Critical Thinking Skills

By Various Authors
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teenage girl reading book on grass, summertime lifestyle
Teaching children to think critically, whether in books or about what people say, is a skill that will benefit them their entire life.

Teaching children to think critically will help them develop a skill that will benefit them their entire lives. Here are some ways that other parents have trained their kids in this important cognitive area:

Correcting a Child’s Confusion

Recently, my 5-year-old proclaimed that she had leprosy. Naturally, I assured her she didn’t.

She retorted, “Oh, yes I do because I heard my friend say that leprosy makes your skin itch, and my skin itches, so I have leprosy.”

That is when I taught my young daughter that before repeating a new word or phrase to others, she needed to ask herself a few questions:

  • Was the information meant for her?
  • Where did she hear it?
  • What was the context of what she’d heard?

Finally, she needed to tell Mom and Dad what she’d heard and ask us what it meant before spreading a misunderstanding to others.

—Laura Bailey

Wonder Together

My children and I made an I Wonder book. We jotted down questions about daily observations. We didn’t answer any of the questions. Instead, we wondered out loud, talking together and brainstorming possible answers. If a certain question led to serious interest and conversation, we might get books on the topic or research it online.

By wondering, we created a habit of observing, which led to analyzing. It was the first step in teaching my kids the critical-thinking process.

—Cathy Edwards

Dinner-Table Topics

A few nights a week, I present my kids with simple questions or discussion topics relevant to each child’s season of life. Silly, spontaneous questions are my favorite, but we also talk about more serious topics.

  • If a raccoon (my son’s favorite animal) could be a schoolteacher, what subjects would it teach?
  • If you could ask the president one question, what would it be?

These questions trigger imaginative answers based on my kids’ knowledge, developing worldview and problem-solving skills. They also create opportunities for the kids to analyze each other’s answers and offer additional insight. But we don’t allow harsh criticism. Our dinner-table discussions come with an Ephesians 4:29 rule: Each family member must avoid “unwholesome talk,” only making comments that build others up and help the solutions being discussed.

—Amy Traurig

Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers

Here is how I help my kids select good reading material:

  • I model healthy choices in what I stockpile on my nightstand.
  • Casually, I recommend worthwhile reads. I explain what I liked — interesting plot, deftly drawn characters, a redemptive theme.
  • Sharing a Kindle account helps me keep tabs on what’s being downloaded. And it’s a great method for sharing the books I find worthwhile.
  • When a movie is based on a book (and is acceptable to see), we talk about the merits of characters’ actions. Then I encourage my children to read the book.
  • I point out how, or even if, a book’s content exemplifies a biblical worldview.

—Jane Johnson Struck

Books and Critical Thinking

Our children will eventually come to understand that not everyone in our communities, our country or the world share our beliefs. There will be times when kids read opinions that directly contradict what they’ve learned at home and in church.

As a parent, you can help your child build a strong foundation in critical-reading skills. And you can help him or her examine exactly what messages are being communicated:

  • Inform your child about different beliefs. Explain that a worldview is behind everything he reads. It requires careful thought to decide whether the source is trustworthy.
  • Point out loaded expressions and terminology. Ask your child, “How can words sway our thinking, either positively or negatively?”
  • Encourage your child to discuss ideas she’s read. The time spent contemplating different beliefs with discernment will strengthen and develop your child’s faith.

—Kirsetin Morello

“Correcting a Child’s Confusion” © 2019 Laura Bailey. “Wonder Together” © 2019 Cathy Edwards. “Dinner-Table Topis” © 2019 Amy Traurig. “Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers” © 2014 Jane Johnson Struck; “Books and Critical Thinking Skills” © 2012 Kirsetin Morello. All right reserved. Used by permission.

From a Focus on the Family publication:
First in the October/November 2019 issue of Focus on the Family: “Correcting a Child’s Confusion,” “Wonder Together” and “Dinner-Table Topics.” The Summer 2014 issue of Thriving Family: “Ways to Cultivate Discerning Readers.” It was titled “Ways to Cultivate Discerning Teen Readers.” First in the August/September 2012 issue of Thriving Family: “Books and Critical Thinking Skills.”


Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.
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About the Author

Various Authors

This article is a compilation of articles written by various authors. The author names are found within the article.

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