When I taught fourth grade, every year there would be that one kid who would daily come to my desk expecting me to solve his problems.
I don’t mean the kind of problems like, “What’s the meaning of life?” or “Should I be a doctor or a garbage man when I grow up?”. I mean problems like “My shoe won’t stay tied.” or “My pencil broke.”
Here is a typical conversation that would take place:
Kid: “Mrs. H?”
Kid: “My pencil broke.”
Kid: “Yeah. See?” (holds out pencil)
Me: “Yes, I can see that.” (smiles)
Kid: (Shuffles feet while waiting for me to say more)
Me: (Pausing for effect) What do you think you should do about it?
Kid: Sharpen it?
Now, these kids were perfectly smart and capable. They just didn’t want to think for themselves. Isn’t it easier when someone else does all of our thinking for us? (That reminds me. Will y’all make my grocery list for the week? My brain is tired. ‘Kay. Thanks.)
Well, now I find myself the parent of that very kid! She is intelligent and capable, but she likes for me to do the thinking for her. The trouble is, I don’t play along.
Granted, it would be much easier for me to just tell her what to do, but I want her to think for herself, so if it hasn’t been one of those days when I want to just say, “SHARPEN IT! And then run outside and play while Mama drinks a Dr. Pepper, mkay?”, I try to help her come up with answers on her own.
This just happened recently, when my girl asked about some twin girls we know.
Her: “Mommy, are A and E identical twins?”
Me: “Well, what does ‘identical’ mean?”
Her: “Exactly alike?”
Me: “Yes, that’s right. Do A and E look exactly alike?”
Her: “I don’t know.”
Me: “Now, think. Are their eyes the same color? Do they have the same color hair?”
Her: “So they aren’t identical?”
Me: “You tell me. Are they?”
She finally concluded that they are not identical and I’m sure she knew it all along and just wanted me to confirm that she was right in her thinking.
I want to reassure her that she is capable of coming to her own correct conclusions, instead of providing ready made correct conclusions for her. As tiring as this can be at times, I think it will serve her much better than if she knew she didn’t have to bother thinking for herself because I will do the thinking for her.
Am I the only one who deals with this? How do you encourage your children to think for themselves?