even if they are unrealistic, because this type of creative process may help generate even better solutions.
  • Make a decision. Once you have made a list of options together, help the teen narrow them down. For each option, consider how realistic it is, how likely the teen would be to implement it, and the potential obstacles. Ask the child, “Which option accomplishes your goals and has the fewest drawbacks?” Then let the teen choose the option they would like to try.
  • Implement and verify your solution. Encourage the teen to implement their solution, give it their best effort and see how it works. Check back frequently to process how the solution is or isn’t working, and help them modify it as necessary. The goal here is for kids to learn to feel confident about solving their own problems.

These steps will work in a wide variety of situations, but hopefully by giving children a firm understanding of how to solve their problems, we will be also mitigating their risk of bullying. However, even with the best intentions, some children still fall prey to this prevalent problem. Here are some tips for parents on how to handle bullying situations.

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