September  2009     Edition 53
3 Critical Thinking Tools for Parents

Your kids, or grandkids, are learning Critical Thinking in school.

   The term and process of “Critical Thinking” is being used everywhere.  Barack Obama used “Critical Thinking” in his speech to students last week.   As parents, we can help our children by implementing a little critical thinking at home and have fun with it at the same time.  Many of the critical thinking tools for problem solving and decision making are very applicable as you interact with your child, especially the tools that help “Lead others to Think”.

We define critical thinking as

a method of taking yourself out of your everyday automatic thinking mode and putting yourself into manual.  Use critical thinking sparingly.  Try it just once a day for just a few minutes.   Once you see the results, you can determine where and how often you should go into “manual”, i.e. Critical Thinking Mode.

Here are three simple principles of critical thinking you can use

to help your child as they learn some of these concepts at school.

Don't always answer a question with an answer.  Instead of giving your child the answer, ask them a question. 
- When your child makes a comment about something, probe for their thinking


- When your child comes to a conclusion that is different than yours, don’t choose right or wrong, but do find out what your child I- s assuming that led them to that conclusion.

Here are some examples:


:  Mom, or Dad, or Grandpa, or Grandma … Can you check my homework? 

Classic Response

– Yes, or Later, or I’m a little busy, go ask Mom (or Dad).

Critical Thinking Response

- I can, but before I do, are there ways you might you be able to check it yourself?


: How do you spell ….?

Classic Response

– You usually spell it for them or say “Look it up in a dictionary”

Critical Thinking Response

- Besides a dictionary, how would you be able to find out how to spell that? or How do you think your should spell it .. and why?


: Wow, that’s a really cool car!

Classic Response

… Yes it is.

Critical Thinking Response

- What do you think the person who designed that car was thinking?


: Can you fix this broken toy, my glasses, my bike, etc, for me?

Classic Response

- OK, or later, or no I can’t, it’s broken.

Critical Thinking Response

- How do you think we should go about fixing this?

Child's response to a question or homework assignment

; I can’t think of anything.

Classic response

-  Keep thinking, it will come to you.

Critical Thinking Response

- What have you already tried, what’s important, what’s special, what is different?


- Look, that person just went through the light and almost hit us !!!

Classic response

- bmmsifmejfslkd (Censored)

Critical Thinking Response

- That was a dangerous thing to do, why do you think they did that and how do you think that could be prevented?

When you child reaches a Conclusion (makes a statement

) – I didn’t finish my homework because I was busy with something more important (TV, chatting or playing with friends, fixing my bicycle, etc).

Classic Response

– Homework is more important than …

Critical Thinking Respons

e – Why did you think (TV, talking with friends, etc) was more important?  Are there ways you could have done both?

The Takeaway:
Sometimes the most important answer you can provide to your child is the question you ask them back.  Don’t underestimate the ability of your child (and you) to “Think”.  Once in Critical Thinking mode, new ideas come up that you and your child would have never thought of.  Have some fun with this!

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