25 October 2017
“Mum, I forgot my lunch,” said any child on any given day on planet earth.
And their parents tend to reply with these responses :“I’ll go back and get it for you,” or “here’s some lunch money”. Problem solved? Not according to Madhavi Nawana Parker, author of social-emotional literacy programs such as The Wellbeing Toolbox and What’s the Buzz? She references research that suggests when we step in and rescue children from problems, we are creating a bigger problem; a reliance on adults to do the big thinking for them and a missed opportunity to develop their resilience and independence.
So what should we be doing instead? Here’s a short guide:
- Resist the impulse to solve the problem for the child
- Acknowledge the problem verbally Oh no, it’s hard to play when you’re hungry.
- Name the feeling they are experiencing to support them in developing their own emotional vocabulary/literacy I can see why you look worried.
- Put them in charge of problem solving How are you going to fix this problem?
- Coach them if they’re stuck by asking them open ended questions like What has worked for you in the past? What do other people do in this situation?
- Don’t accept solutions that put the problem back on the adult, unless it clearly isn’t a problem a child should solve e.g. being late to class because the computer is broken (adult problem) vs being late to class because they slept in (child problem).
Madhavi used to be the one racing home to get the forgotten lunch, making herself late in the process. But she described the shift after adopting this process with her own son, who independently worked out that he could borrow lunch credit at the canteen and happily raced off to class. Not only did it reduce her stress, but it left him with a precedent for problem solving on his own.
At Open Access, similar problems might include getting ready for class independently, remembering to submit work on time or dealing with problems that come up in class. All of these can be opportunities to get your child to have a go at the problem themselves, or approach the teacher with a solution to see if it’s OK if they do things a little differently.
Every time they successfully manage a problem, they build an idea about themselves as competent and capable of handling what life throws at them. These feelings are the backbone of resilience and support wellbeing into adulthood.
You can read more from Madhavi at:
From the Student Wellbeing Team at Open Access College