Feed someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them how to fish and you feed them for a lifetime!
When I was a boy I was often reprimanded for asking too many questions. I wanted to know why, where, who, when, and what. When my enthusiastic questioning was squelched, I can remember second guessing my intelligence because I had a lot of questions and needed answers.
The neurological truth is that children are constantly asking questions because their brains are hungry for truth and knowledge. They ask out of intrigue, curiosity, and sincere interest. Squelching this inquisitive fire turns the mind cold and produces reluctant learners.
At the age of five, children ask on average 65 questions per day, at the age of eight they average 41 questions. By the time we reach the age of forty-four, we only ask six questions per day. More importantly, the quality of our childhood questions are much more inquisitive and thought provoking. What happens to our creative thinking?
Consider all of the thinking involved when you allow your child to solve a problem on his or her own. You may have a good answer to the problem, but with patience and guidance you will help your child develop his or her own path to an answer that can provide a solid path to other problems in the future. Use the 80:20 Q&A Rule: ask questions 80% of the time and give answers 20% of the time. I believe that this is a healthy ratio for most children. Once they are confident with their intelligence 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 preexists. We need to ask the right question to reveal the answer.”
Imagine the difference between giving your child a toy car versus giving your child a model to build a toy 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