The dangers of being a blind follower can be seen throughout our culture, from drug use to harmful political policies. As a parent, you want your child to live a life according to the values you teach rather than following other people's idea of what is right or appropriate in a given situation. You can begin teaching your children to be independent thinkers as soon as they have rudimentary communication skills.
1 Model the behavior you want your child to emulate. Allow your child to see you in leadership roles. In your life, seek to stand out in a positive manner so your child sees the advantages of not blindly following a crowd.
2 Spend time with your child talking to him about the culture. For example, if you are watching TV and you see an example of bullying, ask your child why he thinks the group behaved in such an antisocial manner. Even young children can articulate that the bullies might have felt worried about people not liking them or had developed bad habits. By learning to analyze the motives of other people, children can create an intellectual distance between themselves and dangerous group think, which protects them from mindlessly going along with other people's bad ideas. This inquiry-based approach can help children better understand the concepts you are teaching.
3 Teach your child how to make decisions. Involve her in family discussions about vacations, chores and budgeting. Doing so will help her see that her own choices directly affect outcomes.
4 Teach your values to your child and model them in your life. Children who do not have a strong sense of values tend to look for answers from others, which can result in following peers who might have values that are harmful. Richard and Linda Eyre, authors of the book "Teaching Your Children Values," point out that teaching children to take responsibility for their actions, for example, helps to keep children from becoming followers.
5 Read to your children. The very nature of storytelling means that you'll be reading stories of good vs. evil. Talk about the subtle conflicts that characters face along with the major issues. Teach your children to identify right and wrong behaviors as well as how to approach difficult situations from an viewpoint that is independent from that of their peers.
- Don't be shy about teaching your values to your children. If you do not, someone else will be happy impose their values on your child instead.
- Don't encourage your child to question your authority as a parent in your quest to create an independent thinker. While "why" questions are often appropriate, allowing a child to ask "why" in response to a pressing request is teaching the child to argue with your directives.
- The University of Alabama Parenting Assistance Line: Encouraging Independent Thinking
- Teaching Your Children Values; Richard Eyre and Linda Eyre
- Networks: Improving Critical Thinking Skills in History
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