Confession: I have a hard time letting my children solve their own problems.
Last week, my daughter told me about something she wanted to try. After a few days had passed and she hadn’t made a move to get started on her idea, I swooped in to offer assistance and solve the problem of her reticence. “Mom!” she said. “I can figure it out myself!”
I explained to her that mothers are wired to come to the aid of their children. “When you were a little baby,” I said (as I acted out rocking an infant in my arms), “I had to do everything for you so sometimes it’s hard to stop doing that.” “But I hear you,” I assured her, “I’ll let you solve your own problems unless you ask me for help.”
As our children get older, we need to let them work through more difficulties themselves. Even if we know that our way is better or that they’re going to fail if they don’t let us help them, it’s still best for us to step back when we can. Letting our children figure things out on their own tells them that we believe in their ability to manage situations and life. It’s a vote of confidence when we say, “Okay, I won’t help unless you ask.”
So whether it’s homework, a problem with a coach or working through friend issues, we need to let our children learn from real life. When we back off, they learn to be resourceful, creative, and resilient.
So join me in letting our kids do more. Take the 14-Day Problem Solver Challenge.
1. Let him do it.
When you child says, “I can’t find my________.” Instead of jumping up and finding it for him, show him how to work through the process of locating it himself.
2. Let consequences be the teacher.
When you notice that your child has left something she needs for school on the counter as you’re walking out the door, leave it behind.
3. Answer a question with a question.
If your child asks, “Mom, why won’t you let me stay up and watch the movie?” You can respond, “Hmm. Why do you think I won’t let you?”
4. Put the ball in his court.
When your child gets in trouble, instead of telling him what he should have done differently, let him tell you what he should have done.
5. Let her get stuck.
When something doesn’t come easily to your child—putting together a puzzle, doing homework—don’t swoop in. Encourage them to have patience and stay calm. Then, give a push in the right direction, but don’t take over.
6. Introduce a new problem solving opportunity.
Come up with one new thing you can give your child to figure out. “Hey, Andrew, “This pantry is stuffed. How do you think we could reorganize things?
7. Future brag.
Show your child the value of learning to problem-solve. When they figure something out on their own, “future brag.” “Wow, you have really learned how to keep your books organized and looking neat. You’re going to be a great college roommate.
8. Encourage free speech.
Let your feel free to dialogue with you about options on how to do things. Hear them out without squelching their creativity.
9. Get it on paper.
If your children are old enough, let them get their options on paper. Show them how to do a pro and con list when they’re trying to make a decision.
10. Words to ban.
Yes, some problems are unsolvable, but most things can be done. So, when they say, “I can’t do it.” redirect their thinking to the possibilities instead.
Let’s Talk: In what ways can you challenge yourself?