Find Multiple Solutions
Every problem has a solution. You just have to be creative enough to find it.– Travis Kalanick
We all want our children to grow up to be problem solvers, to grow up into people who are part of the solution and not the problem. Solving most problems requires creativity. Problem solvers need to be able to think out of the box to find the right answer. Most problems that the world is facing today (from climate change, water shortage, excessive pollution to traffic problems in a city and quality of education in a school) all require creative solutions.
We can teach our children to think creatively, to not feel burdened when faced with a problem, to not focus on the problem but the solution. As most skills, this also is a matter of habit, which can be developed.
Involve Children in Decision Making
Children love to be involved in decision making. For some small real-world problems, take their opinion while you are in the decision-making stage.
Take their opinion on how the living room can be decorated, how the sofa can be placed, where the paintings can be hung, which color cushions should you buy. Don’t stop with one solution. Ask them to give reasoning for the solution they have proposed, ask them to give alternatives, give them suggestions and tell them to incorporate those and find a new solution.
For example, I always take my son’s opinion on how I should arrange the plants on our balcony. His opinions on which plants should I buy or grow, how many should be flowering plants and how many should be non-flowering, and how they should be arranged – is all considered and mostly implemented. I ask him for alternate arrangements that he can propose and in the process we end up finding the best one.
This process has a double advantage – Firstly your children feel important and mature enough to help in taking decisions for your home and secondly it helps them understand one of the most important life lessons – one problem can have multiple solutions. If one idea doesn’t work, they can think of more alternatives.
Let them find solutions to some of their own problems
As parents, it is difficult for us to understand that children have their own lives and that we cannot and should not provide solutions to all their problems. It is very natural for us to give our opinion on every small problem that our children face. As a result, they tend to become dependent on us and grow up into people who cannot handle stressful situations and who get bogged down by the smallest of problems.
Instead, we should encourage them to find solutions to some of their own problems. A fight with a good friend – ask questions which will help your children analyze what exactly went wrong and let them figure out the possible courses of action. A difficult homework problem or a tough project – let them come to you with a few trials and possible solutions before you give your opinion.
Don’t worry about mistakes that they might make. The solution need not be correct, but the process of thinking of alternative solutions and paths helps open their minds and over time makes it their second nature to look for alternative approaches or solutions to problems in life, instead of being stuck if the obvious one doesn’t work.
Your role should only be to nudge them enough that they don’t give up. Never try to find the solution for them. It is a very natural tendency to try and correct them if we see them trying an incorrect approach. Resist the urge to do that. Let them understand themselves that the approach is wrong, let them think of where they went wrong and what can be done. Your role should be to ask the right questions but never to give the right solution without their having given it enough thought.
Over time, as they grow up, encourage them to question their thinking, their solutions, their opinions on various matters. Asking the right questions is one of the most important things that you can teach your children to help them on their path to success.
I would just question things… It would infuriate my parents… That I wouldn’t just believe them when they said something ’cause I’d ask them why. And then I’d consider whether that response made sense given everything else I knew.– Elon Musk