Family Magazine

Is Your Teen A Good Problem Solver?

By Joanigeltman @joanigeltman

I read an article recently on how toddlers learn, doing research for the Child Development Course I teach.  I know your kids are teens, but bear with me, there is a surprising connection here. A researcher from MIT conducted a study with 100 preschoolers. The experiment was as follows. Each toddler was presented with a toy that had multiple functions. One group of toddlers were shown one function of how this toy worked by a research assistant, then were left to their own devices to explore the toy. The other group of toddlers were given the toy with no instruction, and were left to their own devices to explore this toy.
The toddlers who were given some instruction, played with the toy in that one way, then got bored and stopped playing with it altogether. The group who was given no instruction, not only played with it longer, but through trial and error discovered the different ways this toy could be used. Simply put when direction was given,  there was no exploration. When no direction was given, there was much exploration. I don't know about you, but I think that developing problem solving skills is the main event of childhood and adolescence. It is what helps to develop confidence, and curiosity. Developing a personal identity requires it as does thriving in our new complicated world.
The term "helicopter parent" has been popularized of late, referring to parents who hover over their teens, involving themselves in all aspects of their teens life. Your choice as a parent is to either stand on the side lines and let your kids play the game of life, providing assistance when asked or needed versus getting in there with them and telling them how to play, what moves to make, and how to make those moves.
Like those toddlers who without instruction figured out how this somewhat complicated toy worked, your teens are driven to figure out their "toy" as well. If you figure it out for them, then they will grow to depend on you to always figure it out for them. This does not make for a healthy adult. I don't know about you, but hiring someone or marrying someone who hasn't learned how to problem solve might be a tough sell.
Some parents thrive on being the problem solver, the director of their kids lives. You are not being fired, just given a lateral move. Think of yourself as their consultant instead. The hours are way more flexible and now you have some time for yourself. Its all good.

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