Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Encouraging your child to ask lots of questions helps her become a stronger thinker.

How to inspire curiosity, creative thinking, and joy along your child's path to greater knowledge

Like most kids, my daughter Carlota is intently curious. She never stops asking questions. And like most parents, there are times I wish she'd stop. But then I have to remember that when I was a child, I had many questions about the world. Sadly, my parents were not always able to answer my constant questions. They didn’t have the time or energy, so I gradually stopped asking.

When I started school, I never felt quite confident enough to ask questions. Fortunately, I had one kind teacher who recognized that I wasn't a terrible student; I was just fearful. She began spending extra time with me, helping to draw me out. She listened to me and let me stumble over letters or words and, slowly, I began to ask questions.

Is it any surprise that I became a journalist? I now ask questions for a living, learning as I go. Some years ago, I started writing a list of questions: "Why are we born? What is our purpose? Why do we lose the people we love?" Before long, those questions became the foundation for my book, A Book of Questions: A Playful Journal to Keep Thoughts and Feelings. I dedicated my book to Carlota, the child I hope will never stop asking questions and never take no for an answer.
Please Ask Me Why
In theory, all parents want to give confidence their children’s interest, and that means answering lots of questions. But in practice, the endless "Why?" questions can get tedious and frustrating. It's helpful to try to see the world during your child's eyes. Everything is interesting, everything is unsolved. Try to remember how puzzled you once were by the things you saw and experienced, and how you needed someone to explain what was going on. By answering questions, you're showing your child respect. By keeping the dialogue open, you're telling your kids that you value their ideas and thoughts. So encourage your child to ask questions. It will help him:

Gain control over his world. You’re establishing a pattern of questioning that hopefully will stay with your child throughout his life. Convey to your child that the question is sometimes more important than the answer. Answers don’t always come easily, but when you ask the right questions you're on the way to finding out the truth.

Learn to think critically. It’s important to not simply accept things as they are given. We want our children to see that we have a right to dig and find the satisfactory answer. Questioning helps your child mull over what she sees on TV. It helps her to distinguish between fact and fiction, between entertainment and advertising messages.
Believe the complexities of life. While it seems that you have to offer an answer to every question—especially with very young children—sometimes there are no answers, or at least no simple ones. That’s an vital lesson for kids, too. There are lots of ways to work questioning into your child’s day. The first step is to make it a daily movement, maybe at the start of your evening meals or as part of bedtime. Jot a question on a piece of paper, along with a love note, to tuck into his lunchbox. That way, the question game becomes a nice way of staying connected through the day. The object is to try to get a handle on how your child views his world, and help clear up confusion he may have on difficult or painful issues.

Make Yourself like brand.

If you've got some career ambition, it's more than worth it to develop your own personal brand and be the definition of your career for other people. And guess what? It's easier than you think with these tips:
Make a mental picture. Clamp your eyes shut and picture who you are and what qualities you want people to call to mind when your name comes up (or when a job presents itself that would fit you like a glove). Those qualities should be the cornerstones of your brand.
Become a tangible product.
For those branding giants -- our aforementioned Kleenex, Band-Aid, and Starbucks -- the image is reinforced with logos, trademarks, commercials, catch-phrases, and customer service. Each time a customer interacts with a given product, the corporation reinforces the brand until, when you need a tissue, you think Kleenex. You, however, are not a tissue. You are a living, breathing brand, with ample opportunities to reinforce this on a daily basis. If your personal brand involves innovation, be innovative in all things: the food you eat for lunch, the gadgets you rely on, the style that swirls around you. Keep in mind that this can work against you, too: If you always do shoddy work, your desk is a mess, or your wardrobe is atrocious, those are the qualities that people will associate with you. Yikes.