Ginta: Critical thinking a skill taught by example

There are no quiet dinners in our house.

The boys have yet to master not talking with their mouths full, but I am guilty of overlooking the very thing when other pressing matters are at hand.

"Where do the potatoes come from?"

"British Columbia."

"How about broccoli?"




"Why do we buy them like this?"

"Because it's good to eat food that grows close to where you live; it's fresher and you're helping the people who live close to you. And there are no big trucks or ships or planes hauling it in from somewhere else, so you help the planet too."

"Why don't you like birthday goodie bags, Mom?"

"Because I don't like the thought of one-use trinkets that end up in the garbage soon after. And I think the fun is in celebrating."

It's not righteousness and my arguments are not fail-proof. It's what I can live with and what I hope for my boys to learn: critical thinking - not accepting something just because someone expects you to. Asking why.

It's a lesson in double-edged swordsmanship.

Something you don't agree with today may become the argument for tomorrow's deed. And that is but the nature of the beast: learning to keep the mind open at all times and to think for yourself.

Reject or accept not out of pride or to make an impression, but because it makes sense.

The question is how do I teach my children that? It's not always a comfortable ride, that much I know. Yet if there is one thing I want them to have in life, this would be it.

Children are born asking why and ideally they will never lose that. Adults should never lose that because all that's left once it's gone is complacency. Hardly an incentive to cultivate critical thinking in our youth or encourage them to ask questions.

Any opportunity for discussions with our children should be greeted with open arms. Be it the walk from school - and that might be filled with complaints about the day - or the talks around the dinner table. I don't mean poking them until they talk but letting them speak their mind; whatever thoughts they have on a subject because you are the only presence in their lives that accepts them entirely for what they are. No fear of standing out and being ridiculed (hopefully).

They learn from sharing as much as they learn from listening to us - and from watching us.

The choices we make speak volumes. When we stand behind our choices with arguments, we came up with ourselves, we teach our children an important lesson - do it if it makes sense, choose it if it makes sense, but don't just accept something because it's there, because someone put it there in front of you.

I have never believed in denying something without an explanation. I don't have much respect for "because I said so." It may be that I don't think much of sheer obedience. I believe that behind any interdiction there has to be an explanation.

There's no opinion that's always right. It's fallacy to even think that by thinking we'll find the ultimate truth. But if we teach our children to think and ask questions, they'll honour who they are and ultimately do better for themselves and the world around.

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Daniela Ginta is a mother, scientist, writer and blogger. She can be reached at, or through her blog at

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