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Curly Nikki

Raising Children Who Think for Themselves

By January 27th, 20219 Comments

Do you think that children are born with the natural inclination to think for themselves?

I do. Early on, their instincts lead them to explore and express themselves without concern for how it will be perceived. Case in point, my one year old’s most powerful means of communicating displeasure right now is to smack the source of her displeasure right in the face. We obviously can’t tolerate that behavior as she gets older, so we are teaching her how to express herself with words. (So far, she still prefers smacking and screaming.)

We discipline our kids to keep them safe and also to guide their thinking to some extent, so that they understand how the world works. But what happens when they start to have opinions of their own? Sometimes, it’s just plain annoying, right? Most of us were raised to be seen and not heard and to just do what we are told. So, I guess I expect the same thing from my kids. I have little to no tolerance when my kids attempt to protest or justify their behavior or when they try to negotiate when I’ve given them my final answer.

At the same time, deep down I admire their conviction. I’m not one to always speak up when I should, so I relish the idea that my kids have not picked that up from me. I want them to grow into adults who speak up for themselves. So, how do you nurture that assertiveness without creating an environment where your children are constantly challenging and questioning you?

As parents, we have undoubtedly experienced ups and downs in life and we don’t want our children to repeat our mistakes. We’re afraid of how they might hurt themselves if we don’t tell them what to do and what to think. This micro-management may be appropriate for a one year old with a smacking problem, but for older children and teenagers, we just end up handicapping them. They must learn to problem solve on their own, to bounce back from mistakes and to accept consequences. They have to find their own truths. We are here to help them find their way, not necessarily to force them to go our way.

Consider the following:

“We need to realize the difference between discipline and thinking, disobedience and thinking, disrespect and thinking. Children are just people living through a smaller body. They must learn to express themselves, to understand who they are and grow into who they are through their own thoughts. Just because your children do not think as you do doesn’t mean they are wrong.”

Chime in! Were you raised in an environment that didn’t embrace diversity of thought? How has that affected you? For those of you with children, how do you find the balance between teaching your children respect and boundaries while still encouraging independent thought?


  • Jo Somebody says:

    LOL!! What is baby girl doing?? I hope she's still in nappies…

  • Anonymous says:

    Children learn by example so if you are opinionated then so will your children be and so on.The older generation did things differently and it was a case of do as your told or else.It's important to be consistent and diligent whatever appraoch you choose and to build good foundations as children pick up everything you do for good or bad.

  • Anonymous says:

    Growing up I absolutely annoyed the crap out of my parents because I questioned everything, even their justification for their answers. That being said, I think some people just have an innate "free thinker" mentality. I like to think I am one of them. The tricky part is this was not encouraged in my household. I was told it was but it wasn't. My parents are old school "don't speak unless spoken to" sort of folks but that changed as I got older and became more comfortable expressing myself. They let me be very independent in high school and I did well.

    I feel like I have to push back on the whole "respect your elders" though because sometimes so called elders say/do some of the most bigoted and mean things to people and just because there are older is no excuse to tolerate that. I think there is a fine line between expressing yourself and being a jerk but if I ever have kids I definitely want them to be respectful AND empowered. That's just me.

  • Anonymous says:

    I have kids and encourage them to think for themselves. I often challenge them to resolve their issues. I also try to respect their opinion but also let them understand there is a time and place for being outspoken, and that they must respect their elders. I grew up thinking I should only speak when spoken to and being that my education lies within child development and education I am bit more understanding, however by no means do i allow my kids respect anyone.

  • Anonymous says:

    I was raised in the same era of children are seen not heard, therefore, I chose to allow my child to say what was on her mind. I taught her that it's not what you say it's how you say it. Be respectful as well as tactful. I don't think children need to be micro managed at any age. Teach them the appropriate way to behave from the start but allow them to express their true selves. Children want boundaries and as parents we are the ones to give it to them. We are not to recreate who they are, we are here to guide them into who God created them to be. Keep a watchful eye and learn from them who and what they are and guide and teach them approporiate behaviors for expressing themselves. Parents must be consistent in their teachings.

  • Anonymous says:

    I grew up in a household where thinking for yourself was often viewed as being disrespectful. I didn't realize how much of an parenting "fail" that was until I turned 25 and started thinking about how I want to raise children, when I eventually have them.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree totally with L. I have 3 boys and I have always encouraged them to express themselves. I came from a household where you could not speak or think for yourself. You had to do as you are told whether it's right or wrong. I don't want that for my boys. I think allowing them to think freely and respectfully voice their opinions have made them more well rounded. I think they value themselves because how they feel and what they think matters. I also teach them that they are responsible for their actions – good and bad. I pray each day that they will make good and smart decisions when I'm not around. As the bible says "train them in the way they should go…." As parents that's all we can do.

  • L says:

    My 7 year old daughter is very outspoken,more so with me than others, but she is also a very loving and compassionate child. I tell her that there is nothing wrong with expressing her opinions, but she should always consider how her actions and/or words may affect others. If she wouldnt want it done/said to her, it may not be a good idea to do/say it someone else. She should always do the right thing no matter what someone else does or says to her. We should not allow others' behavior to dictate our own. I PRAY above all else for her to be led of the spirit and not her emotions. I PRAY over her daily.

  • Unknown says:

    As my pastor says, some people just have "collections of thoughts" and others have real thought processes. We should always do, teach, and encourage the latter.

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