MEGASKILL TEN: PROBLEM SOLVING
Do your children say “I can’t” instead of “I can”? Children are not born problem solvers. They learn how.
Help them put what they know & can do into action.
Thinking is not a subject all by itself–it’s what you think about that is the subject. We need children who can begin to think about serious subjects.
Give them practice in asking & answering questions & practice in making decisions.
Ask questions that you really want answers to.
Listen to children’s answers.
Let children know how really smart they are.
Let your children ask you questions that they want answers to & take the time to respond thoughtfully.
Spur children’s inventive thinking with questions that limber up the brain. Ask how many things can be made from a paper plate. From a rubber band? From a paper clip?
Encourage children to imagine. What would happen if the automobile had not been invented?
Put a blob of ink on paper, fold it, rub & blot. Ask children to tell you all the things the blob reminds them of. Trade places & try it yourself.
Place circles or squares or triangles of various sizes on a sheet of paper. Then ask children to name & draw as many different objects as they can think of using these figures.
Help children think ahead about what they would change.
What do you want more time for?
How would you use more money?
What is a waste of time?
What makes you feel really happy?
What would you like to keep always the same?
What would you like to do tomorrow? Next week? Next month?
Involve children actively & early in decision making, especially in family decision making. They can be active participants or can just listen in. In this way they come to know, & to identify with, the process we adults go through in making up our minds.
Thinking & Choosing–ages 4-7
Ask your child to pretend the following things are happening:
You can’t find your key & no one is home.
You get lost on your way to a friend’s house.
You are teased on your way home from school.
Ask children to think of as many ways to solve these problems as they can. Don’t reject any ideas, even if they sound far-fetched.
After they have mulled over three or four different solutions, let them pick one way that seems best.
Ask for children’s ideas to remedy a problem they cause (not necessarily at the time when you’re upset). Examples: Mud on the floor, coats not hung up, milk left out etc.
Decisions Aren’t Easy–ages 9-12
Talk with your youngster about some important decisions you have made in the past. Examples: Buying a car, changing jobs, getting married. Tell about the things you considered before making these decisions. Were there good & bad consequences? Were you happy with your decisions? Would you make the same ones again?
Encourage children to become planners: What would they do if they were teachers? Fathers? Mothers?
Don’t give children decisions to make that you believe are yours alone. There is danger when children are given decisions to make that are really not theirs to make or when children are told they can make the decision & then find that their parent really didn’t mean it. Choose the real decisions that children can make & be prepared to live with their decisions.
Safety–Everyday Problem Solving
Children need to know that parents care about what they are doing. Just being home doesn’t always do the job. It’s possible to be at home all the time & not have children feel that their parents care.
Children have to know the steps to take on their own to be safe.
Thinking through a problem:
- Children accidentally eat or drink poisons & dangerous medicines lying around the house. Many youngsters become ill & die.
- What can we do here at home to prevent this from happening? Let’s name a lot of ideas.
Help children recognise the warning labels on medicines & household cleaners at home. Discuss what can be done if these products or medicines are swallowed accidentally. The labels tell us what remedies or antidotes counteract the poison.
Remind your children to take medicine only with your approval.
Household Danger Spots–ages 4-6
Take a walk around your home with your child. Check in each room to see that electric cords are not frayed, that throw rugs don’t slide, that old papers, rags & paints are stored properly, that sharp edges of knives & tools are covered.
Make a list of items in the house that need to be repaired.
Show children how the stove is turned off. If the stove is not to be used at all, explain why. Talk about why children should never play with matches.
Take a walk around your house. Show children how to lock & unlock all doors & at least a few windows. Point to exits to use in case of fire or other need to escape.
Let children try using all house keys. Have keys made for each family member & put these in special places for safekeeping.
Try to make your home as burglarproof as possible. Make sure there is a strong chain on the front door so that it can be opened only partially. Many parents tell children never to open the door for people they do not know.
Tell children never to enter the house after school if the door is ajar, a window is broken, or anything looks unusual. Give instructions to go to a neighbor’s or to a store, then to call Mom or Dad & wait for an adult to arrive before returning to the house.
Community Safety Tour–ages 4-6
Walk with your child or drive through your community. Point out the many signs you see. Which are the signs for safety? What do the other signs tell you? Examples: BUS, YIELD, WALK & CAUTION are some signs that children need to know.
Talk about safe places to go in case of danger. Examples: A neighbor’s house, a business office.
Prepare a safety kit for your child to take everywhere. It can include an identification card, a list of important telephone numbers, change for several phone calls, & perhaps enough money for bus or cab fare. Tape the kit inside your child’s lunchbox or knapsack.
Dealing with Strangers–any age
Give instructions to your children on how to talk to strangers on the phone, at the door & on the street.
Make up a set response to use on the phone: Example: “My mom can’t come to the phone now. May I take a message?”
Teach children how to take careful telephone messages that include the caller’s name & phone number. Buy a phone pad or make one out of scrap paper. Practice handling phone calls. Use a play phone or the real phone. Take turns being the caller & being the child at home.
Warn about accepting rides & gifts from strangers Do not assume that children know the dangers. Role play some typical situations such as, “Do you want candy?” “Can I give you a ride?”
Advise children not to carry thick wallets & to keep them out of sight. Girls who carry shoulder bags should hold on to them firmly. If youngsters are carrying large amounts of money, tell them to divide the money & to carry it in at least two places.
Talk together about at least three things to increase safety outdoors. Examples: Lock cars, keep personal items out of sight in parked cars, avoid deserted areas.
In Case of Fire–any age
Help your family know how to leave the house quickly & safely in case of fire.
Show children the emergency numbers for Fire, Police & Poison Control listed in the front of the telephone book. Tell children to dial “0” for the operator in case of an emergency. For children who can’t read, make a picture chart with the numbers. Buy a small fire extinguisher to keep in the kitchen & a smoke alarm for your home.
Practice leaving the house quickly, using different exits. Make these sessions family affairs so that everyone will know exactly what to do in case of fire or an accident. Practice until you are sure children understand what to do. Children are much more likely to stay calm in a crisis if they feel they know what to do.
You really can’t teach safety in stages. A six-year-old needs to know as much or almost as much as a twelve-year-old.
Helping Children Succeed–any age
Try with your children to set up daily situations in which they succeed. Have they learned to swim? Are they able to locate a needed number in the telephone book?
Convey to children your expectations that they will start & complete the task or project. Be optimistic, & check that your children have what they need to complete what they are doing.
Provide jobs & activities they can do & will feel proud of having accomplished. These include building something needed around the house, taking care of a special corner in the garden or cooking a meal for the family.
Let your children know that you–an adult–also have needs. You need praise, encouragement, love–& criticism & put-downs hurt you, just as they hurt them.
Ideally, parents should talk to each other first before they tell children what to do.