Raising A Thinking Child: Here's What Parents Should Know
Why is it so important to raise our children to be independent thinkers? Because then, they grow up to be capable, competent and confident adults. They develop essential life skills and more...
By Amrita Gracias
As parents, we want our children to grow up to be successful, with the ability to lead, innovate and create. But, how many of us realise that these superior cognitive capabilities are based on the fundamental and innate ability called ‘thinking’? How many of us really understand what 'thinking' means and why it is so pivotal to our actions and reactions?
What 'thinking' means
Thinking is an essential cognitive skill required to process information. It lays the foundation for developing life skills and helps a child evaluate, analyse, remember and understand cause and effect. That is why, thinking as a cognitive ability needs to be nurtured right from childhood. Also, it cannot be acquired instantly; encouraging your child to begin thinking early on will help initiate the required mental processes.
Early childhood presents several opportunities to build and improve thinking skills. They can be learned and improved with the right training and practice. And, most importantly, this can be done using simple techniques while performing everyday activities like playing, talking or reading with your child.
Why teach a child to think
There are several benefits to helping a child think for himself. This also has many positive effects in the long run. Development of thinking skills helps:
- analyse, understand and judge a situation
- augment and promote independent learning
- evaluate information
- consider alternative options
- be motivated to look for solutions
- become capable of empathising with others
Tips to develop and enhance your child's thinking ability:
1. Help your child make choices: A young child is capable of making simple choices and decisions. So, make use of everyday opportunities to create an environment that supports and encourages your child to think. For instance, you could ask her to choose what she wants to wear from two sets of clothes or what book she would like to read from her collection. Encouraging your child to make such simple choices and decisions during daily activities will motivate her to think and make her feel confident. However, be sure to support her decisions and avoid ridiculing her choices. Else, she will feel insecure and diffident, thus discouraging her from thinking for herself.
2. Promote free play: Your child might have several toys to keep himself busy, but ensure that he gets enough time for free play as well. Unstructured play is a great opportunity to encourage your child to think, as he is forced to decide what to play with and how. Your child will develop the skills required for independent thinking when he uses his imagination to create something new. So, promote play with objects that challenge and encourage his curiosity and creativity — for instance, objects from your kitchen, empty cardboard boxes or, just plain wooden blocks. Play is vital not only for your child's overall development but also, to help him understand his surroundings as well. Regular outdoor play will also augment discovery and exploration, both of which are pivotal to thinking. Drawing is another great way to hone thinking skills as it promotes imagination and creativity.
3. Foster the habit of asking questions: The average preschooler can ask about 300 questions a day. So, let your child ask as many questions as she wants. While you may not have answers to them all, do remember that these bouts of curiosity lay the foundation for thinking, understanding and analysing the world around her. You can turn these questions into discussions. Rather than answering right away, you could even reply with a question, thus getting her to think and reason things out. Curiosity is one of the best ways to encourage thinking and explore the various possibilities and answers she can come up with. Asking questions also lies at the heart of innovation and strategy. If you don't encourage your child to ask questions, she might stop asking them altogether. When you read her a story, for instance, ask her questions about the characters or events in the book. And, when you are outdoors, encourage her to ask about things she sees and hears — anything that will get her to think!
4. Initiate conversations and encourage self-expression: Having conversations with your child and getting him to express himself is another way to promote thinking skills. When he talks to you, avoid answering in monosyllables. Instead, initiate a conversation. Let him share his thoughts and explore ideas. You could give your child age-appropriate explanations that will help him understand (something) better. When he experiences something new or unexpected, ask him to share his feelings about the event, which, in turn, will encourage him to think about the experience. For instance, if your child talks about a particular situation in school, ask him what he thinks or feels about it and what he would do the next time he finds himself in a similar situation. Reading to your child also makes a great difference in the way he thinks and perceives the world around. This also encourages him to be open-minded, and helps him develop a good vocabulary.
5. Teach problem-solving skills: This is another crucial skill that is well within a child’s learning capacity. Your child is sure to run into obstacles now and then. Instead of providing a solution, help her think and come up with one herself. You can help her identify the problem and break it down so that it doesn’t seem impossible or too difficult for her to solve. Thinking about a problem helps your child analyse and come up with possible solutions. Jigsaw puzzles are great for developing problem-solving skills. Or, you could involve your child in simple tasks around the house, allow her to help you tackle situations or solve a problem. You could even ask for her help the next time you are faced with a dilemma. However, at times, it is okay for your child to experience failure, as this will prompt her to think about what went wrong and what she can do better, next time around.
6. Develop empathy: It is important that your child not only thinks for himself while analysing and evaluating a situation, but also for the others involved. Being empathetic will help him make and take fair decisions. He also develops the ability to put himself in other’s shoes. For instance, when your child does something that you need to correct, ask him how he would feel if someone else had done the same thing. There may be times when you may feel that its difficult to teach empathy to a young child, but keep trying. For, it is important that your child also considers the feelings of others.
To succeed in life, it is very important that your child learns how to think independently. This will become an essential life skill as your child grows older and interacts more and more with the changing world around him.
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