Size Of The Problem Matters


We all encounter problems throughout the day.

Some problems are more significant than others.

Such problems can leave us feeling angry or frustrated.

As a child, problems can cause reactions much more significant than what the problem actually is. Teaching our children to regulate their emotions will help the child solve their problems more effectively. If your child is having a hard time problem solving, this may be because your child may not be able to regulate their emotions in order to cope with stressors effectively.

Size Of The Problem Matters

Problem Solving Equations

It can be helpful for kids to utilize an equation to help solve a problem. A problem-solving equation can provide appropriate steps to process stressors.

According to Social thinking; One equation or formula to help a child understand a problem is; problem= an unexpected event or perspective + an uncomfortable feeling. It should be noted that not every unexpected event is a problem.

Some unexpected events cause us to feel happy or excited;

  • Flowers being delivered.
  • Hitting all green lights on a busy street.

These situations do not become problems because of the positive emotions associated with them. This is why we add an “uncomfortable feeling” into the formula/equation.

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Size of the Problem

Not every problem is created equally.

For children, a stressor can be as simple as getting a paper cut or as complex as a family member passing away.

When working with children, we identify problems in three different sizes:

  1. Small problems
  2. Medium problems
  3. Big problems

In order to help a child with problem-solving, the first step that needs to be done is identifying the severity of the problem. Once they have figured out the size of the problem, the child can match their emotional reaction accordingly.

Size Of The Problem MattersThe thermometer diagram from Social Thinking is a great visual example to help a child identify the size of the problem and the proportionate reaction.

Small Problems;

The numbers 1-4 represent small problems. Small problems are defined as those that can be pretty easily solved on our own, despite feeling slightly sad, annoyed, or worried.

Medium Problems;

Medium problems fall into the 5-7 range. These problems may require assistance, often an adult, to solve. That said, it is expected that kids help solve medium problems. The numbers 8-10 represent big problems.

Big Problem;

A big problem makes us feel acutely scared, hurt, worried, or upset. Due to the severity of this range, adults should be heavily involved in the problem-solving process.

A great way to help a child understand the size of their problem is to illustrate problems on the thermometer on either the green orange or red section or circling the corresponding number in the area. Assist the child in identifying a proportionate response to cope with the problem.

Once a child starts to understand the severity of problems, they will be more prone to regulate emotions appropriately, utilize logic under duress and effectively problem solve.



Info Graphic Supplied By Social Thinking

Picture of Luke Dalien

Luke Dalien

Author Luke Dalien has spent his life dedicated to helping others break the chains of normal so that they may live fulfilled lives. When he’s not busy creating books aimed to bring a smile to the faces of children, he and his amazing wife, Suzie, work tirelessly on their joint passion; helping children with special needs reach their excellence. Together, they founded an online tutoring and resource company, Poetry, which had been a personal endeavor of Luke’s for the better part of two decades, was mainly reserved for his beautiful wife, and their two amazing children, Lily and Alex. With several “subtle nudges” from his family, Luke finally decided to share his true passion in creativity with the world through his first children’s book series, “The Adventures Of The Silly Little Beaver."

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