If you're unsure of how to go about teaching your children to solve their own problems, here are some suggestions.
It’s only natural for parents to want to dote on their precious little ones and make life as comfortable and smooth-sailing as possible for them. This often includes doing everything for them – feeding them, showering them, changing them, you name it. But parents must realise that this does more harm than good, and it’s of great importance to raise children who solve their own problems.
In fact, when you raise children who solve their own problems, you are equipping them with one of the most valuable and important life skills.
Why we shouldn’t solve their problems
Parents in Singapore seem to subscribe to a culture of being one step ahead of any sticky situation that their children can possibly run into. They anticipate what can go wrong and ensure that it doesn’t happen. For example, they check with their child’s teachers what their children need to bring for an outing, and they personally pack their bags for them. Even if they do allow their children to pack their own bags, they check it again to make sure everything is in place.
Lynn Lyons, a psychotherapist who specialises in anxiety disorders in families and children, explained that the problem with parents ensuring that nothing goes wrong for their children is that life doesn’t work in that manner. Children need to understand that mistakes and problems are part of life, and they have to learn how to get around their problems.
When life gives your children lemons, you want to teach them how to make lemonade!
Likewise, a physical education teacher shared how he felt about parents often calling him up to double, or even triple check what their children should be bringing for their outdoor physical education lesson. This is in spite of all instructions that have been communicated time and again.
“If it’s an important examination and parents don’t trust their children, I can understand their need to double check. But in this case, they are supposed to make mistakes when they do and then learn from those mistakes. It’s the natural order of things and it’s part of educating them holistically.”
So how do we raise children who solve their own problems? Here are five simple tips.
1. Say No to Helicopter Parenting!
The term helicopter parenting has been drawing much attention lately. Helicopter parenting, also known as lawnmower parenting, refers to parents who hover over their children like a helicopter. They are too focused on their children and go overboard with directing and protecting their children who are perfectly capable of managing their own tasks and emotions.
Helicopter parents are always there and don’t allow their children to face the natural consequences of their actions when it’s appropriate and safe.
This results in them losing out on important life experiences and skills.
If you want to raise children who solve their own problems, allow them to experience and get used to uncertainty. Let them explore possible solutions for their problems.
If they come to you with a problem, the short-term solution is to solve it for them. This gets them out of your hair and you don’t have to deal with tears and whining. But remember, this is counter-productive in the long run.
2. Encourage Creative Thinking
Joel Wee, 36, a dad of two, entered the room upon hearing a storm brewing. His six-year-old daughter was using blocks to build a castle and her four-year-old brother insisted on building a train. They were yelling and just as he was about to intervene, his daughter suggested that her brother build a train outside her castle so that the princesses and knights could ride on it.
The children had solved their own conflict and invented a new way of playing. They didn’t bother their father for the rest of the afternoon.
Creative people are more flexible and are better at solving problems. Create opportunities for your children to try new things and to experiment with new ideas. Don’t do the thinking for them. Instead, encourage them to think out of the box. This is important if you want to raise children who solve their own problems.
How can you do this? Ask more open-ended questions like, What do you think you should do?, encourage role-playing and drama to help your children to better empathise or get them to think of alternative endings to a story.
3. Tenacity is the way to go
Tenacity means determination, having the will and the grit to finish what you start. This is something that many children of this generation lack. And parents have themselves to blame for this because they are often too quick to help their children.
When your child gets stuck and runs to you for a solution, or if he throws a tantrum when he just can’t get that Lego fixture right, don’t swing in extremes and criticise him or do it for him. Instead, reassure him that he can do it and boost his confidence. Tell him that he can do it!
Never mind how long it takes, just keep encouraging him to finish what he started and trust me, when he eventually succeeds, you will swell with pride!
Life is fraught with challenges and you must raise children who solve their own problems. Otherwise, they will have difficulty getting through the hurdles.
4. Challenges are Opportunities in Disguise
Your little one comes home in tears because he’s facing some difficulties. Change his perspective and break down the big challenge into smaller ones. This will help him to better analyse the issue at hand and adopt multiple perspectives.
When the problem is less daunting or overwhelming, children will be able to come up with solutions that may surprise you!
Here are some questions that you can ask :
- What went wrong? Why are you feeling down? Have you tried?
- What can you do about this? If you chose to do it this way, what could happen?
- If you leave the problem as it is and move on, what would happen?
5. Children learn from what they see not what you tell them
Always remember that if you want to raise children who solve their own problems, you must show them how to. Children remember what you show them, now what you tell them.
If you tell them to stay calm in a situation that didn’t go according to plan, make sure you demonstrate that. If you often lose your composure, they will think that’s the normal way to react to a situation. Allow them the opportunity to see that you can get through a difficult situation in a calm manner.
Also, if you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit that you were wrong. Making mistakes is a normal and necessary part of life and children need to understand that. Discuss your mistakes with your children and have a brainstorming session of what you could have done better.
Remember, they are never too young. You’d be surprised to know that even little children have some pretty genius ideas!
So mums and dads, the next time your child runs to you with a problem, resist the overpowering urge to solve it for them. Instead, try these tips!
Source: Channel News Asia