"Can you take me to laminate this important paper," my 15-year-old son asks. "Where do you want to go," I reply. He looks at me with a blank stare. This is a moment of choice; I can solve the problem myself or guide him to think on his own. I choose the latter.
"How can you find that information," I question. The light bulb goes on. He grabs the iPad and starts searching. "I found a place. Can we go?" he asks.
Instead of jumping in and solving children's problems, parents can ask open-ended questions (especially to teenagers.) This empowers them to become an independent, responsible thinker which is vital in today's world.
How is that done you ask? Read on
As my husband starts driving, he asks our son, "How do I get to the store?" Now my husband is met by a blank look. Then the light bulb goes on again, "I can use the GPS." My husband and I smile at each other, this sure is fun!
After only one U-turn, we arrive at the store. I ask, "So what is your plan?" My son shrugs, "I don't know I have never had anything laminated before." We smile at him sending the message — we know you can figure it out.
He looks around and spots the copy center. After paying for the services, he turns to look at us with a huge grin on his face.
My husband pats his shoulder and asks, "How do we get home?"
Oh the joys of being a parent
Guiding our son to think on his own and solve his problem took three times longer than us doing it for him. But it was so worth it! His confidence, and independent thinking skills increased substantially that day.
Instead of being nervous about how children will survive in the world, parents can teach, mentor and guide them to be independent thinkers.
What are the steps?
Have faith in your children
and their abilities. They are individual human beings with incredible potential. They can be trained and mentored to independently think and analyze information. Many times they are capable of accomplishing much more than parents believe.
Ask open ended, thought-provoking questions
Open ended questions start with "How" and "What." As parents ask children questions, they are required to think, evaluate, and process information on their own.
Ask children their opinion
Involve children in solving their own problems by asking questions like, "What do you think?" Let them openly express their opinions.
If parents need children to explore the consequences ask, "What would happen if you _?" Help children consider the possible effects of inappropriate or unhelpful ideas, which also teaches children to think before they act.
Wait for them to answer
Be patient as children think about possible solutions. Do not answer for them. If they get stuck, ask another leading question and wait for an answer.
Help them understand the value
After parents teach children a skill, behavior or belief ask, "Why is this important?" When children understand the "why" they discover the value, benefit or blessing and are more willing to live it.
When I asked my son how he felt about our adventure, he replied, "It felt great!" He feels greater confidence in his own ability to think independent of me and my husband.
As parents regularly guide their children through these steps, they become empowered to responsibly think and act for themselves — no matter what the world throws at them.