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How to Teach Your Child to Think for Themselves

Why? Why? Why? We’ve all been there; that phase when young children seem to do nothing else but ask why. As annoying as it can become, it’s actually a magical time when their curiosity begins to develop. Today I am sharing a simple phrase that will help you teach your child how to think outside the box.

Mother and daughter putting together a puzzle.

Why do children ask why?

Child development research clearly shows us that kids start asking why in order to learn about the world around them.

And who can blame them?

We live in a strange, amazing, beautiful and confusing world.

As a new person on the planet toddlers are keenly interested in how this whole “living on planet earth” thing works and they look for us to explain it to them.

So, in order to get the answers they want they start asking why.

It’s a pretty simple cause and effect cycle.


The cycle seems to be never-ending.

If you have a toddler of your own, you quickly realize that your response generates an immediate and slightly modified version of their initial question along with another why.


Toddler: “Why do cows eat grass?”

Parent: “Because they are “plant eaters” and it gives them all the nutrients they need.”

Toddler: “Why can’t I eat grass?”

You see what I mean!

When asking why goes wrong

Aside from being mentally draining, your toddler’s quest to learn more about the world they live in is endearing and an essential milestone in their development.

But you know what isn’t very much fun?

When your toddler turns into a kid and asking “Why?” is still their go to response.

For example:

Parent: “Hey, can you please make sure you put your backpack in your bedroom?”

Kid: “Why?”

Ummmm…yeah….totally NOT ok!

In fact, in this situation it’s mildly defiant, disrespectful and actually quite lazy.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to encourage my child to be any of those.

As parents, we need to be careful with how we respond to our children’s “why” questions as toddlers so they don’t grow up to see it as the perfect default response to any request.

How to teach your child to think outside of the box

Ultimately, we want our kids to grow up to become independent thinkers.

However, when we quickly give children the answers to every question they ask, we are doing all the thinking for them.

This teaches them that “other people” have all the answers.

Instead, we want to encourage  them to think for themselves and feel confident that they have the ability to figure out an answer, even when it’s not immediately available.

Google is making our job more difficult, but it’s still possible.

In order to teach your child to think for themselves, you want start early.

This will show them that their thoughts, ideas and creativity are powerful and can help them discover the answers to their questions on their own.

How to respond when your child asks: “Why?”

All you need is this one simple phrase to empower your child and encourage independent thought.

When your child asks why, your initial response should be:

“What do you think?”

It’s short and sweet, but SUPER powerful.

It creates a natural pause and sends your child an important message:

That their ideas matter and can solve problems and answer questions.

As a teacher, I know that this is a feeling that many kids are lacking.

They have been taught that adults have all the answers and that they need to constantly ask for help.

Instead, by asking your child to come up with their own ideas you are encouraging their sense of creativity, critical thinking and self-efficacy.

This way, when your child gets older and you ask them to put their backpack in their bedroom you won’t have to hear their snarky “Why?” as a response, because they will already know the answer to their own question.

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Teach your child to think for themselves

How to Teach Your Child to Think for Themselves

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