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Parent Advice: “You’re a good problem solver…”

Carlie Fischer — October 23, 2019

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Every summer our season kicks off with two jam-packed weeks of staff training before campers arrive. For the last few years, we’ve brought in experts to teach sessions on behavior management. This year, we were incredibly fortunate to host Deborah Gilboa, better known as Dr. G on television. 

In addition to being an excellent speaker, Dr. G is full of tips and strategies that parents can use to support the kids in their lives. She’s particularly insistent that teaching children how to problem solve is a core responsibility of raising them. 

During the session she led for us, she told lots of stories from her own experiences as a mother and a family doctor. While they were all fascinating, one of her stories, in particular, stands out in my memory. 

Here’s the gist:

One day she found her kindergarten-aged son fishing in the toilet with a slotted spoon. When she asked what he was doing, he responded, “I dropped a lego in the toilet. My teacher says I’m a good problem solver so I’m getting it myself.”

The next time Dr. G saw her son’s teacher, she told her about that experience. The teacher nodded and explained that on the first day of kindergarten she begins telling all of her students that they’re good problem solvers. Unless someone is hurt, they’re expected to learn how to manage what they can reasonably manage on their own. “There’s not enough time in the day for me to address every challenge they bring me, and it doesn’t take long for them to learn that problem solving is an expectation in my classroom.”

As we all know, the overnight camp experience provides kids with the opportunity to build independence. Because of that, I felt like Dr. G was speaking directly to our values as an organization. I know that her story resonated with a lot of our seasonal staff members as well because her catchphrase caught on like wildfire. Countless times I heard cabin leaders say, “You’re a good problem solver–you tell me!”

(I even heard them saying it to each other. Despite the light condescension involved with using that language with an adult, it certainly does make an effective point!)

I loved watching kids rise to the occasion and take those small opportunities to build independence. That’s exactly what camp is about and there’s nothing more rewarding than watching a child grow more confident in their own abilities–and it’s awfully nice to preserve some of the energy that we often expend on making their lives easier.

So, the next time your child comes to you with a challenge that they’re capable of tackling independently, encourage them to do just that. Problem-solving language is a gift for both of you!