Thursday, July 30, 2015

Practicing Asking Help When Needed

I don't know about your pre-kindergarten child, but mine feels like she knows everything, all of the time. So, when she doesn't know something or can't get something to work, she gets very frustrated.

I frequently coach parents to talk through their everyday problems and explain what they are doing and why. This begins the problem solving / solution seeking skill by modeling what the appropriate thing to do is. (It's also a very good way to address sequencing skills!)

For example: I need to make breakfast. What do I want to eat? I'd like oatmeal. How do I make oatmeal? Hmmm, I need to get the bowl and the measuring cup. Oh, and I need to get the oatmeal out of the pantry. Now, I need to measure the oats. What comes next? Oh! I need to add the water and my fruit (I like frozen berries in my oatmeal). Now, how long should I cook it? Hmmm, I'll read the instructions. Ok, it says 4 1/2 minutes. Great. There we go, now that it's cooking what can I do?

Seriously, everything you do is a solution to a problem.
  • Picking out an outfit to wear (What should I wear today?)
  • finding lunch boxes, backpacks, shoes, etc... to get out the door in the morning (What do I need before I leave for work today?)
  • playing a game or doing any play activity (I'm bored, what should I do?)
  • unlocking the door (I need to open the door, but it is locked. How can I open the door?)
  • getting a spoon to eat a snack (I can't eat my applesauce like this. What can I use to eat it?)
  • using the bathroom (I need to go potty. Where should I go?)
  • driving somewhere (We get to go to Nana's house. How should we get there?)
  • shopping in a store (We need to buy soap. Where is the soap?)
  • everything!

One of the things I like to do is set up situations where my child must ask me for help so they get in the practice of recognizing their need and seeking a solution. Now, we must be careful here that we don't make it so difficult that they never attempt to problem solve on their own.

Here is a picture of her opening new lego packages. We just let her try them before we offered help. She was able to open them on her own. No help needed!

In this next picture, I had asked her to get forks to set the table. When she opened the drawer all of the forks were missing. She pretended to grab at the areas where the forks usually are. Then she looked at me in panic (but didn't ask or say anything). Then she closed the drawer and said "well, I guess everyone is going to eat with plastic forks tonight!" We keep a stash of plastic ware in another area, so she headed there and started to get plastic forks for all of us.  That was not the end result I was hoping for, but it was precious. Next time, I'll hide all of the forks then see what she does!


You Can Do It!

When a problem arises naturally (lost shoe, broken toy, friend not sharing, etc...) or you have set up the situation (hidden all of the forks or spoon in the house, or you've taken the swing off of the play set, etc...), your child needs to go through a couple of steps.

  1. Recognize there is a problem
  2. Try to solve the problem on his own
  3. Find the right person to help with the problem
  4. Use the right words to ask for help

We have to guide our children through those steps. So, when your child comes up to you (or shouts from the other room!) "I can't find my ...." Instead of responding "check in your closet" ask "where have you looked already?" After they give a response, you could ask if they can think of any other solutions. "Where else can you look?" or "Where was the last place that you saw it?"

Once the child has made a good effort at solving the problem on his own, then he can move on to step 3 - finding the right person to help. Typically this person is an adult, but could be a sibling who had the desired object earlier.

The right words (for step 4) would include the problem as well as any solutions that have already been tried along with a kind request for help
       "Hey Dad, I can't find my swim trunks. I've looked in the drawer, on the back porch and in the laundry room. Do you know where my swim trunks are?"

      "Mom, I lost the marker lid. I checked the floor around the table and in the marker box, but I don't see it! Could you help me look, please?"

      "Little Brother, my bouncy ball is missing. I looked in the garage, the back yard and in the ball-box. Do you know where the ball is?

Make It Just Right for Your Child

If your child tends to give up to easily, coach them on other solutions to try. "I see you looked (sort of!) for your toy in your room. Do you think there are other rooms you could check?" 

If your child gets super frustrated but doesn't ask for help, coach them to seek someone to help. "I see that you are very frustrated about not being able to open that container. Would you like to ask someone for help?"

Big Sister tends to jump right to crying when she can't do something. So, we started telling her "is crying going to help you open that fruit cup? If it does, maybe I'll cry too and it'll open even faster! -insert fake crying here - goodness, that doesn't seem to be helping! Maybe if we cry louder! -insert loud, fake crying here.- hmmmm, that's not working either." by this time Big Sister is laughing hysterically at me and saying "Mom! That's not going to work!" So I respond "Well, then we just need to think of another solution! What do you think?" Then she isn't so emotional about it and can more clearly think of a solution or is open to hearing suggestions from us.

In what situations does your child get frustrated? How do you handle it?

Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Please know that I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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