Parents are highly influential in a child’s life. Children are also influenced by youth pastors, teachers, social media, peers, coaches, employers, movie stars, sports figures, and their favorite singers.
Our children receive a lot of “information” in today’s media-saturated world by which to base their opinions about everything from what to wear to which stance to take on important world events.
How can we teach our children, that while those who influence them are important (some more than others), they do need to learn to think for themselves?
Encourage good role models. With our patient help and God’s guidance, they can navigate the wide range of choices in today’s society and choose a role model that will influence their lives for the better. For tips, check out 10 ways to help your kids choose good role models.
Give them practice. As a homeschool mom, I’ve often come up with several out-of-the-box assignments designed to help my daughters, not only think for themselves, but to also investigate “all sides of an issue”. My youngest daughter recently began an in-depth assignment I gave her regarding mask usage. Her assignment is to investigate fully the pros and cons and whether or not masks are effective in preventing the spread of Covid. She is also to research and find out if there are any “side effects” with regular mask wearing. This would include researching the opinions and studies of several medical professionals from various outlets, from the private sector to governmental agencies, and everyone in between – with an open mind.
The second part of the assignment is to take a poll/survey on both social media and among family members and friends, encouraging them to weigh in with comments.
The conclusion of her assignment would be to make a decision based on her research.
Other assignments have included: Should we keep the Electoral College? Why or why not? Is socialism a good idea and why are some in the United States pushing for socialism?
During election years, my daughters are given assignments to fully investigate and research the candidates running for offices, whether they be local, county, state, or federal offices. Based on those investigations, they complete a sample ballot indicating who they would vote for and why.
Letters to the editor have also been assigned, as well as research on world religions and how they compare to Christianity.
Encourage them to investigate. As I mentioned in my mask assignment, it’s critical to encourage our kids to investigate. Everything. Every day, I bring a topic to our breakfast table and my daughters and I discuss it. I have been doing this since they were little, and the topics have always been age-appropriate. We’ve ventured into such topics as peer pressure, drinking, drugs, what to look for in a husband, abortion, politics, and current events.
You don’t have to be a homeschooling family to give “practice assignments” or investigate topics over the breakfast table. The dinner table works just as well, as does time in the car going to and from activities. Also, public-schooled children will have an additional dynamic to add to the conversation based on their day at a public school.
Make time for important discussions. No matter what type of schooling your family partakes in, or even if your children are still too young to attend school or are college-aged, make time to have those important chats. You will never regret time spent with your children and time spent finding out what matters to them and what struggles they face. Having open dialogue helps them with important decisions and to think through those decisions with the assistance of trusted adults and siblings.
Encourage discernment. We live in a crazy, fast-paced, oftentimes biased world. Some influencers don’t have your children’s best interests at heart. Their “ideas” may be extreme, or at the very least, far different than those that are healthy or even reasonable for your child.
Teach your children how to discern between what is right and what is wrong. The only true and reliable “truth meter” to base discernment on is God’s Word. It is the only Truth that never changes in an ever-changing, chaotic world. If something is against His Word, then it’s not something we should espouse.
For example, many of today’s youth have been encouraged to destroy other people’s property or even harm people in the name of “peaceful protesting”. What does God’s Word have to say about burning, looting, destroying property and harming people?
The Bible is clear that we need to treat others the way we ourselves would want to be treated.
Encourage them to ask questions. Questions are a good thing and should be encouraged. It’s how they learn and it ensures they will take nothing at face value, but question all things.
Encourage respect. I’m not too young that I don’t remember a time when people could agree to disagree. A time when we could still care about and be friends with those with differing opinions. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.
In teaching our children to think for themselves, we must also teach them that when they do disagree with someone, whether it be politics, religion, medical choices, or something as mundane as what brand of clothes is best, they can do it respectfully. And to disagree respectfully does not mean that they condone the choices or behavior of the other party. It simply means that they choose not to disparage others due to differences of opinion.
Encourage logic. Some great resources for teaching your children logic are The Thinking Toolbox: Thirty-five Lessons That Will Build Your Reasoning Skills ,The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning, and The Art of Argument: An Introduction to the Informal Fallacies, Student Text, Revised.
In a world where at times evil is bent on securing your child’s devotion, make it a point to come alongside your child and teach them to think for themselves. To stand strong in the face of adversity, to question things that seem “off” and to, above all else, allow the Holy Spirit and the precious words found within the pages of the Bible to guide them in making the right decisions.
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