I recently had the opportunity to babysit for three girls, ages 5, 6, and 7. After spending time with them I was reminded why I am such a strong believer in using the problem solving approach to guidance.
Here is why.
I heard, “Heather, her leg is in the way and I can’t see the TV.” I said, “Is there a way you can work out the problem?” It took a few tries before the girls were able to come to a compromise and solve the problem.
Next, I was called upon for the following, “Heather, she won’t share the seat.” Again, I simply said, “What can you do about it?”
When playing Connect 4, I heard, “Heather, she smashed my finger.” I said, “Can you tell her something about it?” The girl just looked at me so I said, “Can you tell her how it made you feel?” She did and that was that.
My hope is that children are able to solve problems such as these without adults. Why was I called upon in these instances? It really stood out to me as something bizarre. It could be because I haven’t been around school-age children in quite some time. It could also be because I have been in Roatan and people have to take care of problems themselves. There is no one to come to your rescue.
Another thing that struck me was that all the girls had to have everything equal and the same. I took playdough and they all wanted the same amount of each color. What about the fact that not everyone needed the same amount of each color for what they wanted to create? Each girl wanted the same amount of chips although all three girls did not want to actually eat the same amount of chips. I believe being in Roatan did make this observation stand out to me because things are certainly not all equal here, and no one expects them to be equal. Some people have more than others and that is just the way it is.
By using strategies shared by Eleanor Reynolds in her book and articles, I want children to learn to negotiation, communicate, and solve problems on their own. What a great life skill to have! There isn’t always going to be someone else around to solve problems for you. It was great for me to have this reminder because teaching young children to be problem solvers is often difficult and time consuming. Oh, how it is worth it, though!