Questions that help raise problem-solvers

When we see our kids spinning over some problem, we usually want to step in and solve it for them. A good alternative is to ask questions that will get them thinking of their own solutions. At the start you might get the frustration and embarrassment your child is feeling about their problem directed at you. It’s unpleasant and unfair, but just as well you’ve got broad shoulders. Here are some things you could try.

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Show them you are on their side with phrases like, “I’ll help you sort it.” Also make sure the problem stays their problem. Don’t rescue them too readily if there is a chance they can solve it themselves. Ask them to describe the problem. Problems can seem huge and cause panicky feelings – but it’s amazing how much more manageable they seem when they are explained to someone else. Note – don’t faint if it is a huge problem, don’t laugh if it seems silly.

Instead of, “What are you going to do?”, try looking off into the distance and saying, “I wonder what you could do.” It puts less pressure on them. As their ideas start to flow, don’t criticise. If you can see that an idea is flawed, or even downright silly, you could ask, “What might happen if you did that?” Let them play it out in their imagination. Their first idea might not be any good, but their second or third might be a ripper. Encourage them with, “Have you got any other suggestions?”

Of course, we’ll be itching to give our advice. Offer it, but don’t force it on them. “I’ve got some ideas if you want them.” Ultimately, helping your children to solve their own problems is far more useful than you solving them for them. Remember, you are a coach.

Attend a Toolbox parenting group


The four Toolbox groups – Early Years (0-6), Middle Years (6-12), Tweens and Teens (12-18) and Building Awesome Whānau (0-12) are available throughout the country. In an informal, relaxed and friendly environment participants are equipped with practical skills and strategies that can be immediately put to use. Over six sessions, key parenting principles are explored and participants are encouraged in their parenting. Find out more and register here.


About Author

John Cowan

Writer, speaker and broadcaster, John Cowan shares his insight and opinions about the latest in parenting and family news in New Zealand. Hear John speak on radio stations every week throughout the country and regularly on national TV.  Follow @JohnCowanNZ on Twitter

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