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The Risky Business of Teaching Our Kids to Problem Solve


Problem solving.


It’s a bit of a lost art in our time, wouldn’t you say?


Now, I am no fan of giving little people sharp objects, but when my then two year old Caleb suddenly presented himself with a screwdriver in his hand, conflicting thoughts began in me at once.


My first thought was to disarm him using something out of an Aikido presentation I once observed – perhaps kate gaeshi would be appropriate?


My second, and completely unorthodox thought, was to wait just a moment longer than daddy-foo required and observe what his intent was.


What would you have done?

I know my children. I don’t just know what they look like or their birthdays, or the silly but cute outfits mommy had them wear for as long as she could get away with it; these are just things about them. No, my wife Kyla and I know them.

For some reason, and unlike at all other instances, this time I decided to take a small risk.


Yes, I know he could have suddenly tripped on an invisible pillow, impaling himself and possibly other children like a skewer.


Yes, I know he could have leaped across the room landing the screwdriver perfectly into the wall socket and lighting himself up like a Christmas tree.


And yes, I know Caleb could have, with all of his imagination, turned that screwdriver into a popsicle and decided to put it perilously into his mouth.


Like I said, it was a risk. But was it a BIG risk? Naw.


And it wasn’t a big risk because none of these “worst-case” scenarios were nowhere near likely to occur, and here’s why.


I know my children. I don’t just know what they look like or their birthdays, or the silly but cute outfits mommy had them wear for as long as she could get away with it; these are just things about them. No, my wife Kyla and I know them.


We know the things they do to be funny, to dig their heels in, and the things they do to bother their siblings. And we also know that for the most part, they all need to be encouraged to be problem solvers.


That takes risk.


It takes risk on their part as they may feel discouraged for not solving a given problem right away.


It takes risk on their part to trust that the embarrassment they may feel as a result won’t actually be sent their way by mom and dad.


And it takes a risk on our part, too, the part of the child’s parents. It takes risk to not pull out that protective bubble made of the most delicate and shock-absorbent wool.


So yeah, I didn’t stop the two year old right away when he pulled out a screwdriver.


Instead, I waited to see what he would do with it. (It goes without saying that I waited and watched nearby of course ... He was 2 after all!)


But I took a risk.


And you know what?


I’m glad I did because that little boy saw a problem worth fixing.


There was a loose screw in the wall and he showed it who was boss.



in Christ,

patrick


Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic Speaker and the President of Evango, a Catholic Media Organization that seeks to build a culture of Catholic evangelization and missionary discipleship. Patrick travels internationally to speak at Catholic events, parenting conferences, and to lead retreats and parish renewal missions. He is the creator and host of Me & My House, the Catholic parenting program that is transforming how we minister to parents in our dioceses, parishes, and communities. Patrick lives in beautiful Barry’s Bay, Ontario with his loving wife, Kyla, and their nine children.

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