I am passionate about honing my own reasoning skills and rationality, and I’ve found that my children’s own developing faculties are often the biggest catalysts for my development. It follows that I have made it part of my parenting mandate to encourage my children to be as rationally sharp and introspective as possible.
A simple way I’ve found to encourage reasoning skills in young children (I will even use this one on my 7 month old, though I skip straight to the commentary since I’m the only one speaking), is to pose questions about things we take for granted, for the purpose of brainstorming. For example, ‘Why is this mirror beside the closet?’ or ‘Why do we eat soup with a spoon?’ There is no ‘final’ answer, and I offer many; the goal being to model how to efficiently take inventory of supporting data, so that they will become quicker at determining the usefulness (or uselessness), of a given practice.
Some simple ways I frame my ‘reasoning questions’:
- Considering alternatives. Explain the practical considerations for other options, and how they contribute to the final decision. For instance, If I’m planning to drive to the store, I might ask my daughter to take inventory of the other ways in which we could get there. How long would it take if we walked? Could we ride our bikes with shopping bags?
- Fiction books. I like to pause throughout the reading to speculate on various outcomes, and challenge my daughter to recall information to support or contest my speculation.
Why the strong focus on reasoning?
The ability to question the status quo is an invaluable skill, one that is intrinsically linked to human innovation. Every generation must decide whether or not the way things have been done by the past one is optimal; and when it isn’t, not shy away from rejecting it. Tradition alone is not reason enough to perpetuate norms, and I want to ensure that our kids do not feel bound by our traditions for their own sake.
Most importantly, I want to clearly model my own thought processes for my children, without doing their thinking for them. Strong and flexible reasoning helps children avoid developing a rigid acceptance of norms and dogma. Once they able to understand the mechanisms of my thinking, they will be able to challenge and improve on it, which is where the real fun is.
What are some ways you help your child develop their reasoning ability? Do you find yourself challenged by their skills yet?