It has taken me more than half my life to understand to be peaceful and calm when I face problems and I’m still working on it! I always convinced myself that my past life was full of struggles and challenges. But when I look back I find that I was never into a serious problem. They were just a few dark clouds scattered here and there. I realize that life would have been so smooth and happy if I had learnt the strategies to solve my meagre and in some cases self-imposed problems.
As a child I faced amusing problems like- In spite of so much of hard work I do not get good marks, my best friend is now somebody else’s bestie and many more. I got abase and sad in many situations.
As an educator for ten years, I’m constantly relating my childhood and trying to teach what I have learnt and also what I missed learning. Problem Solving was definitely on my top list. At Toddlers Nursery, posing situations which require the children to sort, sequence and analyze are definitely a part of the curriculum. Playing with blocks, linkers and manipulatives to make structures teaches them Creative Problem Solving. But what about Problem Solving about behaviors or habits? Recently, I read about a new topic ‘Social Problem Solving’
It is where you take typical situations related to an age group in the classroom, encourage children to think, co-relate, empathize and help them make right choices of behavior. I could sense the power of this activity immediately and I was very proactive to implement it in the classroom. I made a list of situations typically for my four and five year olds in school. The list comprised of problems like – My parents went to a party and left me alone at home, my teacher shouted at me but I had not torn the book, Mom is busy with my sibling, my best friend is not talking with me etc.
When I initiated the conversation in the class and put up these situations, there was a mixed re-action in the class. Few children were quiet, few had such obvious and instant solutions and few pretended as if this is no problem at all! It took about 4-5 sessions to get the children to understand the task, discuss about it, have empathy with others feelings, give solutions, choose the best one and above all to accept and express feelings!
When I reflected on the sessions, there were many thoughts that came to my mind. Few children were amazing solution finders. Children imitate adults! I’m sure that their family has transferred this energy into them. If we as adults accept challenges and problems in a positive way and manage being proactive-our children will also transmit the same. ‘You are a big boy/ girl – You cannot cry!’ is the most common remark every teacher or parent makes. This is also what my students said in the classroom while we were discussing the different tasks.
But why, isn’t it good to express negative feelings? Give room to every child to vent out. When negative emotions or energies accumulate it leads to negative behavior like hitting others, being stubborn etc. When there is a genuine reason to cry for the child, let him/ her cry for a while. We need to express that we have empathy towards him and console him that he will be fine. After a while, you can discuss the best possible solution/ strategy to help the child to deal with it, so that next time the problem occurs, he knows what will be the best choice of behavior. Definitely, we need to make our children ‘Problem solvers’ but as thick human beings we cannot get rid of feelings like anger, jealousy, fear etc. We need to teach children how to deal with these emotions and change styles of behavior.
Discussions about dealing with ‘Problem’ situations in school or at bedtime will help children to express and also make good choices of behavior.
"When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." - R. Buckminster Fuller
Let us generate future citizens who make the society beautiful with their beautiful solutions!