5 Ways to Teach Your Child How to Think, Not What to Think

How to Let Your Child Think For Themselves

“Mommy, why are there pictures of babies floating in water on those signs? Why are all those people yelling outside that building and throwing rocks?”

“What signs? Oh, those signs? Well, um – that’s a truckload of people hanging outside Planned Parenthood and protesting women who want health care, birth control, and maybe an abortion.”

“Mommy? What’s ‘abortion’?”

via Brian Jackson | DollarPhotoClub.com

Time for the big convo.

The one where you, dear parent, have to answer something you always planned to have a “proper” response for.

Who are we kidding? You’re almost always winging it when the serious subjects come up.

Period chat in the checkout aisle. Baby-making explanation at Christmas. Abortion and Planned Parenthood talk on the way to the grocery store.

To raise open-minded and caring kids, we have to learn to speak neutrally about subjects passionate to us. - Julie Driscoll

That’s tough.

Our job, as parents, is to teach our kids how to think, not what to think.

If you believe low-income women deserve healthcare, you’re going to see the Texas Planned Parenthood shutdown as a gargantuan setback for a woman’s health and right to choose.

If you’re anti-choice, you’re going to be getting out of the car and joining the picketers, or honking to show ‘em love.

Beliefs matter.

So does the truth. Our 24-7 world demands that we give our kids as much information, as much of the truth, as we can. (When they ask for it, need it, and are ready for it.)

We cannot force-feed our personal belief systems down their little throats.

Our children deserve thinking opportunities, not diatribes.

Thinking opportunities and teachable moments come at us all the time. Planned Parenthood is a great example.

Our job, as parents, is to teach our kids how to think, not what to think. via @liesaboutparent #lazyparenting

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How do you handle it?

Anti-Choice or Pro-Choice? Doesn't Matter.

You won’t tell them that abortion is cold-blooded murder of full-term babies. You won’t tell them that Texas pulled the Medicaid money from Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood sells baby parts for profit (not true, read this). You won’t tell them only sluts and bad women get abortions.

Those are lies. 

You will say that many people, men and women both, don’t have money or this thing called insurance to go to good doctors. So they go to a place called Planned Parenthood that lets them see doctors for little or no money.

You’ll tell them that Planned Parenthood does a pretty small percentage of abortion services, at some clinics.

You'll tell your kids that abortions are performed because abortion is legal in this country (USA). Agree or not.

Your child can decide for themselves is abortion is good or bad, based on how you raise them and what they choose to believe.

You'll educate them about Planned Parenthood's preventative work, like check-ups and PAP smears and breast exams.

You'll educate them about abortions.

You'll say that for some women, having a baby would be a really hard, bad thing – to them. Poor children in this country born to people who don’t want them have hard lives. Some people hate abortions and go to incredible lengths, even making up lies and editing videos, to try and turn their beliefs into truths.

You'll say that some people with power exercise their will and try to force people to see things their way. Anti-choice or pro-choice. Doesn't matter.

You reiterate that abortion in this country is legal and if your child thinks it's wrong, they can (and should!) write their statesmen and say something.

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Agree or not.

That’s the truth.

But this isn't just about Planned Parenthood. It's about teaching your child how to think, not what to think.

To encourage teachable moments in your home – thinking opportunities – try these five things when your kid is staring you straight in the eye, waiting for your answer:

  1. Try to Stay Neutral. It’s even more important, with a subject that you’re passionate about, to try to give your kid both sides of the debate – but it’s essential. You want them to trust you, not bust you out when they get on the internet and fact-check your ass.
  2. Don't judge their reactions. If you’re waiting for your kid to say, “OMG, those people are nuts,” and instead she says, “Well, I kind of get what they’re feeling,” don’t tell her she couldn’t have possibly have sprung from your genes. Shut your mouth, give her some factual information, and let her come to her own conclusions.
  3. Explain your position in a neutral way. It’s fine to explain to your kid why you take a certain position on a certain subject, and it’s fine to be firm about it. But it’s not fine to demand your kid offers full-throated support for your stance. Remember, we want kids who can navigate the world and the streets, not kids who can't conjure up an original thought.
  4. ​Point you kid to factual sources. We’re in the internet age. Any position you have can be supported (or struck down) on-line. Give the kid a Google keyword and let ‘er rip.  
  5. Don't Lie. Ever. Make sure you differentiate between an opinion and a face (yes, opinions can be wrong). There are multitudes of fact-checking outfits out there. Use them. Snopes.com, FactCheck.org, and more.

Teachable moments are everywhere.

teachable moments - how to think, not what to think

These moments teach us that honesty counts and our opinions do not.

If you find yourself adjusting the truth to make it your “teachable” moment, stop. Open yourself up to questioning the status quo, right alongside your child.

Everything we talk about is filtered through our personal life experiences and belief systems. Our beliefs are built by our communities, our parents, our teachers, and lastly – ourselves.

Judgement is often veiled as morality, and we can put a stop to that. By teaching the next generation to recognize the difference between beliefs and facts.

Beliefs can change, but "facts" requires new facts to change.

Both are possible.

Julie Driscoll
 

Julie is a progressive writer, committed to holding feet to the fire to maintain integrity in the political arena. She's worked in the Chicago legal community for over 25 years and has raised four children, who are all out in the world, following their dreams.

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