How Do You Nurture Critical Thinking In Your Child?

Beyond Teachable Moments

In my last post, I mentioned the importance of critical thinking skills for Christian kids.  So many challenges to the Christian faith can become opportunities for growth if your child has the ability to think critically, or, as our kids call it, ‘think for yourself’.  This is because they will be able discern truth from error, and good thinking from bad thinking.

Today I’m going to give you some ideas on how to start that process with your kids, regardless of their age.  It’s surprisingly simple and can easily fit into any schedule.

The easiest way to begin to teach your children how to think critically is to teach them how to use two extremely simple, yet important questions: “What do you mean by that?”  and “How did you come to that conclusion?”  Or, to put these questions more simply: ‘What?’ and ‘Why?’

What do you mean by that? (or What?) clarifies the person’s point.  Say someone says: ‘There is no God’.  You could ask:  ‘What do you mean by ‘God’’.  It’s easy to assume that we know what a person is referring to when they say certain words.  Sometimes we’re right.  However, sometimes we’re not.  Since there’s  no point in debating the wrong point, clarification is important.  That is the first step.

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Second, ask: How did you come to that conclusion? (or Why?) This clarifies what the other person’s view point or opinion is based on: the evidence they have to support the truth of their claim.   “I know that there is no God because we’ve never found a place in space in the universe where He could be physically located.’  (I’ve heard this argued by a very intelligent scientist!)

These questions can be asked of a person, or questioned of material that you read.

Where do you begin? 

First off, model good thinking and reasoning skills to your children.  If you look for ways to practice these questions, you’ll find all kinds of opportunities.  Newspaper articles, magazine articles, ads on the TV or radio, books – both fiction and non-fiction – are great sources of material for asking these questions.  Your material does not always have to be religious.  You could question what the ad for socks really means when it says you’ll be happy and prosperous if you buy them.

If you are visiting a museum, there will be tons of opportunities to use these questions!  For example, an exhibit at our local museum claims that a certain dinosaur was a ‘good mother’.  When I saw this, I pointed it out to our kids.  I asked: I wonder what they mean by a good mother?  And: Let’s see why they think this dinosaur was a good mother.  Their evidence for this claim was that she…


How Do You Nurture Critical Thinking In Your Child? | Beyond Teachable Moments