Teach Them To Think and Evaluate

Plutarch tells us the story of a Spartan leader

As he reclined after his meal the Eiren would tell one boy to sing, while to another he would pose a question which called for a considered reply, like “Who among the men is best?’ or ‘What is your opinion of so-and -so’s action?’ Thereby boys grew accustomed to judging excellence and to making a critical appraisal of the citizens right from the start. When asked which citizen was good, or whose reputation was low, the boy who proved to be at a loss for an answer was regarded as a sluggard whose mind showed no sign of any ambition to excel. Answers had to be reasoned, supported by argument, and at the same time expressed with brevity and conciseness.

It is this that we must create in our own home…because they’re definitely not doing it at school! Our goal is to raise kids who know how to think, who can see. It’s not that you want to teach them to be judgmental, but you do want them to have good judgment. And how does anyone develop that skill without practice?

One of the benefits of watching sports as a family is that it’s an opportunity to judge, to evaluate. You can talk about what players are doing right and wrong. You can debate whether the coach made a mistake going for it on 4th down. You can talk about why your hometown franchise is so consistently mediocre. You can’t let them get away with half-baked analysis either (nor can you tolerate it in yourself). Get a real discussion going. 

What are they doing? What should they be doing? Why? 

You can do the same thing with history or a Civil War battlefield. You can do it as you walk or drive through your neighborhood on the way to school or over the newspaper or the news in the morning. Break stuff down. Put it up for review. Encourage them to ask questions. Ask them for their opinion. Speculate together. Argue the opposite view just to challenge them. Congratulate them and reward them when they beat you, or when they come to a considered, reasoned position that makes sense. 

Teach them to think and explain. 

P.S. This was originally sent on April 2, 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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