Imagine a house filled with chairs, ladders, and step stools that instead of living at the table or nicely tucked away they are all precariously placed underfoot, at bookshelves, and sometimes even stacked upon each other. While some might think of this as a cruel joke or nightmare, let’s reframe it into something beautiful and life-giving. What if instead it’s your children being goal-driven and executing a plan to accomplish something larger?
While I always discourage my children from stacking stools and definitely forbid climbing tall furniture even if it’s anchored, when my kids ask for me to open a door, reach a game, or unfasten a jar instead of immediately relying on yes or no, I always ask them “what tools can you use to help?”
This helps kids process the situation and use critical thinking.
As children discover their balance, their physical limitations, their ability to use tools, and more, the world opens up as a playground of possibilities instead of a finite existence with un-ending road-blocks. This is also true for tween and teens. They start unleashing the shackles of their mind to realize that thought and effort mean being able to tackle bigger and mightier goals.
When we allow our children to develop their own processes, they find what works for them by using trial and error. As they explore options and solutions, they in turn have better bodily, spatial, and mental awareness to know how they fit into their surroundings. This helps them better understand and head our warnings that something might be heavy or that a step on the stairs is wobbly. Or for older kids to know at what point in a project they might need to employ help.
6-steps to help anyone become a better goal-oriented problem solver
Learn to set a goal.
We like to ask “What’s your picture perfect ending? What do you actually want?”
This might be that each person in the family gets a gift for their birthday.
It might be building a toy robot.
It could even be as simple as defining a craft project.
But learning to articulate a goal is important — writing it down even better.
Related post about kids and problem solving: https://karacarrero.com/raising-children-problem-solve/
Define and Develop a Processes.
After setting the initial goal, we ask our children to think through all of the steps to get there including the tools and resources needed as well as where they anticipate needing true help.
Every good business has processes.No matter what field our children go into or whether they are self-employed or just a cog in a machine, this is a skill they will need to know. Processes keep you focused. Processes help you see a “the forest and the trees”. Processes achieve results.
Discover simple machines and tools.
If you’re early in teaching children about tools and simple machines, then exploring and understanding levers, pulleys, etc. can benefit them in deciding how to approach a problem.
Of course most children know how to use scissors and even screw drivers, but with parental supervision and at a time you see most appropriate, introduce them to power tools, safe use of x-acto knives, and other machines and tools that can help with a variety of jobs.
I highly recommend a series of books called The Way Things Work. There are 2 or 3 of them based on when they were written. [Also, it’s awkward, but I’m required to mention we are amazon affiliates and earn from qualifying purchases].
Related article on teaching safety for dangerous items: https://karacarrero.com/children-knife-safety/
Know your limitations and boundaries.
This is such a valuable tool to have as a child. When they climb a tree, we let them go as far as they feel comfortable. In so doing, they might need saving, but they also learn the valuable lessons about where their limitations are.
And it’s the same for anything. As we let our children push and explore outside their current box, they expand their abilities and knowledge. With a bit of guidance and supervision on the things they think are possible but a little scary, we’re there to help and be a fall-back.
Don’t employ help without a plan.
Our children know that we really will help, but they need to think it through and know exactly what they need before asking. Similarly in the business world, someone will never get a loan without a business plan.
Related article on helping encourage kids who think they can’t: https://karacarrero.com/encouraging-my-child-through-the-i-cant-stages/
Never stop at just one goal.
We encourage our kids to set another goal once they smash through the first… or even better, start planning next steps before they hit it if it’s a big one. If it’s just being able to reach the scissors to make a card, then this might be a different story.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!