Teaching Young People to Think (Part 1)

[May 30, 2024]  Young people often find themselves making poor decisions in situations where they are unprepared.  Often, the root cause is their lack of understanding of how to think.  It is not based on their formal education, which is often good.  Teaching young folks how to think is one of the ways those of us who are older and more experienced can help.

It took me getting specialized decision-making training in the U.S. Army to grasp an effective method of thinking properly.  Of course, there are many ways to train someone to think about solving problems and making good decisions.  Today, I will put forth one of my favorites.  Some call it thinking big.

More accurately called strategic thinking in a complex world, the Ends, Ways, and Means analytical model is a technique to help us get our thoughts in order.  This is where most people go wrong: they fail to accurately understand what they are attempting to achieve or identify their problem.

When explaining this to young folks (often as young as 13), the proverbial light comes on in their heads.  In Part 1 of this two-part series on teaching young people how to think, I will provide a simple and relatively easy guide for them to use.

  1. Define the End Point (or Goal or Problem):  What are you trying to achieve, or what problem are you attempting to solve?  What is the mission, task, or assignment you must accomplish?  Clearly defining the problem is the first significant step.  Even adults frequently get this wrong.  For example, years ago, when I was scouting with my son, the Cub Master and Den leader couldn’t tell me what they wanted the boys to have at the end of their time in the Cub Scouts other than just having fun.  After several meetings with the scouting committee, parents, and scout counsel, we decided that scouting is best seen as building the boys mentally, physically, socially, and spiritually.  While each is a complex goal in itself, we were better able to bring our resources into line with each of those goals.  Beforehand, we were following the “have-fun” model, which didn’t always work out well.  We rediscovered the age-old adage that it is easier to teach them good decision-making when they are young and eager to be taught.1,2
  2. Determine the Means (or Resources):  Means are necessary resources to achieve your End Point. Continuing our scouting example, the Means are the money, equipment, volunteers, charter support, community involvement, and reliable, educated leaders.  In the scouting workshops, we used a matrix to identify the resources we needed for each goal.  A few required no money but a lot of hands-on from all the adult leaders.  Others required coordination with local churches and synagogues to use their facilities and technical help.  Like Day Camps, some required travel, a fee per scout, and food costs.

Part 2 of this series will discuss the Ways this can be done.  Ways are the methods, tactics, and procedures to achieve the Ends.  This is the point where teaching young people how to think will get more difficult and where we see failure often occur.


  1. Can Children Learn Leadership? (Part 1): https://www.theleadermaker.com/can-children-learn-leadership-part-1/
  2. Can Children Learn Leadership? (Part 2): https://www.theleadermaker.com/can-children-learn-leadership-part-2/


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

13 thoughts on “Teaching Young People to Think (Part 1)

  1. June Cleaver

    While I am not one to say I have the answer to the problem of teaching people to think, I do know that there must be a widespread recognition that this MUST be done. Some call it “critical thinking” but I too just call it learning how to think.

    1. Lady Hawk

      At least we can see in America that there is a big problem here, and now we are just debating the solution. That is a good thing. Let us not get hung up on the latest and greatest “theory” of learning from schools. This is just another way to pull us into not caring anymore.

      1. Pink Cloud

        Nailed it, Lady Hawk. Let’s not give up on the kids and let’s be sure to hold the teachers’ feet to the fire and them responsible.

  2. Bryan Z. Lee

    #1. Define the End Point (or Goal or Problem). And there is where the problem most often is found and that is people cannot seriously find out where they want to go or their problem. They simply skip over this and assume they know what’s going on. And that’s when you get crazy teachers who inject leftist ideology into the classroom and the administrators are either blind, stupid, are willfully part of the problem.

  3. Harry Donner

    The Best Ways to Teach Students How to Think (Not What to Think)
    Good article giving another way to do this.
    Are you teaching the young people in your life how to think? When you face a problem that requires judgment, how many of these things are true?
    * I try not to jump to conclusions.
    * I am aware that this is a matter of judgment: I ask myself what someone I trust would think of this problem.
    * I independently ask several people for their judgment and I consider their reasons.
    * I try to separate my hopes and fears from the facts and beliefs supporting the judgment.

  4. Big Al

    Look like a nice mini-series and I’m looking for more.

  5. Jammie

    Gen. Satterfield, I agree with Scotty (below in his comment) that this is really the kind of article that interests me. I can appreciate the fact that in schools today, the teachers are not teaching kids to think but what to think. The teachers are propagandizing, not really teaching. And that is a shame. Maybe home schooling is the answer; I don’t know but I do know that if we teach young people how to think, we will have fulfilled our duties as parents and the community.

    1. Mr. T.J. Asper

      Jammie, as a current teacher I see the same thing. The teaching profession has gone from young women, mostly, who want to help kids become better people, to neo-Marxists who want to use kids in their war on capitalism and America. That must be stopped. I’m doing what I can but the more folks realize it, the better. Thank you for being one of those who stand up against the propaganda machine.

      1. Liz at Home

        Mr. TJ, we love you, keep fighting the fight. ❤

  6. Scotty Bush

    Now this should be an interesting series, I’m thinking anyway.


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