Reminding kids of their multiple roles makes them better problem solvers

Washington: Parents wanting their kids to become good problem solvers and develop flexible thinking, should remind their little ones of the many roles they play – brother, sister, neighbour, daughter!

A new study published in the journal Developmental Science brings out the fact that children become better problem-solvers if they are reminded of their roles as a son, friend, brother, to name a few.

“This is some of the first research on reminding kids about their multi-faceted selves. Such reminders boost their problem-solving skills and how flexibly they see their social worlds, all from a simple mindset switch,” said lead author Sarah Gaither.

MS Education Academy

Once kids are told about their identities, they also show flexible thinking about matters pertaining to race, or even other social groupings.

In a series of experiments, Gaither and her colleagues looked at 196 children, ages 6 and 7 who were all native English speakers.

In one experiment, the first group of children was reminded they have various identities, such as son, daughter, reader or helper. The second group of children was reminded of their multiple physical attributes (such as a mouth, arms and legs).

In another experiment, one group of children was again reminded they have various identities. A second set of children received similar prompts but about other children’s many roles, not their own.

All the children then tackled a series of tasks. Children who were reminded of their various identities demonstrated stronger problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

For instance, when they were shown pictures of a bear gazing at a honey-filled beehive high up in a tree, these children had more creative ideas for how the bear might get the honey, such as flipping over a bowl so that it becomes a stool. In other words, they saw a new use for the bowl.

Children who were reminded of their multiple roles also showed more flexible thinking about social groupings. When asked to categorize different photos of faces, they suggested many ways to do so.

For instance, they identified smiling faces vs. unsmiling ones, and old vs. young faces. The other children, however, primarily grouped people’s faces by race and gender.

Because these findings suggest simple ways to promote flexible, inclusive thinking for the young, they could be especially valuable for teachers.

Gaither said, “When we remind kids that they have various identities, they think beyond our society’s default categories, and remember that there are many other groups in addition to race and gender.”

“It opens their horizons to be a little more inclusive,” Gaither opined.


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