As a former History teacher, I wanted my students to think for themselves, problem-solve, face complicated dilemmas with critical, higher-level thinking for past problems and current events. My husband is also an educator. In recent years, we’ve observed a swift demise in students’ abilities to problem solve and make decisions. Even more frightening is the mob mentality of recent months. Groupthink is becoming the norm. And it’s not a good thing.
Groupthink is not biblical. God gives humans a distinct characteristic to think for ourselves. We have a choice over what we think, feel, and how we act. God even gives us a choice in choosing Him or rejecting Him. We give up our humanity when we don’t think for ourselves.
In the spiritual, political, moral, and lifestyle divide of 2020, I believe God is calling parents more than ever to teach kids essential skills of problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision making. For parents with teens and young adults, it’s important to respect the decisions and opinions of our kids, not allowing “disputable matters” to divide relationships. Romans 14 and 15 talk about the importance of love in relationships where one person’s faith dictates something different than someone else’s.
How can you teach your children to think for themselves, make decisions and problem solve? Here are five key elements to consider:
- Don’t steal your child’s struggle. No matter how young or old your child is, swooping in and fixing problems for them does not help them. It enables them, making them ill-prepared in a world where they need to be strong. Let them struggle a little, helping them find resources both within and outside of themselves to solve their problem. It may be standing back while they struggle to tie their shoe. Helping them use everything they’ve learned about solving a math problem before showing them the way you know. Or it may be asking them what they think is best for a relationship problem before you make a decision for them.
Romans 5:3 says, “because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Kids need hope that they can solve problems. It gives them confidence, common sense, and the ability to be self-sufficient, especially when peer pressure is harmful or confusing.
For more on “don’t’ steal the struggle,” check out Fledge: Launching Your Kids Without Losing Your Mind.
- Help your kids find resources to inform their decisions. Whether it’s a gift they want, activities in which they want to participate, or something they are hesitant or enthusiastic about, teach them to research information on the pros and cons of the decision. Avoid making a decision for them, even if you have the final say in the choice. Talk about the sources of information and what makes them credible or not. This teaches them to think critically when news and websites are full of inaccurate or biased information. These skills also help them make moral decisions when you’re not around.
- Let your child learn from the mistakes they’ve made. Loving your child doesn’t mean preventing them from suffering or hardship. God doesn’t do this for us, does He? Helping your child learn from her mistake in a safe environment equips her for bigger problems she’ll encounter that may have more serious consequences. The parent-child relationship is strengthened when kids know you’re there for them when they fail.
- Ask questions. When your kids are problem-solving or making decisions, ask them questions about outcomes, potential obstacles, or how they will handle the situation if something doesn’t turn out the way they hoped. Ask inquisitively, and with care. “I wonder” is a non-threatening way to ask a question or help your child think about possible outcomes. It models problem-solving without you directly telling them what to do. Also, asking them what they learned from a situation or how they can do it differently builds another level of decision making, confidence, and a healthy relationship with your child.
- Ask about their thoughts and opinions. With national events directly impacting the lives of children in 2020, asking what your kids think about specific events gives them a voice and may lessen their anxiety. It provides important conversations. If they have an opinion different from yours, they learn they don’t have to be afraid to express it. God created children to be autonomous from you as they grow. You foster their growth when you listen to their thoughts, building a healthy climate while your kids live at home.
I believe more than ever our children need to know how to think for themselves, solve problems, and make decisions in their generation. The time is urgent to think critically. It’s essential we teach it in the big and small matters of life.
What can you do to foster these skills?