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6 Ways to Raise a Critical Thinker and Why it’s the Parent’s Job

The art of raising critical thinkers may not be as challenging as you think! These 5 parenting techniques will help you raise kids who are independent thinkers and mindful humans. Teach your kids when and how to question authority with these tips.

As parents, we can learn a lot about how to interact with our children by observing past discoveries. And when we think about critical thinking, there is no better place to start than ancient Greece.

Approximately 2,500 years ago Socrates, a famous Greek Philosopher, established the idea of critical thinking.

He explained that we can’t always depend upon authority figures to know all the answers; therefore, it is important to probe and ask questions before we accept ideas as worthy of belief.

He encouraged others to look for evidence and not to just follow the crowd.

While philosophers or scientists have proven how important it is to QUESTION things, parenting styles historically leave no room for this type of learning and questioning.

For example, my son asked if he could stay up late on a school night to finish watching a football game. I simply said, “No, it’s late”.

While we, as parents, think we always know what is best for our children, this because-I-said-so parenting style many of us rely on does not develop critical thinkers.

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critical thinkers

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Why we Should Teach Critical Thinking Skills to Kids

Socrates would be spinning in his grave right now if he knew how important critical thinking was today.

This crazy political climate, the deep sea of internet knowledge, and social media lead to a greater need for critical thinking skills than ever before.

Emotions are high, out in the real world. And if we aren’t taught how to think logically, our own emotions can get the better of us.

While schools teach valuable lessons, they don’t necessarily focus on learning how to think critically outside of the classroom.

It is the parent’s job to teach children how to ask questions, evaluate factors – and how to effectively defend their views.

Related: Teach Kids How to Say NO and set Healthy Boundaries here!

Raising Critical Thinkers: 6 Easy Steps

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is a set of skills and habits of mind, including the ability to define a problem, identify assumptions, analyze pros and cons, and come to a decision. It also includes the ability to think openly and consider the point of view of others.

Parents often know what is best for our children or THINK they know what is best. However, making decisions for our children will squash their ability to learn and practice critical thinking skills.

Luckily, there are 5 simple, day-to-day tips that can guide parents to raising intelligent and independent thinkers.

If you are interested in raising critical thinkers, take these 6 easy steps.

Read: Learn more about the gentle parenting style here and why some parents fail at it.

1) Replace “No” with “Convince me”

Before telling your child “No”, try asking them to state their case.

Tell your child that if they approach you with the reason they want something, what the pros and cons are, and what the expected outcome is, you will consider what they are asking about.

Let’s consider my son who wanted to stay up late on a school night to watch a football game.

When I asked him to convince me, he said:

  • This game determines if I win my Fantasy Football league
  • I realize I will be tired in the morning, but this is important to me
  • I promise I will set an alarm and get up on my own tomorrow

He thought it through, understood the consequences, and was prepared to own his decision.

I agreed, and while he was tired the following morning, life moved on and he learned how to voice his views and think critically.

Also Read: 5 Ways to Wire Your Kids for Happiness

2) Exposure Your Child to the Unexpected – Experiences and Education

A life of strict rules and unwavering routines does not teach children how to deal with change and cope with adversity.

Child-raising specialist Laura Markham explains (in her “What’s Wrong with Strict Parenting?”, n.d., Aha! ) that studies on discipline consistently show that strict parenting actually produces kids with lower self-esteem who behave worse than other kids.

Allow your child to break routine – stay up late, go on a hike or family trip, try new activities together.

Fill your child with knowledge. Whether it is explaining situations that happened to you or walking through the museum.

Different experiences will give your child the flexibility and confidence to think for themselves when things don’t go as expected.

Also Read: Signs You are Too Strict of a Parent

critical thinkers

3) Constantly Ask for Their Opinion

Your child will feel empowered, respected and trusted if you are frequently asking what they think about things.

Children automatically feel like an important part of the family when you ask for their opinion.

Whether it is with small things (like what should we have for dinner) or larger topics (such as do you think we need to move out of our house?), kids feel valued when you include them.

Including kids in decision-making conversations will help them learn how to think through new situations.

Related: 5 Questions that Make Kids Feel Valued at Home

raising critical thinkers

Also read: Stop Sheltering Kids from These 5 Things

4) Don’t Police Their Problems

Stop viewing conflict in your child’s life as a bad thing.

Working through arguments and conflicts teach children critical thinking skills.

Related: Journal Prompts for Raising Critical Thinkers

Step away and allow your child to have healthy fights with other children (of course if things elevate you can jump in!).

Conflict will always be a part of life, and sheltering your child from it will not teach them how to logically work through future problems.

Click here for Tips on Teaching Kids about Conflict Resolution

5) Ask Your Child “Says Who?”

Of course you want your child to listen to authority figures, such as police officers, teachers, and coaches.

However, there is a difference between respecting rules and blindly following them.

Explain to your child the following:

  • There is always more than one side to a story
  • It is ALWAYS okay to ask questions
  • If something doesn’t feel right or makes you feel uncomfortable, trust your gut instinct

Asking “says who” will get your child to think about what side of the story they are hearing.

While we should follow directions and respect authority, it is important to use your own critical thinking skills and life experiences to think through things yourself.

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Related: Raising Kids Who Own Their Mistakes and Choices

6) Your Views Can and Will Change

A big part of critical thinking is the ability to have an open mind.

Our opinions and views are dynamic and may change as new evidence and information comes to light.

Sometimes, there are things that have definite answers, such as in math. But other times, there are different answers depending on one’s point of view.

Encourage kids to solve problems in new and different ways and understand that we all have different backgrounds, cultures, and truths that form our thought processes.

Final Thoughts on Raising Critical Thinkers

These simple tips will help you raise strong and resourceful kids.

A great first step is to get in the habit of asking your child to “present their case” instead of instantly turning them down.

Dear old Socrates would be proud if he knew that parents were actively teaching kids to be inquisitive, strong-headed, and self-aware.

For more tips on raising critical thinkers and additional honest parent discussions, follow us on Facebook.

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