To quote Elizabeth Shaunessy, Ph.D., professor of the gifted program at the University of South Florida, “The ultimate goal is for youth to employ critical-thinking strategies in everyday life without prompting from parents and teachers. Reasoning at high levels is one of the most valuable skills parents can foster in their children, and that will prepare them for success.”
Critical thinking: The mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.
As we know, life is not without problems. It’s the critical thinking that gets us through daily life, assists us in thinking about the nature of the problem, how to go about solving it, then resolving it with growth and success. Critical thinking is what allows us to face the small to the most serious of problems and to create a new and better solution.
How can we help our children’s brains grow to be more critical, better problem solvers?
» Ask open-ended questions. Ask questions that don’t elicit a yes or no response, or even a correct answer. Ask about what he or she thinks about a situation at school rather than his or her grades.
» Guide them to make a decision, rather than make the decision for them. Encourage your child to explore the pros and cons. Let them explore all of the options.
» Make conversations about “What if.” “What if” the ending of the movie went a different direction? “What if” I said ___ instead of ___? “What if” you chose that certain solution?
» Find patterns to point out. Whether walking in the park or looking at shapes with a young child, or discussing politics with an older child, encourage him or her to look for the pattern.
» Debate. No matter how sure a child is of his or her opinion, having to logically defend it will generate critical thinking.
» Ask for opinions. We are generally taught to not share them. It is good for our brains to think about, share and hypothesize our opinions.
» Model critical thinking. Ponder out loud the most efficient way to handle a situation.
Better analytical and critical thinking skills do lead to better prepared children for our academic curriculum as well as their place in a complicated, changing world.
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— Rae Largura is president of Leading Edge Tutors. The opinions expressed are her own.