When our kids are little, we have to solve all their problems. We have to tie their shoes, wipe their noses, put on their sunscreen, and the list goes on. As they get older, we often forget to let them solve their own problems. Well, sometimes it’s forgetfulness. Other times we resist. Why? Because we can do it better and faster.
Now picture this: Your child grows up and you’ve got a teenager who relies on you for almost everything. Sound fun? It’s not. Want to know how to improve problem-solving skills in your kids before they reach that point? Here are 5 great places to start.
Problem #1: “I can’t put my clothes on by myself!”
When I took my daughter to her 3-year-old well check appointment, the doctor asked, “Can she put on her own clothes in the morning? Zip up her own coat?” I just stared at him in shock. I honestly didn’t know or think she could, partly because I had never let her try.
Problem #2: “You didn’t bring me a water bottle!”
Getting ready for a sport, camp, or sleepover requires preparation. There are so many things needed for baseball, for example, that I worry my son will forget something. Then I’ll be the one running home like a maniac to fetch the missing items. But the truth is that it is his game, equipment, and uniform; he is physically able to get his things together.
Problem #3: “I’m hungry! I’m thirsty!”
Should we feed our children? Yes. But can they learn (in stages) to pack lunches, grab their own snacks, and get their own drinks? Yes, they can. They can even learn to cook! At age 2, a child can help you make banana bread by adding, measuring, and stirring the ingredients. By age 12, kids can be in charge of an entire meal every once in a while!
Problem #4: “I can’t wash my own hair!”
My kids love to play in the bath and take long showers. But shampoo and condition their hair? Not so much. They either call for me to do it or they skip it altogether. Confession: I like really scrubbing their heads. It makes me feel like they are good and clean. But when my kids go to camp, they need to be able to wash their own hair.
Problem #5: “I don’t have any clean underwear!”
Doing the laundry is the one chore most kids think they can’t handle. But can they? Yes, ma’am, they can. Try starting with matching and folding a load of socks and underwear. Then graduate to folding towels, and then their own clothes. Eventually, they can do an entire load from start to finish.
Don’t Steal Their Struggle.
Yes, they will struggle. I once tutored a boy whose mom was older and had raised several children. She told me, “The best parenting advice I have is this: Don’t steal their struggle.”
Part of knowing how to improve problem-solving skills is allowing our children to have problems. The struggle of learning is messy, time-consuming, and even frustrating for our kids. It may bring temporary conflict and even tears. My youngest needed to be shown how to distinguish the front of her underwear from the back more than 20 times before she got it!
And some days, I didn’t have the time or capacity to teach her. But not every day. Take the time, when you can, to teach while being your children’s biggest cheerleader! Every time we are able to make that choice, we are helping them get one step closer to independence.
What is one problem you’ve stopped solving for your kids?