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The Best Skill You Can Teach – Problem Solving

Boys Town - Father helping Daughter with Blocks

From toddlers to teens, problem solving is a social skill that every parent needs to teach their children. At Boys Town, we recommend the SODAS method. When faced with a problem, kids need a way to work through it and find an effective and appropriate solution. The SODAS method provides structure to the process of solving problems and offers kids a new way to approach situations where they might have acted hastily or inappropriate in the past.

SODAS is a strategy that we use to provide parents with a road map on how to solve problems," said Bridget Barnes, Boys Town Common Sense Parenting Expert. “Parents need to allow their kids to grow and develop their ability to make decisions and SODAS gives them the necessary tools."

SODAS can be divided into the following steps:

  • Situation – What is really going on? Determine the who, what, where, when and why the child is involved.​
  • Options – Consider the options or choices and make a list of both good and bad ones. (This helps children to learn critical thinking.)
  • Disadvantages – Determine all the disadvantages for this option. (Children learn that based on the options they choose, there could be consequences.)
  • Advantages – View the positives of choosing the option.
  • Solutions – Summarize all the options, positive and negative, and decide which solution will work best. Empowering children to take ownership in decision enables them to learn that you must live with decision you make in life.

“If you ask a child, 'Why did you do that?' they often respond with 'I don't know,'" said Barnes. “That is because children act on impulse. Teaching them the SODAS method ensures that they have the tools they need in decision making."

It's important not to offer children too many choices right away. Start small by giving your kids the permission to make minor decisions, like what to wear to or what to have for dinner, making sure that the decisions are simple and not harmful to themselves or others.

Once small decisions are mastered, move forward by giving children more difficult or complex opportunities to use SODAS as this creates a teaching pathway to critical thinking and better decision-making. Make sure each step is developmentally appropriate as each child is different.

SODAS also gives kids the opportunity to see that they do have some control over the choices they make – and the consequences of those choices. Making good decisions is an important skill that will be used throughout a child's lifetime, so the more they practice and use SODAS the better they will get at it.