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Teacher and Speech Therapist Paulette Chaffee on
Encouraging Your Children to Think Critically

Think Critically

The secret is out: technology has impacted our critical thinking skills. Why is that important to know? Critical thinking benefits a child’s intellectual capabilities and development in numerous ways, such as boosting IQ scores, creativity, independence, language comprehension, problem-solving, and more. According to educator and speech therapist Paulette Chaffee, parents can play a significant role in encouraging children to think critically. Here Ms. Chaffee provides parents with these tips on how to help children engage more in critical thinking:

1. Set the Example

Research from UCLA professor of psychology Patricia Greenfield, who is also the director of Los Angeles’ Children’s Digital Media Center, reveals that though technology has improved human visual skills, it has declined skills in critical thinking. Critical thinking is a vital skill and encouraging children to think critically is incredibly important.

Parents can start teaching their children how to think critically by setting an example first. Though getting lost on a smart device or watching television is always the more tempting option during downtime, parents should strive to stay off technology and be present with children as much as possible. Setting the example to not sit in front of a screen for long periods can help parents be more proactive teachers rather than hypocritical ones that children witness saying one thing but doing another. 

2. Talk Through Problems Aloud

Children tend to copy the behaviors they see from their parents. In addition to limiting technology use in front of children, parents can involve children in critical thinking by talking aloud when solving or working through a problem. For example, suppose parents come across a statement they may think is untrue. In that case, parents can talk through challenging the information, turn to online research, and share the results they find from factual and reliable sources and their conclusion.

3. Play First, Teach Second

One way children learn is through trial and error, and parents who play with children and participate in trial-and-error activities aid in building critical thinking skills. Parents who regularly play with their children during their early years help set a foundation to foster critical thinking skills. Also, quality time playing with children opens the door for parents to have meaningful conversations and engage a child in a discussion that involves critical thinking and asking questions.

4. The Socratic Method

The Socratic Method is an excellent teaching tactic parents can use when inspiring kids to think critically. This method is seen as a way to foster critical thinking in group or one-on-one discussions. The Greek philosopher Socrates created the Socratic Method, a dialogue between students and teachers, where the teacher moves the conversation along with questions aimed at exploring beliefs. The student actively engages by asking their own questions. This method works best with discussions revolving around topics like art, humanities, ethics of science, and philosophy.

This method can be taught anywhere, which is why it is excellent for parents to utilize. When using the Socratic Method, parents should remember not to give a child direct answers but rather offer questions in the place of answers. This active questioning activity helps expose children to the possibility of answering a question from multiple angles to find the best solution. 

About Paulette Chaffee

Paulette Chaffee is a teacher, speech therapist, and attorney deeply involved in the Fullerton community. As an educator and member of various non-profit boards, her focus has always been on providing children with the highest quality education. Ms. Chaffee holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Redlands, a California Lifetime Teaching Credential, and is admitted to the California Bar.

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