Christopher and Devon
Christopher and his brother, Devon, were faced with a problem. When trying to play together, they did not get along. They would either begin arguing or complaining to their mother, causing stress within the family.
Rather than dictate a solution, the boys’ mother wanted the children to try to solve the problem together. They sat down and discussed the dilemma. “What are some ways we could solve this problem?” She asked. Both boys started talking at once, each sure that he had the “right” solution. Ideas centered on punishment of the other sibling. “Well, these are certainly some suggestions for solving the problem,” their mother stated. “I wonder if either of you can come up with any ideas that would help, without punishing.” At first there was silence. After a few moments the boys started coming up with suggestions. Some were positive solutions and some were “silly.”
After writing down the ideas, the mother chose a few possibilities that she felt were the most promising. The children looked at those possibilities and together listed the pros and cons of each. Sometimes they needed help figuring out both pros and cons, but their mother helped them with this. After looking at both sides of each possible solution, the boys, with guidance, chose the solution they felt was the best. The boys’ mother had helped her children to make a realistic and thoughtful decision that was backed by important reasons.
Emma loved geography. Her parents had a large globe in the family room and there were many maps in the house. Emma loved to study these and learned the location of many countries. Her parents would happily answer her questions and together, they learned about many different countries-not only where they were located, but what kind of people lived there, what their families were like, and some history of the various areas.
One day, Emma’s father asked, “Why do you think there are different countries?” This question began a discussion that went way beyond just learning facts. It caused Emma to take the factual knowledge she had learned and apply it to a more involved thinking process. This discussion led to more and more questions and ideas. What causes the borders of a country to be established? Why do these borders often change over the years? Why are certain customs developed in some countries and not in others? What common elements can be found in all countries? What things might be different between countries? How does geography play a role in the development of a country? Why would it be important for us to know about other countries? Through this discussion, Emma was encouraged to really think about her learning.
Defining Critical Thinking
The term critical thinking means thinking that is careful, clear, logical, and independent. In addition, it includes the ability to recognize implications and inconsistencies.
As parents, we want our children to develop critical thinking skills that will last a lifetime. By teaching these skills, children learn to make important connections. They learn to make good decisions that are realistic and thoughtful, and they learn to see trends and patterns in the world.
Ways That Parents Can Help
Help children to evaluate their own work and decisions rather than just relying on adult comments. How do you feel about the way you worked on that project or solved that problem? What are the things you think you did well? What would you do differently next time?
Help children to be good decision-makers. Give them many opportunities to practice. You have $5.00. What would you spend it on? Why? When confronted with a problem, help them to look at many different possible solutions, looking beyond the obvious. Guide them to select the most promising choices and consider the pros and cons of each. They can then select the decision they think is the most promising, supporting it with important reasons.
Help children to look for patterns and purposes of things both tangible and intangible. What are the patterns in the spider web? What are the different patterns in our family’s behavior?
Help children connect subjects. After learning about the social life of bees or insects, ask…how is a beehive like a city? How is it different?
By teaching children critical thinking skills, you will help them to feel confident in themselves and you will prepare them to make good decisions as they grow.