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Teaching What to Think, versus How to Think

Bill, a boy of 15 came quietly into the room. His mom, a highly successful businesswoman, had asked to meet with some of Bill’s teachers, counselor and the principal. She asked for the meeting because she felt that the teachers’ at his pervious school never expected enough of him. When Bill entered the room his mom pulled out a seat next to hers. Bill looked uncomfortably around the group for another seat, and then thought the better of it, settling on the seat beside his mom.

Bill, obviously uncomfortable in this gathering, remained quiet while his mother asserted her needs. He stared at the table while Mom stated that she would be brief and appreciated the school meeting with her. When teachers asked Bill a question during the meeting Mom frequently interrupted and answered the question in his behalf.

At times Bill would hesitate, glancing at his mom, as if he knew she would speak anyway. When Mom interrupted him, Bill would roll his eyes and sigh. Mostly he stopped talking, while Mom pursued her agenda.

Bill had felt comfortable with his mothers’ aggressive style when he was younger. She had always expected a lot and yet always made good things happen for his life. However, around nine years old, Bill began resisting mom and her telling him what to think. He often resented her answers even if he secretly agreed. She made things happen, but often without considering his needs, as Bill thought of his needs.

As is true for most young children, Bill had enjoyed the security and sure direction of his mother’s leading. However, the scene in the school office was indicative of his growing anger and resentment of Mom. As Bill’s need for independence and his own identity grow he becomes increasingly angry at what he perceives as Mom’s control. He feels embarrassed in a meeting that Mom directs and resentful of her putting him in this position. He perceives that Mom’s way fails to trust him. The result is Bill experiences no confidence in his ability to express himself or have his own ideas.

As children grow they must be able to express their independence within the context of parent leading. When children are young we often teach them what to think through our guiding principles and how we reflect with them about their experiences. As children grow we must teach them how to think, how to express their needs and concerns, how to think through their needs, and how to problem solve. As you relate to your children are they more able to express and resolve their own needs than when they were younger? Their future ability to manage themselves and with others may depend on it.

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