When done well, brainstorming can create an atmosphere of cooperation in your home. It teaches kids to think critically about problems, consider the thoughts and feelings of others, and to explore a variety of solutions.
Even at a young age, kids can create fantastic solutions to everyday problems and challenges if we give them the opportunity. Here is an example:
“This is not working out.” I reluctantly told my girls.
“It looks like clean clothes are getting into the dirty laundry basket. I do a lot of laundry, and I’d rather not wash clothes that are actually clean.”
“Can you help me brainstorm a solution to this problem?”
Within a few minutes, the ideas started flowing: “We could have 2 baskets, one for clean and one for dirty clothes!” “We could do our own laundry! Then, you wouldn’t have to worry about it!”
Many parents are hesitant to use brainstorming with their kids. They worry that it sends the message that the kids have the same amount of power as the parents. Or, that the kids will not learn the lesson, unless they are given a consequence or punishment. I’d like to encourage you to try brainstorming as an alternative the next time you find yourself ready to jump in with your own solution. Or find yourself searching for a consequence.
Here are some tips for a successful brainstorming session:
- Keep options open: Create an atmosphere where anyone can bring a challenge or problem to the table for brainstorming, not just parents. Encourage kids to talk about things at home, concerns at school, sports or other situations.
- Work together: Focus on keeping this a collaborative process. It’s hard to stay quiet when we see an obvious solution. Your opinion is valid, and it may not be the best solution. Allow your children to have a voice in the conversation too.
- Consider all ideas: Write down every idea that is expressed – even if they are far-fetched or impossible. Squashing an idea instead of writing it down, may cause your child to disengage from the process, and discourage cooperation.
- Everyone benefits: Teach your children that a good solution is one where everyone is satisfied – it’s not one sided. As you go through the list, talk about each suggestion. If it doesn’t work for everyone involved, move on to the next idea.
- Give it a try: Pick a solution and put it into practice for a set amount of time. This might be a week, a day or 5 minutes, depending on the challenge. Don’t underestimate the ideas of even the youngest kids in your family.
- Reevaluate: Periodically, go back and check up on the solution. Is it working? If not, return to the brainstorming phase. Make another list and try again. This shows kids that the first solution is not always the best, and that’s OK.
Here’s how our session turned out:
“I’m not comfortable washing clothes that don’t need to be washed, and two laundry baskets might get confusing. Could we put unworn clothes back where they belong?” I suggested.
The girls thought for a while. “How about we empty a drawer for our unworn clothes?”
I agreed, it solved the problem and it was better than clothes all over floor.
Was it the perfect solution? We’ll have to see. But, for now, we have a solution to try and we didn’t have an argument or a power struggle to get there. We were able to talk able to talk about it in a way that encouraged critical thinking, respect, and cooperation. Skills I want my kids to use in their everyday life.
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