Archive for the ‘Raising Critical Thinkers’ Category

Start with Facts and Curiosity

Brave Writer

We believe we’re sharing facts, when in fact (ha!) we’re sharing interpretations of facts.

Your child is angry.
You say: “That video game is making you mad. Let’s take a break.”

Your child is squirmy.
You say: “Looks like you need a snack.”

Your child falls and scrapes a knee.
You say: “That must have hurt!”

All of your comments? They are not facts. We move from noticing what is (a child’s volume or scrunched up face) to labeling it (anger) to interpreting what it means (must be video games).

What If?

  • What if video games have nothing to do with the child’s feelings?
  • What if the child isn’t hungry?
  • What if your child’s scraped knee isn’t a big deal to the child?

When we move swiftly to interpretation, we are telling our kids “I know your insides better than you do.”

Interpretation is what we ALL do all the time to everyone, by the way. Not just our kids.

The antidote is curiosity.

Ask: “Are you angry? Is it because of something that happened in your video game or something else?”

Ask: “Do you want a snack?”

Ask: “You’ve got a scraped knee. How are you holding up?”

Less busy body energy and more interest. Less carefully crafted narrations of how our children appear to us and more ordinary conversation about living together.

It’s great when you’re wrong too. I remember a time when one of my sons was instantly furious! I assumed it was due to the video game he was playing. I started to ramp up, and then remembered: I better ask before I assume.

Sure enough, his anger was due to self-criticism. He had missed an important party for a friend. When he realized it, he was devastated.

How reasonable! How wrong I was about to be.

Facts and Curiosity

We interpret our children’s behavior constantly as though we are right. Start with facts and curiosity. This goes for all conversations, really. Get curious, resist the temptation to make meaning for others, learn.

I talk about this in Raising Critical Thinkers, and GUESS WHAT? I took the exercises in the book and added a slew more. I included journal prompts, checklists, ranking bars, and spaces for kids to write directly in the workbook: BECOMING A CRITICAL THINKER (ages 12-18).

Becoming a Critical Thinker

An Alternative to Certainty

Brave Writer

I spoke at a conference once where we talked about how to think well. One of the questions came up about certainty, and how you could know something for sure.

What we know is that even an objective fact gets shared by a subjective self. No matter how much people can agree that something is real and true, factual and verifiable, it’s how we talk about the “objective truth” that shapes our shared reality. Your interpretation immediately impacts how that fact is received: “It may be raining: one of us is happy about it and the other pissed off!”

Another Way

Here’s what I said in my book, Raising Critical Thinkers:

The alternative to certainty is intimacy. Intimacy means knowing more of the subject with more of yourself. It looks like a greater and greater tenderness toward a field of study— a hunger to become close to it, to know its compelling contours and unavoidable flaws. It means reading the subject’s ardent fans and listening with patience to its detractors. Intimacy leads to both a fascination with and protection of a subject’s inherent value. There’s inscrutability and mystery within every subject. Intimacy in learning means developing an ongoing relationship to that discipline, allowing it to morph and change, which requires humility. Mastery is a myth.

Intiimacy means when you feel tweaked or smug or concerned or urgent, that’s the moment to get curious. What else is there to know? Why does the other person see the same information so differently?

BIG NEWS! Introducing BECOMING A CRITICAL THINKER (for ages 12-18). I took the exercises that were inside Raising Critical Thinkers and added a slew more. I included journal prompts, checklists, ranking bars, and boxed spaces for kids to write directly in the book. BECOMING A CRITICAL THINKER is open for presale and will publish on May 7!

Becoming a Critical Thinker

NEW: Becoming a Critical Thinker!

Becoming a Critical Thinker

How does the queen of no workbooks get arm-twisted into writing one?


My editors believed in me. They thought you’d all want a book that gave your 12-18 year olds a way to work through the exercises in Raising Critical Thinkers. They also thought that I had more exercises and tricks up my sleeve (they were right).

And so, I made a thing and I like it! I hope you do too.

It’s called Becoming a Critical Thinker and it’s written directly to your teens.

Preorder Your Copy!

I have some big announcements related to the workbook coming closer to publication day (May 7, 2024) so stay tuned for those. But in the meantime: Yay! I wrote a workbook I would actually use with my own kids!

Editor’s Description

At a time when we’re constantly flooded with contradictory information and opinions, critical thinking skills are more important than ever. This accessible workbook is full of valuable insights, thought-provoking questions, and useful exercises to help teens and preteens expand their perspectives, skillfully navigate thorny issues, recognize bias, identify misinformation, and become more comfortable with dissent and differences of opinion. Becoming a Critical Thinker offers essential tools for students to mature into thoughtful, curious, and empathetic learners.

Becoming a Critical Thinker

Curiosity without Defensiveness

Brave Writer

How do we hear one another while holding our own ideas with conviction?

Remind ourselves that listening to someone else is in no way threatening to the conclusions we’ve already drawn.

Sometimes we find listening painful. To hear another viewpoint can feel as though we are allowing ourselves to be attacked or invalidated or undermined.

That’s not what’s happening.

Instead, when we give another person the floor to make their case, we are allowing for ideas to surface that need to be heard and accounted for (even in our own thinking). We may not be giving up anything about our position, but we at least can now imagine and understand the way in which our viewpoint is not addressing the core concerns of someone with a different perspective.

To be curious without defensiveness, then, is to allow someone else the space to say what they have to say without rushing in with a “gotcha” comment or the need to immediately retort with all the reasons their logic doesn’t work for us.

To show curiosity also doesn’t mean we can’t also express how we see it. Not only that, the best conversations include viewpoints—beliefs and perspectives that each person holds.

Curiosity without defensiveness starts at home with our little dissidents. Our kids will challenge our good ideas every day. Once in a while, ask them to share more. Discover how they put the pieces together for themselves and think about how we can account for:

  • their needs,
  • their beliefs,
  • their ideas in the solutions we create together.

I write a lot about these ideas with practical activities in my book, Raising Critical Thinkers.

Raising Critical Thinkers

Learning How to Think

Raising Critical Thinkers

Knowing what to think is not the same as knowing how to think.

What parent doesn’t want to give their kids a shortcut to a safe, meaningful, values-driven life?

I do!

The biggest temptation we face is what I call the “Parental Propaganda Program.” We have the belief that we’ve figured out how to live correctly. All we have to do is teach our kids what to think.

We tell them “sleeping eight hours makes you less cranky” and “eating vegetables matters” and “standing for this belief is essential.”

Teaching kids what to think short-circuits their ability to think well for themselves. They learn that someone else has the answers for them and to trust an authority figure more than their own research.

You may feel good about being that source of authority in your child’s life. After all, you’re that figure…for now. What about when they’re teens? Who will they select to tell them the one right path/answer? I’m here to tell you—many of them choose a slightly older teenager!

Learning How to Think

What happens if we put learning “how to think” first? It means taking a child’s dissent (or challenges) seriously. It means setting aside your preconceptions.

“I hate vegetables” becomes an opportunity. You support your child doing their own research, to honor their experiences.

Kids discover that their experiences drive meaningful questions that deserve to be asked (not automatically answered).

The choice to hold back our “better answers” is challenging for us!

And yet, parents often parrot information they’ve learned from an authority without thinking it through themselves.

I might ask myself:

  • Why do I assume vegetables are important?
  • What ways did people get nourished before supermarkets and year-round produce?
  • What else can I learn with my child about this subject?

Learning how to think protects a child from cults, peer pressure, and bullying others.

Raising Critical Thinkers