Sunday, June 10, 2012

Critical Thinking

"No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that created it. We need to see the world anew." - Albert Einstein

This topic has been weighing heavily on my mind lately as my son's language and understanding grows. There are a lot of boundaries we have waited to set because of his speech delay and the complexity of various boundaries. Now that his language is catching up I hear "No" coming out of my mouth more and more. I have started to cringe after I say it, constantly questioning if I'm robbing him of a moment of discovery or perhaps robbing myself of seeing him as the creative, passionate child he is.

"Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve." - Roger Lewin, Ph.D., British anthropologist and science writer

 It's easy to mistake divergent thinking as misbehavior. The way a child solves a problem will rarely match our version of how things should go. The child who questions you constantly and doesn't accept answers that aren't really answers is developing their critical thinking skills. They are learning to think for themselves and to really take to heart the importance of understanding. While this can often be frustrating, it is important to support this questioning. It is important to give time to the questioning. Those who question now will grow up to change our world because they won't be afraid to ask, "Why is it always this way? Why can't it be different?"

"Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time." - Hebrew Proverb 

It's also easy to address the behavior instead of the need. My son loves art but doesn't always want to be restricted to the paper. This sometimes means that markers somehow mark the table rather than his paper. It's easy to brush this off with frustration, set the limit of never drawing on our table, and have him be all done. However, both he and I benefit more from me asking myself, "What does my son need that he's not getting?" Perhaps he needs to process in a big way rather than in the small space that the borders of the paper allow. There are so many great ways to meet this! A large canvas or large roll of paper is the most obvious choice. There's also bath tub painting, heading outdoors to paint (the rain cleans for us!), and any number of other possible solutions. By letting his needs drive me rather than his behavior I'm allowing both of us to practice divergent and critical thinking.


  1. Thank you, Melinda, for this post. I particularly appreciate your statement, "It's easy to mistake divergent thinking as misbehavior. The way a child solves a problem will rarely match our version of how things should go." Some of the most amazing minds I know would be (and are) dismissed by too many of us in too many of our settings where children live. I am inspired by your sincerity, honesty, and openness.

  2. Thank you, Tim! It can be a struggle as an adult to let go of control but it is so worth it when you realize that the person you are leading is their own self with their own ideas.

  3. Excited for you to be Wesley's teacher. Thanks Melinda. This is such a great reminder, and beautiful writing as well.