How to Teach Your Children How to Think

Parents want the best for their children and often make decisions for them in their daily lives. However, if we don't offer them the opportunity to think for themselves, we'll be nullifying their capacity for reflection.
How to Teach Your Children How to Think
María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist María Alejandra Castro Arbeláez.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Wanting to solve your child’s problems is quite normal and really helps your child to feel protected and loved. However, if you abuse this then you’ll fall into the trap of not letting your children make their own decisions. In this article you’ll discover ways to teach your children how to think for themselves.

Psychologist Sal Severe believes that a parent’s objective should be to teach their children to think before they act. Children must know how to solve, or at least know how to face, problems that will surely come when they reach adolescence. Therefore, parents, instead of just giving their children all the solutions, should teach them to consider all the alternatives with a view to deciding for themselves.

The importance of teaching your children how to think: social competence

In today’s educational system we often fill our children with information when, in fact, the essence of education is to learn how to cope with new situations and problems.

Many of the problems we get ourselves into are due to impulsive decisions, with little reasoning. Some of the problems, such as drug use, may arise because adolescents haven’t learned to weigh their actions and measure their consequences.

The fact is that when we encourage children to reason correctly, then we’re developing their social competence. In other words, teaching your children to think will help them to know how to live and cope better in life’s circumstances. As a result, they’ll find it easier to study, and will be more socially competent.

So, we know the importance of teaching our children how to think, but how can we encourage them to think for themselves?

How to Teach Your Children How to Think

Strategies for teaching your children how to think

Creating a reflective atmosphere

  • Take your children to a museum, read with them or watch TV together. After that, suggest that you talk about what you’ve seen and heard. Don’t just settle for taking your children to a museum to admire the exhibits. Ask them questions and challenge their imagination.
  • Involve the whole family in this reflective exercise. For example, dinner is a good time to talk about the day’s events and help your children to reason at the same time.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Single-answer questions don’t stimulate a child’s imagination. However, questions that have a subjective answer and that arouse their curiosity and interest will help your children think.

“The future well-being of the world will require effective thinking (…) Effective thinking in business and professional life is essential for survival, success and competence.

– Edward de Bono –

Use of critical thinking methods

  • “PCI” is a technique for considering all aspects that surround an issue. The psychologist Edward de Bono, creator of this technique, explains that PCI consists of looking for the Pros, Cons and Points of Interest concerning an issue.
  • Considering different opinions. Invite your children to consider a second or third opinion. Encourage them to be interested in other points of view.
  • Discover patterns and links. Identifying and relating patterns is the foundation of education. This makes it easier to study and avoids repetitive memorization. Ask your child questions such as: “How does this relate to what you learned in class?”
  • Always look for innovation. Children and adolescents are characterized by their willingness to do things a little differently. Parents should encourage them not to lose this habit.

Let your child make decisions, question things, and even to make mistakes. It’s clearly a parent’s responsibility to help their children in their day-to-day lives, but we must also give them the opportunity to reason for themselves about how to solve their problems.

Parents must be involved in their children’s decision making, but always from the point of view of a guide. Sal Severe points out that questions are the most effective tool to help a child when they’re reflecting on a decision they have to take.

How to Teach Your Children How to Think


Ask your child questions like, “What did you do today?” “What could you have done?” or “What can you do next time?” These kinds of questions will help them to reflect. If they make a habit of this then it’ll gradually make thinking easier and will certainly make their day-to-day decision making easier too.

If we encourage critical thinking from childhood, then we’ll make it easier for children to become more socially competent in an increasingly competitive world.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.