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In This Noisy World, Kids Really Need Critical Thinking

In This Noisy World, Kids Really Need Critical Thinking

More than 1 in 6 students in the United States are unable to solve complex thinking problems, according to the 2012 PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) test done on 15 year old children in 44 different countries[1]. Though American students did well overall, they consistently lagged behind their Asian counterparts. Unfortunately, kids who lack critical thinking problem solving skills face a higher risk of behavior and economical problems as adults.

Our modern society tends to squash essential critical thinking skills with mind-numbing television shows, video games and self-explanatory simple directions. It eliminates problem solving skills by readily spoon feeding easy accessible solutions. The death of vital critical thinking has become eminent.

Critical Thinking Comprises 4 Skills

Critical thinking skills help kids solve complex problems and think for themselves.[2]

Logical Thinking

Using the scientific method approach to thinking and eliminating emotion.

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Research

Learning how to find solutions backed by facts through research, using scientific data to help formulate answers.

Self Awareness

The ability to perceive when their own bias from personal experience clouds their analysis of situations and learning to remove emotional judgments in their problem solving.

Thinking Outside the Box

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Challenging rules and questioning answers. Having the capability to view the problem from different perspectives, review all of the facts, not just their own, and pick the most logical solution.

Our Education System Tends to Stifle Children’s Critical Thinking Skills

With their emphasis on memorization and fill in the bubble tests, our education system tends to stifle children’s critical thinking skills. They drill facts and support one correct-answer thinking. But the essential soft skills of critical thinking provide children with the building blocks of a better future in the real world. These necessary problem solving skills also help to develop self confidence.

Ways to Help Your Child Develop Critical Thinking Skills

You don’t need to hire a private instructor to help your child develop these essential soft skills. You can easily incorporate complex problem solving lessons into your daily life.

Ask Your Child”Why”

Remember how your kids drove you crazy when they went through the “why’ stage? They constantly bombarded you with ‘why.’ Why is the sky blue? Why is the ball round. Why? Why? Why? Now it’s time to turn the tables and ask them why. According to Marlana Martinelli at WeAreTeachers.com, asking ‘why five times helps kids build critical thinking skills to solve problems[3].

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When your child presents you with a problem, such as needing a new video game, ask them why. They might say because it’s popular and everyone has it. Your second ‘why’ will have them digging into what makes it popular. They might say it’s based on WWII. Ask ‘why’ again. The third ‘why’ will make them dig deeper into the reason it’s based on WWII. They might find out because it has optimum battle opportunities- again pose ‘why’. In the end they may even come out with a deeper understanding on the battles fought in WWII and the reason behind them.

Support Arguments at Home

Have your child argue their viewpoint on a subject. Do they want to have a later bedtime? Have them present their explanation on why they should stay up late. Then instead of telling them why you think they shouldn’t, put them in your shoes and have them think of the reasons why you aren’t letting them stay up late.

Brainstorm a solution. Perhaps the reason why you didn’t want them staying up past a certain time was because they couldn’t get up early for school. Hold a scientific experiment- a week of staying up later to see if they can cope with early rising. Let them collect the data for each day. Are they still too tired in the morning? Unable to concentrate in school? Analyze the data together and let them find the perfect solution. Perhaps an hour later is too much, but 30 minutes later would work? Try 30 minutes for a week and repeat the data collection and analysis process.

Incorporate Research Skills in Daily Life

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Develop your child’s critical thinking skills by challenging their minds with research. You can incorporate this in daily life. If they ask to go to a movie, have them look up the times and prices at the local theaters. Don’t stop there. For older kids, have them add in the popcorn and drinks (with tax) and create a budget needed for a trip to the movie. Also have them check out the ratings and reviews and decide if it will be worth the cost of seeing it in theater or waiting for 6 months later to rent it for a fraction of the price. This teaches them research. It can be used in a myriad of situations: skating, bowling. mini-golf trips. Reading reviews on a place or movie (TripAdvisor or Yelp is good for place reviews) shows them different perspectives and things they may not have considered.

Cook with Your Kids to Practice Trial and Error

The kitchen provides the optimum place to engage critical thinking skills in children (and adults too). Every meal can be used to develop critical thinking. Ask your child their opinion on the food. What would they do to improve the dish? Ask why. Would they add something for a personal preference or because it really needs it- like salt. Would they remove something? Why?

Cooking with your child also helps to build problem solving skills. Use failures- like a fallen cake or flat cookies as an opportunity to do research- why did that happen? Come up with a solution to use the next time. Perhaps a different oven temperature was needed, the wrong type of flour used, or maybe the butter needed to be at room temperature.

By cooking with your kids, you are not only teaching them necessary critical thinking skills, but also providing them with essential life skill of cooking. A double-duty bonus!

By helping your kids to develop their critical thinking through problem solving, research, and experiments in daily life, you are providing them with vital skills that will help them become better, more capable adults

Featured photo credit: Sasin Tipchai via pixabay.com

Reference

[1] OECD.org: United States- Results of 2012 PISA Study
[2] Dan Kurland. Criticalthinking.com: What is Critical Thinking?
[3] Martina Martinelli. Weareteachers.com: 10 Tips For Teaching Kids To Be Awesome Critical Thinkers

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Last Updated on October 30, 2019

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

How the Stages of Change Model Helps You Change Your Habits

Change is tough, there’s no doubt about it. Old habits are hard to shift, and adopting a new lifestyle can feel like an uphill battle!

In this article, you will learn about a simple yet powerful model:

Stages of change model, that explains the science behind personal transformation.

You’ll discover how and why some changes stick whereas others don’t last, and how long it takes to build new habits.

What is the Stages of Change Model?

Developed by researchers J.O. Prochaska and Carlo C. DiClemente over 30 years ago[1] and outlined in their book Changing For Good, the Stages of Change Model, also known as the Transtheoretical Model, was formed as a result of the authors’ research with smokers.

Prochaska and DiClemente were originally interested in the question of why some smokers were able to quit on their own, whereas others required professional help. Their key conclusion was that smokers (or anyone else with a bad habit) quits only when they are ready to do so.

Here’s an illustration done by cartoonist and illustrator Simon Kneebone about the different stages a smoker experiences when they try to quit smoking:

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    The Stages of Change Model looks at how these conscious decisions are made. It emphasizes that change isn’t easy. People can spend a long time stuck in a stage, and some may never reach their goals.[2]

    The model has been applied in the treatment of smoking, alcoholism, and drugs. It is also a useful way of thinking about any bad habit. Social workers, therapists, and psychologists draw on the model to understand their patients’ behaviors, and to explain the change process to the patients themselves.

    The key advantages to the model is that it is simple to understand, is backed by extensive research, and can be applied in many situations.

    The Stages of Change Model is a well-established psychological model that outlines six stages of personal change:

    1. Precontemplation
    2. Contemplation
    3. Determination
    4. Action
    5. Maintenance
    6. Termination

    How are these stages relevant to changing habits?

    To help you visualize the stages of change and how each progresses to the next one, please take a look at this wheel:[3]

      Let’s look at the six stages of change,[4] together with an example that will show you how the model works in practice:

      Stage 1: Precontemplation

      At this stage, an individual does not plan to make any positive changes in the next six months. This may because they are in denial about their problem, feel too overwhelmed to deal with it, or are too discouraged after multiple failed attempts to change.

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      For example, someone may be aware that they need to start exercising, but cannot find the motivation to do so. They might keep thinking about the last time they tried (and failed) to work out regularly. Only when they start to realize the advantages of making a change will they progress to the next stage.

      Stage 2: Contemplation

      At this stage, the individual starts to consider the advantages of changing. They start to acknowledge that altering their habits would probably benefit them, but they spend a lot of time thinking about the downside of doing so. This stage can last for a long time – possibly a year or more.

      You can think of this as the procrastinating stage. For example, an individual begins to seriously consider the benefits of regular exercise, but feels resistant when they think about the time and effort involved. When the person starts putting together a concrete plan for change, they move to the next stage.

      The key to moving from this stage to the next is the transformation of an abstract idea to a belief (e.g. from “Exercise is a good, sensible thing to do” to “I personally value exercise and need to do it.)[5]

      Stage 3: Preparation

      At this point, the person starts to put a plan in place. This stage is brief, lasting a few weeks. For example, they may book a session with a personal trainer and enrol on a nutrition course.

      Someone who drinks to excess may make an appointment with a drug and alcohol counsellor; someone with a tendency to overwork themselves might start planning ways to devise a more realistic schedule.

      Stage 4: Action

      When they have decided on a plan, the individual must then put it into action. This stage typically lasts for several months. In our example, the person would begin attending the gym regularly and overhauling their diet.

      Stage 4 is the stage at which the person’s desire for change becomes noticeable to family and friends. However, in truth, the change process began a long time ago. If someone you know seems to have suddenly changed their habits, it’s probably not so sudden after all! They will have progressed through Stages 1-3 first – you probably just didn’t know about it.

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      Stage 5: Maintenance

      After a few months in the Action stage, the individual will start to think about how they can maintain their changes, and make lifestyle adjustments accordingly. For instance, someone who has adopted the habit of regular workouts and a better diet will be vigilant against old triggers (such as eating junk food during a stressful time at work) and make a conscious decision to protect their new habits.

      Unless someone actively engages with Stage 5, their new habits are liable to come unstuck. Someone who has stuck to their new habits for many months – perhaps a year or longer – may enter Stage 6.

      Maintenance can be challenging because it entails coming up with a new set of habits to lock change in place. For instance, someone who is maintaining their new gym-going habit may have to start improving their budgeting skills in order to continue to afford their gym membership.

      Stage 6: Termination

      Not many people reach this stage, which is characterized by a complete commitment to the new habit and a certainty that they will never go back to their old ways. For example, someone may find it hard to imagine giving up their gym routine, and feel ill at the thought of eating junk food on a regular basis.

      However, for the majority of people, it’s normal to stay in the Maintenance period indefinitely. This is because it takes a long time for a new habit to become so automatic and natural that it sticks forever, with little effort. To use another example, an ex-smoker will often find it hard to resist the temptation to have “just one” cigarette even a year or so after quitting. It can take years for them to truly reach the Termination stage, at which point they are no more likely to smoke than a lifelong non-smoker.

      How long does each stage take?

      You should be aware that some people remain in the same stage for months or even years at a time. Understanding this model will help you be more patient with yourself when making a change. If you try to force yourself to jump from Contemplation to Maintenance, you’ll just end up frustrated. On the other hand, if you take a moment to assess where you are in the change process, you can adapt your approach.

      So if you need to make changes quickly and you are finding it hard to progress to the next stage, it’s probably time to get some professional help or adopt a new approach to forming habits.

      The limitations of this model

      The model is best applied when you decide in advance precisely what you want to achieve, and know exactly how you will measure it (e.g. number of times per week you go to the gym, or number of cigarettes smoked per day). Although the model has proven useful for many people, it does have limitations.

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      Require the ability to set a realistic goal

      For a start, there are no surefire ways of assessing whereabouts in the process you are – you just have to be honest with yourself and use your own judgement. Second, it assumes that you are physically capable of making a change, whereas in fact you might either need to adjust your goals or seek professional help.

      If your goal isn’t realistic, it doesn’t matter whether you follow the stages – you still won’t get results. You need to decide for yourself whether your aims are reasonable.[6]

      Difficult to judge your progress

      The model also assumes that you are able to objectively measure your own successes and failures, which may not always be the case.[7] For instance, let’s suppose that you are trying to get into the habit of counting calories as part of your weight-loss efforts. However, even though you may think that you are recording your intake properly, you might be over or under-estimating.

      Research shows that most people think they are getting enough exercise and eating well, but in actual fact aren’t as healthy as they believe. The model doesn’t take this possibility into account, meaning that you could believe yourself to be in the Action stage yet aren’t seeing results. Therefore, if you are serious about making changes, it may be best to get some expert advice so that you can be sure the changes you are making really will make a positive difference.

      Conclusion

      The Stages Of Change Model can be a wonderful way to understand change in both yourself and others.

      While there’re some limitations in it, the Stages of Change Model helps to visualize how you go through changes so you know what to expect when you’re trying to change a habit or make some great changes in life.

      Start by identifying one of your bad habits. Where are you in the process? What could you do next to move forwards?

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Psych Central: Stages Of Change
      [2] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [3] Empowering Change: Stages of Change
      [4] Boston University School Of Public Health: The Transtheoretical Model (Stages Of Change)
      [5] Psychology Today: 5 Steps To Changing Any Behavior
      [6] The Transtheoretical Model: Limitations Of The Transtheoretical Model
      [7] Health Education Research: Transtheoretical Model & Stages Of Change: A Critique

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