Children are instinctively inquisitive. It’s an important part of human development; it’s how they learn about their world and how they learn to direct their investigations. “Why Mommy?”, “Why Daddy?”, “why, why, why?”. Goodness, we can get so tired of all these questions! And sometimes we find ourselves discouraging them: “Stop all these questions!” or “because I say so” or “because it is and that’s that!” we say in exasperation.
Yet this is the perfect time to teach them how to direct their questions. We need to teach them to think about what they want to know and to consider the answers they receive. False news mostly works because people fail to apply the “reasonableness test”. So, when your child asks a question and you answer “because I fly on a broomstick” you want him to apply “the reasonableness principle” and ask for a more reasonable answer. You can turn this into a game; then instead of becoming irritated by constant, directionless questions, you can enjoy thinking up answers which challenge his “reasonableness test”.
Undirected questioning is immature questioning. It is the first stage that all children enter: questioning everything in a non-directional way. Often, as parents, we get the distinct feeling that the questioning is just being done as a way to get attention. Often it is; but it still forms a very important part of logical thinking development. And we can either nurture and direct it, or we can discourage it or simply allow it to continue blindly. How we respond to our children’s eternal questioning is how we help them develop their logical thinking. It is also how we prepare them for this strange “post truth world”.
The internet has so much information at your child’s fingertips; some of it real, useful and even important; some of it false and even dangerous. Developing their logical reasoning and applying the “reasonableness test” to all answers and to all apparent facts protects your child; more than that: it develops the kind of enquiring mind that can take humanity to the next stage of our mutual development.
Scientists, engineers and market researchers (among so many others) use their logical reasoning and their carefully directed questioning to discover new paths for humanity to travel. If you train your child from an early age to start thinking more carefully about what they really want to know and which questions will get them closer to the answer, you will be helping them develop those important logical reasoning skills.
So, the next time you want to tear your hair out at the 30th “why?” question your child has asked that day, remember that it is nature trying to develop his logical reasoning. Tell him you’re going to play a game with him in which you give him true answers and silly answers and he has to work out which is which. Tell him that he can ask more questions at each answer you give if he uses those questions to work out how reasonable your answer is.
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