Dr. Jackson

A truism of childhood is that children are curious. They experience new things on a daily basis. Perhaps we as adults should be more curious as we, too, experience new things on a daily basis. Every morning coffee is new. Every changing leaf is new. Every trip from the front door to the car has never been done before.

My children ask all sorts of questions. Whether it is a basic “why”, or “Who do you think would win: a king cobra or a honey badger?” or “Who do you think would win if the Ancient Spartans fought Napoleon?” Recently my oldest asked me if I thought it was cruel of a historical character to allow his children to be used as bounty to help his country. At first, I was a little annoyed because I was in the middle of trying to get four different tasks done and didn’t have time for a philosophical conversation. And, honestly, what difference does it make? But then a passage from one of my favorite educational philosophers came to mind:

“...thinking, like writing or skating, comes by practice. The child who has never thought, never does think, and probably never will think; for are there not people enough who go through the world without any deliberate exercise of their own wits? The child must think, get at the reason why of things for himself, every day of his life, and more each day than the day before.”

Children and parents both are given to invert this educational process. The child asks, ‘Why?’ and the parent answers, rather proud of this evidence of thought in his child. There is some slight show of speculation even in wondering, ‘Why?’ but it is the slightest and most superficial effort the thinking brain produces. Let the parent ask, ‘Why?’ and the child produce the answer, if he can. After he has turned the matter over and over in his mind, there is no harm in telling him – and he will remember it – the reason why. Every walk should offer some knotty problem for the children to think out, ‘Why does that leaf float on the water, and this pebble sink?” and so on.”

And so, rather than stop and make up an explanation that might satisfy my son, I asked him, “Well, what do you think?”

Charlotte Mason was onto something, because as soon as he was given license, my son was off explaining all of his thought processes. It was a win-win because he got all of the benefits of the mental exercise and I could enjoy his ideas without having to come up with my own!

I encourage you, the next time your child asks you a question, to ask their thoughts first. Why is the sky blue? Why does it thunder? Why do we put stamps on letters? See what your child thinks, first. “What do you think?” You may be able to leave it at that, or you may be able to give a more accurate answer when they are done. Or you may be able to take the question and look it up together! Be flexible, be smart and be patient. You can do this.

Katie Jackson, M.D., is a pediatrician with Utica Park Clinic Claremore.

Trending Video

Recommended for you