Teach Kids How To Think

Kids say lots of stuff. Some of it unpleasant. Some of it complicated. Lots of it that we have the urge to react to, correct or change. 
 
We often hear our kids says something not-so-nice about others or about themselves and then want to replace their words with words and ideas of our own, life lessons from our experiences. 
 
Here’s the thing: it’s not that useful. The shelf life is limited. 
 
Why? Because whenever we focus on telling kids what to think… we miss out on an opportunity to teach them how to think. When we try to replace their stories with our own, we miss out on an opportunity to help kids learn to pause, reflect and *ask themselves questions* – the processes necessary for change and growth. 
 
As parents we like life lessons too. Yes of course we can tell our kids things like: being first in line doesn’t mean anything about importance! Mommy has time for each one of you! reading chapter books isn’t a sign of intelligence! 
 
And yet, every time we say something like this – some platitude – it just always feels like it falls flat. There’s almost nowhere to go from there, maybe only our kid saying, “Thanks mom” and then walking off, still feeling a bit defeated. Our attempts to teach our kids what to think only feels somewhat helpful to them. 
 
So, what else can we do? Pause. Ask questions. Activate curiosity. 

When our kids say the comments that prompt the platitudes – comments like, I have to be first in line! You don’t have enough time for me! I can’t read chapter books like my friends! – well, first pause. Take a breath. Then consider the following: 

Tell your child, “I’m so glad we’re talking about this. It’s so important.” 

Then tell your child, “I can tell this really matters to you. You really know that, and I can see it.” 

Then learn more through inquiry. Some starters: Tell me more; And then what happened; Oh, keep going; Tell me how that works; Tell me how that feels; Tell me what would feel better; Let’s figure this out together. 

When we pause and learn, we teach children to look at their own thoughts, to ask themselves questions, to be curious about the way they think and feel. What a gift to start this circuitry early in life. 

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