Do you know the proverb, “Feed someone a fish and you feed them for a day, teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime”? The author may be unknown, but the message is clear. Learning is something we do, not something that happens to us. Whether children are learning to ride a bike or writing complex sentences, parents and teachers can’t do it for them. They need to do it on their own if they are to truly learn. Our habit of the week is an essential principle to great growing great kids. Consider all of the thinking involved when you allow your child to solve a problem on their own. You may have a good answer you would like to share, but allowing a child to question and problem solve on their own nurtures neurons and helps grow intelligence. Use the 80:20 question:answer rule. Ask questions 80% of the time and give answers 20%. I believe this is a healthy ratio for most children. As children develop confidence with their ability to resolve problems, more questions and fewer answers is appropriate. Avoid questions that provide a simple answer such as, “yes” or “no”. Use questions that lead to creativity and problem solving. Ask “how, why, what if, help me understand, have you considered ..” . Jonas Saulk once said, “the answer to any problem pre exists. We need to ask the right question to reveal the answer”.
The question a child typically asks first is drawn from his/her personal temperament. There is a desire to seek answers that satisfy our inner curiosity. For example, a child with a strong blue kite has a dominant interpersonal intelligence and will likely be drawn to the who question. A green kite thinks more intra-personally and asks why. The red thinker wants to know where and how because he/she is more hands-on and visually smart. The yellow kite considers logistics of a question and asks what and when. If we follow the natural questioning path that a child travels, we are likely to lead him/her straight to the correct answers.
Imagine the difference between giving your child a toy model car versus giving your child a toy model to build a car. Answering versus questioning has the same effect. When our children build a model they go through the process of discovery that is essential to deep understanding, innovation, and joy. If we are always providing the answers to questions, we get to show them how smart we are. Unfortunately, that does little for their own brain. Thinking power comes from asking questions and posing problems. In our brain we do the work to resolve those questions and problems and build neural pathways that become tools for the next time the question or problem arises.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein
“Quality questions create a quality life. Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.” – Anthony Robbins