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Is it too much to ask that your kid thinks things through?

Look before you leap and all.

People don't always make smart choices.

Especially kids.

What’s the secret to teaching kids to make good judgement calls?

You don’t want your kid to be a lemming. You want them to think for themselves and make reasonable choices. It's not asking too much.

Is it?

Experts label the ability to reason and make good judgement as ‘critical thinking skills’.

That’s a scary-sounding phrase. Most parents are happy to leave it (whatever it is) in the hands of teachers and school boards.

Worst thing you can do.

Critical thinking is just the ability to think things through and make good judgement calls.

While it seems like a lot to ask of a 2-year-old…or even 15-year-old, it’s not. Children start to develop critical thinking skills at a young age. If you’ve ever heard “I can do it myself!!”, then you know even toddlers are capable of making decisions.

But teaching kids to make good judgment calls is less work than you might think.

Here’s 6 laid-back ways you can foster critical thinking skills in your child.

1. Say No to Change.

When interacting with your child, accept him or her exactly as they are. Don’t try to change them, for change is unavoidable as we age. Don’t force you child to adapt to negativity.

Do you bark orders at her? Ask her sharp questions that she can't answer?

Do you glare at her when she does something wrong?

Or do you talk to her? Work with her when she makes a mistake or breaks a rule that she didn't know or remember?

Children learn about behavior from the adults around them. Critical thinkings skills are developed, in part, through imitation.

Be a good role model by accepting her as she is, without judgement.

Pass it on.

2. Let the Tears Fall.

Kids are going to cry, especially young kids.

Every moment is a huge moment to a child. And every disappointment can feel like the end of the world.

Kids cry because they lack the skills and maturity to respond to the demands of their environment. Hell, adults cry, too!

Crying is the best thing your kid can do when feeling overwhelmed. It's a release and a request for help (aka comfort). Hold, hug, and sit. Get at eye level and stay there.

Crying is good, as long as it’s not manipulative.

Kids can only cry for so long. It might feel like forever, but it’s not.

Just shut up and be there.

3. Don’t Deal With It…Just Yet.

You know that feeling when your kid does something wrong? That voice inside your head that screams, “Do something. Now!”


Walk away. Turn away. Whatever it takes.


Now you can think about how you want to act.

Did he hurt someone? Allow him to see the other kid crying. Give him the chance to empathize.

Avoiding Depression in our Youth | Lies About Parenting

Delay punishment if punishment is necessary. He can’t think about the pain of others if he’s in pain from your action. (Hitting is not teaching. It’s abuse.)

Don't take control – you’re trying to help her learn self­-control. Kids find their own inspiration for doing the right thing, if you let them.

Don’t let your issues get in the way.

4. Fear Does NOT Equal Respect

If you want to raise someone who responds to your demands without thinking, scare them.

Fear drives the mind to act on instinct. Instinct is not about self-control or critical thinking. Instinct is about survival.

Using fear to control your kids will only make them more vulnerable to demands from others. You know, like peer pressure or turning to bullying.

Give your kids time to think.

Don’t use fear tactics to manipulate.

If you do, that makes you the bully.

5. Admit It. Your Kid Scares You.

You’re bigger, faster, stronger and have much more experience than he is.

Your kid is not a threat to you. But when she threatens, she’s testing your limits and that threatens you.

It’s hard, but she needs to test limits. She’s learning the boundaries of her control. And if she’s young, she doesn’t know what a threat really is yet – other than a way to get what she wants.

She’s testing you.

Don’t fail.

Assume ignorance before malice. She's completely dependent upon you for her safety.

Avoid using threat responses – sharp tones, heavy glares and questions she cannot answer.

You’re her parent. Put the fear aside and use kindness instead.

6. The Experience Is What Counts

Calm Family | LiesAboutParenting.com

A big part of your job as a parent is to have a good time with your kids. Show him how to live a happy life as well as guide him away from danger.

People matter more than possessions. Things don’t love, people do.

Have a laugh, pal around. Show your kids the buffet of experience that is the world.

When you’re present and in the moment with your child, it won’t matter if another kid has something they want.

They want you more.

Allow your child to live in peace with you.

Find Your Family’s Zen Zone

In peace, kids find out who they want to be. They do the right thing.

The right thing is what looks right to them, not you.

  • ​A mess in the kitchen – because they’re trying to bake you a cake.
  • ​Spilled milk – from trying to carry their own glass.
  • Water on the floor – from trying to water the plants.

Offer your child patience.

Your reward will be the biggest gift of all – a child who tries (most of the time) to make good judgment calls.

It’s a guide I use with my kids and practice every day.

Allow yourself to make mistakes and see what works. Discard the rest.

That’s the best anyone can do.

And all I ask of you.

  • I’ve done some research on teaching critical thinking skills to middle school students. The challenge is enabling their ability to both develop questioning techniques and I call the “Really?” mindset; not simply accepting as truth what the world around them portrays as truth.
    Teaching how to question respectfully and having the courage to challenge status quo ideas is the second phase. It’s amazing how kids respond to this approach. There is a huge amount of adolescent literature that can act as a platform for teaching critical thinking . I see it as the most important thing and English or history teacher can contribute to a student’s education.

    • William, thanks for the insights!

      Any specific book recommendations? I know there’s a whole, long (often boring) list out there….would love to hear your top 3 for engaging middle-schoolers.


  • Scott, thank you for sharing your tips and wisdom today on Lies About Parenting. My favorite part is, “In peace, kids find out who they want to be.” You really nailed it! Thanks!

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