Bringing up critical thinkers

Had a discussion this weekend about the way I bring up my boys. Since a young age I’ve been teaching them to question everything and challenge anything that they either dont understand or dont agree with. We’ve had some massive debates in my household in the last 17 odd years or so and I’ve had to concede to their logic on more than one occassion on a variety of topics.

My eldest is a senior in high school now and is driving more than one teacher up the blackboard with his constant questioning and requiring of proof to substantiate statements made in the classroom.

They have a religious studies course where they have a different religious leader speaking to them every week. He’s now been asked not to attend these classes anymore ;D As the story goes apparently he’s been challenging them with questions that simply cannot justifiably be answered and in the process got his friends to start studying their bibles to come up with inconsistencies, this ended up in a free for all and now nobody wants to come see them anymore as the children are “non-conformist”.

Now, personally I have no issues with non-conformity, I do however, wonder in my Mother’s heart whether I’m doing my kids a favour by teaching them to go against the flow and not just accept any scenario as the truth. As an adult, I can handle myself and deal with the accompaning Ostracization, but my kids are young, and will they be able to? After all, we all want to be accepted and part of a “crowd”.

So lets hear from the other parents out there, how do you feel about this, do you have the same concerns or do you have coping mechanisms that you teach your children in the process? If so, do share!

I’ve wondered about this, not because I’m a parent, but because I’ll probably one day be one…

The problem for me is, even from an adult’s viewpoint is tricky…

You don’t ever just agree with someone saying something like “Well, I guess only God knows…”, just so you can get out the situation without becoming the subject of an intervention and/or fight, and go on with your life?

I’m sure there are those who would, and do, push back at all times. I just can’t, life’s too short.

So, hence I’ve thought about this toughy quite a bit, so how would I teach that kind of tact to a kid? I guess at that stage it becomes about age, I’m sure at 16 and 17 your kids should be smart enough to understand that not all situations call for this kind of questioning? (ie When it becomes a problem for the school). It may just be personality driven, for me to want to let it slide sometimes. In my opinion, teaching kids that would stand them in good stead. (Much like, when not to disagree with your boss, etc)

But then I got to the really tough bit, what would I teach them as very young children? And it really grates me to say this, but I think I would teach them christianity. HOWEVER, it would be in the same stead as teaching them about the easter bunny and santa, the theory WILL be up for review as they get older. Do I say this because xtians instill morals? Hell no. I would do this purely so they can fit in until they become grown up enough not to. Lets call it, the ugly business of reconciling my ideology with reality.

This is basically what I did, I waited until they started asking questions about religion (which they heard from friends and school) and I exposed them to church and everything that accompanies it, as they grew, I told them about various religions and what the beliefs are (Hinduism = reincarnation etc). They got bored with Sunday school around agd 10, and asked not to go anymore, which suited me fine. They understand that most people need something to lean on and that religion plays that role for many. I tried to instill the importance of logic to replace that type of dependance and it would appear that I was fairly successful.

Morals you learn from your parents, and I’ve seen some really nasty bruises on faces of christian women who’s husbands guided them, and thats not the type of morals I wanted to instill in my kids. Christian morals doesnt convince me. (neither does most of the other religions as a matter of fact)

I’ll be looking here when I have kids actually. Currently I find little fault with the way you do things, Faerie.

I think it will just be a question of being honest with my kids above everything else. That would be a couple of years away for me.

This is great, he can only go from strength to strength! :slight_smile:

This is a tough one. My 2 girls are 10 and 8 and go to a private christian school (Not sure if there are any other kind in SA?). My motivation to send them there is not that it is a christian school but that as far as education goes it is a good school.
My wife tried to get them to go to Sunday school and to youth groups in the holidays, which I wasn’t too happy about. I reasoned that if they learn about one aspect of religion, I could teach them about the others and get them to start thinking logically about religions and whether they make sense or not. That was until my youngest daughter, who was just over 6 at the time, came home one day and said that she had been told that I am going to be burnt to death in a huge fire because I did not believe in god! Unbelievable! Needless to say, that was the end of that. When she said that to me, although fuming inside, I calmly said to her, “Do you think that is a nice thing to do? If someone doesn’t agree with you, do you think that they should be burnt to death in a huge fireball?”. Her answer was “no” (Thank goodness … the christian’s hadn’t had enough time to really mess with her head!). When I was putting her to bed I lay next to her and asked her what she thought and in an innocent little voice she said, “Daddy, I’m so confused.”

My kids know the way I feel - I needed them to get over their belief in the existence of the Easter Bunny and Father Christmas so that I could have the extended conversation about the non-existence of some other imaginary mythical things. I bought Dan Barker’s book Just Pretend and another book called Humanism: What’s that? A book for curious kids. I am also going to read them Richard Dawkins’ letter he wrote to his daughter when she was 10 about the good and bad reasons for believing. I think it is a great letter. I will provide some feedback once I have done all this…

The biggest fights I have had with my wife are because of religion … someone wrote a book about how it poison’s everything, and he got it spot on - that’s how I feel anyway.

Wandapec, my sons were also confused at one point and it was hard going to get them to understand various viewpoints.

One evening we were watching some or other fairy tale type movie, and at the end I asked them if they believed what they watched to be true, both replied that it was “just a story”, on asking them why they thought that, considering they just saw real people acting it out, they replied that we shouldnt just believe everything we hear or see. I connected the conversation to religion at that point and they started associating religion with stories. It was probably THE turning point in their way of thinking.

You do, however, have a problem if you have a religious partner, its entirely possible that it may erupt into a battle of wills as there will always be a disillusioned parent regardless of which option the kids choose for themselves. Tough one this.

There’s your answer. Now the other children in the class are starting to think for themselves as well. Far from being left out of the crowd, your child is a leader of the crowd. More power to him and you, keep going–you’re doing the right thing.