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The Risky Business of Teaching Kids to Problem Solve

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

The first thought was to disarm him using something out of an Aikido presentation I once observed (perhaps kate gaeshi would be appropriate?).

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

Which would you choose?

For some reason – and unlike all other instances – 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 immediately and perfectly into the wall socket, 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 periously into his mouth.

Like I say, it was a risk, but here’s my point, it wasn’t a big risk.

And it wasn’t a big risk because it was nowhere near likely.

How well do you know your child?

You see, 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, Kyla and I know them.

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


It takes a risk on their part that they may not solve any given problem right away.

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

And it takes a risk on our part, the child’s parents, that our protective balloon made of cotton wool might sometimes get left behind.

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. 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 screw in the wall, and he showed it who was boss.

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