Raising Children To Be Independent Thinkers

Will your child be the next great thinker?

Will your child be the next great thinker?

I raised my kids to think like free people. This makes an already difficult task of parenting even harder!  But the rewards are immeasurable.

If we are to have a future for humanity we must teach our children to think, to question, to explore and to rationalize…not to blindly except what is fed to them.  The beginning of this is teaching how to negotiate (and what is non-negotiable).  There are limits, of course.  And applying those restrictions simultaneously to instilling the love of freedom is not easy!  But it comes from balance between freedom and responsibility.  It gives our youth the tools they need to assess situations and make educated decisions all through life.

When I was a child I was told repeatedly by my mother, “Because I said so, that’s why!”  It infuriated me because all I wanted was the logic (and sometimes to get my way!) behind what she was saying I had to do or couldn’t do.  I was an inquisitive child and my children were as well.  I swore that I would never, NEVER say use that dreadful phrase with them…and I can only recall one instance where it slipped out of my lips, followed immediately by the thought, “Oh, my God, I am becoming my Mother!”  And it never happened again.  I am not saying that I didn’t make mistakes, we all do.  But my kids have grown up to be pretty awesome adults so I guess some things actually went as planned.

But the purpose of this post is not so much to talk about my kids as it is to inspire others to take into consideration how they interact with their own.  The mantra that children should be seen and not heard is counterproductive for a thriving society.  Talking to toddlers in baby-talk teaches them to speak baby talk.  Talking to them as if they were adults gives them a higher goal to strive for…after all, we learn by imitating what we are exposed to.  As they get older, do you let them make their own decisions about what to wear?  Do you negotiate about dinner items that may not be favorites?  Do you encourage trying things that are outside of the comfort zone?  Do you teach them that it is OK to win and it is also OK to lose?  To never allow failure is doing children a disservice.  They will not be able to cope with the inevitable setbacks in adult life and will have a stressful life as a result.  If success is discouraged (ever been to a little league game where they don’t keep score?) then we are robbing the kids of their sense of pride and self worth, plus we are not teaching them how to win gracefully.

These are all skills that are vital to success in life.  Negotiation is vital for getting jobs, buying necessities and maintaining relationships.  If you don’t know how to negotiate then you are reduced to arguments where no one wins.  Critical thinking skills are essential as well, for obvious reasons.  Suppose that Patrick Henry, George Washington, Galileo, Socrates, Thomas Edison or Albert Einstein had never questioned anything?  Where would we be today?  Will your child be the next great thinker?  Not if you don’t encourage free thought!

It’s Common Knowledge…

There was a time when it was common knowledge that the world was flat and the sun, moon, stars and all the planets revolved around it. There was a time when everyone was sure that demons caused illness and drought. Today we have made discoveries that disprove those “facts” of long ago and we have replaced them with new “facts” accepted by most of us on this planet. But just how accurate are these things we hold as common knowledge? Will they, too, be disproved one day? Remember that there is no proof that something is correct, only the inability to prove that it is no…for now!

I am reminded that back in the 1970’s we were told by the “experts” that we were entering a mini ice age.  Well, that has morphed into global warming and again into climate change.

There was a time when it was commonly accepted that some ethnic groups were not as intelligent as others, or that lightning never strikes the same place twice.  We know today that both of these are untrue.

My point is not to attempt to dispel current beliefs or argue today’s contested topics.  I simply wish to point out that before we blindly accept “common knowledge” as fact we should ask questions, do our own research and think independently…like a free person!