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Critical Thinking

Strategies to help your child learn how to reason


Critical ThinkingCritical thinking is an essential tool for everyday living, as well as academic success. A key part of teaching children to think critically is helping them become better decision-makers and problem-solvers. Children with higher-order thinking skills have the ability to analyze problems, develop possible solutions, evaluate their merits, and anticipate consequences. 

The good news is that critical thinking skills can be learned. This does not mean, however, that your child should be taking a course in reasoning. Critical thinking is best taught in the context of traditional subjects and real-life problems. The following are some strategies that you can use to hone your child’s thinking skills:

Pay attention to your language. 

What you say conveys important concepts. Using past, present, and future tenses helps him learn about sequence. Your use of “if...then” statements provides a lesson in cause and effect, and your use of new vocabulary challenges your child to figure out the meaning from the context. Using words such as “might” and “would” also introduces important concepts.

Provoke thought with questions. 

Questions invite your child to engage in new ways of thinking. Rather than asking yes or no questions or questions which begin with “who,” “when,” or “where,” ask questions which begin with “Why do you suppose...?” If you read to your child, ask him what he thinks will come next and how he would have ended it. Be careful not to bombard your child with questions.

Foster independent thinking. 

Encourage your child to be intellectually curious and to think on his own. Show respect for his ideas, opinions, and questions. Promote his inquisitiveness by praising his questions and offering a serious response. By showing respect and promoting confidence in his ability to
figure things out, you are helping your child to become a strong,
confident thinker. 

Use real-life situations to enhance problem-solving skills.

Your child will no doubt face many situations calling for him to make decisions— from what kind of birthday party to have to how to deal with teasing. Allow your child to grapple with these and other issues and show confidence in his ability to deal with them by not intervening too quickly. If he gets stuck or seeks your assistance, help him think through the problem by analyzing the situation, evaluating the alternatives, and then having him choose thebest solution.

Dr. Kenneth Shore is a family and school psychologist. 

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