While teaching children to identify their own feelings and emotions seems to be a giant hurdle that needs to be crossed, it is equally as important to teach children proper problem solving techniques and coping skills to deal with these emotions. These skills not only aid the child through school and building new and essential peer relations, but the skills that are learned are carried well through adolescence and into adulthood. Although there are numerous studies depicting how and when problem solving skills should first be implicated into a child’s routine, there are a few very simple ways of incorporating problem solving strategies into the everyday life of the child that are agreed upon across the board.
The Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation offers some extremely helpful information on teaching Problem Solving skills. The Center of ECMHC encourages parents, teachers, and caregivers, to first teach children these skills by working with them to first experience and work through problems that are meaningful to them (e.g. not being able to find a toy, having a disagreement with another child or parent, etc.). The first and most important step is to identify what the problem is.
As previous blog posts have stated, the My Moods My Choices ™ Flipbook is an incredible way to assist children in identifying how a problem is making them feel. This flipbook comes with easy to navigate pages with twenty characters representing twenty different feelings and moods, making it simple for children of all mental and emotional capabilities to easily express themselves. The My Moods My Choices ™ flipbook also greatly assists in the second step (According to the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation) of problem solving: Thinking about Solutions.
It is important to teach children about the cause and effect principles of decision making. To teach a child how their decisions affect everything around them can be an amazing source of responsibility and problem solving skills. The My Moods My Choices ™ Flipbook provides several positive actions that can be taken for each mood. For example, instead of the child sitting with his or her feeling of anger, the flipbook suggests several different actions such as: “walking away, counting to ten, talking to an adult, exercising, or simply asking the person who is making you angry to stop.” This then helps the child not only see how their behavior is affecting themselves, but how it is affecting those around them. This kind of thought process can not only assist the child in problem solving, but can teach an invaluable lesson in empathy.
The Self-Determined Learning Model of Instruction, as observed and discussed by Palmer and Wehmeyer in their article “Promoting Self-Determination in Early Elementary School” also is a great tool used by teachers and parents for working directly with their student or child to help promote age appropriate Problem solving techniques. This model teaches young students to “self-direct the instructional process and, at the same time enhance their self-determination.” (Palmer, Wehmeyer, 2000.) This model, very much like the model discussed by the Center for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation, employs three steps in the problem solving process: “Setting a Goal, Taking Action, and Adjusting to the Goal or Plan”. This plan is similar to what is taught using the My Moods My Choices ™ Flipbook. The book teaches children to first, identify their mood, and then come up with several different (and more beneficial) solutions to their problems. There are several different activities that can assist children in problem solving skills that serve the same purpose as goal setting, but in a more entertaining way. Some of these activities can include student role playing, role playing with dolls or puppets, reading stories about children solving problems, or watching educational movies or television shows that depict children solving problems on their own with creative and positive solutions. It is also essential that, especially in the early years of childhood, the child has the support of a positive, adult, role model. Modeling positive behaviors has proven time and time again to be nothing but beneficial.
As a teacher or parent, it is strongly encouraged that you take the time to work one on one with a child experiencing problem solving skills or identifying their own emotions. With the different models and action plans taken by psychologists and teachers, as well as the poignant, comprehensive, and child-friendly My Moods My Choices ™ flipbook, it is a task that children can tackle and learn the skills essential to live a happy, healthy, and productive life.