One of our most sacred roles as parents is to prepare our children for a successful future. What success means to each of us may differ, but we can all agree that resilience, flexibility, and adaptability play a large role. How, then, do we weave these qualities in our kids?
Fortunately, just one quality in naturally leads to the others: open mindedness. With a truly open mind, your kids will remain strong in the face of challenges, remain calm and collected when things don’t go their way, and remain ready to choose a different path when the first leads to a dead end.
How, then, do we teach open mindedness?
1. Encourage Critical Thinking
A study outlined in Toward an Open Mind found that one of the surest ways to develop the trait is through critical thinking. Teens who closely analyzed situations (and then related those situations with their particular beliefs, values, or emotions) were able to view them with a progressively more open mind. As a parent, encourage this approach to problems and situations with your teen. Examine issues of the day with your kids and, together, come to new realizations and unique conclusions.
2. Encourage New Experiences
Another powerful technique is to introduce novel experiences. The more your teen encounters the unknown, the more willing they’ll be to accept the new and different. They’ll become more and more comfortable in unfamiliar situations and surroundings, and become more and more welcoming of the people within them.
3. Broaden Their Perspective
Narrow mindedness is often a result of limited options. If your kids only know their small world, they won’t know to consider a greatest perspective. It’s up to you to introduce it. Teach them about different cultures and customs, different places and people. Travel. Learn. Engage with a wider circle. When your kids realize there are people on the other side of the planet who live vastly different—but equally worthwhile—lives, their stretched perspective will never shrink back to its previous size.
4. Be a Role Model
To say that our kids learn from our example is to say nothing new. We are the water and they are the sponges. Nowhere is this clearer than with our willingness to be open or closed. Parents who live by narrow perspectives will inevitably raise narrow-minded kids. Don’t do this. Force yourself to be open and show it, speak it, be it.
5. Let Go
One of the hardest things for parents to do is let go of their vision of their child’s future. We so want the best for our kids—and think we know best for our kids—that we inevitably lead them down the paths we’d choose. Is there a better definition of narrow? If we are to raise kids with open minds we have to give them the freedom to choose different paths. We have to be open to the reality that our kids are of us, but they aren’t us. They have to have the freedom to be themselves.
These lessons, and others like them, will engender an open mindedness in your children that will bend but never break, will find a way forward when everyone else quits, and, most important of all, will welcome the world with open arms whether or not it looks and acts just like them.