Resist the modern approach of knocking the thinking right out of them!

baby with glasses reading a bookBabies and young children are much more intelligent than we tend to give them credit for.  They are working very hard and adding new brain connections all the time– much more than we are.

Did you know that young children are better at divergent thinking than adults? Over time, people in modern society become better at convergent thinking, and they get worse at divergent thinking.

divergent ability decreases
This doesn’t make sense!  Divergent thinking is the ability to seek multiple solutions to a problem.  That kind of thinking serves the individual well and it benefits society at large.  Why would it diminish throughout childhood?

To me, the fact that we see declines in ability to think divergently  suggests we are doing something wrong in raising and educating children.  (Listen to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk on the subject– How Schools Kill Creativity– the #1 TED talk of all time!)

What can you do as a parent to nurture your child’s divergent thinking?  

  1. Ask open-ended questions that could have multiple correct answers and require thought, such as “I wonder why the bees are all buzzing around that bush?” Don’t worry that your child can’t understand the complexity of this discussion yet– you are scaffolding her ability to wonder and think and problem-solve.  She’s not supposed to be good at it yet– you’re just helping to engage her brain in thinking and questioning.
  2. Develop your own divergent thinking skills so you can model creative problem-solving for your child.  If you grew up in the same society, you likely lost a lot of your ability to think divergently over time, too. Working to develop your own divergent thinking skills will improve your brain and your life skills, and will make you a more valuable role model for your child!  An example–“let’s think of at least 3 different ways we could resolve this…”
  3. When your child makes a choice that you believe is likely to produce negative consequences, such as hurting another person, talk with your child about the consequences you anticipate and help him develop his ability to connect cause and effect. Resist telling your child he’s wrong when he’s learning and developing skills, or when he is simply making a different choice from others. Reserve the response “no, that’s wrong” for situations where you anticipate serious wrong and harm and really need to get your child’s attention. Overused, “no, that’s wrong” becomes meaningless background noise and, at the same time, it shuts down their divergent thinking.
  4. And you could listen to Harry Chapin’s song “Flowers are Red” to remind yourself that creativity and diversity of perspective are good thing!

It takes perspective and dedication to raise your child in ways that unleash your child’s intelligence rather than shutting it down!

What specific step will you take this week to support your child’s divergent thinking?  Please share with us how it goes!  

Ginny Trierweiler, Ph.D., www.bornforbrilliance.com, drginnyt@gmail.com

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