Shady Oak believes in preparing children for adulthood by building on “6 Pillars”: Connection, Communication, Collaboration, Creativity, Critical Thinking, and [Capable] Problem Solving. From late February through March this year, our blog is exploring each Pillar in practical detail.
To the uninitiated, “critical thinking” may sound like a synonym for “negative thinking.” Actually, it’s much closer to the “invaluable” meaning of “critical.” Healthy critical thinking is the secret of finding better ways to do things: it observes with clear vision, weighs data objectively, and thinks outside the box. Children, blessed with uninhibited imaginations, are naturally gifted in those skills.
Freedom of Speech
Though it may not seem like a blessing when you’re being bombarded with questions, try to encourage your children’s critical thinking tendencies.
- Many potentially time-saving ideas are lost because someone “had no time” to listen to them. Don’t let impatience stop you from considering suggestions, even on things you’ve been doing for years.
- Beware the pride that tolerates no “disrespect” in the form of variant opinions. No one, not even your children, owes you the “respect” of considering you infallible.
- When your kids are full of questions, definitely don’t get annoyed and deliver lectures on how inquiries waste valuable time. But don’t just hand out quick answers, either. Encourage kids to take the lead in exploring further: “What do you think? How could we find out more about this?”
Learning By Doing
At any age, human nature loves a tough but achievable challenge. And the best challenges are often the ones children discover for themselves. Rather than always referring your kids to passive entertainment or handing them ready-made projects, let them exercise their critical thinking skills by inventing their own “something to do.”
Kids thrive on a play-based (solving problems through games) and place-based (working with their environment) approach. Let them get away from the screen and into the real world, whether the boundaries are the walls of your apartment or a whole suburban block. And whenever you can, accompany them into a larger world—from the neighborhood park to a different-culture neighborhood—and let them take the lead in exploring new possibilities.
Respect For All
Help your kids find opportunities to interact with people (especially children their own age) from other religious, economic, and ethnic backgrounds. Let them get to know “different” people as people, and they’re far less likely to develop “us versus them” attitudes. And by learning firsthand that what’s taken for granted in their own neighborhood isn’t always “the rule” everywhere, they’ll have a head start on evaluating input objectively and finding valuable points in every viewpoint.
Hone Your Own Critical Thinking Skills
As your kids learn critical thinking skills, take every opportunity to learn alongside them. You’re never too old to observe with fresh eyes—or to make a difference through what you’ve recently learned!
Blessings to parents and children of all ages!