In the first post of our Life Skills Series, we shared tips to help you raise critical thinkers. And next up, we’re talking about how to teach your kids problem-solving skills. As adults, we know how important they are in our everyday lives, but it’s hard to think back as to how we were taught them. For many of us, our parents just said “figure it out!” and we did. In most cases, anyway!
When kids know how to effectively problem solve, they’re better in challenging situations that might come their way. But when we actually teach them these skills, it can improve their overall mental health, and give them the coping skills they need to not just survive, but thrive, and grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.
We are so pleased to bring you the next post in our 3-part life skills series on behalf of Cisco’s Global Problem Solvers: The Series (GPS: The Series). This fun animated series is designed to help educate and inspire the next generation of global problem solvers (get it?), who can help make the world a better place.
The animated series and learning program was created to help kids cultivate better digital skills, creativity, critical thinking, social consciousness, entrepreneurial spirit, and teamwork – all essential tools to help make positive change in the world.
We hope our 3-part guide will give you even more detailed information on a few of the skills we think are most important, which started with critical thinking, and now, problem-solving.
4 tips for teaching kids problem-solving
1. Let go of your helicopter parent tendencies
As much as we like to claim we’re not helicopter parents, every one of us could probably all name a thing or two that brings out the pilot in us. But it’s important to remember that we’re actually doing our kids a disservice in the long run when we keep an overly watchful eye on them, or worse, interfere with situations and problems that they can potentially solve on their own.
Of course, it’s important to consider your child’s age, but in many cases, rather than you taking over, offering support, encouragement, and in some cases, a little hand-holding, you’re allowing your kids to handle a lot more on their own than you might have thought they could.
Bonus: If you feel like your kids are old enough, both physically and emotionally, build a roadblock into the situation to teach them problem-solving skills. Be sure that there is a safe, healthy solution that they can come to on their own — but that extra challenge can really pay off later on.
2. Start them young, but make it fun
Problem-solving doesn’t start when they’re stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire. Kids can learn problem-solving skills from a very young age. In fact, they already do it on their own. It’s how they figure out how to climb out of the crib. (Ha!). Children as young as preschool can easily dive in with your help. Scholastic offers a helpful resource page in teaching young children problem-solving skills.
One of the easiest (and most fun) ways to teach this is through play. See if they can figure out how to build a LEGO structure without a few of the required pieces. Or a card game without one of the cards (that’s happened to us way too many times. Allow them the chance to figure it out on their own, and if you see them struggling to the point where they’re getting overly upset, offer them a myriad possible solutions. This helps get their own brain thinking about all the possibilities.
About our sponsor:
GPS: The Series
If you want to raise kids who are problem solvers, critical thinkers, and collaborators, GPS: The Series is a fantastic place to start. This animated series features a diverse group of teenage superheroes from around the globe (that’s the GPS), each representing a different skill set. There’s Beela (digital skills), Adrien (creativity), Kelile (social consciousness), Satoshi (critical thinking), Cristina (entrepreneurial spirit) and Putri (teamwork skills).
Unlike some other superheroes your kids might be familiar with, these are relatable, smart kids who are taking on real-world social, economic, and environmental problems, and encouraging your kids to do the same.
It’s more than an animated series. In fact, it’s a complete educational program created by Cisco and available free online to students, parents and educators. It’s designed especially to help kids learn about where innovation, entrepreneurship, and social change starts, and see how they can play a role in making big changes to the world they live in.
By watching GPS: The Series, and going through the program (with the help of teacher/educator guides), kids learn problem-solving skills as well as how to bring their ideas to life, whether through design, manufacturing, raising funds, and more. Pretty cool.
Check out GPS: The Series with your kids and help them find more ways to become a problem-solver who can bring positive change to the world.
3. Allow for natural consequences
Depending on the age of your kids, you can build in natural consequences to problems they need to solve, or just allow them to happen on their own. The easiest example is from our friend Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure, who talks about allowing kids who have forgotten their homework to figure out a solution. Before we rush home to get it for them, or call the teacher, allow your child to figure it out. They’ve probably got a phone and they certainly know how to use it. They probably know how to send an email too.
Of course, you’ll want to practice these problem-solving skills in a safe environment, and one where they have the opportunity (preferably more than one) to be successful.
And, it’s important to process what happened after the fact – looking at the decisions they made and the possible pros and cons to what they did and could of done. It’s those debriefing sessions that can help them internalize those skills.
4. Model good problem-solving yourselves, parents
You knew this was coming, right? We know that modeling healthy behavior — when it comes to reading, screen time, eating, you name it — has an impact on our own kids, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that problem-solving isn’t any different. Our kids are watching us, so it’s not just how we solve the problems that come our way, but it’s also how we handle them.
Do we give up after the first try? Do we take some time to think about alternatives before making a decision? Everything that goes into how we solve problems and how we process our emotions related to them is influential on how our kids do too.
And guess what? It’s okay if you made a bad decision. We’re going to make a lot of them. It’s good for our kids to see that too. Showing them that you acknowledge your faults, and learn from your mistakes is an invaluable lesson.
Thanks to Cisco for sponsoring this Life Skills Series. We support their commitment to positively impact 1 billion people worldwide by the year 2025 through its social impact grants and signature programs, and to help foster a new generation of global problem-solvers.
To learn more about GPS: The Series, visit this link and watch with your kids.