I want my kids to be able to solve problems on their own and I'm sure you want the same for your kids. But this isn't something they learn by watching their parents problem solve necessarily, I believe it must be taught. I've been listening to a wonderful seminar by Nicholeen Peck about teaching self-government to your children. I've been learning many great things from this seminar and I'm working on implementing much of what I'm learning in our home.
One thing Nicholeen uses with her children is something called SODAS, which teaches problem solving and stands for: situation, options, disadvantages, advantages, and solution. SODAS have been around for years and I wish I'd heard of them sooner! SODAS are similar to looking at pros and cons, but they go much deeper than that. If I see a behavior I know isn't good for my child's character or will harm them or someone else, I would come up with a situation for them to consider. However, I also feel that this can be used for the kids to make decisions with something they'd like to do. This will allow them to have considered everything first, then come to us and we will better understand what they'd like to do and if it's something that will benefit them. There are a couple examples of this further down in this post.
Here's how a SODAS looks....
S: Define the problem Situation
O: Examine the Options (at least three but more is fine)
D: Determine the Disadvantages of each option (have them try to come up with at least three)
A: Determine the Advantage (same thing, at least three)
S: Decide on the best Solution and work to implement it
I will probably have my kids explain how they plan to implement the solution as well. I will have this be a written activity for my kids because they are older. However, if they were younger I'd talk them though it. I know there will be many times we discuss them as well and we have done something similar to this with our kids over the years anyway, but this gives more of a framework to work with. They will be putting their SODAS in just a spiral notebook.
To introduce SODAS to my kids, I came up with "easy" situations that I know they have been thinking a lot about lately. My 14 year old daughter takes voice lessons and her teacher wants her to join a choir so she has experience singing in a group. She already sings in our church choir, but they 'just' sing, there really isn't any teaching involved. By the way, she also takes violin and piano lessons, takes a class at the college 2 nights a week, works about 10-15 hours a week at my husbands office and has a church activity one night a week, so she's a bit overwhelmed with everything she has going on. So, here's her SODAS...
S: Mrs. W wants me to join a choir. Would it be a benefit to me with everything I have going on?
O: 1. I could join the high school choir.
2. I could join the community women's choir
3. I could stick with the church choir only.
4. I could not join a choir at all.
D: 1a: If I join the high school choir it's during our school day and might cause stress in our homeschool.
1b: It's 15 minutes away and M-F and this could create extra stress for mom driving me back and forth.
1c: I might be exposed to bad language and bad behavior.
1d: Having to be there everyday may be too much for me to handle with everything else going on.
2a: It might be only older ladies
2b: I think it's the same night as another activity
2c: I don't know anyone
3a: They don't teach you how to sing, you just go there to sing.
3b: You have to stay longer at church and wait to eat lunch and I'm always hungry after church.
3c: The choir isn't very big and not very good.
4a: I won't learn how to sing properly in groups.
4b: I won't be able to make new friends.
A: 1a: I could learn how to sing in a musical group.
1b: I could make new friends.
1c: It will help me to learn not to be nervous singing in front of other people.
2a: It's only once a week.
2b: A greater range of people (age wise) and they might have more to teach me.
2c: Good place to share the gospel with others. (note: she loves to share the gospel :)
3a: It's only on Sundays
3b: It's already at the church, so nobody has to take me and I can get a ride home.
3c: I know everyone there.
3d: I could bring a snack for after church.
4a: not needing to practice one more thing
4b: not needing to go to another lesson
4c: not needing to travel around too much
S: Before I decide, I need to find out which day the women's choir meets. This is my first choice. My second choice would be the high school choir. I know I need to join a choir so I go further with my singing.
We are having a difficult time finding out more about the women's choir in our area. I think she is making the right choice. I honestly hope it's on a night we can make it work for her.
Christian (11) also did a SODAS yesterday. He usually fights me when it comes to anything that involves writing, but he actually enjoyed this a lot. He has always enjoyed problem solving so for him this was fun. Plus the situation I gave him was something he is somewhat excited about. Here's his (which by the way took him over an hour without one complaint)...
S: Should I buy a small animal and if so, where will it live?
O: 1. It could live in my room.
2. It could live in the garage.
3. I could not purchase an animal at all.
D: 1a: It might make my room smell bad.
1b: It might escape and run around the house which would freak out mom (his words ;)
2a: I might forget to feed and play with it.
2b: If it got out, it would run away or the dogs would get it and eat it!
2c: It's cold in the garage and it might not survive.
3a: I wouldn't have a cute little pet.
3b: I wouldn't learn the responsibility of taking care of a small animal.
3c: I'd be sad if I didn't have a small animal to play with.
A: 1a: I'd remember to feed and play with it everyday.
1b: I could use air freshener in my room to make it small really good.
1c: If it did escape, I'd notice sooner and probably be able to find it.
2a: My room wouldn't smell bad.
2b: It would be quiet at night if it was playing and I was trying to sleep.
3a: I wouldn't have to take care of another animal.
3b: I wouldn't have to spend money on the animal.
S: I will buy an animal and have it live in my room. But, if it starts to smell too bad, I will move it to the garage.
My husband and I agreed to allow this and he bought two dwarf hamsters last night. One of which has escaped twice since then and we just now found again :) Oh, the joys of parenthood!
The point is is that they both thought through all their options and looked at all the advantages and disadvantages before coming up with a solution. I told them that when they come up with their solution, if it involves someone else, they should work to make it a win-win. I know by what they chose for their solutions, they were trying to make it work for us as well as them.
I can see that this will be a very useful tool for our children and I hope some of you will find it useful as well. Please check out Nicholeen's seminars and/or books if you'd like to try some of her other wonderful ideas. They are very principled-based and so far have been very valuable in our home!
Note: I'm not at all affiliated with Nicholeen Peck, I am just enjoying her seminar and wanted to share :)