6 year olds should be able to figure out solutions to simple problems. For example, today we were working on calendar activities on the carpet and the children were expected to follow along in their own notebooks using their own pencils. One child just sat there and when I asked why she wasn’t working she said she didn’t have a pencil. So I said “What can you do to fix that problem?” and she couldn’t come up with an answer. The answer I was looking for was “go back to my desk and get my pencil” but it took several children giving responses before someone came up with that solution. Children are used to moms/dads/brothers/sisters/grandparents/babysitters/daycare providers/ or other adults doing the thinking for them. The children just do what they are told. First graders should have been practicing simple problem solving skills for several years now but many have not been doing that. So when they meet me, and I ask questions, like what should they do about a particular problem, they look at me with a blank stare. If I am standing in the classroom talking to another child and it is obvious that a child cannot get by us, they will usually try to squeeze by or even push me to get out of the way. When I say “Can you think of another way to go to where you need to be?” I am again met with blank stares. They don’t want to think about a solution to their problem, they just want you to fix it. At school children will hand me their inside out art smock expecting me to fix it for them. I won’t. I will tell to think about how they could fix the shirt so it looks right and many children cannot do this. What is going on? Parents, I ask you to take notice for how often you jump in and ‘fix’ small problems for your child. Are adults doing everything for these young children? I am a firm believer in teaching a child to solve his/her own problems (within reason for his/her age) because it is a life skill that will be needed each and every day for the rest of their lives and mom and dad your child needs to learn how to fix small problems when you are not there to do it for them.
Kindergartners arrive at school and expect all adults to handle their problems for them. In preschool, the teachers fixed everything and at home, parents will step in to help work out problems. In Kindergarten we teach the children to speak up for themselves BEFORE coming to get a teacher to fix it. We teach the children to:
- Tell a classmate that they don’t like what he/she is doing to them (i.e., stop tapping me on the back while we are standing in line)
- Ask a friend to stop doing the behavior that they don’t like (i.e., stop taking my toys without asking me first)
- We teach the children to use their words first with their classmates
- When the words don’t work, then the children are taught to get an adult to help mediate the situation
- Sometimes even when an adult mediates, the misbehaving child ends up at the time out table because he/she chooses to bother a classmate and not stop this behavior after being asked once by the classmate and once by the teacher
At home try to encourage your child to work out small problems on his/her own before running to Mom and Dad. If your child runs to you at the first sign of a problem, ask him/her if he/she tried to speak to the person bothering him/her. If he/she hasn’t, send him/her back to try to work it out before you automatically step in to fix all of your child’s problems. Kindergartners can do this they just need some practice.