As parents, it is our responsibility to help children develop the skills to solve problems. With this skill, they can weigh every situation, assess the possibilities, balance the pros and cons and make an optimal choice.
In grown up world, we call this "Leadership"!!
Spend the time now, teach your child this skill and make him or her a leader. Here are some tips on how to help your child learn this skill.
Every day is an opportunity
Every day, opportunities are present to teach the chiid. But we have to learn to recognize them. Many times we do not, because we are in a hurry or because we underestimate our children's ability to think logically.
Often the situation presents itself when a child is unhappy - whining, crying or complaining or misbehaving or just sad.
Here are some steps that will help parents use these everyday situations to teach this valuable skill.
The steps below take time for Indian parents to carry out. So in the short term it may take longer to solve a child's problem but in the long run it will save you a lot of time and your child will be better for it.
Calm everything down
- Do not get distracted by the child's external expression or complaining words.
- If they are not calm, make them calm down first (See this article for help on how to do this - Dealing with whining children)
- Keep your cool. If you are in a hurry, think calmly and tell yourself that you need to take a few minutes to deal with the child rather than getting frustrated about the delay that he is causing you.
Discover the real cause of the problem
- Often, what you see is only how the problem has caused the child to behave. The real problem maybe hidden.
- For example, Take the case of a child who is picking at her lunch. A parent may immediately jump to solve the problem in any of the following ways
- Admonish the child to eat fast
- Offer the child a treat (chocolate, icecream etc.,) if she eats
- Think that one vegetable or the other is the cause of the delay and offer to replace it with something else
- When we take this approach, we have not even made an attempt to discover why the child is picking at her lunch.
- A few well directed questions like "Is something bothering you?", "What are you thinking of which is causing your mouth to move slowly?", or even a direct question like "Why are you picking at your lunch?" will start a conversation ultimately resulting in the real cause.
- The child may finally say "I am sad because I cannot find that blue storybook that I always read before lunch. I left it at grandma's house when I went there yesterday"
- Now, the parent has discovered the real cause. How does this get solved? - Read on!
Let the child solve it
In the example above, the first reaction of the parent after discovering the real cause maybe "Don't worry sweetie. When we go to grandma's house tomorrow, we will get it".
Guess what will happen!! The child starts crying again saying "But I always read it before lunch" and then we are back where we started. So how do we as Indian parents tackle this.
- Give the child the power to solve their own problem.
- Ask them first what to do about their problem
- The first suggestions may be impractical
- Ask more questions and slowly nudge them to recognize the impracticality
- As they recognize that their early suggestions will not work, children will offer more practical solutions
- And finally one will arise that makes the child and you satisfied
- In the example above, ask the child "So what shall we do now?"
- The child may say "Let's go to grandma's house now and get the book"
- Ask the child - "How to do we do grandma's house"
- Child says "By car"
- Ask the child - "Is the car here or has Daddy taken it to the office?"
- Child says "Daddy has taken it"
- Ask the child - "So do we need to wait for Daddy to come back before we go to grandma's house?"
- Child says "Yes"
- Then you have reached a point where you can agree that the child can go back to grandma's house to later in the day and the child can now focus on eating her lunch
Its not easy
This type of interaction with a child is not easy. In the example above, we used one back-and-forth reasoning conversation. But in reality, there will three or four such conversations before you can reach a practical conclusion. it may take 10 to 15 minutes.
Does it take time - Yes!
Does it need patience - Definitely!!
But is it worth it - Yes!
Children who learn to think independently to assess & solve problems, will excel academically and in other areas. Over time, as they practice this skill and learn others, they will become recognized as leaders also.
i have always felt that children have a basic need to feel in charge. the moment they feel under pressure, compulsion or deadline, they create a facade of whining or defiance to hide the real fear of losing control. if we give them ample choices and opportunities to make decisions without manipulating in any ways to make them say what we want, it's a win-win situation for both parents and children. even with an infant we can throw choices, like, 'what do you want to wear today?'..we dont expect an answer here, but the child gradually understands that his decisions, desires are respected in the adult world. this is a great confidence booster for children. this, practiced with them in their growing years can really keep the tantrums at bay. easier said than done. but whenever we face a defiance, a tantrum or whining episode next, we may want to take it as a cover up for the fear of loss..it could be loss of control, loss of an object. children love us more, listen to us more when we respect their fears instead of dismissing them.
I have always found this kind of interaction easier than the dictatorial system of barking instructions at the kids...even when they are very young.
At the risk of probably repeating myself, i'd say children are learning more from us by the way we behave rather than what we say. If we constantly practice a calm peaceful manner of addressing issue, that's what the kids will learn.
Often i have found that we Moms get frustrated about kids not drinking their milk when told to or not eating their fruit when asked to. I'm sharing here a technique that used to work with my child. Instead of just handing over the milk to my son at milktime, i would offer him a choice. "would you like to have the milk in a red mug or a white mug?' or "would you like a mango shake or a chocolate shake?"
With fruits the choice would be "would you like me to cut the apple into round slices or small pieces with chaat masala on top?"
The child's natural instinct to say 'i don't want' got channelised into decision making instead. Of course there would be times when the child isn't interested in eating or drinking just yet, but then one can easily and firmly draw his attention back to the query, gently establishing that the matter of choice is in how or in how much time at the most. That the kid has to have his milk and/or fruit is not negotiable.