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Book Overview: Teach Your Child How to Think – Edward de Bono

Teach Your Child How to ThinkTeach Your Child How to Think is another one of those books I picked up on a whim at the bookshop and ended up buying on the spur of the moment. It almost seems as though all my book purchases are made that way these days since I have half an eye on my toddler and the other skimming the blurb on the backcover. After getting a chance to take a proper look at the book, I think it was a purchase well made.

Overview of the Book

Edward de Bono –  the man who coined the term “lateral thinking” – says that while a child might be intelligent, it does not necessarily follow that that child will become a good thinker. This is so often the mistaken assumption. In fact, de Bono states that intelligence can sometimes be a trap because “many highly intelligent people often take up a view on a subject then use their intelligence to defend that view. Since they can defend the view very well they never see any need to explore the subject or listen to alternative views.”

Indeed, I have noticed that Gavin has developed a tendency to assume that if he believes he knows a certain subject, it isn’t necessary for him to pay attention to it in class. This is the arrogance of intelligence that can leave them as ignorant as those they deem to be “less intelligent”.

Then there is the other pitfall – the need to be right – another trait that I have observed emerging in my son. The reality of life is that there is rarely only one right answer. More often than not there are a variety of solutions to a problem and while one answer might be right, it might not be the “best” solution to the problem. Hence the need for the ego to be right can cloud our judgment towards other “better” possibilities.

De Bono goes on to highlight further deficiencies that can lead to poor thinking skills. For instance, the assumption is that good logic is the foundation of good thinking. However, good logic is only as sound as the premise or perception it is based on. In other words, if the information you begin with is poor, then no matter how good your logic is, the outcome will only ever be as good as the input.

In his book, “Teach Your Child How to Think” de Bono offers a variety of exercises to teach your child different ways of thinking. Each method can be taught in isolation of the others and can be utilised on its own. Intended for children age 9 and above, the book can be simplified for younger children using the drawing method for teaching.

What sort of exercises does de Bono offer in his book?

Part 1, which comprises a small segment of the book, talks about thinking and how to use the book. Part 2 and Part 3 contain exercises that help you teach your child how to think. De Bono divides the exercises into four groups – fun items, remote items, backyard items, and heavy items.

Fun Items

As titled, these exercises are intended to be imaginative, crazy and speculative. They are not to be taken seriously. For instance, “What would happen if we all had a third arm in the middle of our chest?”

Remote Items

These exercises are realistic items that are beyond the daily experiences of the children doing the exercises. For instance, “What factors would you consider in choosing where to set up a new fast-food place?”

Backyard Items

These are items that relate directly to the children doing the exercises. For instance, “Your best friend seems to be avoiding you and you do not know why – what can you do?”

Heavy Items

These are serious matters that have a direct relevance to the life of the children doing the exercises. For instance, “Should young people smoke?”

The proportion of each of these items that the child will do depends on the individual child and the application of skills already acquired.

Our Thoughts about the book…

In light of the concerns regarding high-achieving students who “seem less able to grapple with issues that require them to think across disciplines or reflect on difficult questions about what matters and why”, de Bono’s exercises appear to fill an increasing void.

Personally, I thought this book was a nice compliment to all the brain training exercises I have been looking at recently. While brain training exercises aim to enlarge our children’s brain capacity (much in the same way that purchasing more memory does for a computer), teaching our children how to think might be comparable to upgrading the current software programs installed.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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