To access members-only content on cta.org, please sign in below. Register Now

Remember me

Problem Solving

Help your teenagers get used to sizing up a problem and coming up with commonsense ways to solve it. Here's a six-step method that works and can be used easily at home by parent and child.

STEP 1:  What is the problem?

This is a first, often overlooked, step in problem solving. You have to be able to state or define the problem and, if there's a conflict, the opposing views and feelings about the issue. For example: for a teen, it might be whether to go to a certain party; for a parent, whether to ask for a raise.

STEP 2:  What can be done about it?

This is when you come up with a variety of solutions. Brainstorm as many solutions as possible without judging which ones are better than others. Just keep the ideas coming.

STEP 3:  What are the good and bad points of these solutions?

This is when you evaluate the different solutions. What are the pros and cons of each one? You're making judgments, assessing the possible solutions in light of your experience and the way the world works. And in this process you may well come up with a new and better solution than any you originally thought of.

STEP 4:  Making the decision

This is the moment you choose a solution to try. Pick one or perhaps two based on the decisions made in Step 3. Talk about why you selected these solutions.

STEP 5:  Putting the decision into action

Now you put your decision to the test. In advance, talk about what will happen and what might be expected. What obstacles can you anticipate? What "helps" can you expect? How can traps be avoided by building on the helps?

STEP 6:  How did it go?

This is the follow-up, the evaluation of your decision and what followed from it. How did it work? What changes must be made in the solution so that it will work better? What would you try next time? It's possible that a decision that sounded good will not work as well in real life. But, overall, there is a greater chance for success when decisions and solutions are selected based upon this step-by-step process.

After going through the process with one problem, ask your teenager to try another. Review the six steps so that everyone will be able to keep on using them afterward. The goal is to help teens get into the habit of this kind of rational problem solving.

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association