I want my children to be happy!
I want my children to be successful in life!
I want my children to have every opportunity open to them!
Many parents want to make sure that their children are successful and are able to manage their lives with aplomb. In an effort to do this they often use what Paul Tough in his book, “How Children Succeed”, calls the cognitive approach, “that success today depends primarily on cognitive skills — the kind of intelligence that gets measured on I.Q. tests, including the abilities to recognize letters and words, to calculate, to detect patterns — and that the best way to develop these skills is to practice them as much as possible, beginning as early as possible.”
However, research has show that this is not true. In order to succeed children need to build the character traits of persistence, self-control, grit, optimism and social/academic problem solving.
This sounds like a big job for us parents. To make it a bit more simple, we can focus on cultivating solution oriented thinking in our kids, problem solving. The ability to problem solve encompasses most of what your child needs to become successful and helps them develop persistence, self-control, grit and optimism.
People with good problem solving skills are able to exhibit self-control. They do not act impulsively, they think things through. They are persistent; they know that if what they are doing doesn’t work they just need to go back to the drawing board again, and think of alternate solutions. They are optimistic because they feel confident that they can handle their own problems, they can cope with whatever life throws their way.
Problem solving skills help children in the academic arena. They can apply their problem solving strategies to figuring out math, reading, writing and help them develop good social skills. Problem solving, teaches kids to stop and think before they act. This means that they will be more thoughtful as they work through challenging math problems, difficult reading passages and other academic tasks that might confound them. They will also be more likely to review their work before handing it in and asking for help when needed. Knowing the benefits of teaching problems solving strategies helps us recognize the urgency of teaching children how to problems solve. There are many ways to do that.
According to Phillip Kendall, in his book, “Teaching Problem Solving to Students with Learning and Behavior Problems”, there are 5 steps to solving problems:
1. Identifying and defining the problem
2. Questioning the range of possible response strategies
3. Focusing, considering and clarifying the consequences of the possible strategies
4. Performing: Solving the problem
5. Self-evaluating: performance and self-rewarding or self-correcting
These above steps can be applied to all academic areas. Let’s see how it plays out when teaching children reading comprehension skills.
In Kendall’s book, “Teaching Problem Solving to Students with Learning and Behavior Problems” he uses the following example and shows how a teacher models out loud the problem solving tasks:
The teacher reads the story and question:
Mr. Jones yelled angrily and shook his fist a the boys. Joe and Hank wanted to run, but Jim wanted to stay. “Look,” he said, “its our fault the window is broken. Besides we’ve got to get the ball back out of his house. It’s the only ball we have.”
Why was Mr. Jones angry at the boys?
Step 1: Teacher tries to elicit response of what children need to do, identifying the problem of what needs to be done: “Let’s see what am I supposed to do?” Yes, I am supposed to figure out why Mr. Jones is angry at the boys.
Step 2: Questioning the range of possible response strategies:
Teacher: I could just guess at the answer. But I think I’ll look at the paragraph, and see if it has some clues.
Step 3: Focusing, considering and clarifying the consequences of the possible strategies: Yes, I’m going to look at each part of the paragraph carefully, to see if I can find out why Mr. Jones is angry.
Step 4:Performing: Solving the problem: “Here goes…let’s see.. the first sentence just tells me that Mr. Jones is angry: I already know that. The next sentence tells me that some of the boys wanted to run away. The next sentences tell us what Jim said. Maybe there are some clues here.
Oh, I see something about a window being broken and Jim says its the boys fault. The next sentence tells me that their ball isn in Mr. Jones’ house. That’s it! They threw the ball through a window of his house and broke the window! Or maybe they hit it through the window. Anyway that’s why Mr. Jones is angry!
Step 5: Self-evaluating: performance and self-rewarding or self-correcting:
Teacher: How did I do? Does that seem right? Yes, I think I got it!
The teacher will model this approach and then also help their students move through the steps themselves, either one on one or in a classroom setting.
This is an effective way to help children learn to manage their own problems academically and develop the character traits they need to become successful adults.