Sunday, April 15, 2012

Encourage Toddlers to Problem Solve

Create Problem Solvers not Problems

Many parents want cooperative, respectful, courageous, confident, resourceful children but have no idea what is needed to develop these characteristics.

It is so much easier to 'do things for a 2 year or 3 year old, not to mention it's faster for our busy life.' But what is more important?... speed, perfection and ease or helping your children develop confidence, perceptions of capability and strong life skills?

Remember skills are not inborn, they are learned and taught by the primary caregivers.

I've said it before and I'll say it again. Too many times parents 'tell' their children what to do, or worse, do it for them. Children cannot develop a sense of 'autonomy' (self confidence, life skills, self respect) when parents spend so much time yammering at them about what they need to do, how they need to feel and what they need to think about. TELLING children, takes away the opportunity for children to think for themselves. Lecturing often causes children to 'tune out' because most of what you say goes over their heads. Parents are disappointed when children don't have self control, but may not realize they are not using the 'right parenting skills' to teach this important development.

What can we do about this now? If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got.” Is a great quote to remember. 
So the answer is CHANGE your attitude and old patterns.

Stop lecturing today and start asking questions like:
“What were you trying to do?”
“What else could you do if you want this happen again?”
“what do we need when we... go outside, brush our teeth, eat dinner?”
“What just happened?” “Why do you think that happened?”

Remember language is a journey and takes time to learn. They may not understand everything, and you may have to simplify your questions for per-verbal children and young children, but you're on your way to having a child who knows how to be resourceful and think for themselves. 
This skill is especially important for girls. Studies and research has shown that girls are not valued for their thinking skills and usually not given enough opportunities to question and work out problems. These studies were done at a school aged level. Let's start today to change this result.

Examples of questions for younger children may be...
“What do need to go outside?” (they can run and get their own jacket etc... if you make the item accessible.)
“Kitty's hungry, what does she need?” (they can help pour the food in the bowl)
“Daddy's hurt, what does he need?” (encouraging empathy by giving hugs)
“Oops, a spill, what can you do?” (offer them a rag to clean up)
“How do you feel?” (when they are crying or whining or angry... pick them up, give them a hug. Sometimes that is all they need. Remember under the age of 3, time outs, spanking, lecturing are all ineffective wasters.

It's important to teach children how to think, not what to think.

The younger the child, the more CLUES we need to give them. If your 2 year old is 'stuck up against the wall' with his trike, we can say, "You're stuck, what do think would happen if you got off and backed up?” Asking a question as opposed to 'telling them to get off and back up, engages an important part of their brain to connect logic processing. The goal is to invite decisions and thinking skills.

Practice today! It may feel and sound funny at first, but soon your habit of asking questions will be so second nature and your babies will soon be problem solvers and resourceful little tikes themselves.

Boost Baby' Brain today!

Signing Tip: Teach the words jacket, shoes, kitty etc... so when you ask them what do we need, they can respond by signing the answer. My 10 month old can sign fish when I ask who need food as I sprinkle the fish food into the tank. He is already playing an active role is decision making. Happy Signing!

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Twitter @AmandaMinchau

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