Decision making and Problem solving
Encouraging children and teens to express their opinion and giving them opportunities for problem solving and decision making is very beneficiary for your child’s development. It allows them to articulate what the problem is, consider different options to solve the problem, then test the option and learn from the consequence. It will first help your child develop a sense of independence and then with continued practice, improve your child or teen’s self esteem and self confidence.
If this seems very theoretical, don’t worry - there are actually plenty of ways for parents to apply this principle. For example, for a younger child, you can ask him to think of a way he can help with the house. Let your child choose if he prefers toy clean up, setting the lunch table or working on a different chore he thought up on his own. In doing this, you will help your child develop his problem-solving skills (how can I help the family), in decision making (deciding which chore option) and in learning from the consequent (I am able to help the family and contributing to our family harmony). Sometimes mistakes happen. Your child might break a plate while setting up the table for example. Don’t overreact in any circumstances or you might actually create the opposite of your desired effect and lower your child self esteem because he will understand that he is not capable of doing a simple chore. Just like when your child was learning how to ride his bike and sometimes failed, you need to give him another chance until he succeeds. In the event of breaking a plate, there is a problem solving opportunity: Give him another plate to show that you trust him and explain that taking plates 2 by 2 might be more reasonable. Never let your child hang onto the wrong impression that he can’t do something after he makes a mistake or fails at something. Quickly let him have the opportunity to do it again, even if he’s a bit reluctant.
As your child grows, trust him with more responsibilities and give him the opportunity to choose between different options. Choosing between different options and resolving a problem is not always easy, but it is actually important that you allow your child the freedom to struggle at times and do not immediately interfere or tell him what to do. Again, your child needs to develop the ability to make good decision in order to grow his self esteem and increase the sense of ownership and personal responsibility. Those skills are fundamental steps in growing into a responsible, capable adult.
In the teen years, be involved in your child’s life. Show that you trust your teen but also be aware that your teen will still and continually need your guidance and input. By showing trust and still helping your child understand the consequences of his choices, you’ll give enough room for your teen to grow while showing him your unconditional love, support and commitment. Allow your teen the freedom to express his feelings and opinions and always be reading to listen and to talk too.
When you show your teen that their opinions are important to you, they will naturally increase their self esteem. Teens need to feel they are heard and that they are important members of your family. Share some possibilities and family choices with your teen. Ask him what he thinks and what his preferences are. If you have a small issue at work for example that you are trying to find a solution for, ask your teen what he would do in that situation. This exposes your teen to “the real world” while it still remains theoretical for him. By asking questions like this and actively seeking your teens input, your teen quickly understands that his ideas are valued and taken into consideration. And who knows? You may end up with a very creative and wonderful solution!
Make sure that you talk through the possible outcomes of the choices made as well. Sometimes as parent we expect kids and teens to “just know” things when in fact, they cannot know these things unless they have had some type of experience with them. Sometimes in a child’s mind, one given fact does not necessarily equal a particular natural outcome, even it seems obvious to you… they may actually have to make a mistake themselves to find out how it all works. Love them anyway and just understand that this is the reason we are the parent and they are the children.