I gave a presentation at the Northshre Bookstore on October 28. www.northshire.com One should always learn something after giving a presentation. I am no exception. I am gaining clarity on what appeals to participants most fundamentally. The audience at The Northshire impressed me as engaged and inquisitive. I conclude that because of the questions and comments made after my talk. I share some of the highlights of the evening’s questions and comments.
What seemed most impacting was my recommendation, when discussing any topic, to tell a child, “Let’s think this through.” It seems so simple and direct, yet several moms and dads found that sentence, that approach, most illuminating and instructive. Telling a child to ‘think things through” illustrates the parent’s values. It shows respect for facts; it shows that consequences have values. It shows that some consequences are more desirable than other consequences. It show, most of all, respect for the child’s integrity as a thinker.
Asking a child to ‘think things through’ shows that reasoning is valued—not only reasoning generally, but moral reasoning specifically. It also shows that the parent is willing to invest time in the child. The parent is telling the child the answer. The parent is pushing the child along. The parent isn’t dismissing the child’s initial response.
Another goal, a very vital goal, is also achieved by this kind of interaction. A child not only wants to know that a parent is in charge. A child wants to know that the parent DESERVES to be in charge. This type of moral reasoning enhances the parent’s credibility and ethos. This moral reasoning exercise enhances the parent’s character.
Teaching a child to think things through allows reason to triumph over emotion and knee-jerk superficial analysis. It is an important skill.
Another point that had a profound impact on the audience was the suggestion to ask a child, regarding any topic under discussion, “What’s your opinion?” Again, this seems like a trivial enterprise—so simple and basic, yet it is profound. Instead of a parent dictating an answer or a solution of a line of reasoning, asking the child’s opinion illustrates that the parent values the intellect of the child and that the parent is willing to nurture the child’s thinking. The parent will not, of course, just leave the child’s opinion unexamined, as if it were an orphan. The parent will follow up with “Why is that your opinion?”
In this way, the parent can guide the child to examine values, articulate values and compare the relative worth of values. This process is an effective learning tool.