Big problem, little problem

The guidance counselor came in yesterday to talk about problems. Her goal was to help the students figure how this to take a step back during a situation and think about the size of the problem.

“Is this a big problem or a small problem?”

We were hoping this would help them get a scale for their recess issues so we wouldn’t have to spend the rest of the day restoring friendships and learning lessons on kindness, patience, jealousy, etc. Every conflict was becoming earth shattering and “drop everything to fix this NOW!”

Well, we realized that these problems do feel really big to the kids. Every situation we would discuss they would say, “oh that’s definitely a 5 (on the high end of the scale).”

Rather than try to convince them that getting an answer wrong in class, or having a friend not want to play that game at recess, or having a new person join the group and an old friend gets upset about it, or that we thought we were going on our first field trip ever and then didn’t, were really small problems in comparison to the big problems we know they will face soon enough, we sat there and listened.

I mean really listened. These kids have big feelings about these things. They don’t need me to tell them they shouldn’t. They need me to recognize these feelings and then help them through it. So we listened.

It reminded me of this book we are reading in our March Madness book tournament. This one character talks about how listening is a big reason she is a current congresswoman today. She listened to all people, including those who aren’t the loudest, or the majority. It helped her shape her perspective. It made her consider things she hadn’t before because her experiences did not reveal that truth.

Rather than ignore or deny these ideas because they might not be popular, or might not be shared by everyone, she listened. They mattered to someone and everyone matters. So she listened.

Sometimes we don’t listen to kids because we know better since we have lived through this before. But I think we should remind ourselves that what they feel is real even if they will eventually realize that’s a small problem. What they need are strategies to help them through it, not a brush off the shoulder.

Adults need this reminder to listen, too. We spend a lot of time sharing our opinion and not enough hearing the other side. Or maybe we listen, but don’t really hear because “we know better”.

I wonder if there was a space for listening to all perspectives, would we see growth rather than resistance?

By Kessick



  1. ahhhhhhh. Listening is like a magical magical thing, isn’t it? I’m still working on quieting myself to do more listening. I don’t know why it’s hard sometimes!

    I’m so glad you decided to slice this year!!!!


  2. What a wonderful reminder to notice how we show up to listen. And also a good reminder that what might feel like a small problem to adults could be a huge problem for kids. Your line about kids naming everything a 5 is a good reminder to me to consider that as I talk with kids about their problems.


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