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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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Published on November 28, 2018

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

How to Do Meditation at Home to Calm Your Anxious Mind

The woman in yoga pants sitting in a lotus position atop a rocky cliff, overlooking a valley draped in fog — this is the glamorized version of meditation you’ll come across as you search. Yet if you’re seeking meditation to calm your mind, a fantastic setting with no distractions is rarely available.

So how to do meditation?

The truth about meditation is it’s an everyday practice for anybody. You could be a mountain climber or you could be an accountant — either way, your home is just as good a place for meditation as any.

Are you seeking to corral your racing thoughts and relieve a sense of unease, awkwardness, or uncertainty? Look to home meditation to cultivate a laid-back, creative, confident, and organized frame of mind. According to extensive scientific research, meditation relieves stress and anxiety, decreases blood pressure, improves sleep, and improves your ability to pay attention. [1]

From start to finish, this article will give you quick, easy steps to follow so that you can meditate at home regularly. You’ll begin by assessing, identifying and altering things that need to change in your home environment. You’ll end by understanding the basics of meditation so that you can let yourself do what you already know how to do deep down in the hidden reality of your mind.

You’re ready to let your mind be, and just be, in your own home — let’s begin.

1. Find the Right Space in Your Home

Where is your right space for meditation at home? Is it in your basement, your bedroom, your living room, or your study?

The right space will be one with the least distractions built in to its purpose. In that case, it may be your bedroom. If you’ve set up your bedroom to be a place for sleep and only sleep, it will lend itself well to meditation.

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The right space will also be a reasonably spacious one. Although comfort is not your goal, you need room to sit. Choose a space that is private, spacious, and quiet. If you don’t have a space in your home like this, create one. Free it from clutter and get it ready for you to meditate there any time.

Ultimately, your right space is one you feel comfortable meditating in, the space you can enter with no other expectations.

2. Improve the Feng Shui in Your Home and Meditation Space

Feng shui means “wind and water.” It’s the ancient Chinese art of placement.[2]

Feng shui improves harmony with nature. Adherents to the principles of feng shui believe all things have energy (chi). The focus of feng shui is to send negative chi (sha) out of the space and attract positive chi (yun).

Here’s the truth about feng shui: it’s not complicated or hard. The following will influence feng shui positively in your home and meditation space:

  • Living things, such as plants
  • Beautiful objects, such as sculptures or even a well-polished piece of driftwood
  • Mirrors in symmetrical placement with the lines in a room
  • Mellifluous sounds, such as trickling water or wind chimes
  • Furniture away from walls
  • A centerpiece, such as a small table with books or an ornate lamp on it
  • Incense or something else that smells good
  • A lack of clutter and an attention to organization that emphasizes the usefulness, purpose, and essential being of each item in your house

Given that feng shui is connected to Taoism and Buddhism, it will complement the meditative atmosphere you want to cultivate in your home.

3. Eliminate Pervasive Distractions That Can Harm Your Wellbeing

In part, meditation is about accepting the existence of distractions. When you meditate, you don’t judge and assign a positive or a negative value to distractions — the ticking of a clock, an itch, the barking of a dog — you let them occur and let them dissipate like waves.

However, in the same way that feng shui removes objects that attract negative chi, there are certain types of distractions that don’t belong in your meditative space. You must remove them.

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In a survey of 1,700 people who visited social media sites at least 30 times per week, 30 percent reported high levels of sleep disturbance and 25 percent presented symptoms of depression. [3]

Those individuals who experience sleep disturbances or mental health issues due to social media are not setting boundaries between themselves and their connected devices.

Part of learning how to meditate at home is learning how and when to set boundaries between yourself and your connected devices and social media accounts. If you need your phone for a timed meditation practice, but you normally receive social media notifications on your phone, set it on Do Not Disturb or Airplane mode during your meditation time.

4. Flow into Meditation Through Time

Next, set aside a time for meditation each day. It’s right to be structured and disciplined about your meditation time.

Buddhist monks whose lives revolve around meditation are very structured and organized with their tasks each day. Structure provides the balance your being needs. Once you are meditating, your mind has no need for time. Outside of your given meditation time, you are completing tasks essential to the wellbeing of yourself and your home.

Consider meditating as the sun rises. This is a quiet and contemplative time of the day when it is natural to set your day’s balance through meditation.

5. Recognize the Rightness of Doing Nothing

At home, you’re probably used to always doing something. When you do meditation at home, you are being, which is doing something and nothing simultaneously.

Maryville University points out that successful people unplug by doing nothing. [4] Not only this, but they set the right expectations for the time during which they will do nothing.

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We oftentimes look forward to the future by expecting something to happen and by expecting something of ourselves. To meditate from home, look to that time and that space by expecting nothing. You will not do any chores. You will not catch up on work. You will do nothing but meditate for a certain amount of time each day.

This might sound crazy, but in taking on meditation from home, you’re not expecting yourself to improve and become a better person. As Ram Dass put it, you are expecting yourself to be here now.

6. Choose from the Incredible Variety of Meditative Practices

As I outlined in my post on types of meditation, there are many different and not-so-different types of meditation from which to choose.

Many beginners find it right to choose guided meditation, for which there are apps, videos, and audio tapes available.

If you are not necessarily a beginner but are merely moving your meditative practice into the home, you can facilitate a practice such as Nada Yoga — sound meditation — by placing a fountain in your space or listening to ambient alpha wave music.

If you’re used to meditating outside of your home — perhaps you are drawn to the outdoors because of the sounds of nature — a practice like Nada Yoga can help you transition into your home space.

7. Understand You Can Meditate Any Time at Home

What if I told you to throw out all of the tips that came before this? Sounds crazy but that is how radical mindfulness meditation really is. We don’t think of it as radical because it is now ingrained in our popular discourse.

Mindfulness meditation does start as a sitting meditation practice. It goes like this:

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  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
  2. Focus on breathing. Inhale through your nose slowly and exhale slowly.
  3. As distracting thoughts arise, don’t judge them and don’t hang onto them. Let each thought go as you focus on breathing.
  4. Treat all physical sensations and feelings in the same way you do thoughts: register them, then let them go, returning to breathing.
  5. Extend this practice to everyday activity, remaining “in the moment” of the body’s activity with each new breath.

As you practice mindfulness around your home, note the physical characteristics of the things in themselves. Note physical sensations: sounds, smells, textures, appearances, tastes. Stop now and then and do a body scan from head to toe, noting what each section is doing and how it’s feeling.

Note thoughts that come and the emotions attached to them: let them go. Concentrate on the breath and the physical activities — including the details of the objects with which you’re interacting.

You’ll notice that your home will lend itself to a meditative state when things are in order. This is where true feng shui originates. You will naturally sense how the arrangement of things affects the energy in a room.

Clutter will disappear because mindfulness tells you to dispose of unnecessary things. Plants will bloom. Birds will make their nests in your backyard. Your home will smell pleasing and people will naturally be attracted to it and your presence.

You’ve Reached the Beginning and the End

Once you are able to do mindfulness meditation even as you are attending to the normal and abnormal requirements of your home, the mundane and the unusual, you are at both the beginning and the end.

You are at the beginning because meditation never ends. Continue setting aside time each day to do sitting meditation in the space you’ve set aside. Continue practicing mindfulness as you attend to the energy of your house, your own energy, and the energy of those around you.

You are at the end because you grasped what it means to do meditation at home: it means letting go of cares and concerns and being in your home as you attend to the right tasks. The right tasks are those necessary for being in your home.

As you sit in your home, rise, open the door and you leave, you are calm in your mind because you are home.

Featured photo credit: Simon Rae via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Healthline: 12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation
[2]Marquette University: Feng Shui: The Wind and Water
[3]Rutgers University: Social Media and Well-Being
[4]Maryville University: How Successful People Unplug

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