Saturday, 12 May 2012

Difficult questions

All children go through that stage where they ask questions that we don't even know how to begin to answer. I ended up having a confusing conversation with my two the other day about whether other people taste things differently. Like, what does cheese taste like to someone else? I don't know, I replied, what does it taste like to you?

Asking difficult questions is a natural part of growing up and discovering things about the world, but there comes a time when a lot of us stop asking those difficult questions, and start to concentrate instead on what we can easily do or find out about, dismissing such things as what colour is the smell of pizza, and focussing on how we solve a maths problem, or pass our driving test, or get through the next few days at work. This ability of children to ask the random, awkward questions, to think "outside the box" and to come up with creative answers to problems is a skill that we can encourage them to develop and one which will serve them well in the long run.

The education systems in other parts of the world have been applauded for their results in traditional, academic subjects. China, for example has been held up as an example of a country where the students achieve fantastic results in maths. But is this limited and structured system what we want for our children? Or do we in fact want to encourage them to be the creative, innovative thinkers of the future - to discover a cure for cancer, to solve the world's economic problems, or to design a new form of sustainable energy?

Encourage your child to keep asking these questions - often we cannot answer them, but by really listening to them, taking their questions seriously and talking through things with them, we are teaching them that asking questions is valuable, and that life is often about a continued search for answers, not a quick fix, or an instant google answer!

I can't guarantee that you will be able to produce the next Albert Einstein or Marie Curie, but as parents we can help our children to retain their enquiring minds, and not to feel embarrassed or self-conscious about wanting to know why the sky is blue or how gravity works in water, or whether cheese tastes the same to your sister as it does to you.

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