Raising Critical Thinkers


“Most children are amazing critical thinkers before we silence them.” – bell hooks

Children naturally have a thirst for knowledge – they come into this world eager to study it – yet we as adults take this for granted. 

They naturally question everything, tinker around, take risks, innovate new ways to play with random, everyday items. They never stop moving and fear doesn’t always register for them. They want to constantly run, jump, throw, push, pull, and pound… 

But gradually over time, we silence them without often meaning to. Our fears, expectations, rules, agendas and love for control slowly starts to teach children to doubt their instincts and look to others on what to think of the environment. 

Here’s the thing – we must consciously raise our children or society will raise them. 

We must teach them to think for themselves or they will be easily influenced and manipulated by their peers, social media and adults. 

Children with strong critical thinking skills feel more confident in themselves and their ideas and they are the people who change the world with their innovative and creative ideas. Critical thinkers are the leaders, inventors, CEOs, scientists, writers – of our generation. They are the ones who change the world. 

Not only does critical thinking translate into better careers, but this skill is critical for communication and building healthy relationships with self and others. They are the people who influence others for better and inspire their siblings and peers towards positive change. 

In our fast paced society of AI, social media, endless information & marketing, our children can’t afford to not have this skill. 

It’s not a “nice to have” – it’s a must. If we don’t teach our children how (and what) to think, the world will do this for us. 

And when it comes to the relationship you build, children will come to trust us more when we trust in them to think for themselves. Trust is built when our children know we have their best interest in mind and blind obedience and control is not in the best interest of our child (and their future self). 

Caution: This approach will require more thought, effort and intention. We will need to be more flexible, respectful, and patient as our children learn to question and form their own ideas. It will require us to learn and practice critical thinking ourselves and have less “control” as parents –  but the pay off – raising a conscious human being – is worth it, if you ask me. 

So how do we do this? What does this really look like in everyday life?

The DCM Method

In order to raise critical thinkers, we are going to attack this issue from several different angles. We are going to be more conscious in the ways we discipline (teach and correct behavior), the types of conversations we spark, and the media we choose to expose them to. 

D- Discipline

C- Conversations

M- Media

The spirit of this approach is consciousness – to do something in a deliberate and intentional way. In order to be a critical thinker, we must first be aware, intentional and deliberate about our actions. 


As parents, we are conditioned to desire control. The assumption is that if we don’t have control over our children, then we are failures. We are somehow flawed as parents. 

The gold standard in parenting (whether we talk about it or not) is control. 

This assumption is at the root of authoritarian parenting – do as I say and do not ask questions or challenge me. If you do, you will be punished. 

Our society reinforces this model through punishment and rewards. Do something “Good” (aka what I want you to do) and you will be rewarded in the form of stickers, prizes, trinkets, praise, special privileges, good grades, and approval. 

On the other hand – if you are “bad” (aka don’t do what I say) you will be punished in the form of criticism, cold silence, spanking, time outs, isolation in your room, lectures and disapproval. 

Who really benefits from this system? Who really wins here? Those who created it and those who enforce it. 

As parents, we must question why we do what we do. Who is teaching us how to parent and is this really how we want to be? 

Now I teach conscious discipline in more depth inside my online discipline course, Positive Discipline Academy, but to help get you started today, learn to question everything. 

Consciousness is built on awareness and we can’t have awareness if we are not regularly reflecting on who we are as parents and why we do what we do. 


Questions are the foundation of critical thinking. In order to think better, we have to learn to question better. 

Questions help children become better thinkers because it directly asks them to think. 

Thus, in order to raise critical thinkers, we the parents must get in the habit of asking better questions. Asking the right questions at the right time sparks reflection, thought, interesting dialogue, and builds trust and connection. 

The funny thing is children are naturally great at asking questions. Our problem is we are not great at answering them. In our busy lives (often balancing multiple children, jobs, marriage, etc), it is tempting to ignore, shut down or put off their questions. 

“Not right now.” we think (or say). But then “now” never comes and slowly we teach our child to stop asking questions. Questions are seen as an inconvenience and a weakness. And slowly, children learn to shut up and stop asking questions at home or in the classroom. 

If we want to turn this cycle around, we must:

Asking open-ended questions that spark reflection, curiosity, reasoning ability, and critical thinking is important now more than ever. 

8 Questions to help children think:


If we’re being honest, much screen time is really “babysitter time.” Screens allow us to “checkout” as parents and either take a break, work or get things done around the house. 

The problem with this approach is that:

The harsh reality is that most “children’s” media is not made for young children’s minds so children grow up exposed to information they are not developmentally ready to consume. 

Much of children’s media includes:

Children’s media is made by adults and so they often use their adult way of thinking to craft the stories, plots, and characters. They also want to appeal to the parents (because we are the ones who buy the product) – so they infuse ways to entertain and please us. 

Adding insult to injury, children rarely receive guidance on how to understand this media so they end up blindly watching things they can’t yet understand (which conditions them to be mindless consumers). And then, in an effort to try to understand it, they emulate the words and behaviors they see characters do and then get in trouble for it without ever understanding why. 

“Why can’t I do the things characters I admire do? Why is this ‘bad’ when it’s all I know? Does that mean I’m bad too?” 

Now I’m not saying you must be present for every show, movie or game your child places. But what I am advising you to do is:

Tips while consuming media:

While reading with my daughter the other night, we had a great conversation about how two people can have the same experience but tell a completely different story based on their own perception, feelings, history, agenda, etc. Find opportunities to teach this concept in everyday stories. 

When it comes to critical thinking, being aware of this basic truth is essential so look for opportunities to teach this theme using the media (or everyday experiences) they are exposed to. 

Questions to ask as you consume media with your child:

A crucial part of dissecting information is always understanding who is telling you this information & how others’ perspectives may differ. 

Help them understand there are often many sides to a story especially when learning about history and current events.

Along those same lines, help them understand that there are multiple ways to look at one thing. 

The foundation of problem solving is being able to approach a problem from many different angles and perspectives so that you can come up with the “best” option to test.

And then help them learn how to do their own research to find the answers to their questions. 

The way our children learn to consume and process information is heavily impacted by the types of questions we ask them about what they are building, creating and learning. 

Whether it’s through reading, YouTube/Google search, asking someone with experience, etc., encourage them to find the answers to their questions.

Ask better questions, raise better thinkers. 

In the coming weeks, I’ll share some of my recommendations in terms of children’s media (e.g., movies, books, shows, apps) but in theme with this article, I urge you to critically examine others’ recommendations (including mine) by researching and checking it out for yourself before making conclusions. 

-Dr. Jazmine

For courses, books, free tools and more – visit Jazmine's website here