Teach Your Kid To Think

By Chana Roberts

Everyone knows that standardized testing sucks. And everyone knows that relative to the amount of money parents are putting into their kids’ education – that education is also kind of sucky. And no matter how long kids are in class, the end result doesn’t seem to be getting better.

But worst of all? The curriculum teaches our kids *facts*. It doesn’t teach them how to use those facts, or how to think. As a teacher, I see high school kids (lots of them! And I don’t teach special ed!) who have trouble drawing conclusions, doing independent research, and just plain putting in effort.

There are so many kids who know who to spit back the information you give them, but don’t know how – or aren’t interested in trying – to actually write a different end to the story, or analyze *why* the character did what he did.

As a mom, I don’t want my kids to end up being those high schoolers. And I bet you don’t want your kids to end up that way, either. Teaching kids how to use their minds isn’t just the school’s job – it’s also, and primarily – the parents’.

Thinking skills, or, as we call them here, HOTS (Higher-order thinking skills) aren’t just important for academic success. They’re important for life, for relationships, for keeping a job, and for everything else.

So how can we teach our kids to think?

Spend the time.

You’re already spending time with your kids. Turn that time into thinking-quality time, and ask questions. “What do you think of that bird?” “Which color/ season/ weather do you like better?”

For kids who say, “I don’t know,” tack two or three options onto the end of the question, so they’ll have ready-made answers and not feel overwhelmed.

Find teachable moments.

A few days ago, I was standing with my kids at a bus stop, and saw two black cars parked by the sidewalk. They were the same shade, and they both had “For sale” signs on the back window, but that was where the similarity ended.

My son likes cars (obviously), so I asked him, “What’s the same about these cars? What’s different?” and got him to play compare-and-contrast with me for fifteen minutes. Yes, I had to point out most of the similarities and differences. But he’s in preschool, and I don’t play this often. With time and practice, I’m sure he’ll become better at it.

Don’t spoon-feed.

When your child asks you a question, don’t answer immediately. Instead, say, “Well, that’s a good question. What do *you* think?” Again, if they don’t know, you can give hints or options. But the goal is that over time, the child will wean himself off your help.

So, when your kid hits someone and goes to corner, ask him why *he* thinks he’s in corner. (The answers are sometimes enlightening, but that’s a different topic.) When he can’t have a glass cup the day after he broke a plate, have him figure out what the logic is.

It’s so simple. But it’s a skill that requires practice. And like everything else, the more you practice, the better you get.

Try to give your kid five minutes of thinking practice a day. Then come back and let me know how it goes. 

Here’s to a generation of thinking kids!

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