We try to empower our kids. We don’t want them to be reliant on us for everything…not just because we have four kids and for us to do everything would make us particularly knackered and grumpy, but because, well, you don’t know how long you’ve got on the planet and these little people we are raising will at some point need to look after themselves! Even if I live to the ripe old age of ninety-five, my kids will eventually have to look after themselves. And maybe me. So as parents Paul and I have always thought it best not to de-skill them by doing everything for them and solving every problem they bring to our door.
We teach the kids to look at what they CAN do rather than what they can’t do. Imogen is dyslexic and has only recently learned to read fluently. She is 9 in a couple of months time. It’s been hard for her to keep trying and still not achieve what she wants to but we talk about all the things she CAN do! Having dyslexia means she has great visual and spacial awareness. She is a fantastic planner and is able to remember things. She has an aptitude for getting ready and is on time for everything. Even when she couldn’t tell the time, she would ask me how long she had and I would say ‘an hour’ and she would reply with ‘How many episodes of (insert favourite TV show of the moment) is that?’ They also need to look at the problem they are faced with and break it down into things they can do. Often if the task is broken down they realise they can easily do it all!
We encourage them to ‘Keep Trying’ but also encourage them to try a different way rather than keep using the same strategies. If they struggle to think of a different solution to a problem we discuss it with them and try and help them to find another strategy for themselves.
We encourage pragmatic optimism over blind optimism: it’s OK for the kids to be optimistic about something, but we try and help them set their expectations so that they are able to achieve what they want to. For example, Elizabeth wanted to learn the Piano and wanted to immediately learn ‘Let it Be’ by The Beatles. If we had let her hold onto that optimism she would have been quickly discouraged so we showed her how by learning to play the piano in stages she would eventually play the song she wanted to.
We talk a lot about failures. Lots of very successful people have failed: Thomas Edison was told by his teachers that he was ‘too stupid to learn’, Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he ‘lacked imagination’. Albert Einstein didn’t speak until the age of five or read til the age of seven! We try to show the children that failure is only the end if you give up! Otherwise, it is just a learning curve!
Prioritise rather than becoming overwhelmed: if the job at hand is too much, take it a piece at a time and you will soon achieve what it is you desire.
We teach them to always look for answers: in the past when we as parents have been faced with a problem, be it the fact that Elizabeth was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism or when we discovered she had sensory processing disorder or when Elizabeth had toddler diarrhoea and we couldn’t get to the cause we have found the solution eventually by not stopping until we have found the answer. They know they can ask us, ask Google, call an expert, ask a friend, research online and in the library, join forums… the answer is there to be found if they are persistent enough!
In order to teach your kids solution focussed thinking you need to lead by example. Don’t let your kids hear you say you can’t…keep a can-do attitude and a ‘we keep trying’ mantra. When you find something hard, tell your kids you are finding it hard but tell them you won’t give up. Tell them “This way isn’t working, I’m going to think of something else” verbalise your internal monologue so they can hear it and they will internalise it and copy you. When you achieve what you set out to do, don’t forget to praise yourself to them: I recently built a new chicken coop and it was hard work because my back hurts, I didn’t feel physically strong enough, I got a blister on my hand…and when I had done it I stood back and said to Imogen, “Look at that! It was really hard to do that and I made lots of mistakes along the way, look at my sore hand…but I did it! I kept trying and I did it! I’m so proud of myself”
At first, praising yourself like that feels pretty weird like you are showing off or something but I have to model what I want them to do! I want Imogen to keep trying and feel proud of her own achievements. If I don’t sing my own praises she won’t sing her own!
I hope our strategies for teaching solution focussed thinking can help your family! If you have any tips, let me know in the comments, I am always on the look out for more 🙂