Problem Solving With Kids

Thought I’d open a most important topic of solving daily problems with little kids/tweens and teens!

Often we as parents seem to provide al the solutions:

"Why don’t you do this or why don’t you do that";
"I think this is the best thing for you because blah blah blah" and so on….;
"Give her back the toy";
"Stop hitting your brother";
"Go to your room", etc.

When two 5 year olds were fighting over a toy recently, knowing this was ‘their problem’ not mine i sat them both down and said:

"You two girls seem to want the same doll, is that right?"

Both nodded their heads to indicate yes, whilst sulking.

"We have a problem here as we only have one doll and I’m wondering how you two can work it out so that both of you get a turn with the doll? I think you girls are smart enough to come up with a good idea!"

I think the word ‘smart’ did it!

"I know I know" yelled one, putting her hand up like she does in school – "What if Jessica plays with it after I put dolly to bed"

"Huum….that’s one idea that could work, what do you think Jessica"?

"Well can I watch Amy’s dvd while she is playing with the doll?"

"Okay that too sounds good to me, why don’t you ask Amy this, see she thinks?"

"Ok !"

Now that I got them chatting instead of fighting, I left them both work it out, after all, I don’t need to take on their issues!!  Kids’ problems belong to them, let them work it out….and they are pretty smart and know what they want. Ten minutes later, they were both outside playing and chatting whilst the sad doll lay on the floor, all but forgotten! Still, they got the chance to think out a solution – benefit? the more you do this, kids will find their own solutions rather than fight or come to you for one.

How do you get your kids to work out stuff themselves? What about your teenagers or your tweens? How do you chat with them when they have a problem? Are they missing out on these opportunities because you solve every problem that comes to your home?

It would be good to share on this forum, so that other parents enjoy and learn from… Personally, I don’t believe punishment or naughty-mats work for kids, it just makes them angry. There are so many creative ways to teach kids! As for teenagers, telling them to do something because ‘you say so’ or because you are the parent, makes no sense to them, but a nice meaningful and rational talk adds to their lives and yours, don’t you think?


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Problem Solving with Children

Sometimes kids need a reminder to sort out their problems, siblings will always want what the other has or tease each other – Sometimes harmless teasing and fun – at other times they need to be guided toward a mutual agreement before the situation gets out of control and someone ends up in tears or a fist fight follows ! Skippy

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Problem Solving with Children

Thanks GreenQ
Sorry about late response. Sounds like you have worked out a good system there. I am sure the ‘crying one’ settled down as the child was given the chance to tag along with you until they have settled down. It’s not the house work so much that they enjoy but rather the connection with their mother πŸ™‚ GreenQ !


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let them own their problem

I had a similar experience with my brother’s two boys, 3 and 6 years, I think.  They are always fighting and daddy and mummy always side the younger one.  Basically they fight over EVERYTHING and ANYTHING. The younger one usually take advantage of that and bully the elder one.  One day I was in the car with them and my little boy, while my kind brother volunteered to drive us to the nearest MRT station.

The two boys started fighting (pushing each other) again because the car was too crowded.   Daddy told them to stop fighting numerous times but they won’t listen. I got frustrated and told them off. I said, "I don’t care if you both hated each other, but remember that you are BROTHERS and you can never get away from each other, like it or not." So stop fighting and figure out yourself how you going to get along.

Both boys became quiet.  The 6-year-old sulked while the 3-year-old looks puzzled but they both stopped fighting.  Their daddy, my brother stared into the back mirror and observed the sudden silent.  When my family alighted from the car, my hubby commented that I was too HARSH. I was in no position to discipline other people’s children and they are too young to understand what I said. I thought for a while.

However, after that incident, I don’t see them fighting like they used to.  How much they understood only they knew. 

This is what I think.  Do not try to baby talk them and make decision for them. The more you do that, the more they behave like children.  Talk to them like adult, teach them problem solving and decision making, and they will behave more like adult and responsibly.


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amylgf When you begin


When you begin something new it takes time for the kids to adjust, so keep trying Amy. Some kids will take to it well and others will need you to help them get there. Good luck!


Hehehe! Amusing names !! I

Hehehe! Amusing names !! I am sure you will have lots of fun at the same time. Let us know how it goes EN, it just may stop the arguments amongst the scratching and pinching :)-

Yes JMHO, Good point. It

Yes JMHO, Good point. It depends on the ages of the kids as well and what the problem is. Parents when assisting kids to come up with an agreed solution play an important role in listening, observing to ensure a fair situation is reached. It has to be a win-win so that as you say resentment does not take place. Yes parents can ask for example the meek child “how does that work for you, are you really happy with it”? This gives her permission to say ‘no, actually I’m not’.

If one kid has a stronger personality, then this kid when taken through the process will learn to be more open to sharing when given reasons as to why her solution won’t work, so she too learns to not get her own way every time. The meek child will learn to say what she feels and be more assertive because parents cannot be present in the school yard and through this process she will become braver to say ‘no, that’s not fair, I don’t like that idea’ let’s think of something else’.

Also, kids get over their issues very quickly and eventually they sort it out without coming to the parent/s. I over heard my sons once say ‘let’s work it out I don’t want to brain storm tonight’ !! They were all of 9.


I got to try this method and see how it works on Mr Naggy who will argue until our face turn blue (tired of listening, what else) and Miss Nicey, who will still smile but secretly her hands doing the talking errr… rather scratching & pinching.

Good question ImMeeMee!

Good question ImMeeMee! Just imagine adults sitting around to come to a good conclusion. We usually throw out the suggestions that won’t work, but at the same time we respect the person that suggested it so that he or she does not feel humiliated. Same thing with kids, if don’t agree say “well girls, seems like we still have a problem here and we have to think together so that everyone is happy” ; when your teaching this skill, you can come up with some suggestions slowly and one at a time. Be patient when you are starting this as it is new to them, but it pays well in the end. Let them listen to your suggestion – sometimes your suggestion will empower them to come up other suggestions.

Yes of course by playing a game to see who wins, one is bound to loose that is why it is not a fair system and is not part of problem solving, nor is voting hehehhe! Good luck and tell us what happens when you reach a win/win !! Yeah! Skippy

Andaiz Thanks for your

Thanks for your feedback. Yes! it’s so much better to have a few solutions. You can go through the solutions and talk about each one. Sometimes you as the parent may suggest which solution is really not fair to the other person, especially when you are teaching this skill. After all you want a win-win situation when both kids are happy with the solution e.g. “Now that does not make Amy happy, so you will have to come up with something else, let’s see…” (go into silence as if you are thinking because they usually come up with something else) and then the next solution is discussed, until one is accepted by all πŸ™‚

Your so right, respect is earned, just like trust and our kids will respect us when we assist them in a democratic way to meet their needs. Chances are when you have a problem and you need to talk to them about it, they will listen because you cared enough to listen to theirs. 3 Cheers for girl power in your happy home :)-

Very gd idea, skippy. Thx

Very gd idea, skippy. Thx for sharing!
Yes, I encounter these issues almost everyday… πŸ™‚ 3 kids fight for a toy, a book or a stationery or to read on a same page of newspaper.
Usually I will ask them to turn their heads to the huge clock in our living room. Then, I told them that each one of them are allowed to play for 5 minutes. Take turns. Then I asked them to decide themselves who is the 1st, 2nd and 3rd one to play with the toy by racing over with the game called ‘rock, scissor and cloth’.
Usually it works well… πŸ™‚ After 5 minutes, the 1st player wld hand over the toy to the 2nd one w/o complaints. Soon they forgot abt the fighting. Then played and laugh together and sometimes even left the toy lying aside on the floor, exactly as what you have described… haha.
But sometimes when it doesn’t work, I wld bring the crying one with me and asked him/her to do the house core with me. Settled too. Coz they seems quite interest to do house core with me.
Well, I think your idea is fantastic. I want to try it out  – asking them to think the solution by themselves. Thx! πŸ™‚

Skippy, make kids OWN their issues...

Skippy, really like the way you are getting the kids to OWN their problem – and solve it!

Am getting my 3/5/7 year olds to provide their own solution to their issues.  Gals lah, talk things through….till evthing’s okay. 

Sometimes, still argue about which solution to use …but me thinks this is a BETTER problem eh?

So now, we’re democratic nation – one person one vote (odd number kids mah!) and usually 2 options so no situation with equal vote… DH says one day, they’d all learn to out-talk and out-smart mummy!  When that happens, I’ll have ally in him eh?

But one thing’s true – no more "because I said so"….respect is earned man, now more than ever!



Β  What happens if it turns


What happens if it turns out like the following:

"We have a problem here as we only have one doll and I’m wondering how you two can work it out so that both of you get a turn with the doll? I think you girls are smart enough to come up with a good idea!"

I think the word ‘smart’ did it!

"I know I know" yelled one, putting her hand up like she does in school – "What if Jessica plays with it after I put dolly to bed"

‘I dont want," yelled the other one. "I want to play with it NOW."

"I want to play with it too," … the fight ensues.

This is what happens most of the time for my case with my 2 girls. And it becomes a deadlock again.

Try getting them to scissors, paper, stone, the one who wins gets to decide, and what happens? … after playing the game, the one who loses refuses to let go and continues to fight. Until I finally lose my patience, and out comes punishment or reprimanding.


yes, agree. but sometimes

yes, agree.

but sometimes after rational talk, still don’t want to listen, how?

——————————– Amy

Quote: Kids' problems

Quote: Kids’ problems belong to them, let them work it out….and they are pretty smart and know what they want.

Agree. But for a start (and from time to time), depending on the nature of the kids, parents still need to monitor what sorts of solutions these kids come up with to solve the problem. At times, the argument is solved simply cos the overbearing kid suppresses the softer one. Other times, the argument is solved cos the eloquent kid manages to convince the more gullible kid into giving up the toy for a lesser favoured one. The latter one is pretty prevalent be it within the household or in school. While the argument problem is hence solved, in the long run, it may breed other undesirable qualities if left unchecked.


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