It’s easy for all of us to do things out of habit rather than thinking about our actions. Whether you want to or not, you teach your children all sorts of lessons that will also help them to develop habits. Therefore, one of the most important things parents can do as teachers is to coach their kids to think for themselves and to understand why they are doing what they do.
Everyone has experienced the inquisitiveness of young children repeatedly asking, “Why?” about everything that is said.
Naturally, this isn’t always welcome in the moment, especially if you’ve had a stressful day at work and long to merely put your feet up for a few minutes. Whether this is true or not, stifling this natural curiosity does your children a disservice and you miss the opportunity to teach them to think rather than accept things just “because you said so.”
When the urge to understand why you are doing something is suppressed, you start to do things without thinking about it. While this may allow someone to follow directions and orders well, it doesn’t instill critical thinking skills. It also doesn’t require children to check in with their Internal Guidance Systems to see how doing something feels to them.
In order to raise independent, thoughtful adults and leaders, you must teach your kids that they can and should think for themselves. They should know that it’s okay to continue asking, “Why?” so they understand what is happening and can make the appropriate choices.
By understanding the reasoning behind an action, children can then use the knowledge, not only for similar situations, but in order to apply the rationale to other situations. Without that level of understanding, children are merely copying behaviors.
To help illustrate this point, please consider the following:
One Saturday, a newlywed was preparing a romantic dinner. She took out all the ingredients for a fine roast. She proceeded to cut off each end of the roast beef before carefully placing it in the pan. Her husband asked, “Why did you cut off the ends of the roast?”
She looked at him, paused, and replied, “That is what my mother did.”
With her curiosity kindled, the young woman called her mother and asked her why she always cut off the ends of the roast. Her mother said, “That’s what my mother did.”
Certain she would learn some great secret about how meat is more tender when prepared this way, the woman phoned her grandmother and asked, “Grandma, why do you cut off both ends of the roast before put it in the oven?” Her Grandmother replied, “I don’t do that any longer, but when I was younger I didn’t have a pan large enough to hold the entire roast so I had to cut it.”
The next time you are tempted to have your children do something “your” way without understanding why, consider how many generations may be affected by this habit. It may seem unimportant at the time, but the result may not be as harmless as unnecessarily cutting a roast.
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© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.