Questions to help raise problem solvers

No matter how old our children become, they still seem to come back to us for advice, though the issues they expereince now as adults differ a lot from the simpler problems of childhood.

Bored Teenage Girl Being Told Off By MotherWhen we see our child spinning over a problem, we usually want to step in and solve it for them. A good alternative is to ask questions that will get them thinking of their own solutions. At the start, you might get the frustration and embarrassment your child is feeling about their problem directed at you. It’s unpleasant and unfair, but just as well you’ve got broad shoulders. Here are some things you could try.

Show them you are on their side with phrases like, “I’ll help you sort it.” Also, make sure the problem stays their problem. Don’t rescue them too readily if there is a chance they can solve it themselves.

Ask them to describe the problem. Problems can seem huge and cause panicky feelings – but it’s amazing how much more manageable they seem when they are explained to someone else. Note – don’t faint if it is a huge problem, don’t laugh if it seems silly.

Instead of, “What are you going to do?”, try looking off into the distance and saying, “I wonder what you could do.” It puts less pressure on them. As their ideas start to flow, don’t criticise. If you can see that an idea is flawed, or even downright silly, you could ask, “What might happen if you did that?” Let them play it out in their imagination. Their first idea might not be any good, but their second or third might be a ripper. Encourage them with, “Have you got any other suggestions?”

Of course, we’ll be itching to give our advice. Offer it, but don’t force it on them. “I’ve got some ideas if you want them.”

Ultimately, helping your children to solve their own problems is far more useful than you solving them for them. Remember, you are a coach.


By John Cowan, The Parenting Place

Improving and equipping families to thrive.

Read more from John and The Parenting place here.