Maybe your children didn’t complete their homework on time or can’t find their favourite toy. Helping them solve these problems can prepare them to be resilient and solve other challenges that life throws at them.
Children who are not equipped to handle problems may try to avoid or run away from challenges or even resort to harmful ways to resolve conflicts.
As parents, we may not know what the future will bring, but we can prepare our children to be problem-solvers. In this #AskFFL interview with Families for Life council member Kelvin Ang and trained early childcare educator Yoko Wilcox-Tang, they shared some tips that we can do include:
1. Don't Give All the Answers
As parents, we naturally want to help out when our child is stuck in a sticky situation.However, giving the child the space to find an answer is key to building problem-solving skills.
The problem-solving process creates an opportunity for learning or critical thinking, said Yoko Wilcox-Tang, a trained early childhood educator who is now a stay-at-home mom to two boys aged 12 and 15. “There is no [instruction] manual—there isn’t always a right and wrong answer, and making mistakes along the way presents opportunities to learn from those mistakes too.”
2. Be a Guide, Coach, and Source of Support
Be a source of support, even for simple problems like incomplete schoolwork, said financial planner, prominent parenting blogger and Families for Life council member Kelvin Ang – also known as the Cheekiemonkies dad . He and his wife don’t help their three children to finish challenging homework but will try to provide suggestions on avoiding such situations in the future by walking the child through the problem-solving process, such as sharing time management tips and how to set up a home timetable.
Such guidance should be age-appropriate, said Yoko. For example, when a two-year-old is trying to tie a shoelace to do it quicker may not be helpful.
3. Model the Behaviour You Want to See in Your Children
Our children and teens are always watching what we do. What we do makes a more significant impact than what we say. Kelvin noted that his children would imitate what he says and does. He commented, “Children mirror us and start watching us before they can even speak. So we parents are their first, and definitely very important role models.”
4. Share Successes and Failures
When you encounter a problem, you can verbalise the mental processes you take to solve the problem. Sharing both our successes and failures with our children lets them learn and understand that life is generally not smooth sailing, and that parents too face obstacles and can get frustrated.
“It is okay to show them that Mum is not perfect and that she makes lots of mistakes too,” said Yoko. “We have conversations on how they can problem solve on their own.”
5. Ask Your Children for Help
Don’t shy away from getting help from your kids, said Yoko. When she had run into problems accessing her video conferencing software during the circuit breaker, a call for help resulted in her children stepping forward to assist her.
Such situations give children a chance to lend others a helping hand and can show them that it is not just adults who can problem solve, giving them a confidence boost to solve problems independently.
6. Make Home a Haven of Unconditional Love and Support
Making home a safe haven conveys trust, and through Kevin and his wife’s efforts, their children know that they are always welcome and that the family will always be there for them, even if they face challenges outside.
Yoko’s tip is to be encouraging, keep the lines of communication open, and not judge even when the children fail. “Stand by them and be a pair of listening ears—or sometimes a simple pat is enough.”
7. Avoid Shielding Your Children from Negative Consequences
While parents are naturally protective and want to shield their children from negative consequences, doing so can be harmful and give children an unrealistic impression of the world. Their resilience may be compromised as well.
“Make them understand the consequences of their actions. Lay down the consequences on the table, then they will hopefully be able to make a good choice,” said Kelvin.
The original content of this interview was adapted from a CNA938 "Family Ties" with presenter Susan Ng and guests Kelvin Ang, Families for Life council member and parenting blogger of Cheekiemonkies, and Yoko Wilcox-Tang, a trained early childhood educator, as part of the #AskFFL series.