Do you ever find your child or pupil has a freak out when faced with a problem? Of course you have, this is a normal part of growing up, facing problems and reacting to them. But getting a proportionate reaction from them is the battle.
This handy tool called Size of my problem from Michelle Garcia Winner and Pamela Crooke teaches children that problems and reactions come in different sizes. How many times have we dealt with a crying child or a kid who’s anxious only to find out that the problem was not quite what we expected. But to them, what they feel is real. So how can we help them see the size of the problem may not be the same as the reality?
If it’s a serious problem of course we expect a big reaction. These are for adults. Medium problems are unexpected events that can’t be fixed quickly. These are often upsetting or stressful. Adults can work with children especially here to help them solve the problem. And then we’re left with the small problems, ones we can fix quickly if we stay calm. These are the “but it’s ok” problems.
By asking your child to identify the problem on the left and pick a number the child already is considering her options. Do they really want help? The whole chart slows the process down and takes the sting out of any impulsive emotions. Then when it’s clear how big their problem is to them we can explore the right hand side. What was his reaction? Mark it with a number and he can explain briefly what he did.
A balanced score keeps things in perspective and usually a new problem has not been created.
If the reaction though is bigger than the problem, then a new problem could have been created.
This then can be explored with the child.
I find this tool very useful just to sit and talk through with my children and use open and exploratory questions such as:
“How did you feel”
“What would have made it better”
“What could you do to solve the problem”
“How can we make the problem less”
If they’re very young and they simply don’t know you can make multiple suggestions and ask them to choose one and then explore what the reason was to choose it.
Kids love problems to solve, but if it’s too big (in their mind) they often won’t because they can’t see how. Through carefully selected questions you can help them develop a new awareness of ability and in turn become more confident.
Next time there’s an ant in the sandpit or Fortnite has gone offline, you know what to do.
PS. if you think this might be useful for a classroom or the home you can get laminated and reuseable posters from the creators here https://www.thinkingbooks.co.uk/buy/size-of-my-problem-poster-large-24-x-36_143.h