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Encouraging Independent Thinking

What is “independent thinking” and why is it important for my child?

  • Independent thinking is the process of making sense of the world based on your own observations and experiences rather than depending on the word of others. It is the ability to trust your own judgments, even if they are not in agreement with what others might say or believe. Independent thinking means acting in accordance with your beliefs, even if you sometimes make mistakes, and looking for flaws in arguments and resisting claims that have no supporting evidence.
  • For a teen to think independently they must act- not just Independent thinking takes time. Teens must become informed about the issue and be able to look at it from many different angles.

Why should parents encourage independent thinking?

  • As children grow and enter the teen years they naturally begin to question and challenge the belief systems they once accepted. “Because I said so!” is no longer sufficient. This means that as parents we must be grounded in our own values, and be willing to explain our reasoning and defend our position. However, it is essential that we also validate our children’s ideas and be fair-minded. This is the way in which we demonstrate critical thinking skills.

If we do not encourage our children to think for themselves they will fall prey to those who would lead them into destructive ideologies and behaviors. Oftentimes these rebellious and empty mind-sets are broadcast abundantly through various media and internet sites. They distribute their negativity freely to an audience of adolescents who are hungry for independence, and imply that rebellion against authority is the only way to achieve them.

What can parents do to help their child develop independent thinking skills?

  • Talk openly and often about your family values, and encourage your child to ask questions. Be sure to show respect for their input and involve them regularly in family decision-making.
  • Ponder aloud the most efficient ways to do household chores, make economical purchases, or discuss social issues in your community. Describing how you think and solve problems is the best way to instill similar thinking patterns in your child.
  • Ask your child to explain his reasoning if he strongly disagrees with an issue. You may have to remind him that a ‘discussion’ is not the same thing as an ‘argument’.
  • If your teen’s school offers courses in debate, discussion, and/or public speaking- encourage him to try them out.
  • Teach your child how to use self-talk to guide his decision-making abilities.
  • Help your adolescent understand that although he may have strong beliefs about certain issues, others may have differing opinions. Encourage respect for people and model how to disagree agreeably!
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