While the teaching of content such as math facts, grammar rules, and capital cities has always been part of the school experience, there is now a greater emphasis to also focus on the development of thinking skills. After all, learning how to analyze, evaluate, and come up with creative solutions when problem solving (to name a few) are all important life skills.
Although every student receives implicit instruction on how to develop his/her critical, creative, and meta-cognitive thinking skills at school, here are some strategies you can use to help nurture and develop your son or daughter’s thinking skills at home:
1. Establish and maintain an environment that promotes thinking.
- Create an environment which values mutual respect, humor, and open-mindedness.
- Have your children talk about how they could or did solve problems.
- Encourage individual or family discussions on a variety of topics.
- To promote good concentration, ensure your child gets lots of sleep and eats well.
- Deep thinking is not always a quick process. Allow children time to think before answering questions or during discussions.
- Try to limit your use of rules. Instead, try to share and model a clear set of values about what is right and wrong, and encourage your children to make choices that exemplify those values. If necessary, poor choices can be discussed.
2. Model thoughtfulness
- Be a role model of good thinking. Share how you think, plan, decide, etc.
- Talk about problem-solving models and the steps to take. (e.g. identify a problem, define it, generate ideas, select solution(s), implement them, and evaluate how they worked.)
3. Give them practice.
- Give your chidren lots of age-appropriate opportunities to solve their own problems or make decisions.
- Resist making decisions when they ask you to make choices for them. Instead, lead them through the decision-making process by asking questions back. (e.g. Q: What should I do? A: What do you think would be a good choice?)
- Use open-ended questions, not ones that can be answered with “Yes” or “No”. Ask them questions that help to prompt creative or divergent responses. These could include questions like:
- How else could you ____?
- What might you tell a friend to do in this situation?
- Why do you think that?
- What do you think caused that to happen?
- How could we prove that?
4. Work to remove the blocks that limit critical and creative thinking in children.
- Avoid too much TV, video games, structured play-time, or any activity that does not allow children to think for themselves.
5. Help kids get better at evaluating their own thinking
- Discuss the quality of your children’s thinking and decision-making with them. Help guide or show them how to become more self-directed and self-evaluative thinkers by helping them become aware of their meta-cognitive ability (how they think).
Supporting your kids to become stronger, critical and creative thinkers isn’t all that difficult. While it may be quicker to tell them what to do, or swoop in and solve their problems for them, in the long run they will be stronger, wiser, and more independent as teens and adults if you allow them do it themselves–with a little support and guidance from you along the way.
About the author
An award-winning educator and Parenting & Youth Coach, Rob Stringer BA, BEd, CPC has spent almost two decades helping kids, teens, and adults meet with success, and live lives they LOVE! Although based outside of Toronto, Rob’s coaching practice is global with teen and adult clients around the world.
Ready to give your child a head start on success? Check out Rob’s coaching programs and workshops for parents and youth. Visit www.YouthCoachCanada.com or call 905.515.9822.