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How to raise the thinking child

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 
How do you do it? What does it mean to you? It is very important to me that I raise children who think for themselves, who are able to way both sides of a situation or argument and come to a conclusion that is right for them. I also do not want to impose my personal beliefs on my children (political leanings for example) but rather be used as a guide or a resource for information for them to reach their own opinions. I don't want to raise a little me I guess, but rather an individual responsible and interested in making his or her own decisions.

This has been at the forfront of my mind as my dd gets close to entering pre-k. Coming out of the public school system, I am not sure they delivered on teaching me a wide range of critical thinking skills. I feel like it is something I have had to work on in my adult life, and I still lapse into responding on impulse rather than always thinking things through.

One of my only present resources is letting my children, regardless of there age (2 and 4 if you are wondering) be in charge of their own choices as long as an issue of safety isn't involved.

For example, my daughter went through the dress up phase HARD. I mean HARD. Like wouldn't leave the house without a princess dress on, crown, jewelry, pocketbooks etc. It really concerned me for a while, but at the same time I felt she was expressing herself, and my desire to alter that perhaps wasn't in her best interest. I felt it was important for me to respect her choices concering dressup, just as I had when she wore the same dress every day for three months (and it drove me frickin bonkers!).

Today my son left the house in his pajamas, striped socks, and a pair of his sister's shoes that are pink satin and beaded. The stares I received at the store weren't that friendly. But my reasoning is, my son is making a choice. He is thinking. It should be respected.

But I know this is a very limited resource (re. their own fashion choices ). And I wonder how other parents instill and teach critical thinking skills to their children. Both of my children have or will attend Montessori schools for early ed which I think is great at offering choices. After Pre-K though, its pretty much public school. Homeschooling isn't an option at the moment, in part because I am a SAHM, and in part because I am not confident I could do it.

Thoughts?
post #2 of 35
My twin boys are almost 13, and up until they got run over by the puberty train (which apparently selectively removes all brain cells not required for life support systems), they were pretty good thinkers. They just finished grade 7 in public school.

I asked a lot of "Why" questions. Why did that happen? Why did he say that? How do you think that made her feel?

DH and I also included the children in conversation from a very early age - we always eat supper together. Sometimes conversations are silly, but the fact that we can go off on silly tangents that they come up with makes them realize that their opinions and comments ARE important to us. Gradually they started making valuable contributions to adult-type discussions.

Reading a variety of books helps. Our boys were dinosaur fanatics, and loved to read non-fiction books about dinosaurs. Since there are many theories about these creatures, and no one knows exactly what they were like, they saw that adults don't know everything, and questioning the world around us is a life-long process.

Don't worry about them being mirrors of you! In many ways, you want them to be - you want to instill in them your values and beliefs. But don't worry - pretty soon they will begin questioning those beliefs - as in "Mom, you were right about Queen, they are a great band, but System of a Down is the BEST!" As they get older, they will develop their own ideas, but it's nice if those ideas are rooted in a strong foundation (the Golden Rule, for example).
post #3 of 35
My tip, as yet unproven on my own child, is to consult with them about family decisions regularly, ask their opions on topics at hand, and ask them why - not obnoxiously but with your full attention and with the expectation that they will generally have reasons.

In other words, invite them to have a role in the "family thinking" and family conversation." I bet they will run with it.
post #4 of 35
I listen. I watch. I don't interrupt their work unless they need me to. I don't stop them from struggling. I try to show different sides to the story - from Jack and the beanstalk to the American revolution. I give them the tools to fight their own battles. I ask questions. I watch silently as they make mistakes and cheer when they get back up. Every solution is possible, even the unpossible. I encourage them to find the answers by any means they can. I discipline with natural/logical consequences and encourage their input.

How is it possible to *not* raise a thinking child?
post #5 of 35
I don't impose my will on my daughter. She gets to make decisions about herself.

I will say though that I do intend to discuss my belief system with my daughter. If she doesn't share it, that will be fine, but I don't agree that parents shouldn't teach their kids their values, including religious (or not) and political values and ethics. If I don't teach my daughter my values, she'll learn someone else's values (or lack thereof), and values are important to me. In fact, I think teaching values and ethics is an important part of parenting.
post #6 of 35
model being a "thinking" person.
post #7 of 35
Re: your DD's need to dress up in frilly dresses, you might find this article interesting http://prok.princeton.edu/2-2/inventions/pink_frilly
post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 
Amitymama that article was so great- thanky you very much for sharing. I for sure feel that my dd's obession with dresses was identity related. She wasn't into pink though frilly for days and days, but generally not pink.

I wanted to clear up a few things about my OP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LilyGrace View Post

How is it possible to *not* raise a thinking child?
Of course all children and people think. I guess I am more interested in developing the specific skill of critical thinking.

My children definitily participate in making decisions with us, and I do take the time to explain things to them (over and over and over sometimes to my chagrin!)

In terms of imparting my values, well a guess that is a bit tricky and depends on how we are defining morals and values. I do want my children to learn compassion, understanding, being honest, helping others, a passion to learn and to explore, being kind, patient (I need some help with this myself sometimes) etc.

In terms of religion or politics, I would prefer to create an environment that is conducive to them exploring all aspects of thr topic, or that is at least nuetral.
post #9 of 35
I teach 9th and 10th grade English in a mid-sized suburban high school. I get a lot of kids who are obviously just parroting back their parents ideas and who are completely unwilling to engage in discourse. I believe it's totally possible to raise "non-thinking" children, where I define not thinking as not considering and evaluating, and working with an unflexible set of assumptions about the world.

As a teacher, I try to challenge their ideas while at the same time honoring them. (Eg, they know that I'm a liberal, but they also know that I respect the conservatives in the room and will often ask for their opinions to get the other side of the picture). I have them write a paper where they need to defend an idea that they value (the right to abortion, legalization of marijuana, war in Iraq, etc). Both their peers and I work to challenge their assumptions about their topics, not with the goal of changing their minds but of having them consider all sides of the issue.

I think Mothragirl's got it right--model being a thinking person. Make your thought processes transparent (the dinner table is a great place for this) so that your children can see you wrestling with ideas and considering multiple facets of situations.
post #10 of 35
I wish I knew a magic answer, I think about this often myself.

My son is only 4.5, but I do try to ask him to think up solutions instead of just telling him what to do. I ask him lots of questions, like WHY do you think x did y? What would be another way to do y? Things like that.

He's a pretty darn creative thinker thus far .. we get a kick out of hearing his "solutions" to problems because they are sooo far out there and off the wall. It's adorable .. and cool, because he's thinking outside the box.

I look forward to reading what others are doing ..
post #11 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodcents View Post
Today my son left the house in his pajamas, striped socks, and a pair of his sister's shoes that are pink satin and beaded. The stares I received at the store weren't that friendly. But my reasoning is, my son is making a choice. He is thinking. It should be respected.
I don't disagree with you, but I do question whether or not your son was making an informed choice. I think that's important, too. Of course, I have no idea how old your son is.

I think that modeling being a thinking person is key.

I also think that, in order to raise thinking children, one needs to steer pretty clear of authoritarian behavior. My good friend wants her children to think for themselves (when they're with their friends), but then she wants them to do as they're told (when they're at home). Conflicting message, IMO.
post #12 of 35
Great thread! I want to send my daughter to a Montessori kindergarten because I find that most public systems (especially at the primary/elementary level) place value on conformity more than anything else.

I also think it is important to listen to children. If we don't value what a child is saying, why should she bother thinking for herself?
post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2tadpoles View Post
I don't disagree with you, but I do question whether or not your son was making an informed choice. I think that's important, too. Of course, I have no idea how old your son is.
my son is 2 as i said in the op.

what sort of informed choice do you mean?

would that informed choice be different at 2 then it would be at 8?

what sort of information would he need? gender identity? social expections?
post #14 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by goodcents View Post
my son is 2 as i said in the op.

what sort of informed choice do you mean?

would that informed choice be different at 2 then it would be at 8?

what sort of information would he need? gender identity? social expections?
I'm so sorry that I missed the portion of your post where your kids' ages were stated.

Yes, I think informed choice would be different at age 2 than at age 8. I would expect that most 2yo's really don't care what others think of them. Most 8yo's do, to an extent.

I think that most 8yo boys would know that wearing pink satin shoes would be setting themselves up for ridicule. A 2yo wouldn't know that, nor would he care. A 4yo? Possibly in between. If a 4yo boy wears pink satin shoes to the playground, for instance.....adults might not say anything, but other children might. And 4yo's can get very angry when teased.

I think that as kids get older, it's good to explain what the possible outcome of their actions might be, if they're otherwise unaware. Not everyone shares my opinion on that....I tend to be a "what if" person and somewhat of a worry-wart. I know lots of parents who have more of a school-of-hard-knocks approach to parenting. My parents did.
post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2tadpoles View Post
I think that most 8yo boys would know that wearing pink satin shoes would be setting themselves up for ridicule. A 2yo wouldn't know that, nor would he care. A 4yo? Possibly in between. If a 4yo boy wears pink satin shoes to the playground, for instance.....adults might not say anything, but other children might. And 4yo's can get very angry when teased.

I think that as kids get older, it's good to explain what the possible outcome of their actions might be, if they're otherwise unaware. Not everyone shares my opinion on that....I tend to be a "what if" person and somewhat of a worry-wart. I know lots of parents who have more of a school-of-hard-knocks approach to parenting. My parents did.
I'm hoping this is just a hypothetical example because part of what I believe my responsibility as a parent is is to allow choice whenever possible. I would never discourage my ds (who is 6) from wearing anything that he chose - including pink satin shoes. I would, however, discuss ramifications for going in public with just his underwear on. Even though ds might be teased for wearing pink shoes, I'd rather have it come from peers than to have ds think that I would be embarrassed if he wore pink shoes - or worse, to have him feel that I was undermining his decision making process.

A very simple way to encourage a thinking child is when they ask you a question, is to ask them a question back. For example, if they ask you "Why are leaves green?" You can easily respond "Why do you think leaves are green?" Maybe the child has a theory. If they don't, maybe they can draw a picture. Or you can ask "If we wanted to find out why leaves are green, what could we do?" I think a big key to raising a thinking child is to guide them in finding their own answers.
post #16 of 35
Awesome thread -- neat to read everyone's responses.

I'll just throw something out here -- I think it is possible to bring a child up with a specific religious belief system (i.e., Christianity, Judaism, etc.) and STILL raise a critically thinking child. I was brought up Christian but went to a church that encouraged questioning our faith -- had parents who supported that questioning. I decided for awhile that I believed in reincarnation..... eventually decided I wasn't sure, but does it really matter right now anyway? Anyway, my point being, I don't think that just because you raise your children believing in a specific religion that they cannot critically think and/or analyze that same religion..... In fact, it gives them a base from which to draw, IMHO.
post #17 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by giggleball View Post
I'll just throw something out here -- I think it is possible to bring a child up with a specific religious belief system (i.e., Christianity, Judaism, etc.) and STILL raise a critically thinking child. I was brought up Christian but went to a church that encouraged questioning our faith -- had parents who supported that questioning. I decided for awhile that I believed in reincarnation..... eventually decided I wasn't sure, but does it really matter right now anyway? Anyway, my point being, I don't think that just because you raise your children believing in a specific religion that they cannot critically think and/or analyze that same religion..... In fact, it gives them a base from which to draw, IMHO.
I totally agree and I didn't mean to infer that you cannot raise a critically thinking, religious child.


Good tip Laraloo

Quote:
A very simple way to encourage a thinking child is when they ask you a question, is to ask them a question back. For example, if they ask you "Why are leaves green?" You can easily respond "Why do you think leaves are green?" Maybe the child has a theory.
post #18 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraLoo View Post
I'm hoping this is just a hypothetical example because part of what I believe my responsibility as a parent is is to allow choice whenever possible.
I don't recall saying that I don't allow choice.

Quote:
I would never discourage my ds (who is 6) from wearing anything that he chose - including pink satin shoes. I would, however, discuss ramifications for going in public with just his underwear on.
What's the difference? Is it because YOU find underwear to be inappropriate wear for a child outside the house? So do I. I also find pink satin shoes in public to be inappropriate wear for a 6yo boy. I wouldn't forbid my son from wearing them, but, as you said, I would discuss the ramifications for wearing them in public.

Quote:
Even though ds might be teased for wearing pink shoes, I'd rather have it come from peers than to have ds think that I would be embarrassed if he wore pink shoes - or worse, to have him feel that I was undermining his decision making process.
I prefer prevention, if possible. And since I'm a human being and like my kids to view me as such, I see nothing wrong with letting them know if I'm embarrassed. My 15yo sees nothing wrong with greasy hair and scuzzy teeth....I do. I let him know that I don't like to go places with him when he looks dirty. That doesn't mean I refuse to take him places. It just means that he knows I don't share his views, and lots of other people don't share his views, and that's okay as long as he's willing to deal with the potential ramifications of looking like he fell in a vat of Crisco.

If I was a 6yo boy and got teased by all my classmates for wearing pink shoes, I might think, "Why didn't Mom and Dad warn me?"

Quote:
A very simple way to encourage a thinking child is when they ask you a question, is to ask them a question back. For example, if they ask you "Why are leaves green?" You can easily respond "Why do you think leaves are green?"
See, I don't like that technique. If someone did that to me when I asked a question, I would feel like I was being patronized. I also think that, a good amount of the time, the kid's theory (if there is one) is going to be wrong. It's human nature that we don't like to be wrong. Being wrong often makes us feel stupid. If a child learns that asking questions leads to feeling stupid, then they may be discouraged from asking questions.

I'd rather just skip to this part....

Quote:
....you can ask "If we wanted to find out why leaves are green, what could we do?" I think a big key to raising a thinking child is to guide them in finding their own answers.
post #19 of 35
I think the best way to teach kids to think for themselves is to think for YOURself first. We must lead by example.

btw has anyone read this book? (it is on my long list of parenting books I want to read)
http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Childr...3906192&sr=8-1
post #20 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuildJenn View Post
My tip, as yet unproven on my own child, is to consult with them about family decisions regularly, ask their opions on topics at hand, and ask them why - not obnoxiously but with your full attention and with the expectation that they will generally have reasons.

In other words, invite them to have a role in the "family thinking" and family conversation." I bet they will run with it.
: I totally agree and this is how it works in our house. My kids have a say, but this doesn't mean that they have a say in every little thing that goes on, but on family matters, life/world issues they know that their opinion is important and has value.

We have honest conversations and I don't try to sugar coat things just to over shelter them from the harsh realities of the world.

I don't think it's as simple as letting them wear what they want- the other day my littlest one wanted to wear a tie with his play clothes and I said no (I didn't want to have to deal with it all day and it could be a strangulation hazard anyways). My kids know that I'm on their side and that dh and I have the final say on things like that and that 99% of the time we have a good reason (if what we want is not what they want).

Most importantly, I trust my kids to have good judgement and they know this. I think just knowing that I trust them helps them rise to the occasion in life.
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