Never seem to be in a hurry — hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself and over time. (Robert Greene)
Teenagers often act impulsively, without thought or consideration of the consequences of their actions. As parents we see the finish line of how an impulsive decision can end and often we want to stop it, to manage and control our teenager and the outcome. As a parent, I know we want to minimize those “hurtful” learning opportunities our teenager is going to have, but they are that – a learning opportunity. We must allow our teens to make those impulsive decisions to later be able to have that teachable moment with them. However, as a parent we can provide early learning opportunities to grow our teens’ critical thinking skills. As a parent you are thinking, “Sign me up!”
One thing we can do as a parent is to teach the five steps of critical thinking and work through the steps with your teen. Start with an easy learning opportunity. Discuss planning a family dinner or outing with your teen. Work through the five steps of critical thinking (See Blog Post March 6, 2022 for the five steps). In this scenario, you as the parent have all the information and can go through the process of picking the best family meal to make or best outing. You and your teen can look at the different people involved, what they enjoy, what is common among everyone. Through this process your teen is using and developing critical thinking skills. The great thing about this process is that you as the parent are involved and the outcome is not one where the consequences have far reaching effects to your teens self-esteem or self-confidence. It is actually the opposite as they see the success in using critical thinking skills. They will begin to understand how important it is to look at certain scenarios through this lens and not to make choices or decisions impulsively. However, be ready for those impulsive decisions, they take time to evolve into consistent critical thinking patterns.
The steps involved encourage your teen to look ahead. This encourages planning for the future. This is a skill which you can encourage in your teen and can help them to write goals. The ability to analyze options, risks and opinions will help your teen in the future, including when they decide which course to take at college or which job to take. Your teen will also gain an awareness of the consequences of their actions. This is a skill which is transferable in their everyday lives, that their choices have consequences.
Another great way to teach critical thinking skills is to share a scenario where you used the steps and what the outcome was. The Big Thing would be to share a time that perhaps your critical thinking process was not perfect and you had to re-evaluate as you were going through the situation and push a little deeper into your own resilience and skills to create a winning outcome for everyone involved in the situation.
Overall critical thinking skills are that – a skill set that we as parents, coaches, and mentors of teenagers are responsible for helping our teen develop.