Turning Problems into Learning Opportunities for Your Child

Time to Exercise Brain Power!


Most parents want to avoid or prevent problems when their children encounter them, be it with their siblings or with their friends. However, problems are here to stay. Every day, we will encounter problems. Some are small problems which can be easily resolved, while others are more challenging which will take more time to conclude. All of us, young and old, will experience problems, so when we teach our children to problem-solve, we are equipping them with an essential life skill. Children can learn from their problems and that is how they grow their brain power!


When children encounter a problem, the most common feeling is frustration and/or anger. They feel stuck in the situation. They feel helpless. An easy way for them to express their frustration and anger is to hit back at others. They scream, hit, roll on the floor or throw things around. In short, they throw a tantrum. They have a meltdown. They lose control of themselves. The situation has escalated and your children are no longer receptive. There is no point trying to talk to them then. They will not listen to you at all.


When this happens, what can parents do? There are 2 main scenarios as shown in table below.




SODAS Example for Application


Situation problem

Andrew and Beth want to play with a Lego set at the same time. Both start screaming at each other and snatching the Lego set.


Options / Disadvantages / Advantages

Mother gets both children to sit down and think of options instead of quarrelling with each other. They think of as many options as possible. Mother listens calmly and accepts all responses even if some are inappropriate because she wants the children to feel comfortable raising their suggestions without feeling ‘put down’, which may cause them to close up and refuse to speak in future.


Mother: “Both of you want to play with the Lego set at the same time, but we only have one set. What can we do? I want both of you to give some suggestions.” (Options)


Andrew: “I will just snatch it away from Beth. She always wants to play with the toys I am playing with!”


Mother: “Well, you can do that. And Beth may likely snatch your things away next time when she wants something from you. Would you like that?” (Disadvantages)


Andrew: “Since I had the Lego set first, I should play first.”


Beth: “That’s not fair! You always must be the first one to play! And you take a long time to play.”


Mother: “How do you want it to be fair then?”


Beth: “Maybe Andrew can play for 5 minutes, then I can play for the next 5 minutes.”


Mother: “Are you fine to take turns to play, Andrew?”


Andrew: “OK, but can I play for 10 minutes instead then I pass it to Beth?”


Mother: “Beth, can you let Andrew play for 10 minutes before it’s your turn to play for the next 10 minutes? While waiting you can read a book or play with something else first.”


Beth: “But what if Andrew plays longer than 10 minutes?”


Andrew: “We can set a timer to go off at 10 minutes.”


Mother: “It sounds fair to me. Let’s do that.” (Advantages)


Beth: “OK.”


With every option raised by the children, Mother helped to weigh the consequences by pointing out the advantages and disadvantages. This way, the children learn how to choose responsibly. Parents, do encourage your children to come up with their own options and solutions. Refrain from jumping in quickly to solve their problems. Your child would miss out on the opportunity of learning how to be more independent and responsible.


Do you know why some children show no initiative or motivation? It could be because they have learnt to be reliant on their parents to solve everything for them. These children may have no say and no ideas of their own. So why not start teaching your children how to use SODAS? Children can learn this from age 4 onwards.



Children should ask themselves 3 questions to guide them in choosing a final solution among the options:

1.     Is it fair?

2.     Is it safe?

3.     Does it lead to good feelings?


These 3 questions help our children grow to be more empathetic towards others and raise the emotional quotient (EQ) for our children.
You can prevent old problem situations from happening again by coaching your children in SODAS when they are calm and in a good mood.  SODAS can be applied in all problem situations— social problems with friends and siblings, money problems with pocket money, time management problems with not following their after-school schedules or emotional problems when they feel hurt.


Some children will learn SODAS quickly to help themselves, while others may take a longer time to use it. It is a learning process and children will likely fall back on their old ways of screaming and throwing things around as these actions are easier to do. But don’t lose heart! Be consistent, patient and encouraging to your children so they will see the benefits of using SODAS in overcoming their problems. Better still, you can start applying SODAS and role-model being a calm problem solver to them today and everyday!



Josephine Loh
Senior Manager, Training, Family Wellness Division




The Incredible Years: A Trouble-shooting Guide for Parents of Children Aged 2-8 Years. 

Common Sense Parenting 4th edition: Using your head as well as your heart to raise school age children

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