This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while. Caspar (9 years) will sometimes say something or make a comment and I wonder where it has come from. Often I feel like he is repeating something he has heard and has not thought it through. It is amplified at election time or around the US election, which received a lot of coverage here.
Critical thinking is an intrinsic part of Montessori education. Children from a young age are seen as scientists, problem solvers, children are empowered to independently analyse, test and make conclusions. However as parents we have a huge influence on our children, what can we do to raise critical thinkers? Here are a few things that we are trying at home. For context, my children are nine and five.
- Eat dinner together and have open discussions.
- Encourage children's participation, encourage them to ask questions, engage them in conversation.
- Be respectful of the child's views and opinions.
- Ask your child intellectually curious questions.
- Allow and provide opportunities for children to learn and to grow.
- Give children the safety and freedom to be critical thinkers, allow them to change their mind and allow them to make mistakes.
- Ask children to consider alternative explanations and conclusions. This may provide some space to consider things from another point of view.
- Be a positive role model, allow children to see you have respectful discussions with others, handle it gracefully and you will be setting the best example possible!
- Expose children to new experiences such as voting, when it is safe and appropriate.
- Model critical thinking by explaining to the child your decision-making processes (without overcomplicating things).
- Encourage respectful discussions among their friends and colleagues.
- Guide and support them if they are having difficulties understanding another's point of view.
- Reassure children there is no right or wrong answer but you value their opinion.
- Expose children to world events in an age-appropriate manner. We allow children's news for age-appropriate coverage of world events.
- Read to them widely, provide books and experiences that allow them to see things from another perspective, that cover topics they aren't ordinarily exposed to including race, colour, sexuality, religion, immigration, discrimination, injustices.
- Talk to your children about your own personal experiences.
- Teach family values.
- Teach an evidence-based approach.
- Choose a school on or ask your school about how they encourage critical thinking. It is clear there are schools where critical thinking is limited.
- Engage in discussion on the role of the media, including journalists to report accurately and without bias.
- Allow hate speech. Children don't always make considered statements but in our home hate speech is not respectful and not allowed.
- Limit or ban discussions on topics. The home should be a safe place to discuss and explore all topics.
- Judge your child, children's views can change quickly and this shouldn't be judged.
- Lead your child or impose your views on them. This can be difficult but important for independent thinking, allow them to be their own person, to be a critical thinker.
Perhaps some of these work for you too? Your additional ideas are welcome, especially if you have experience in this area (or have teens!).