One thing I try very hard to teach my children is to be good problem-solvers. For some of my kids, this comes more naturally than others. If you read this blog fairly regularly or if you know my Queenie, I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to learn that she struggles with this skill. She’s a very rigid person, and good problem-solving requires some flexibility of thought, a willingness to look at a problem from a different vantage point to find a new solution. Miss Queen Bee is many things, but she is definitely not flexible. However, even my Queenie can be a good problem-solver sometimes. She’s quite amazing at getting all the dishes to fit into the dishwasher, for example. It’s a small kind of creativity, finding a way to make all the dishes fit, but it’s right up her alley, and I have to say I experience a little thrill every time she loads the dishwasher with every single dirty dish, carefully lugs over the jug of detergent and pours it into the little compartments, and then closes the dishwasher door and turns it on. She’s done this job six nights a week for almost three weeks now, and I’m still tickled that she does it so well. I know, I’m easily impressed. Plus, I hadn’t realized until now that I really detest doing the dishes after dinner. It just seems so unfair. I planned the meal, I bought the food, I prepared the food, I organized the presentation of the meal…is it too much to ask for someone else to clean up after the meal? Ahem, sorry about that. Sometimes I just slip into rant mode by accident.
Back to the point of this post. Tonka and Creative Cat are completely different animals from their sister in the problem-solving department. They’re both quite creative and resourceful kids, and I encourage them to be so every chance I get.
This morning Tonka and I were having a little chat YET AGAIN about the wearing of the shoes in the house. This is quite a problem for he and I, because although the hard-and-fast Canadian rule is Shoes Shall Not Be Worn Inside The House, sometimes I’m just heading out the door when I realize I’ve forgotten something, and I run back in to get it without bothering to remove my shoes at the door. Tonka, of course, sees this as evidence that we can ignore that pesky rule about the shoes whenever it’s convenient. Which is totally true, but only for me. Inconsistency, thy name is Mamadragon.
This morning Tonka and I were preparing to walk the dog. As usual, Tonka ran to the door and put on his shoes first. As usual, it was only after he had the shoes on that he realized the sweater he wanted to wear was down the hallway in the kitchen. And as usual, his solution to this problem was to run down the hallway in his shoes, tracking sand and dirt everywhere. I stopped him, pushed him gently back to the mat at the front door and said, “Tonka, you have GOT to do better. You’re wearing your shoes, and your sweater is down the hallway. How are you going to solve this problem?” We’ll see how the boy responds to a direct challenge, I thought.
He surprised me. He thought for a second and then asked, “Can I try again?” He’s never asked for a do-over before. It’s not a technique his teacher uses…he thought of it all by himself. I recovered from my surprise and graciously answered, “Yes, of course you can try again.” Tonka stood carefully on the mat at the front door and used his most polite voice to say, “Mommy, will you pwease get me my fweater?” I squelched the urge to correct that last word – we’re working on s-blends in speech therapy, but now was not the time – and I used my most polite voice to say, “Of course, my dear. Here it is.”
Nothing makes a boy feel better than success. So after I handed him his sweater at the front door, he waited just until my back was turned before throwing it down the hallway and asking me to give it to him again. I responded positively again the second time, although I did correct the speech this time. The third time he asked me to fetch, I rebelled against being treated like a Golden Retriever and responded calmly but firmly, “No.” Then I waited to see what Tonka would do. Maybe this time he would finally come to the solution I’d been hoping he would reach in the beginning – removing his shoes before walking down the hallway to get his sweater.
Well, he found a solution all right, but it didn’t involve removing his shoes. He army-crawled to the sweater on his stomach. The bottom of his shoes did not touch the floor.
You’ve got to admire those problem-solving skills.