Encouraging Children and Students to Think

I recently presented at a beautiful school to a group of teachers and parents. During our discussion about the school’s vision and the best learning environment for children, one of the parents asked, “when did parents move from being helicopter parents to lawnmower parents?”

They went on to explain that they understood we think we are helping out children by clearing the path for them, rather than letting them experience life in full. A fabulous discussion resulted with parents and teachers sharing their experiences and challenges as a result of how we have such an impact on whether our children choose to or have opportunities to encourage active thinking.

Looking back over my life, as well as my experience as a parent, I realise the mistakes, errors and blunders I have made have created much of my family’s happy memories, impactful experiences and opportunities to improve ourselves. In a school setting that is so curriculum heavy and with parents utilising various after school and before school activities, combined with extra-curricular activities to help their child experience more and to combat the work-life juggle, we are time poor when it comes to pure “thinking time” and often impatient when the opportunities arise.

We have a wonderful opportunity to grow thoughtful and considered individuals through engaged discussions and activities. It is the intention of every parent I meet to offer their child a better quality of life, more opportunities and the chance to improve themselves.

As we head into the school holidays I would like to share a few suggestions to help your child focus on or improve their thinking skills.

Ask open questions

The most common complaint I have from parents is that their child does not tell them what is happening in their day, school or with friends. If we look at our interactions, often as soon as we collect or see our children after school we ask “How was your day?” to a receive a resounding “Fine”, if we are lucky. Closed questions will offer closed responses, so think about what you are saying and listen to the words you choose. Create a few common questions you can use to open discussion and repeat them each day to encourage a pattern of response. Alternative questions could be:

“What was the best thing that happened today?”
“What did you do at lunchtime today?”
“Which subject/activity did you enjoy most today? Why?”

Listen to your child’s thoughts and hold back on solutions

As adults, particularly busy adults, we are constantly seeking to fight fires and fix problems at work, in life and for our children. The issues your child faces are what will build their experience base to be able to refer to in times of distress. By resolving issues for them we are teaching them to come to us for the answers. Ensure you listen well and can reiterate what the issue is with clarity. Use the opportunity to ask your child what they think they should do, share situations when you have faced a similar issue and discuss their thoughts as possible ideas, actions and next steps. Encourage them to think about:

  • What may come from these ideas or actions?
  • Who may be impacted?
  • How they will feel with that outcome?

Allow your child to make their own mistakes

Empower your child to identify what they think is the best action to take, allowing them to move forward and learn from the experience. Make sure you are not putting your experiences in their path. Sharing is one thing, however forcing or “lawnmowing” for them is not enabling learning through experience. Be available and accessible — ask how they went and be empathetic to their experience. Provide them with:

  • Positive feedback about their ownership and initiative
  • Why things went well (or not)
  • Constructive discussion about what they would do differently
  • Support if they need it to reassess what they should do next.

For more information, events and interesting reading go to www.turningpointconsulting.com.au

Kathryn TaylorKathryn Taylor is Director and Owner of Turning Point Consulting Pty Ltd. With more than 16 years of experience in human resources, talent management and career coaching, Kathryn has worked across a range of sectors and specialises in assisting education and corporate clients. Kathryn offers schools, businesses, educators, students, parents and aligned associations support in creating a platform for positive self-evaluation, to support proactive life planning and transition skills. She is an active and involved member of several advisory boards including Wellbeing Australia. www.turningpointconsulting.com.au