Imperfect parenting moments turn into gifts as our children watch us try to figure out what went wrong and how we can do better next time.
(Brené Brown).

Before delving into the questions that stimulate critical thinking and discussions, let’s explore why honing critical thinking skills is paramount and how it transcends the realm of rote learning. In the early stages of education, children are often exposed to rote learning, where information is memorized for easy recall—think of learning the alphabet or memorizing the periodic table in high school. Rote learning serves as a foundational filing system, enabling higher-order learning and eventually paving the way for critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a methodical approach to analyze, examine, evaluate, and employ problem-solving skills to question, theorize, and rationalize information. Unlike rote learning, critical thinking allows teenagers to scrutinize the validity of the information presented. In today’s fast-paced information age, with an overflow of data, cultivating critical thinking skills becomes essential for navigating the constant influx of information.

As teenagers undergo cognitive maturation, their metacognition and critical thinking abilities evolve. It is our responsibility as adults in their lives to nurture and encourage the development of these skills. Critical thinking is not merely a theoretical concept but a practical tool to make significant decisions and solve complex problems. Introducing critical thinking through simple scenarios helps teenagers acquire the process, which involves a series of steps forming the framework for its execution.

Step One: Gain knowledge of the problem by asking questions and identifying the issue.
Step Two: Understand the problem by collecting data from various sources and assessing its validity.
Step Three: Analyze the problem, considering strong and weak points, challenges, and potential solutions.
Step Four: Take action by implementing the chosen solution, remaining flexible to re-evaluate if needed.
Step Five: Evaluate the outcome, fostering reflection and learning from the experience.

Now, applying this process to conversations with your teenager involves posing two key questions based on the nature of the situation.

Question One: “What is your plan for…?” This question not only defines the problem for the teenager but also offers an opportunity to correct any misunderstandings about the request. For instance, if your teenager wants to spend the weekend at a friend’s house while assuring you they will complete all their homework, you can delve into critical thinking to work toward a viable solution.

Question Two: “How will you…?” This question initiates a critical thinking process to navigate a problem. For example, if your teenager has performed poorly on an exam, resulting in a failing grade, asking, “How will you change your grade from an F to a B?” prompts them to take responsibility and find intrinsic motivation to rectify the situation.

These two questions serve as catalysts for critical thinking and discussions, but there are myriad others that can be tailored to your parenting style. Remember, as parents, instilling critical thinking skills is a responsibility that equips teenagers for challenges throughout their lives.