How to Build a Problem Solving Mindset

Whenever we take on the task of setting up a new space or redesigning an old one, we get the lucky opportunity to solve a bajillion problems. 


I think our parents are proud to see us go at it, making choices (good and bad) and addressing barriers that get in our way. As a parent I feel this way when my kids decide to problem solve. Although, isn’t it interesting that this problem solving stuff is usually very messy at first?

For me as an adult, as we renovate our trailer and fine tune building plans for our home, we’ve made SO MANY MESSES. 

Underanticipating what it would take to qualify for a self-employed home loan.

COVID. Oh yeah. That. 

Wrong primer choice (resulting in peeling paint on the exterior of the trailer). 

Hiring help. 

Not hiring help. 

Changing walls and layout. 

Changing the situation of the house on the lot. 

Exploring driveway options. 

Reexploring driveway options. 

Giving up on the driveway and crying. 

And then….

Figuring out the driveway. 

Making the paint fun and interesting, just how I want it.

Switching gears to navigate COVID and meet our loan qualification period.

Learning how to hire good help and help them do a great job.

Asking loads of questions to iteratively learn.

Essentially, we solved problems.

We are solving problems.

YOU are solving problems!

We do this every day as parents and as home-stewards. We problem solve.

And as parents ourselves we deeply want our kids to learn this too. 

Isn’t it fascinating that when we imagine teaching problem solving to our kids, we sometimes think that they’ll learn best if WE don’t make any messes and mistakes? It’s like we feel guilty, like we’re not “doing a good job” parenting when we’re tired, or sloppy, or speak more harshly than we intended. Or maybe that our house isn’t as clean as we daydream about, or that our food isn’t the most nutritious and delicious ever. 

Sure, there’s something to be said for setting a good example. But hear this. 

Making mistakes yourself, and solving your problems (both self made and environmentally gifted to you) is THE WAY to teach your kids to be problem solvers. 

The way for our children to learn to have crucial conversations is to watch our parents set meaningful boundaries expressed in love.

The way for our children  to learn how to take responsibility is to watch our parents put on a show of shiz and own up to it, fix it, and let it go.

The way for our children to learn how to clean the house is to continuously make it messy, and to be continuously loved and inspired to take cleanliness steps, just like you do. 

This aspiration of being a good example of living a perfect life is lame and boring and fruitless. But SHOWING UP in your life, getting back in the arena, is THE WAY to teach your kids to solve problems, bolster their resiliency, and connect with God, self, and others even when circumstances are a trick.

And our homes (and our houses!) provide daily, hourly, minute-ly opportunities to do exactly that.

You hear me, my sister?

Those messes are there for a reason. 

The mistakes you make, the mistakes the kids make, the mistakes your spouse makes, all there to teach us to stay centered and solve some dang problems… right in front of the little people.

Building the ability to problem solve (your ability, and the kids’) lies in building our homes in a way that inspires us to remember that humanity is beautiful. We learn that mistakes are the point, because it’s through the messes that we all learn how to solve problems. In a family this learning is magnified because we get to learn from each others’ mistakes. Family life really is the perfect recipe for vulnerable, shared, connected learning… if we let it.

Let’s let it.

What have you done this week to let your kids see your mistakes, and to shape their problem solving skills?

If this is interesting to you, but you also have an appreciation for organization and beauty, here are some fun things that you can incorporate into your house to make problem solving a little easier.

Magnatiles: helpful for trying new things. Also easy to clean up, which is a plus for mamas! 

This book has changed my life when it comes to seeing my kids as capable learners:

We decided to get our kids these washable quilts for their beds. They also love snuggly blankets and I’ll outfit their beds with a fitted sheet (and a pillow!), but having one simple top quilt (and no top sheet) makes for easy bed-making. It’s a problem that the kids can solve alone and that’s a win for everyone!

My kids currently have a shelf and five bins to store their clothes. I fold their clothes, but usually within a day the clothes are disheveled. I love the bins because they sort and organize, but I don’t have to be crazy town about them maintaining immaculate piles. I feel like this process was an exercise in problem solving, and the kids get to problem solve with each load of laundry as they figure out which bin contains which clothing, and how they’ll navigate keeping it all accessible and organized to their liking.

Need some hook-help? We’re using these right now in our rental space! And we use them everywhere-- closets, bathrooms, by the front door, in cupboards. Hooks are a great problem solving solution, both because the process of choosing a space for something is a great way to include kids in problem solving, and also putting things where they belong using the hooks on a daily basis is building problem solving confidence and skills as well.

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