1. Teach your child that listening actually has three parts: hearing, understanding and reflecting. In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to skip the last step. Reflection is contemplating what is being said, and thinking about how one thing impacts another. Reflection helps a child put the pieces of life together in ways that make sense.
2. When you talk to your child about making an important decision, use the word ‘think’ instead of ‘feel.’ You want your children to use their brains, not their emotions, especially when the stakes are high. Feelings are fleeting; reasoning based on facts is more reliable.
3. Don’t immediately answer every one of their questions. Periodically, turn the question back to your child. Ask them what they think the answer is. When they give you an answer, ask if they think there are any other possible answers. Doing this will help them develop deeper insight and see issues from more than one viewpoint. (Don’t do this every time they ask a question, though, or they’ll get frustrated and quit asking!)
4. When you ask your child a question, let them know that you are willing to wait while they think. Your patience will allow them time to decide if their answer is the best one. You can encourage this by explaining how you think before answering important questions, then model it for them.
5. Limit TV time. Let’s be realistic. There are few role models on television who exhibit much common sense. When you do watch, talk about the positive and negative consequences of the characters’ decisions. Help your child learn from the experience of others.
6. Expose your kids to great literature, especially the classics and biographies. Talk about the decisions made by the people in the book and whether they were wise or foolish.
7. Don’t allow your child to adopt the victim mentality in which problems are always someone else’s fault. Help them to graciously accept responsibility for their actions. You can do this by affirming honesty, especially when it’s a tough situation. With all due respect to those who have been burned, the coffee is supposed to be hot.
As you teach your children how to use common sense, you’ll have to exercise patience – it’s a process that takes time. The time and effort you invest will pay great dividends for the rest of your children’s lives!