Solve repeat problems with systems thinking
When itching arises, don't just say "Stop it!" or "Don't do that!" -- get systematic with how to solve the problem, by using behavioral loops.
2 sheets of big paper
3-8 year olds
You'll be diagramming, brainstorming, and analyzing with your little one.
When you want to change behavior, pull out some paper and pens, and get systematic rather than just arguing about it with your chidl.
On wintry days, you might find your little one itching, itching, itching their bellies until they turn red. Then, when you put on lotion, they might cry that it hurts and stings.
Now is the time to think systematically!
Ask your child: why are you crying? Work backward through why’s -- why does it hurt? Why did we need to put lotion on? Why were you itching? Why were you itchy?
Instead of just talking, diagram it out.
We will use a Systems Thinking diagram: a Loop! Explain to your child, we will draw the sequence of events that lead to you hurting. We will draw this as a Bad Loop -- laying out the events that lead to hurting.
You can take the lead in drawing, but have your child draw alongside you, so that it is collaborative.
Draw out the sequence of events that led to Hurting and Stinging, with each event drawn out with stick figures and some text description. Connect the events together with arrows.
Now talk it through with your kid -- let them explain what leads to what.
Now from the Bad Loop, let’s figure out how to make it Good!
Get a new sheet of paper, and brainstorm with your child what they can do at the Start of the Loop -- when they fill itchy? For example, instead of the next step being itching the itchy spot -- what else could they do?
Encourage them to think through alternative sequences of events, that would lead to a Good outcome instead of a Bad Outcome.
You have two loops diagrammed out -- now your child is in charge. Ask them to hang them up in the house, wherever they think they will be most useful. Where are they when they get itchy? Where can they hang the loops to remind themselves of what good behavior and bad behavior look like?
Encourage your child to talk through the loop sequences with you, and then someone else. Ask them what happens next, to get them through the sequences. Ask them what they will do in the future when they are itchy.
The next time you see them itching, or hear them complaining about being itchy, ask them what the Good Loops and Bad Loops were. Ask them, which loop do you want? Point them to the diagram if you want to help them reason through it.
Designer and Mom
In California, but perpetually a Pittsburgher
I love to draw, do crafts and creations, and have been teaching myself how to code apps. I have two little boys, whom I love to play art and educational games with.
This activity is all about problem-solving, using the tools of Systems Thinking. The main concept to learn is 'good loops' and 'bad loops' (as we call them for the kids). Or, they're often called virtuous loops and vicious loops. Throughout the activity, you want to emphasize that we can think systematically about why bad outcomes occur -- (what is the sequence of factors and dynamics that led to it). Also emphasize how to use loops to see opportunities -- where on the diagram you can intervene to avoid the bad thing and lead to a good thing .