A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Problem Solving for Parents

Posted by Kristin Crawford on March 10, 2016


As parents, we are quick to see the problems in our day-to-day life and even quicker to articulate a solution or how something should be done. And yet, when we point out the problem and the solution all in one breath, we are getting in the way of our children developing the skill of identifying problems. To find solutions, one first has to recognize there is a problem. We want our children to be problem identifiers and problem solvers.

So how do you re-orient your child to be a problem identifier?  

  1. Start with a simple question: How might we…? Try asking, “How might we get to school faster? How might you get dressed by yourself in the morning?”  By asking the question, you are bringing their attention to something that needs to be fixed.

  2. Identify problems: Say, “I’m not sure what to do about this.” Not having all the solutions come from you gives children space to begin to see themselves as part of the solution.

  3. Let ideas and actions bubble up: Saying “Have a go at it” gives them the message that you are confident they can figure out what to do.  Many times, there is more than one solution. Arriving at an initial solution and then discovering it does not solve the problem or answer the question of “How might we…?” lets children develop the skill of reiteration and empowers them by building courage to try again.

Start with the small problems - feeding the cat, getting dressed, or taking the backpack to school. Get in the habit of seeing problems as opportunities for critical thinking and collaboration as opposed to groan-and-moan issues.

In the corporate world, identifying problems and finding solutions is called Design Thinking. Schools and homes can practice the same approach. When we intervene and offer what seems to us to be the best answer, we send our children the message that they can’t take care of themselves. Our “help” deprives them of the opportunity to develop independence and resilience. Instead, include them in process along the way. In doing so, you will give them the courage and the confidence to design their own solutions. Have a go at it!


 STEAM Day at Westtown


Topics: Communication and Children, Inspiring the Best in Kids

Kristin Crawford

Written by Kristin Crawford

Kristin Crawford, the Lower School Principal at Westtown School, has over 30 years experience in elementary education. In her 25 plus years of classroom teaching, she led Pre-K to 12th grade curricular review work, empowered children to restore a marsh and woodlands, initiated programs for local nursery school teachers and pushed to add Mandarin in a lower school. A fascination with how children think motivated her to develop a physics lab for young girls and a design lab at Westtown. With a Masters in Independent School Leadership from University of Pennsylvania, she moved into Admissions and then to divisional leadership. Kristin says "By far the favorite part of my job is the children. Children always have their own way of thinking, and we adults don't always get it. They make my laugh, they make me think and they make me want Lower School to be the best school for them. When school is over each day, I want to be outside. Actually, I often want to be outside during the day and have been known to take my phone outside to the sun and air to answer emails."