Updated: May 26, 2020
Day 67 5.21.20
What happens when your child has a problem?
This is different from conflict resolution (yesterday’s) blog because the latter usually involves another person. Problem solving refers to solving a problem (hence the name).
Children are constantly exploring and trying to figure things out. When we give children the answers too often they stop trying to figure things out and wait for others to do it for them.
Here are examples from smallest to oldest.
My three year old knows that I have stored away in different places fun materials to use for Play Adventures. I have to separate replenish-able items from my children because otherwise it would be seriously hard to budget the organization (yes, I am that honest)
Up on the shelf in a closed cabinet I had 6 bottles of bubbles. While playing with the kids outside she comes back out with an open bottle of bubbles. On a side note, most three year old's I know, end up dumping the contents on the floor in order to get out the bubble stick. She must've really wanted those bubbles.
I went to the garage to see where she got them from and I saw a white plastic chair with small dirty feet marks right next to shelf with the bubbles. She wanted something bad enough, knew I'd probably say no (we just ran out of our bubbles due to a similar spilling story) and found a way to get them by herself.
I wasn't mad. I was proud she figured it out. The other kids of course took the other bubbles. The only problem with this problem solving story is that I suddenly had six empty bubble bottles on the floor. Yes, I had to repurchase and hide better!
My six year old knows that after lunch we all help clean the dishes. They bring the plates to the sink, empty the dishwasher from yesterday, wash the table and sweep the floor. Lately, they have been trying to get out of it which is to be expected! Obviously we have caught on as smart parents would and make sure no matter what, there is some job waiting for them when they return. Now, besides going to the bathroom, they can not do anything else until the kitchen is finished. Since time is meaningless now, I have no problem finishing dishes at 2pm.
After lunch they do school work. I switched school work time from the morning to the afternoon that one week it got really hot. I wanted to make sure they had outdoor time when it was cooler, and have not switched it back despite the weather.
Once they finish school work they can have screens of their choice for about an hour (3 days of the week). They know if they don't help with the dishes, school work is delayed. They also know they will not get screens until school work is complete.
Today my 6 year old solved that “problem.” Some may call it manipulative but I think its problem solving- in her view anyway.
The problem: I do not want to do dishes. (Nobody does- is normally our answer)
The solution: I’ll fall asleep at the table and pretend to almost fall off the chair as I practice my convincing sleep routine. I have never seen such a prolonged effort of convincing us she was sleeping so we called her bluff and took her to bed, where she can sleep.
We thought maybe she wasn't feeling well, because her brother was also a bit out of it. We finished the dishes (all of them) and decided before school work we need a refreshing walk.
Low and behold guess who steps out of her room right as we are ready to go on a walk.
She looks at me with restful eyes, yawns and says: “I just woke up, can I come.”
The lesson here is never bluff a bluffer.
And remember they are smarter than you think, so if you think they cant dress themselves, give themselves some yogurt or cut a banana… remember THEY CAN and you should probably let them try before they convince you they can’t.
(She did get out of doing lunch dishes but she paid for it at dinner time clean up!)
My ten year old is much less an actor than my middle child. Luckily, he is also capable of figuring things out. Today he got Rollerblades for his tenth birthday from grandma. The wheels were not attached when he got them. Dad was working and I... (have no idea where I was). He figured it out assembled them on his own. He thought riding them would be much easier. It does look easy when others do it. Things often come easy for him. Not this. To start he would stand using the side of the garage for support. Then he would use the declining parking area for momentum and to stop he would turn to decrease speed and then he would control his fall on grass.
When motivation is high and they are given the opportunity to try on their own they become less willing to give up, more convinced and confident that they can do it on their own without help and they understand their own abilities. You just need to believe that they have the potential!
Conclusion: removing obstacles and hardships from a child's way only makes them incapable at handling these tough situations on their own. Do you want them to be asking you to talk to their teacher in high school because of an unfair grade or do you think it's better if they study hard next time or stand up on their own to counter unfairness. Give them the tools not the answers! Sometimes giving them the tools means letting them be frustrated, letting them fail and complimenting the effort they are making to follow through!