Parenting Real Life

Raise Kids Who Can Think for Themselves

Just one look around and it’s painfully obvious there is an entire generation of people who are seemingly incapable of thinking for themselves. Many have been far too influenced by media, peers, and the educational system and can’t seem to conjure up an independent thought.

boy with gears over his head

One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was that we wanted our children to be able to think for themselves, and we have encouraged that since they were very young.

My husband and I frequently laugh about the fact that we deliberately raised thinkers, and sometimes it bites us in the rear end!  Our kids often outwit and out think us, and when you are trying to keep order in a large family it can throw off the rhythm and momentum we work so hard to maintain!

However, we also learn so much from and about our kids as they practice independent thinking.  In fact, we have been convinced to think differently about some things along the way.  We’ve also had the opportunity to help our kids build a solid framework of values as we have engaged them in conversation.  We believe that healthy thinking happens best within boundaries of the larger perspective of truth. 

If your desire is to raise kids who think for themselves, here are a few key ways to do that:

Turn off the electronics.

I realize that electronics can be useful if managed well, but even the most conscientious adult can get sucked into this time-consuming void. It’s our responsibility as parents to steward that time well for our kids.  I would encourage you to avoid letting your kids use electronics at all for as long as possible.  It will make your life (and theirs) simpler, and simpler is often BETTER.  Your kids will know what a life without electronics looks like and will have that as a frame of reference throughout life.

One of the main issues with electronics is that there are parts of our kids’ brains that are developing rapidly.  Each stage of development is important for the next stage, and science proves that kids need to be connected with the real world around them in a very hands-on way in order for development to happen in an optimally healthy way.  It’s also very important for our kids to develop patience, and because almost everything is instant when it comes to the virtual world, our kids can end up never developing the ability to handle delayed gratification.

Give them plenty of time to play.  

A quick Google search on the importance of play will bring up countless articles with undeniable research that proves the importance of play in children’s development and that this becomes the foundation for higher learning. I think as moms our gut instinct is to encourage playtime, but many of us quickly become over-scheduled and hurried far too easily.  Moms, this is where we need to fiercely defend our kids’ rights to a healthy childhood. Child development specialist, Dr. Raymond Moore said,

“The value parents place upon their children and the courage they have in facing up to conventional wisdom and social pressure determine how their children will come out in the end.”

Over the last 20+ years of homeschooling our 8 kids, they will tell you that they had copious amounts of playtime, especially in the early years (through 10-12 years of age).  We have graduated 5 so far, and now that they are adults in the real world, they have thanked us many times for giving them time…time to explore and experiment through play.  (Read more here)

Give them responsibility (work ethic).

While we gave our children lots of time to play, we also slowly shouldered them with more and more age-appropriate responsibility. Discipling our kids into a strong work ethic will have a bigger impact on their lives than you might possibly think.  I have always told moms that our job is to encourage a love of learning, help our kids find their passions, and teach them to be resourceful.  One day our 22-year-old son pointed out, “You need to add teaching a strong work ethic to that list, because none of it’s going to matter if they aren’t willing to work.”  This coming from a young man who started college at 16, attending for 5 years and graduating with honors.  But even if our kids don’t go to college, knowing how to work hard will serve them in whatever they do!

Your determination to help your kids learn the satisfaction of a job well done won’t necessarily make you popular with your kids, but they WILL thank you one day. (Read more here)

Ask lots of questions, and encourage them to ask questions.

One of the best ways to know your kids well and encourage thinking is to ask lots of questions.  Not only do you find out more about them, but they also learn how to be inquisitive from your example.  When you’re riding in the car, instead of being hooked up to electronics, start a conversation with them about life, about what you’re driving by, about anything that will engage them to think and verbalize their thoughts.  By doing so, they learn to express themselves. They (and you) will learn more about their thoughts on everything from nature and food to music, activities, and more.  Before you know it, they are tweens, then teens and adults who are used to processing and thinking out loud with you.  This will give you a window into their hearts and opportunities to speak into their lives. It’s important not to make quick judgments about what they express and to remember that they are still developing and learning.  So instead of freaking out when they say something that may sound really bad, just ask more questions!  Questions can be used to be both gracious and directive depending on what’s needed.  

It takes time and an unhurried mom heart to encourage our kids to think for themselves, but oh the joy of seeing them grow into strong, confident intelligent adults who bring effective and multiple blessings to the world around them!  They are the movers, shakers, and shapers of the next generation!

NOTE: If you would like more encouragement to be an unhurried homeschooler, Durenda wrote a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling with exactly that title…The Unhurried Homeschooler.

About the author


Durenda is a mom to eight (ages 13-27), nana to four, and wife to Darryl for 28 years. She has homeschooled from the beginning (22+yrs) and has graduated 5, so far. Her two oldest girls are married and her oldest son graduated from college at 21. She loves encouraging moms through writing, speaking and podcasting. One of her favorite things is helping parents to slow down, think simply and outside the box so they can homeschool confidently and in a lifestyle that is a great fit for their families.
She has her own podcast (Durenda Wilson) and has published a simple, mercifully short book on homeschooling called, "The Unhurried Homeschooler" which encourages parents to take the time to find out what really works for them, let go of self-driven standards and learn to homeschool from a place of peace! She recently published a devotional just for moms. "Unhurried Grace for a Mom's Heart" can be found on Amazon.


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  • Let me tell you the title itself made me stop at this page and read in greater detail. This is really the need of the hour to have kids who can live by themselves. I liked your tip on work ethic and your emphasis on switching off the electronics. Thank you for sharing this fabulous post.