youre so naive

5 Ways to Teach Children Not to Be Naive

Recently, my wife was out with our kids when some guy on the street shouted the F word. When my 8-year-old son asked what he said, my wife replied, “A word he shouldn’t have said.” My son asked what word. She had a decision to make: to tell him and explain or not to tell him. She decided to tell him. It started a several-week-long vocabulary lesson with our kids about swear words: What they are, where they came from, and why they aren’t appropriate for them to use. Since then, our kids have heard kids in the neighborhood swearing, which has spurred more discussion.

It’s important for parents to educate their kids about the world, especially the ugly parts. I don’t want anyone saying to my kids, “You’re so naïve.” Personally, I’d rather inform my kids about the ills of the world before they experience them. That way, they are prepared rather than roaming the world in naïveté. Here are 5 ways to teach your kids not to be naïve.

1. Be a family that’s well-informed.

Read a daily newspaper. Subscribe to a couple of kid-friendly periodicals that are news-oriented rather than gossip and trash. If TV is part of the kids’ diet, require some news shows as part of the mix.

2. Engage your kids in constant dialogue.

Be prepared (and informed enough) to talk about current events with your children. Direct the conversation. Make it fun to be “up” on current events. Have a world map in the kitchen or dining room, and make world geography and current events a visual part of an ongoing conversation.

3. Keep the lines of communication open and fresh.

Don’t allow yourself to become oblivious to what’s going on in your kids’ lives. That means don’t be naïve yourself! Cultivate a culture of openness where checking things out with “the parents” is par for the course. Be a resource for knowledge. This starts with initiating the conversation early. Don’t wait for them to experience something before you bring it up.

4. Teach a healthy level of skepticism.

Teach the kids to question everything, respectfully, and to apply the principles of academic rigor to all their interactions and conversations. Gullibility is also a cultivated condition. To be forewarned is to be forearmed. Help your kids keep their guard up in a respectful, non-argumentative way. Make sure they hear stories about hoax situations, and that they are well aware that naïveté is unnecessary.

5. Learn with your children.

Make it obvious to the kids that Mom and Dad are always learning, too. Arrogance or “I’d never fall for that” declarations can make your children shy about opening up or asking questions. A family culture where learning is an ongoing discipline for everyone is not only a hedge against naïveté, but also a huge step toward success in school, college, and life.

Sound off: Would anyone say to your kids, “You’re so naïve!” What are some more things we can do to train our kids? 

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you think is wrong with the world?”