Creative Child

Parenting: How to Raise a Problem-Solver

by Rebecca Eanes

Raise a Problem-Solver

What could you have done differently?

Here is where the child brainstorms better options or is taught better options by the parent or caregiver. Here's what this may look like so far:

“What caused you to push your brother down?”

“He took my toy. I was mad.”

“What was the outcome of your choice to push him down?”

“He's crying.”

“Yes, he's crying because that hurt him and made him sad. What could you have done differently?” 

“I don't know.”

“Let's think about it. You could have asked me for help when he took your toy. You could have chosen to let him play with it and picked another toy for yourself. You could have taken a deep breath and asked him to give your toy back. Which choice will you make next time?"


How are you going to fix this?

This question puts the responsibility for solving this problem squarely on the child's shoulders. This is telling the child “I'm not going to fix this for you by sending you to your room. I'm not going to fix this for you by taking away your phone. You're going to fix this right now.” It's easy to “serve time” and be done with it, but to raise responsible people, we have to give them responsibility.

Following along with the above conversation, brainstorm what the child could have done differently. Once he has chosen a better option for next time, you may follow with, “Okay, good. The next time your brother takes your toy, you will not push him down. You will ask for help. Now, because you pushed him, he's upset. How are you going to fix this?” This step teaches important skills such as relationship repair and making amends, which boosts empathy and promotes healthier relationships lifelong. The ability to own up to and correct mistakes also builds confidence and responsibility.

Best of all, after repeating this process several times, children quickly catch on that it's easier to manage their behavior in the first place than it is to fix problems created by their poor choices. However, even the most responsible children (and adults!) sometimes make mistakes, and knowing how to right their wrongs and solve their own problems is a skill that all children should be empowered with.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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