Problem-solved...Right?

 Tracy D. Holloman, MA, ACC, CPC, ELI-MP

Many of my clients as employers complain that college graduates entering the workforce simply lack basic problem-solving skills, and that it is difficult to hire good people because they don’t have these skills. My question is are we leaving problem-solving skills up to educators or are we as parents preparing our children to solve problems on their own? I pondered this question as I facilitated a workshop recently for a group of kids at a local church. The kids had to  solve a problem as a group and they simply couldn’t do it! It was so basic. All I heard were complaints about not wanting to solve the problem, or that it was too hard, but they really weren’t putting much effort into it. They wanted me to tell them how to solve the problem. As I began to really think about it, I realized that as parents, we want so much for our children that in essence, we are crippling them by solving their problems for them.

Yesterday, I went to make a deposit at my credit union and pick up a few things at the strip mall where it’s located, so I park at the northeast end of the lot, get out of the car and conduct my affairs. It probably took me about 20 minutes to do everything. On my way back to my car, I notice that a delivery truck had parked in an awkward spot to unload but had caused the lot to get a little jammed up at the entrance as people coming in can only make a left into the lot and people trying to get out have to go all the way around to get out. Not my problem, I simply need to back out and turn right to get out. As I tried to pull out, a young lady pulled into the lot right behind the truck and failed to realize that he was unloading but that didn’t stop me. What stopped me was the woman in the BMW who was anxious to get to the other side of the lot and when she went to turn to move past the truck, an older couple was headed through the space to try and get past the truck without hitting the truck or the curb. So at first, there was a battle between the two as to who would go past the truck first. In the meantime, I was trapped because the woman in the BMW was now behind me and was not about to back away and let the older couple through. After about 5 minutes though, she gave in and let them through. The older woman got out of the car to direct her husband through. Then she got back in the car and they exited the parking lot. Another 3 minutes. The woman in the BMW managed to get past the truck without hitting it or the curb. Another two minutes. So, now I can back out of my space and exit right? Wrong! As I pulled out of my space, I needed to make a right turn out of the lot, however, the young lady who pulled into the lot earlier behind the truck never realized that the truck was unloading merchandise and that she needed to make a left to enter into the parking lot in the other direction, so she sat there blocking me from getting out, blocking the van behind her from coming into the lot and blocking the rest of the traffic on the street who were…trying to get into the lot!  I finally rolled down my window to say to her that the man was unloading his truck and that she needed to turn left instead of waiting for him to move otherwise, she would continue to hold up traffic. She starred at me with this blank look on her face but finally turned left and found a spot quite easily I might add. While it seemed like a very simple solution, she just didn’t get it. She sat there for almost 15 minutes, unable to figure out what was going on around her and that she needed to make a simple move to alleviate the problem. This is exactly what employers are talking about when it comes to our children and their inability to solve basic everyday quandaries and be accountable for how they affect others. This young lady wasn’t even aware that while she sat there, she kept other people from accessing the lot. She just knew that she wanted to go straight ahead. Life sometimes takes us on a roundabout journey so going straight may not be an option; we have to problem-solve to find the right course to follow to get to where we want to be.

When I was a kid, my parents set expectations for doing homework, getting good grades, household chores and being accountable for your actions, or lack thereof .  My parents asked us questions to make us think, engaged us in deep thought provoking conversations, challenged us to go beyond where we were and encouraged us to do the right thing, the right way the first time. It wasn’t always easy but we did it.  So many of us a parents want to make things easier for our children but we have to start thinking in terms of employment later on in life and preparing our children with those employable skills because they aren’t necessarily learned in school, they are learned at home with us as the leaders of our households. And while it’s great that we give our children the latest technology, let them indulge in texting, social networking and the latest fashion trends, giving them the things that we had or didn’t have as a child, wouldn’t it be great if we taught them how to solve problems and be more aware of others and how they affect other people?...problem solved!

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