Supporting your Child’s Well-Being Through Critical Thinking

The best way to foster critical thinking is to encourage questioning. “Why?” “How do you know?”” What is your evidence?” “Is there an alternative explanation?”

B.Ed, M..Ed
Registered Psychologist
I have worked in schools and private practice as a teacher and a School Psychologist for over 35 years.

Everyday we face a barrage of information and we have to sort through it all and make sense of it in order to guide our decisions. This has never been more apparent in then our current situation where we are presented with constant, ever changing and often contradictory information about the pandemic that has the potential to impact our health and well-being. The Nobel Prize winning economist, Daniel Kahneman suggests that people use two kinds of “systems” to manage all the thinking tasks (Tranter, Boland and Carson, 2018). Most of the time we use the “Fast Thinking System” where we rely mostly on intuition, emotions and experiences rather than deliberate thinking. This works for typical daily tasks where habits have been established and little thought is required. In contrast, the “Slow Thinking System” is fully engaged, and requires effort. It is open- minded, analytical, flexible and designed to handle new and complex tasks. The problem is that the brain likes to be efficient and this can lead to the overuse of fast thinking without even realizing it. As a result, we may close our mind to new information, make snap judgements and come to faulty conclusions while believing we have been thoughtful in our decisions. 

It is important as adults that we encourage slow thinking in children when needed. An effective way to do this is to model and teach critical thinking skills. According to Madeline Levine, PhD (2020), critical thinking is essential in a knowledge- based economy because it allows us to:     

  • more effectively analyze information        
  • evaluate the credibility of diverse information sources 
  • separate fact from opinion 
  • examine a viewpoint from all sides without personal bias 
  • engage self-awareness and empathy 
  • justify our thinking 
  • create capacity to deal with change and uncertainty 

The best way to foster critical thinking is to encourage questioning. “Why?” “How do you know?”” What is your evidence?” “Is there an alternative explanation?” These types of questions help to slow down the brain and foster critical thinking. As an adult, resist the temptation to provide a solution and let discovery happen. Recognizing the importance of critical thinking during this pandemic to curate all the information available on the news and through social media, the Government of Canada is promoting a  strategy called “Think First, Share After” to help stop the spread of misinformation.  It provides an excellent discussion tool for adults and children to examine this issue. Developing critical thinking skills will be an important protective factor as our children face future dilemmas that we cannot even imagine yet. 

Do you often find yourself thinking, “ I can’t stand to see my child unhappy”? Resilience only occurs when there is adversity.  It is not about having our every need met. Read more about this topic.

References: 

Levine, Madeline (2020). Ready or Not- Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World, Harper Collins Press. 

Tranter, David, Dr., Carson, Lori and Boland, Tom (2018). The Third Path- A Relationship Based Approach to Student Well-Being and Achievement, Nelson. 

Deborah Hinds-Nunziata
B.Ed, M..Ed Registered Psychologist I have worked in schools and private practice as a teacher and a School Psychologist for over 35 years.