Raising Kids Who Can Reason

My latest purchase is this charming book on recognizing fallacious arguments and using sound reasoning. 

I’ve had a lot of conversations with full-grown adults who are ruled by emotion over reason, and it’s quite scary, to be honest. I try to take those discussions as an opportunity to reflect on my own biases and see where I can adjust my own though processes (not gonna lie, I also take those discussions as an opportunity to entertain myself, because people who can’t reason are the most irritable people you’ll ever meet, and when I see a loose thread, I like to see what unravels). But as a dad, it also makes me think about what I can do to help my kids build critical thinking skills.

Teaching my kids to think for themselves is so much more important to me than making sure they believe everything I believe. Do I want them to share my beliefs? Yes, of course, because I want them to believe things that are true. I wouldn’t believe what I believe if I didn’t believe it was generally true.

But if they only share my beliefs because it’s what they’ve been taught, they’ll never be able to defend or correct those beliefs when challenged. I want them to care more about subjecting their beliefs to truth, rather than making the truth fit their beliefs.

When you’re not willing to have your beliefs challenged or corrected, your beliefs become tied to your ego, rather than to the truth. This causes many to either dig their heels in deeper and shut out any voices that don’t fit their views… or throw the baby out with the bathwater when they find themselves unable to defend a worldview they never truly understood for themselves in the first place.

I want my kids to be able to understand what they believe, and why. I want them to ask scary questions, and evaluate the answers. I want them to be able to think of truth as something beautiful, even when some truths are ugly. I want them to be able to accept that some truths can’t be known, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t still search for them.

I’ve always believed that the best way to know the truth is to never stop searching for it, and even when you find it, allow for it to be challenged. If something is true, it can afford to be questioned. If something is so fragile that it cannot be questioned, it may be a sign that we don’t actually believe it as much as we want to.

So, when my children ask big questions, I try to avoid feeding them the answer. Instead, I ask them what they think the answer is. And then I ask them why. And I might challenge them on it, and we might discuss particular biases or fallacies. And often, we uncover new truths along the way.

And I got this book, so we can study these adorable little fallacies together and recognize the cute distractions that get in the way of clear thinking.