Teaching Kids To Think For Themselves

Teaching Kids To Think For Themselves

Newsletter Nov 20, 2023

It might be easy to remember your good old school days, but when you compare it to the experience your children have in school today, you might be lost. Children today have STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning, classes on coding and programing as part of their main curriculum and even classes on robotics. Subjects and teaching methods like these were not part of the norm back in the day.

The world has changed drastically ever since the first school system came into place. A large part of this change is driven by the ecosystem – with advent of technology, the internet and what not. However, this further reiterates the need to be extremely sharp and quick in thinking. We are now connected across the world at the push of a button and purely academic grades will not help us succeed. Even today, Parents and Students care far more about how many points an assignment is worth rather than learning something new or being able to connect the dots in a new situation.

Further, parents naturally want children to be the best at everything they do. This leads to them impulsively trying to fix their child’s problems themselves. This approach may often be counterproductive as they grow. By rescuing kids from every problem, we provide a quick fix and deny them the opportunities to become independent adults.

So why is it important that children learn to think for themselves and do not depend on adults to make decisions each time? Children who begin to think independently from a young age, tend to be good team leaders because they consider different backgrounds and ideas, and foster solutions to problems. Their dependency on adults reduces as they learn to make decisions and also face the consequences of their decisions.

Read more on Five Ways to Improve Your Child’s Decision-Making Skills

A child’s natural curiosity helps in laying the foundation for critical thinking. When children think for themselves, it requires them to take in information, analyze it and make judgements, and that type of active engagement requires imagination and inquisitiveness. As children take in new information, they fill up a database of sorts within their brain.

Here are some ideas to help your child think for themselves:

Cultivate Curiosity

Encourage your child to seek out activities that engage their curiosity and make sure they are making time to explore the things they are interested in. You can also wonder aloud in front of your child saying things like, “I wonder how the squirrel eats the nuts.” Asking questions is an effective way of guiding your child to think his own way to the solution.

Read more on 5 tips on raising ‘Open-minded’ children

Provide Challenges That Require Deep Thinking

Children are often bored because the activities they engage in are not challenging enough and at times they are too tough for them to solve by themselves. Give your child a picture of the Eiffel tower and ask her to build a replica with her LEGO blocks. Do not judge and do not provide solutions each time a block falls off. You can also introduce fun puzzles for them to solve with increasing levels of difficulty.

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Give Them Space

If your child asks you for help with a project, first consider how much independent effort she has truly given before turning to you. By answering your child’s questions too soon, you can adversely affect their thinking process. The key is to take a step back and give them the chance to think about the problem at hand and how to come up with a suitable solution

Mistakes are ‘OK’

Children are naïve. Thinking for themselves doesn’t mean that every decision they make will be the right one. Kids shouldn’t be afraid thinking for themselves because they might make a wrong decision. Insisting on skating at home may be a bad decision, but a few scrapes around the house will help them learn!

Let Them Correct Their Mistakes

You may have asked your child to buy broccoli from the grocery store and instead he comes home with cabbage. Ask him to look up for a new recipe so you can use it for dinner. Once your child knows it is ok to make mistakes, they also need to learn to correct them. Often times we learn much more from mistakes than from successes. Help your child see the learning opportunities in mistakes.

When parents allow children to start thinking for themselves at an early age, the space to make mistakes and gain confidence in their decision-making skills is more. New businesses, new books, new movies… all do well because novel ideas are brought to the fore. They also need opportunities to try new ideas and learn what works for them and what backfires! To start with, lets encourage ‘thinking’ over following instructions.

The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.



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