The beginning of school and a random question from my daughter reminded me about a book that I read few years back in Poland. It was a book by a German educator, Eva Zoller, and it focused on kids’ natural tendency to philosophize – ask questions, doubt, marvel and investigate problems. The author argued that by leading philosophical discussions with our kids we raise people who can think independently with courage, empathy, and care. I am aware that having a philosophical conversation with children might seem a rather daunting task for a lot of parents exhausted by daily responsibilities, but you can do it in a fun, easy, and light-hearted way, I promise! What’s more, I believe you can do it by dealing with these hard to answer devilish questions asked by your cherubs in the middle of family chaos.
Let’s think about it then. How to answer tough questions from children in a wise AND easy way?
1. Say: “And what do YOU think?”
Easy, right? I use it and it works, seriously. It doesn’t matter if the answer is correct from a scientific standpoint. What’s important is that a child gives or finds meaning in a problem. When your little one asks why it rains and you start talking about warm air, vapor, clouds, cold air and so on and so on, is it a satisfactory answer? Or maybe you just face another “But why”? Children want meaning, not science, and they can make sense of things on their own, if only allowed. And sometimes they already have an answer before they ask a question.
2. Give a funny hypothesis and ask your kid about an opinion.
It works best with matters involving magical creatures, but you don’t have to limit yourself to a fantasy world. Use “maybe” and find a lot of possible explanations together, brainstorm with your kid. Warning: it might get really absurd after a while, but it’s certainly fun.
3. Find the answer together.
This one requires a little bit of effort, depending on child’s age and the difficulty of the question. Most of us are not polymaths and there is more that we don’t know that we do know, but this is the occasion to learn something together. You have to use this method answering the questions of “how does it work” type: tell what you know and send your child to a book or google it together.
These simple methods do not only answer your kids’ tough questions, they also teach reflection and intellectual freedom; they encourage your kids to form their own opinions and come to their own conclusions and, by doing so, they can proceed through life in a conscious and responsible way. Tiny bits of parental wisdom in our rushed and technology driven lives.
And if you are worried that your kids won’t learn facts and won’t know “real” answers, don’t: the school is there to stuff their little heads with “correct” answers and dry information, we are here to raise human beings.
Now homework for you: try it at home and share results. 😉