I interviewed a young child who told me his teacher tells the class all about her political views. Recently, the young student raised his hand and said,

"But on the news this morning, I saw…” (He described an opposing scene that refuted the teacher’s point of view.)

Immediately the teacher interrupted with, "No you didn't. That's not true."

The teacher's beliefs about politics are not important. It's the effect the teacher's behavior had on the student and others in the class who saw the same TV report that is important

In Today’s Article We’ll Share:

5 likely results when kids are shut down
9 parenting tips to expand your kids’ critical thinking skill
9 discussion questions to broaden your child’s mind

5 Results When Kids' Can't Share Opposing Views in Class

Slamming the door on a child’s view has consequences:

1. Hurt
My teacher doesn’t believe me.

2. Upset
She called me a liar.

3. Self-doubt
Maybe I didn’t see what I saw

4. Fear of Punishment
I might get a bad grade.

5. Need for Approval
If I say what I think, nobody will like me.

Respectful challenges from kids need not threaten adults.

As parents or teachers, our role is to expand our children’s ability to think not stifle it. We need to teach children how to discuss, to see different sides to problems and to create sensible solutions. Only then, will our kids be able to make informed choices now and in the future.

9 Ways Parents Promote Open-Minded Thinking Skills in Kids

Everyone wants to be treated with respect and listened to by an open-minded person. When children or adults are heard, their defensiveness goes down and their cooperation goes up.

You can teach your child share his thoughts by:

1. Modeling Open-Mindedness.
Model the openness you want to see in your kids.

2. Listening well.
Listening shows you are open-minded. An open-minded person wants to learn. She is willing to change her mind when presented with better information. A closed-minded person can’t admit she’s wrong. Listening without interrupting is the important key.

3. Being respectful.
Talking kindly and acting with consideration shows him you respect him and opens the door to better communication.

4. Staying calm.
Keeping the tone conversational, sets the right mood for good discussions.

5.Asking questions to understand your child’s thoughts.
Knowing what your child thinks helps you guide the conversation and helps her clarify her thoughts.

6. Requesting evidence to support each side an issue.
Looking at good evidence on each side helps make balanced decisions. It also helps kids see why someone might think differently.

7. Weighing the consequences.
Asking, "What are the positive and/or negative outcomes for each side?" helps create better solutions.

8. Asking for a decision or a compromise when appropriate.
Arriving at the best results for all parties is the goal. Who wouldn't like that?

9. Praising your child for seeing both sides of an issue.
Adults hold the key to raising open-minded thinkers. Let’s unlock our children’s thoughts by first modeling the openness we seek to instill in them.

A personal story:

Every Thursday we have dinner and discussions with our grandchildren, 11 year-old Allyssa, and 14 year-old Ethan. Recently, I asked them to discuss,

"Should teachers give homework?"
They had to give both sides of the question, the advantages of the side they favored and even the positive side of the one they disagreed with. They also discussed the consequences of each side.

Allyssa eagerly gave reasons for the side she agreed with. Surprisingly, she thought teachers should give homework. When asked to give good reasons for the opposite side, she said, "Grandma, why would I do that? I don't believe it."

Ethan leaned over and said, "Allyssa, so we can become skilled thinkers." I thought, "Wow! He gets it."

Both children decided teachers should give homework but not much. "After all," they said, "Children need time to relax, be with their families, and play video games."

I praised them for thinking through each side and making the "not much homework" compromise.

9 Questions that Increase Kids' Critical Thinking Skills

Choose one question per dinner discussion. Note that these are questions most kids can relate to. Enjoy listening to their opinions and make sure they give reasons for both sides before they come to a final decision.

Caution: You're not looking for right or wrong answers. You're teaching them to become skilled thinkers and see both sides of subjects.

1. Should teachers give homework?
2. Is it ever okay to lie?
3. Should kids’ weekday bedtime be the same on weekends?
4. Should kids tattle?
5. Is it okay to ignore friends while you text?
6. Should kids get everything they want?
7. Should kids have rules?
8. Is it alright for teachers to punish kids?
9. Is self-discipline necessary for kids

Learning to see more than one side of problems helps your children avoid narrow-mindedness. They will become more tolerant of others, empathic and able to compromise when needed. Open-mindedness will prepare them for the real world too.

Raising Skilled Thinkers: Solutions for Parents and Teachers

Helping our children become broad-minded thinkers who see the bigger picture and make good decisions is the goal. In summary, here are 4 ways for us to achieve those goals:

1. Discuss age-appropriate questions that kids can relate to.
2. Ask them to give good ideas for each side.
3. Ask them to decide which side is best or to compromise if it makes sense.
4. Compliment their ability to see the bigger picture and make good decisions.

When we raise open-minded children, we help them make good choices for themselves now and in the future. They’ll become reasonable respectful people who’ll know how to discuss, think through problems, and make good decisions. We’ll be building character too.

Author's Bio: 

Jean Tracy, mother, former teacher, probation officer, and family counselor for 22 years, shares her counseling secrets with parents everywhere through her free newsletter, blog, videos, and unique parenting products. Jean’s mission is to help parents build strong healthy characters in their children.