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STP = Solve the Problem, teaching life skills

The evolution of my own parenting style had drastically morphed from my first child to being a parent of four. There are days I wished my “older self” could go back to my “younger self” and advise the “younger me” of the unintended consequences of common modern parental tendencies. An example is overly helping vs. building resiliency and problem solving.

When my oldest was a toddler, he played with blocks that would slide through their respective holes. Try and try with all his might, he could not get the ROUND peg through the SQUARE hole. This reality check for his small mind resulted a fit of rage. To pacify the situation, I solved the problem for him… Big mistake!

What would I advise? I would echo my son’s frustrations by using words that mirror his feelings “you are angry that the round peg cannot go into the square hole, I understand.” Assuming compassion diffused his intensity, I would assist, but not do it for him. I would also teach him how to ask for help with a kind voice (or with sign language). I would encourage his efforts without hovering and take breaks when necessary. Ultimately, the goal is to have him solve HIS problem with minimal intervention, even if it means working through frustration.

In an epiphany born from my inability to solve infinite problems happening at the same time stemming from having four children, I stated asking, “How would YOU solve the problem?” That seemed like a mouthful, so I reverted to the acronym. Once I explained what “STP” was (Solve The Problem), I now just say “STP” in appropriate situations. There are clearly times when an adult needs to help (like a toddler pouring from a large container). STP includes asking for help.

I see drastic differences between the confidence and problem solving abilities of my eldest to my youngest. I attribute some of this to using the STP technique.

If you inadvertently choose to DO something for your child versus helping them STP, consider that long term ramifications of that choice. Working for Mayo Clinic in wellness, I’ve seen a surge of corporate resiliency programs and have to question – if people were more confident problem solvers before they could say full sentences, would we have less resiliency challenges with adults today? My guess is that nurturing resiliency through STP and making it safe to ask for help lays foundational skills resulting in more confident kids and adults.