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Problem solving

I can understand how this is normal but this week my kids were in terrible moods and these are moods I usually see on Monday after marathon TV (we only restricted weekday TV watching in the past). So tonight I sat down and talked to them about what they may have thought was causing the problem. They both felt that too much computer game playing was a possible reason. They said it hurt their eyes and they did not feel as good. I asked what they thought they should do about this. They have decided to limit their computer time. I know they will have trouble doing this without my help so I will continue to remind them about their decision. If things get out of control with tempers and behavior, I won't hesitate to take away their computer game privileges.


OK folks let me have it straight. Is this "lame" or cool?


I think this is the beginnings of them learning to problem solve: identify a problem, analyze it, come up with a theory, seek solutions and implement. At that point, if the solution doesn't work, most people give up and say the problem can't be solved because the (supposedly) one solution didn't work. But the real next step in problem solving is to re-evaluate how well the solution is working and either tweak it, throw it out or return to step one and look at the problem in a new light.


I think the potential problem is that they've hit on the theory and solution you think is the right one so you're eager to grasp it and enforce it. What if they decide the length of time isn't the reason? What if they decide this arbitrary amount of game time isn't enough and the irritability is worth the extra game time?


Most parents see a problem, jump on a solution and see the lack of implementation of the solution as the problem. But that's not so. The real problem isn't that they aren't limiting their game time. The real problem is the irritability, family tension or whatever other negative things are going on in the house. The solution isn't to eliminate or control game playing but to find ways to address the irritability. One way may be limiting game time. Another may be just greater awareness of their internal state so they can limit themselves when they feel they're getting to the point where they're going to be irritable. (Stopping by the clock is arbitrary and doesn't help them become more self aware. Perhaps some days they can play for 12 hours straight and some days 15 minutes is the limit. Learning to feel when they've reached their limit is a more useful skill than learning to stop when a timer goes off.) Or learning techniques on how to deal with feelings of irritability, which is a useful life skill that can apply to other areas of life where we can't just hit the off switch on something that's irritating them. And another way may be going for a walk after playing games or doing something physical.


That's just a few of the potential solutions.


I think if you yank away the game time because they can't make the first solution they tried work then you're undermining the problem solving process. You're basically saying they get one chance to get it right and if they screw up they're obviously incompetent and you'll have to do it the right way they should have chosen in the first place.


Problem solving isn't about seeking the "right" solution -- like the answer in the back of the book -- but trying various ways until something works. Real life problem solving isn't about someone holding the right answer, trying to find the path to that right answer, then being handed the answer when you get it wrong.



Pam Sorooshian

I think one of the most wonderful characteristics a person can have is being solution-oriented. I've improved in this a lot, over the years, and my kids are better at it than I am. I wish I'd thought about it 20 years ago or so, and worked more directly and consciously on it (in myself)


Su Penn

I only came to a deep realization of its importance in the last few years. I've managed to shift things around here quite a bit by changing my reaction to hearing my two kids, 5 and 2, squabbling in the next room. Instead of dashing in saying, "What's going on in here?" or, worse, "Eric, what are you doing?" to my five-year-old, I started running in saying, "Hey, guys, how can I help?" or "Do you need help?" The shift is internal first--I'm not dashing in there like an avenging fury, I'm dashing in there like a helpful emergency-response worker. It changes my internal temperature. But it's also external, since they respond a lot better to "Can I help?" than to an accusing question.



Joyfully Rejoycing
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