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How to develop your child’s inquisitive mind: “Because I said so.”

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Olaolu Ogunyemi - October 12, 2022

I believe I received this shirt on Father’s Day in 2015. As you can tell by the wear and tear, it’s one of my favorite shirts. I don’t remember exactly what I said when my family handed it to me, but it was probably something like, “that’s right!” Yeah teaching children to be inquisitive is important, but not more important than doing what I say when I say it! I even ran into an older gentleman who read my shirt and said, “Hey, I would do what you say too.”

One of my favorite shirts! “Because I said so. -Dad”

“That’s right!” I thought. “You see these biceps?! These back up my authority. You do what I say, when I say it. Why? Because I said so!” Some of you are beating your chest and wondering where you can buy one of these shirts. Others are ready to vomit. Nowadays, I agree with the latter group. “Because I said so” is easy to say (and wear), but it’s actually quite shallow and it can potentially squelch a child’s inquisitive spirit. We’ll discuss more, but before we dive in, we have to answer two important questions: 1. What does it mean to be inquisitive? 2. Why is it important to raise children who are inquisitive?

What does it mean to be inquisitive?

To be inquisitive is to be curious and extremely interested in learning new things. Typically, inquisitive people have an insatiable desire to know more about any given topic. For example, my son [randomly] asked me the following questions last week: 1. Why is the sun so bright? 2. Why is a Rip current called a “Rip” current? 3. Why do we say “bless you” when people sneeze?

I know that as soon as I mentioned the word “curious,” some of you thought about this old quote:

Curiosity killed the cat.

A LOT OF PEOPLE

My ten minute Google search tells me that this quote originated in the 1598 play, Every Man in His Humour, written by the English playwright Ben Jonson. Since, it’s been used as a forewarning for those who are inquiring about or expressing curiosity in something that may result in trouble. Over the years, this quote has been used to keep people from interfering in others’ affairs. Of course this quote has also been used to discourage children from asking “too many” questions about anything. I even remember as I stared at a lifeless cat in the middle of the road, someone told me, “See? Curiosity killed that cat!” Sounds like a pretty compelling argument if you ask me.

Why is it important to encourage children to be inquisitive?

In true Olaolu fashion, I’d like to offer you an alternative to the previous quote:

Curiosity Ignorance killed the cat.

OLAOLU OGUNYEMI

Let’s use the same scenario above. Some argue that the cat died because he was too curious. He met an inevitably fatal ending because he was satisfying his naturally inquisitive mind. Well, I’d like to offer that the cat wouldn’t have wandered into the road in front of a car if he had known it could end his life. In other words, his fatal outcome was based upon his ignorance, not his inquisitive mind.

It’s not all life or death situations though. There are many other benefits to encouraging our children to be inquisitive.

Here are a few benefits.

  1. It broadens their perspective on current events.
  2. It gives them a desire to know more about life, science, religion, etc.
  3. It helps to develop their critical thinking skills.
  4. It helps develop their perspective and opinions.
  5. It sparks their mind to conduct analytical processes.
  6. It teaches them to remain open minded.
  7. It gives them confidence as they learn new things.
  8. It teaches them to think freely and explore their thoughts and emotions.
  9. It creates another teachable and memorable moment for you with your children. That’s what my entire parent-child-connect (P2C) platform is all about!

So now for the million dollar question:

How do you raise inquisitive children?:

1. Ask questions.
It’s no secret that I’m a huge advocate for setting the example. That is our job as leaders and mentors. The more our children see us asking questions, the more they will be inclined to do the same. Your example also teaches them the appropriate time, forum, and method to ask questions. For example, if your significant other says something and you yell back, “Why do I need to do that?!” Expect your child to do the same.

2. Give answers based upon fact.
Children may be naïve, but they’ll eventually realize if you’re just making stuff up. It’s ok to say, “I don’t know. Let me read more about that and get back to you.” It may even be a great opportunity for you to learn together! In any case, give them factual information.

3. Teach them where to find answers and how to conduct research.
I’m sure we have all heard this proverb.:

If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.

Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie

I’m not encouraging you to hand them a dictionary or an encyclopedia, and tell them to “go figure it out.” I am encouraging you to show them how and where to gather information. Encourage them to read! This is why I include fun facts and educational material in my children’s books. Not only is this skill transferrable to the classroom, but it teaches your child how to examine perspectives and analyze information before developing their opinion.

4. Listen to them and be patient.
Patience is another topic I discuss regularly. It is a critical part of any relationship, and it’s impossible to raise inquisitive children without patience! It takes time for them to ask questions that they perceive to be complex. The fact that they don’t know how to ask the complex question makes asking the question that much harder.

Relax. Give them time to ask the question, and if they need a little help forming the question (i.e. they are struggling to form the words), gently help them. Whatever you do, don’t rush them or cut them off mid-sentence. Take time to hear their question, and give them an age-appropriate answer that they can comprehend.

5. Encourage them to ask questions.
This is a pretty simple concept. If you want your children to be more inquisitive, encourage them to be more inquisitive. Sometimes, they may be scared to ask questions. Maybe there’s a guy yelling and wearing a worn out t-shirt that says, “because I said so!” I say that tongue-in-cheek to make fun of myself, but you get the point. Be aware of what you say about and your disposition towards your children when they are being inquisitive.

Their inquisitive mind is constantly expanding as they learn about and take in the world around them. Your children’s life-long experiences and opinions will be based upon what they learn and perceive to be true. Their willingness to ask questions and challenge the norm will inevitably make them catalysts for change. And ultimately, that change will drive us to a brighter future.

author

A loving husband, father, teen mentor, and U.S. Marine Officer, Olaolu Ogunyemi has a deep passion for working with children fueled by an unending supply of energy and imagination! He is the author of the Amazon best-selling children's book, "Crow From the Shadow," "Horace the Horsefly," and "Billy Dipper's Time to Shine." Olaolu is a frequent traveler and in his free time, he enjoys playing music, exercising, and spending time with his family. Connect with him on his website: www.parent-child-connect.com