Learn this awesome problem solving model to empower kids and adults.
To Teach Kids to Solve Problems, They Must Know They Have a Problem
She started out by insisting that she had no problems. After several exchanges she decided that she did have on problem. “I do not know what to feed the unicorn that lives in my back yard?”.
Ok I can work with that.
What is the Problem?
The first step is defining the problem. In this case, “What do unicorns
eat?”. We do not want Sparkles to die. We want him to live a long and
happy life. Often with real problems that involve other people defining
the problem in a way that everyone’s concerns are recognized and
everyone can agree on the problem is the most difficult step.
Kids Solve Problems by Identifying Options
The next step is defining the options or solutions. It is important to
come up with at least three options often more is better. Do not be
afraid to be silly. Stay in a brainstorming mode and do not evaluate the
options yet, just list them. Even though this teen had initially been
against the idea of reviewing problem solving she quickly came up
with 3 options: grass, candy corn or meat. I think she was playing
along, because I was treating this like a serious problem and she was
curious about where we would go with this. Often when interacting
with teens if we meet them where they are instead of insisting that they
meet us where we are life is much smoother.
How to decide?
The next step is deciding which option to try. We take each option and
discuss the pros and cons. In the case of feeding Sparkles we evaluated
candy corn, grass and meat. The young lady had all of this information
at the tip of her tongue, so she must have done her research. I did not
ask her where she came up with the information, so we will need to
trust that she knows what she was talking about. In the case of candy
corn, Sparkles is magical, so may enjoy candy corn, who doesn’t like
candy corn. On the other hand Sparkles may die from candy corn. As
for grass it might be good for Sparkles or he may die. Lastly meat, it
might be good for him or he may vomit, causing a smelly mess.
She Picked a Solution
Obviously meat is our first choice. It is the only thing that will not
cause death. We agreed giving a small amount of meat to begin with
would be best to minimize the vomiting if that happened.
Kids Solve Problems with Practice
I complimented her on her cleverness with coming up with a problem
that would help her remember the process. A more mundane problem
would make remembering much more difficult. She rolled her eyes in
the classic teen girl way and said, “I was trying to be sarcastic”. I told
her it was the best problem I had ever heard to teach the process and
would like to share it with you. Confused she agreed that was fine, if I
remembered, “the unicorn’s name is Sparkles and he is a dude”. Her
mother also agreed I could share the story with you.
I usually start with POW, when teaching problem solving: what is the PROBLEM, what are the
OPTIONS and WHICH OPTION. The entire process is EMPOWER.
Stay tuned for the next post to find out what EM, E, and R stand for.
How do you teach your kids to solve problems?
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Hi, I’m Tamara the creator of Empowered Single Moms, a single mom, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and the author of Thriving a Single Mom’s Guide to a Happy, Positive Life and Thriving a Single Mom Journal. I have a solo private psychotherapy practice where I treat anxiety, depression, and relationship issues.
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