Let’s Get to the Bottom of It

They have questions. You have answers. 

That’s how this works?

Sure, if you want to be a human form of a Google search.

But if you want your kids to know how to figure stuff out, well, you’ll have to teach them how to figure stuff out. The author Susan Cheever tells a story of Henry Thoreau, who before he became a great writer was a teacher. The school he taught at was close to a river, and it was a source of endless fascination to the kids, mainly what made so many of the interesting sounds that came from the water.

“It has been disputed whether the noise was caused by frogs,” one student reflected later on. “Mr. Thoreau, however, caught three very small frogs, two of them in the act of chirping. While bringing them home one of them chirped in his hat.” Isn’t that lovely? He didn’t just dismiss their question with an obvious answer. He showed them how you go to the source of things—he showed them the importance of following your curiosity. Thoreau was full of demonstrations like that. For instance, he gave each student a small plot of land and taught them how to survey together, how to grow plants, and how to observe what was happening on their plots.

Yes, we’re busy. Yes, we know stuff. But we’re trying to teach them—as we’ve written—that everything is figureoutable. We’re trying to teach them to figure stuff out. So we can’t just tell them what we know. We have to show them. We have to roll up our sleeves, take off our hats, and get to the bottom of stuff together. 

And this imperative is true whether they are 3-year olds giggling about a funny noise or a 17-year-old complaining about a clicking sound their car is making. We show them how to find stuff out.

P.S. This was originally sent on February 3, 2021. Sign up today for the Daily Dad’s email and get our popular 11 page eBook, “20 Things Great Dads Do Everyday.”

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