First graders should be able to problem solve. Yet, time and time again throughout the day teachers are confronted with children who just can’t think for themselves.
- The child who brings you a broken pencil and just holds out in front of you.
- The child whose jacket is on a different hook and doesn’t even know where to begin to look for it.
- The child who cannot open his/her snack and just sits there.
- The child who cannot find his/her papers in his/her backpack because he/she has only checked one zippered compartment.
- The child who does not have the crayon that he/she needs and doesn’t know what to do.
- A child who pushes by a teacher blocking the aisle in school without realizing there are several other ways around the teacher.
You get the picture. 6 and 7 year olds have the ability to think through and solve simple problems on their own, however, they have learned (usually form home!) that they are in fact helpless and that an adult will readily come to their aid. This can be a type of learned helplessness. It occurs when a child has learned to be helpless and not take the time to think through and solve problems. The children feel that they are not in control of a situation so they just give up. Watch your child at home. Is he/she doing this? Are you stepping in automatically to solve simple problems for your child? If you recognize yourself, then you need to stop. You are not helping your child learn the lifelong skill of problem solving. First grade teachers expect their students to problem solve but more and more children are not coming to school without this skill. Help your child, your child’s teacher, and yourself by taking the time to stop and help your child to think of ways himself/herself to solve a problem without an adult’s help. Everyone will benefit.