As parents, guiding our teens toward making sound decisions is a fundamental part of preparing them for adulthood. Developing reasoning skills is pivotal in this process, but the teenage brain is a work in progress, and reasoning abilities evolve over time. In this blog, we’ll explore why reasoning skills are vital for decision-making, how our brains naturally develop these skills, and practical ways you can help your teen build important reasoning skills.
The developing teenage brain and reasoning
Adolescence is marked by many significant changes in the brain. While the emotional and social areas of the brain develop early, the prefrontal cortex (responsible for reasoning, decision-making, and impulse control) continues to mature into the mid-20s.
Impacts of limited reasoning on decision-making
Lack of reasoning skills can mean teens aren’t able to effectively weigh up their options, which might lead to poor choices in relationships, school, or future pathways. This can manifest in impulsive behaviours or difficulty understanding the long-term implications of their actions or choices. It can be frustrating when we feel like our teens just won’t listen to us or make silly decisions, but it’s all a part of growing up (and remember that your parents probably felt the same way about you at one point too).
Benefits of boosting reasoning skills
By actively engaging your teen in reasoning exercises and discussions, you can promote their cognitive development and empower them to be better at decision-making. Sound reasoning helps teens to:
- Analyse information
- Evaluate options
- Make well-informed choices
- Identify and solve problems
- Be better equipped to resist peer pressure
- Make choices that align with their values
- Set goals
- Plan for their future
- Be aware of the consequences of their actions and decisions
All of these skills can help your teen become a well-rounded adult, ready to tackle nearly anything life might throw at them.
Building reasoning skills in everyday life
If you’d like to help your teen to develop these reasoning skills and empower them to become better at decision making and problem solving, here are a few things you could try. Remember, reasoning skills aren’t something that develop overnight – so don’t forget to keep an open mind and be patient with your teen as they learn and grow.
Encourage discussions and debates
Engage in discussions on a wide range of topics, such as current events, ethical dilemmas, or future plans. Encourage them to voice their opinions and ask open-ended questions. They’ll be honing their reasoning skills by thinking more critically and defending their arguments using logic.
Engage in critical thinking exercises
Provide opportunities for your teen to engage in critical thinking activities, such as solving puzzles, doing brain teasers, playing board games, or exploring philosophical questions. If your teen is hesitant, there are more subtle and appealing ways to engage them. Suggest a family games night, surprise them with gifts, challenge them, or ask questions when events or issues pop up on the news, at their school, or even in a movie.
Think of problem solving scenarios
Present real-life problems or scenarios and ask your teen how they might handle these situations. Encourage them to think critically and weigh the pros and cons of various approaches.
Share your own dilemmas
Discuss problems you’ve faced in the past, the choices you made, and the thought process behind them, then ask your teen what they would have done in the same situation. This modelling provides a template for your teen to follow.
Include them in decision-making
Give your teen opportunities to make decisions and be responsible for real-life situations and scenarios. This could be something like choosing their extracurricular activities, making plans with friends, or helping plan family trips. Ask them to analyse the potential risks and benefits in different situations. Lead on to what the potential outcomes could be and what would be the best decision in each scenario.
Encourage your teen to take on age-appropriate responsibilities. This could include scheduling appointments, handling money, cooking meals, or getting a part-time job. These experiences could promote reasoning skills as well as preparing them for adult life.
Seek out learning opportunities
Look for school or community programs and courses that develop critical thinking, problem solving, and logic skills. STEM clubs, debate teams, chess clubs, creative writing courses, coding classes, or social justice groups are just a few examples.
Empowering our teens
Helping your teen to develop reasoning skills is an investment in their future. By understanding the natural progression of these skills and implementing practical strategies, you can empower your teenager to make informed, thoughtful decisions, and equip them for success in the complex world they’re navigating.
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