teaching kids problem solving skills

Six Steps to Problem Solving

When I designed the Wyatt book series, eight years ago, my goal was to teach children to be better problem solvers. As a school counselor in an elementary school, I spent most of my time helping kids solve problems. I didn’t want to just tell them what to do, but teach them how to think about the problem so they could figure it out for themselves the next time.

That goal hasn’t changed.  In fact, I think it is more important than ever that we equip students to learn effective problem solving strategies. Kids who know effective steps to solve problems are more resilient and better able to cope with uncertain times.

 What are the necessary steps to problem solving?

  1. Identify the problem-  The first step in any problem solving is awareness.  if you don’t recognize and clarify the problem, it is hard to solve it. We all know it is easier to see the problems in others than ourselves, so at least in part this means developing an openness to feedback and insight.
  2. Recognize the possibilities for growth and change-  It is always easier to stay in our own comfort zone and view the world through our own lens. In order to solve problems though, we have to develop a willingness to move outside of that arena of knowledge and venture into the unknown.  This is where true creativity and insight develop.
  3. Recognize our strengths and our limits–  We are always most effective when we know what we do well and when we develop those skills.  It is equally important that we know our limitations and that we engage others in those areas where we need help and guidance.
  4. Develop team work-  it is essential that future problem solvers know how to work well with others.  The world has become a connected and interdependent place and successful problem solvers use all the interpersonal resources available to navigate complex problems.
  5. Develop a growth mindset–  Problem solvers are comfortable with change and growth.  They envision a positive solution even when it isn’t yet obvious how it will be accomplished.   They know that maintaining status quo doesn’t solve problems.
  6.  Embody courage and commitment–  Problem solvers take action, sometimes imperfect action when they aren’t quite sure of the outcome of their efforts. Problem solvers don’t live life as victims but rather take action and effect change. They are resilient in the face of failure.  They know that each step moves them forward, even when they don’t yet have the answer to the problem.

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