Help Your Child Become A Critical Thinker and Problem Solver

Stop thinking for your kids! Empower your child to be a critical thinker and problem-solver using these tips.

You’re SO tired of reminding your daughter to feed the dog. Every day. The reminders. The nagging. The same argument.  And, to make matters worse, you usually end up feeding the dog!

You wish she would just take some responsibility; figure out a way to remember.

To just do it without having to be asked!

Help Your Child Become a Critical Thinker and Problem Solver

Little children require a lot of direction in almost every aspect of their daily life.  But, as kids get older, they need less and less direction from their caregivers.

Unfortunately, parents often give the same amount of direction to older children as they would to a younger child.

Kids never get the chance to think about their actions, to explore how their behavior affects others, or how to take the initiative to solve a problem. Instead, they rely on you to remind them, to create solutions and follow through when they forget.

If you want  to help your child become a critical thinker and problem solver, you need to step out of the “director’s chair” and into the “collaboration room.”

How to Move from Directing to Collaboration

These steps apply to sibling rivalry, forgetting homework, practicing piano, being home on time…almost anything.

1. Talk about it: Wait to bring up your concern at a time when you are both calm. Don’t try to talk about this when you are upset or frustrated by the situation. Talk in a way that is open-ended and collaborative, not judgmental or critical.

One example could sound like this:  “I’ve noticed you’re having trouble remembering to feed the dog.   What’s up?”

(Allow time for the child to respond)

He may say, “I hate having to feed the dog during my TV show.”

2. Validate, Don’t React:  Your response is important! Instead of yelling, criticizing or rolling your eyes, paraphrase his reply:  “Oh, it sounds like feeding the dog is interrupting your TV time.”  

3. State your concern: Talk about why this isn’t working for you, “Can you help me come up with a solution that allows you to still watch your program and make sure the dog is fed?”

4. Brainstorm Solutions:  This is a  huge step in giving less direction, it allows your child to do his own critical thinking and problem-solving.

TIP:  Listen to your child’s suggestions before you offer your own…his suggestions may surprise you!

5. Make a Plan:  Once you brainstorm a solution that solves both problems, agree to try it for a few days.  Write it down and post it somewhere you both can see.

BONUS: Remind your child how responsible he is becoming and how much you value his opinion!

6. Review and Repeat:  End the conversation with an understanding that you will revisit this conversation and continue brainstorming if it seems that the first solution is no longer working.

This is not always easy…

It’s hard for parents to step out of the director’s chair. We like to be in charge. We like to think that we know it all – and the best way to get it done.

Sometimes, our anxiety gets in the way and we intervene before the task is complete.  It’s stressful to watch our kids struggle or fail. We don’t like to wait to see if our kids are going to follow through.

But the payoff is fantastic! The more your kids have the opportunity to practice critical thinking and problem-solving, the better they will be at making decisions.

Isn’t that great!? Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your kids have the skills to manage tough situations, even when you’re not around?

It takes time. And they won’t be perfect. But, they are learning. And that’s the goal.


Nicole Schwarz (couch 3)

Welcome! I'm Nicole Schwarz.

I'm a Parent Coach, Licensed Therapist and Author of It Starts with You. I help stressed, overwhelmed, confused parents find calm, confidence and connection with their kids. No one is expecting perfection here. But, if you’re willing to examine your parenting, find encouragement, or try something new, this is the place for you.

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