The ability to use critical thinking and reasoning skills is the most important subject matter that isn’t being taught to our children today. A child’s mind is ripe and ready to be trained for greatness. However, if we as parents and teachers simply stuff their minds with information that they have to memorize for a test, we are literally ruining the process of teaching this very important skill. This is a skill that they will need for the rest of their lives; forming the basis for decision making, problem solving and good judgement.
Critical thinking is a natural ability that needs to be nourished.
Children will naturally come to reasoning skills if they are allowed the opportunity. God created our brains in such a brilliant way that reasoning is actually an innate ability, although in many cases it gets stopped by a societal view or a school system that believes there is only one way to do things, one way to teach and one time to learn specific subjects or tasks.
You can see a small example of this in babies. A baby has no actual knowledge, but they learn as they engage. They do not fully understand your words in giving them information, but by trial and error, they can figure things out on their own. Think of the child’s toy that has them placing different shaped blocks into shaped holes. By trial and error, they learn which block goes into which hole. They figure it out…on their own. The child makes the connection through actively thinking it through while physically attempting the possible solution. But, then consider what happens if the parent steps in every time and helps the child get the blocks into the holes… or even worse, does it for them. What does the child learn then? Or worse, what does the child not learn.
My youngest is a bundle of questions, more so even than any of my other unusually inquisitive children. Mason, 8, seeks information for every part of life. He wants to know more. He gathers all manner of information and analyzes that information. He determines which of the information is relevant to his dilemma and wades through all of it to find a solution. He is not always correct in his assumption, however, he always puts it to practice in order to find out if it is correct. …then, there’s more questions.
Why are critical thinking or reasoning skills important?
There are so many reasons why it is important for all people to be able to use proper reasoning skills. All throughout life, you will find situations which will be perplexing in some way. You may not automatically know the solution to a particular situation, therefore, in order to come to a solution, you must be able to think it through. This is where critical thinking and reasoning skills come in handy. It is the ability to research the necessary information, evaluate that information for relevance and purity, apply a potential solution and analyze the reaction. It involves the ability to look at any situation from a variety of perspectives.
Many times, children are simply taught one perspective; typically a teacher’s or a parent’s perspective. In fact, this happens so much that children are raised with a very limited outlook. Critical thinking requires an open mind and a willingness to see problems from different viewpoints. We don’t want our children to learn to simply believe what is told to them or what they have read. Are we certain that those sources are legitimate? Are they objective or are they one-sided? We will not always be there to instruct our children as to what is good or bad information, they need the skillset to be able to discern this for themselves.
How do we help our children learn and grow in these skills?
There are many efforts that teachers and parents can make to help instill a genuine love for learning and for reasoning in our children. From books about critical thinking and how to teach it, to curriculum for our kids to practice, there are multitudes of resources to help. Below, if nothing else, is a very good starting point.
Don’t just teach children what you know…teach them to think.
Don’t just teach children to read…teach them also to analyze and understand what they read.
Don’t just teach children math…teach them to understand theory.
Don’t just teach children science…teach them the importance of scientific reasoning.
Don’t just teach them history…teach them what history taught us and how we came to those conclusions.
As parents, we all want the absolute best for our children. We want them to soar in life; to rise to whatever their potential and their calling happens to be. They can reach those lofty heights with the right background and instruction because God created them for greatness. God gave all of us the ability to use critical thinking skills. We have to open our minds to a deeper way of thinking and teaching in order to give our children these possibilities.
I know that there are many ways that parents work with their children to develop these skills. I would love to hear from you. What methods do you use in teaching critical thinking skills to your children? Do you use a curriculum? Do you approach all subject areas and indeed, life, from a standpoint of critical thinking? How do you teach your children proper decision making? I believe that we can all learn from each other and I look forward to learning from you!