SEL and You

What Size Is Your Problem?


Oftentimes when I am working with a child who is emotional/upset, I use the language of "What size is your problem?" This concept is adapted from The Incredible 5 Point Scale book written by Kari Dunn Buron that helps children (or adults) to identify their problems based on danger, duration of problem-solving time, and people involved. Most problems that our students experience on a day-to-day basis are "little problems."

Sizes of Problems:

Little--- problems that impact 1-2 people and can be solved in a matter of minutes with no physical danger/harm involved. (i.e. their pencil broke, conflict with a peer, feelings were hurt, not being first in line, etc.)

Medium--- problems that affect 3-9 people, that can last days or weeks and small injury or very upset feelings are involved. (i.e. someone teasing kids repeatedly on the bus, physical aggression at school).

Big --- problems that affect 10 or more people, the damage lasts for months or years, and physical danger, injury or death is involved. (i.e. tornado, family member death, earthquake, car accident).

Oftentimes, when someone has emotional regulation deficits, their reactions do NOT match the size of the problem. These people tend to get very upset over little problems and have difficulty utilizing coping skills to calm down and return back to task. I am sure that we all know someone personally or professionally that could benefit from support in this area (myself included!) :)

Below are some videos/handouts that I use with students to teach this skill:

The "Full Meltdown" video below is a student favorite. It perfectly exemplifies someone overreacting to a "little problem" (i.e. someone parking in the principal's parking spot). Allison shared this video in the Wolverine Weekly this week but I encourage you to show this video to your students if you plan to introduce this concept. It is outrageous and they will love it!

The "Size of the Problem" video can also be used to explain this concept in more detail to students.

As always, I am available if you would like me to come in to teach a lesson (or several) to your class. If you have a specific student that is in need of more intensive support, you could complete a social work referral form and that student could join a "Zones of Regulation" group to work on developing/utilizing emotional regulation skills at school.


The Full Meltdown

5 Point Scale- Big, Medium, and Little Problems

Below is a link to a visual that I use with students. These handouts define the differences between Big, Medium and Little problems. Let me know if you would like a laminated copy for your classroom and I am more than happier to make one for you!
Size of the Problem