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Parenting Hacks That Help Children Become Problem Solvers

Author: Lindsey Pruett-Hornbaker, MA

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I cannot count how many times I’ve asked the internet for parenting advice. (It’s a lot.) Parenting is a wonderful and important job, but it’s also really tough — and there’s no manual! Because no parent has all the answers, we can all use a little help sometimes. Luckily, “Lyla in the Loop” is a treasure trove of hacks and lessons for parents, particularly when it comes to working through problems kids and families face in daily life.

In “Lyla in the Loop,” parents Lydia and Louis Loops have a knack for helping their kids learn to creatively tackle their own problems. Try these parenting tips and tricks from the show to help your kids become good problem solvers and make parenting through kids’ challenges a little easier.

Designate a special spot for ideas.

Like our own kids, Lyla Loops has lots of ideas. She wants to design a new sandwich, run a lemonade stand, and make her own scratch-and-sniff stickers. Even when they’re great, not all of our kids’ ideas can happen in the moment. Your child may need some time to work out how to do their project, or there may just not be space for it in your day. Instead of struggling to remember them all, keep your family’s good ideas for later in one place.

When Lyla suggests a project in the episode “Growing Up,” Lydia directs her to an idea folder on the wall. The folder is used to write down ideas they want to come back to later. Consider creating your own “idea wall.” You can also use a family notebook or create a note in your phone to organize ideas and plans.

Start by asking, “What’s the tricky part for you?”

When kids ask for help, it can be hard to know how to best guide them. In “Carrot Cake Dance,” Lyla asks her dad for support in learning a new dance. Louis begins by asking Lyla, “What’s the tricky part for you?” This helps him know what she really needs. It also helps Lyla identify the problem more clearly, and guides her to the best place to start problem-solving. Asking “What’s the tricky part?” can help us connect with our child and pinpoint their struggle, helping them figure it out on their own.

If you’re overwhelmed, break it down.

Breaking problems down into smaller steps to make them more manageable is a skill the Loops use often. For example, in “Operation Rise and Shine,” Lyla and her siblings work together to figure out how they can get ready for school quickly so that they don’t miss the bus. They examine their morning routine and break down the steps so they can figure out which steps they have the most trouble with. As parents, we can do this, too! Tackle a household project by breaking it down into smaller daily or weekly projects. Work together with your child to create a plan for daily routines (like getting ready for bed) by identifying a routine and talking through each step.

Help kids learn new things with visual clues.

Pictures are one way to clearly show the parts or steps of complex tasks, making them much more achievable for kids. In “Carrot Cake Dance,” Louis shows Lyla how the pictures in a recipe book help him understand the order of the steps. Try creating a “picture recipe” for difficult tasks, like learning to tie shoes or start laundry in a washing machine. Draw or take photos that demonstrate the task. The pictures can guide your child as they learn the process.

You don’t need new stuff — just a new way to play.

Lyla’s family gets stuck in a rut with family game night in “Loopa-palooza.” So Lyla and her family create a new game using the old games they were tired of playing. If your family is feeling bored, challenge your kids to find a new way to use what you already have. It will take skill and strategy to design your own game, come up with rules, and work out problems as you play.

Let your kids mess up.

In “Lyla in the Loop,” Lydia and Louis let their kids make small mistakes. As Lyla and her siblings try to solve problems (like baking cookies while missing ingredients) their parents step back and let them try until they get it right. When they need help, the Loops parents guide their kids and encourage them to get back on track. Problem-solving is a skill, and it takes lots of practice! We all want our kids to succeed. Kids flourish in a safe, supportive environment to learn to solve their own problems with their own ideas.

A pause can benefit everyone.

When parenting has you feeling stressed, pausing to breathe can help both parents and kids. Most problems are not truly emergencies, even though they can feel that way in the moment. In “How the Cookie Crumbles,” the Loops family feels overwhelmed by an unexpected problem. Lydia suggests everyone take a breath. Doing this gives kids and grownups a chance to think more clearly about how to solve the problem. Taking a moment to pause and reset when you can is worth the time it takes. You’ll have more capacity for helping, and it shows your kids how to handle stress in a healthy way.

Be a problem-solving team.

Sometimes a problem needs a team approach. The Loops work as a team to solve bigger problems — like how to plant a garden in a small space — by asking questions and trying different solutions. As the leaders of their team, Lydia and Louis Loops are genuinely interested in their children’s thoughts and ideas. They recognize that kids’ perspectives are often both different from theirs and valuable. Try thinking of yourself as the family team leader. You don’t have to have all the answers, but you can guide the process to finding them. When faced with a dilemma, you can ask your child, “What could we do next?” Being curious and working together leads to less conflict, more creativity, and more ideas for solutions.

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