Problem Solving Skills for Children

How do I help my children make better choices?

The problem solving process

Does your child seem to struggle with making the right choices in the moment? Does your child experience difficulties to stop and think before he/she acts, which causes him/her to get in trouble at home or at school? Then it’s time to find out how you can enhance your children’s problem solving skills with the use of a traffic light.


Parents can guide their children in problem solving by following the next 4 steps


Children need to be able to stop in order to think before they act, which is often a difficult thing for them to do. However, parents can assist them with this by signalling or saying STOP and asking the child to look at them (“eyes on me”).

After children are able to stop, they need to identify: “what is the problem?” and “how do I feel?” Parents can help and guide them in this identification part.


It’s time for children to activate their thinking, asking themselves “what could I do?” and “what might happen then?” Important is that children and parents brainstorm multiple options/choices they have, and enumerate the possible gains and consequences of every option.


The first part of this step is to identify the choice they will make (“what will you choose?”) and then secondly put that plan into action.


As a last step parents need to help their children evaluate the choice they made, and decide whether it was a good or bad choice, and if they would choose something different in the future.


Let’s clarify this problem solving process with an example

Problem: “your child gets bullied at school and feels ‘upset or angry’ about it.”

Different options could be:
1. Yelling/pushing/hitting the other child:
+ consequences:  “I can let the child physically experience that he/she doesn’t need to tease me and he/she might stop”,
– consequences:  “the child is hurt, I will get in trouble at school while I’m not the one who started it”.

2. Walk away and tell the teacher:
+ consequences: “the teacher might help me and put a stop to it, the other child will be in trouble at school”,
– consequence:  “the child might laugh at me because I told the teacher”.

3. Don’t react to the child, walk away and play with other friends:
+ consequences – “I have fun with my friends and forget about the bully; when I show the bully that it doesn’t affect me, the bully might get bored and find something else to do”; no
– consequences – “I will choose the third option as it has no negative consequences.” ‘Don’t react to the child, walk away and play with friends.’

“Choosing the third option was the right choice at this point in time as the bullying has stopped. If the bullying continued, I would choose the second option instead so that the teacher could intervene and make it stop.”

With enhancing the problem solving skills we empower children to make good, informed and reasonable choices. The fact that we empower them makes them feel more responsible and more likely to actually use this skill set.

So if you would like to empower your children whilst improving their problem solving skills, why not give this strategy a try? You can always give us a call to get more information. Our team of highly skilled and well-experienced psychologists are here to help.

P.S.: This strategy and the 4 steps are also applicable in a school context with a teacher guiding children through the problem solving process.

Get Help

If your child is struggling with solving problems we offer remote telehealth consultation or if you are in Cleveland or Loganholme in Qld Australia, book an in-person appointment with our psychologists.
We also offer cognitive assessments and ADHD and ASD Assessments and therapy for children to see if there are other reasons behind their difficulties.

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