Writing is a skill we all want our children to develop as they progress through school. This is because we believe that as good writers they will have great opportunities in life. Good writing doesn’t just happen; it is a learnt and carefully-crafted process. Most of the writing we are called upon to do in life falls under two categories – creative writing and critical or analytical writing. Let us explore the latter.
Everyone is a critic: developing critical thinking through writing
The ultimate purpose of education is to develop free-thinking individuals who will be able to create a balanced life for themselves and a better world around them. In order to do this, they must develop the ability to examine the world around them critically; they must be able to ask the right questions and discern the truth in the answers they find. At every stage of development a child watches and learns – from peers as well as from adults. Very often, critical questions arise when there is a discrepancy in what they are told and what they observe in reality.
What is critical/analytical writing?
What creative writing does to develop creativity, analytical writing does to develop critical thinking. Whether it is the simple book report or the multi-layered argument paper, school assignments call for the ability to examine the text, figure out the sub-text and come to a conclusion. Schools teach children the various elements of good analysis – observation, evaluation and conclusion – and give them the means to bring these into effect through comparison and cause analysis. However, analytical writing is not a stand-alone skill. It flows from constant analytical thinking and, as a parent, you can provide your child the opportunity to make it automatic.
Analysis begins with questions
Allow your child to ask that annoying ‘Why?’ Yes, they can drive you crazy with it, and yes, you have to sometimes resort to the classic, ‘Because I say so.’ Still, the child who asks the question is encouraged to seek a response; she is the one who develops the ability to think and write critically. You do not always need to give the answers. You only have to get children on track to explore and seek.
You must be prepared to let them find the answers too. The answers they find may not always be to your liking. Letting your children grow and develop into independent thinkers means that you are allowing them to have ideas, opinions and even values that are different from yours. You may influence them with your rational arguments, but you must finally allow them to draw their own conclusions.
The temptation to tell them that they are wrong and that you are right because you know better can get strong and sometimes impossible to resist. Let common sense be your guide. If your child’s analysis and conclusions lead her on a path to danger or self-destruction, pull her back. You are the parent and protecting your child from harm is your responsibility. Even as you lay down the rule, keep explaining why you are doing what you are doing.
Apart from being a creative thinker, encourage your child to be a critical thinker as well. You never know when, where and how your child may flourish.