Discernment is a skill that’s sorely lacking these days, isn’t it?

You don’t have to look far to find people gullibly believing all sorts of foolish notions and making foolish choices and decisions based on delusional thinking. Some people assume that foolishness and a lack of discernment are unavoidable in teenagers…but that, too, is a delusion.

If we want our children to make good choices and do the right thing, we must equip them to develop discernment!

If we want our children to make good choices and do the right thing, we must equip them to develop discernment! Click To Tweet

How do we do that? I’m glad you asked! Evaluation is the next step in higher-level thinking. The ability to evaluate information and choices is foundation for developing discernment, and we can teach and encourage evaluation just as we would any other skill.

Let’s start by defining what it means to evaluate. When we evaluate, we form value judgments. Evaluation involves a close examination of the subject, and may require that we ponder cause-and-effect connections within and across disciplines.

For example, a national election requires mature voters to evaluate the candidates for office by examining their positions on various issues, comparing and contrasting their words and their past actions, considering how their experiences and temperament might predict their future decisions, and weighing all of those factors against our own priorities. A very complex skill, indeed…but we can start small.

When you think about working evaluation skills into your children’s lessons, these words will almost certainly pop up:

  • Appraise
  • Assess
  • Choose
  • Compare
  • Conclude
  • Consider
  • Contrast
  • Critique
  • Decide
  • Defend
  • Evaluate
  • Interpret
  • Judge
  • Justify
  • Prioritize
  • Rate
  • Recommend
  • Summarize
  • Support
  • Weigh

Even toddlers can be given the opportunity to make choices. (I found that choice goes a long way toward curbing childish resistance.) Of course, we have to frame their choices at first so that they include only options that will lead to good results. For example, one of my children was very warm-natured. Convincing him to keep shoes and socks on–much less a winter coat–was a struggle, but we lived in a very cold climate at the time. So whenever we got ready to go out, I’d open the door or window so we could both assess and appraise the weather conditions. Then I’d say something like, “Brrr! It’s cold and damp today! Would you rather wear your big coat, or just this jacket?” He got to choose, but I made sure whichever option he chose was acceptable. (To this day he insists that jackets are something you have to wear when your mother feels cold. *wink*)

As we strive to raise empathetic little humans who don’t bully others, it’s important to challenge them to consider how others feel and decide how to respond with kindness and respect rather than simply reacting.

We’ve mentioned before how older children can read a book for literature, then compare and contrast the movie version, critiquing how well each presented the story and supporting their reasons for recommending one or the other.

While teaching history, you might ask an older student to summarize and prioritize the factors leading up to an event then evaluate and defend the actions that followed.

You may have noticed that at some point, once we have the facts, evaluation asks us to make a judgment, yet we live in a world that says judging is hateful–that all sins are equal, all people have a right to choose, and comparing or criticizing is mean. Spiritual considerations aside, I hope we can agree that higher-level thinking requires us to make assessments–to consider, evaluate, and, yes, to judge between choices that may be bad, good, better, or best. The attitude with which we do that determines whether we are wise or merely opinionated. When properly taught, the skills of evaluation become second-nature and have a wonderful way of helping us discern ourselves–our own inconsistencies and unfounded beliefs–before we attempt to discern others.