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Problem-solving skills

A note to parents
1. Introduction to problem solving
You are at Problem-solving lesson 1Go to problem-solving  lesson 2

Key ideas
1. When you encounter a problem generate alternatives.
2. Consider the possible consequences of alternatives you identify.
3. Evaluate alternatives based on consequences and choose the best solution.
4. Evaluate the quality of your information and your emotions; keep thinking straight.

Consider this lesson as a very quick introduction to social problem solving. If you are serious about nurturing courage and heroism and children, these skills have to be emphasized in all school behavior. We do not have the space here to do this issue justice. The work of Myrna Shure is a great place to start to build a comprehensive problem-solving curriculum.

Alternatives thinking means encouraging children to generate as many possible ways of responding to a problem as possible. The emphasis is on being creative and generating many options before evaluating any of them. Think of it as a sort of mental gymnastics. Once a list of alternatives has been generated, then Consequences thinking can take place. Each alternative can be examined and the consequences of taking that action predicted. After all the consequences are determined, then a choice of best solution can take place. The next-best solution could also be determined as a backup response if the first does not work. While this thinking takes place, the child should be challenged to monitor the quality of the thinking. By quality, I mean whether the ideas make sense and are based on good information.

Elementary school children are likely to find this "thinking about thinking" idea difficult to grasp. If you find puzzled looks when you talk about this, use examples. For example, someone sees a daddy longlegs on the wall and becomes afraid. Why? Because he thinks the spider might hurt him. Is a daddy longlegs dangerous? No. That's correct. He is afraid because he thinks the spider might hurt him. But he is wrong. That spider is not a hurting spider.

Identify a social problem all the children can understand. Challenge them to think through a response in terms of alternatives, consequences, and solutions. As they generate ideas, constantly challenge them to monitor the quality of their thinking. Are the ideas based on false information. What is critical here is a dialogue in which children think through and discover these things for themselves instead of having an adult impose their own thinking. Such a dialogue helps children begin to "think on their feet" and gain confidence in their power to use their intelligence to solve problems.


maphttp://www.ksu.edu/wwparent/programs/hero/hero-intel-1.htm--Revised June 15, 2005
Copyright © 1996-2005 Charles A. Smith. All rights reserved.