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Is your child a critical thinker?

There comes a time when as a child is growing up, they will reach a phase some may call the ‘why phase’. It’s incessant and sometimes really annoying, especially when they sound like they’re trying to avoid following instructions, or won’t give you a break.

We know however, that the ‘why phase’ is a very important one, for kids are beginning to question what is around them and prod at the ‘system’ they are in. ‘Why must I eat my vegetables?’ ‘Why am I only allowed to watch Youtube videos for half an hour?’ ‘Why can’t I sleep later? Elaine’s mom lets her sleep at midnight!’ These are signs that your kids won’t be happy with just ‘because I said so’. They want evidence, they want reasons, they want to understand the rationale behind what’s going on. These are the signs that your child is learning to think critically.

Compared to rote-learning, which is done in most schools, critical thinking requires making your own judgements, based on an unbiased analysis of facts. Our world is plagued with issues that can be prevented with critical thinking, the prevalence of fake news being one of them. People tend to blindly follow ideas or ‘facts’ without finding out if what they read is proven to be true. They may end up bringing harm to themselves or their community. In Iran, the spread of fake news during the coronavirus pandemic led to people dying from drinking methanol in hopes of killing the virus. Promoting critical thinking may not solve the issue of fake news, but it can certainly lower the influence of it.

That’s not the only reason why critical thinking is important. Students who apply for Oxbridge and other top universities must be able to show their ability to think critically during their interviews to get into the university. One of the common hurdles students encounter is that they are not able to communicate their ideas across in a clear and logical manner. As this requirement is imperative, students end up losing out because they are not familiar with discussing their thought process. Starting them young is a good way to help ensure their success. Honing a child’s critical thinking will help them learn effectively, think logically and speak confidently.

Here are four ways you can promote critical thinking in your child:

Get them to explain

Beyond asking them factual questions like ‘What is climate change?’, get them to tell you how it happens and why we need to put a stop to it. It pushes them to look beyond just the facts that they pick up at school. Once it becomes a habit, they will ask these questions themselves and do their own research. Try to direct them to legitimate resources and explain to them why they can’t just take information off random websites. Prompt them to apply what they know and link it to their own experiences, like if they noticed whether climate change is affecting them. This helps them connect what they learn with their surroundings, therefore their knowledge is not just a superficial one they regurgitate from books.

Have them express themselves

Besides asking them ‘how’ and ‘why’, getting their opinion on something can also encourage them to form their own arguments. This can be applied to serious topics like climate change, or even simpler topics like their favourite food. Discuss different aspects of it, like for example, if they talk about their favourite food, ask them if they think it’s healthy and get them to explain why. Don’t be too hasty to correct them if they provide wrong facts or logic, this might put them off as they feel you are not interested in what they have to say. Let them finish and then explain why they might be incorrect or even better, look up something together to check. Being able to openly communicate without being judged harshly takes away the pressure of ‘being right’ and promotes learning as well.

Help them see different perspectives

As you encourage your child to express their opinions, you too can tell them opinions you have. Establishing that people feel differently about something is very important in critical thinking. People have many differences that set them apart, and while some of them are more mundane, such as how the kids may find your favourite TV show boring, other differences, such as someone’s occupation, can create very jarring scenarios. While climate change may not directly affect your child, you can ask them how people in the agricultural sector will be affected. Let them try to see from the perspective of someone who is struggling due to drought by showing them interviews or articles with people from different groups. Not only will they consider why situations can affect people differently, they will also be more sympathetic towards others.

Set an example

Children learn from example. While most of them tend to copy their peers, it’s no doubt that they still do look up to adults in terms of behaviour and thinking. Kids are sometimes afraid of being wrong because they think they will be made fun of or punished. This fear can stunt their ability to think critically as they become unwilling to question someone or discuss their own ideas, thus making them complacent with the knowledge they are spoon-fed. One way you can help is by outlining your own critical thinking process, such as what you did when you were given false information, ways you can handle the situation and what possible results may occur. Otherwise, use your own experiences that are similar to what they are going through to help them feel more confident, but also teach them how to remain respectful to others even when they disagree with them.

As kids grow, there’s bound to be arguments due to the different priorities and opinions you will have. Critical thinking is a skill that will help them make judgements and communicate effectively while maintaining perspective. They are able to think for themselves and analyse information or their own judgements in a rational manner. This will also ensure that they are able to handle their interviews to top universities easily.

If you’re looking for an enrichment program that focuses on this skill, check out StarWorks! This program is suitable for children aged 10 to 12 and sets up a foundation of learning that will be vital for them to thrive in the future. Students will read and discuss current affairs with our highly experienced teacher, who will then guide them on how to present their ideas through writing. Our program goes beyond what classrooms usually do, as students will be able to spend time focusing on how an issue can impact society and what possible solutions there are, instead of being rushed to complete the learning objectives of a syllabus.