How to develop critical thinking in young children
In a recent post, Tim Elmore discusses the consequences of removing risk taking from children’s lives. In older times, kids spent their summers and their free time roaming the neighborhood, playing, creating their own games and developing their own network of friends. Parents relayed the rules. Kids knew their boundaries and what they were allowed to do. Parents couldn’t check on kids’ movements with cell phones and days were not filled with scheduled activities that kept both parents and kids occupied from dawn to dusk. It was truly a different world that seems foreign now when every second of everyday is choreographed and planned with activity. I’m not saying it was perfect or even better but it is true that left to their own devices, kids had to develop problem solving and critical thinking skills that are not demanded in today’s world where parents or other adults are always on hand to make decisions, influence consequences and even manipulate the environment.
Since it seems unlikely that our society will step back in time to the previous generational model where children were faced daily with decisions that involved everything from how to spend their time (what to do) to determining which activities were dangerous and which were not (how to behave), it seems the least we can do is give kids some tools for how to make those critical decisions when they are faced with them.
Here are a few techniques we can use to help children learn to make effective and reasonable decisions on their own:
Have children ask what their role models would do– Help children through biographies, movies, television and other media identify responsible role models. Make sure they recognize great role models in their everyday life. Have them get in the habit of noticing how their role models handle tough decisions. Then help children evaluate whether or not they made the right decision.
Link good behaviors to moral character- Develop core values as a family, as a classroom or as a team. Discuss them often. Point them out in others. Notice how behavior follows good values. Develop empathy by pointing out how our behavior has consequences for others. Have kids learn to ask, “How would I feel if I were on the receiving end of that behavior?”
Develop critical thinking by emphasizing values over rules– It’s not enough to just follow the rules. Help kids evaluate rules based on values and determine why it is necessary to follow the rule (or not!).
Wyatt the Wonder Dog
Learns about Teamwork
Camping with his Boy Scout Troop is exciting and fun… until Max takes a serious fall while hiking. When Wyatt and the rest of the Scouts use their emergency training to get Max safely out of the woods, they learn the value of teamwork and the power of community to achieve big goals.