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Attributes that Encourage an Inquiring Mind, and How are they Developed

Q:  What are the attributes that encourage an inquiring mind, and how are they developed?

A:  There are three main requirements for an inquiring mind:  (1) self-confidence, (2) curiosity, and (3) an unconditional love of reality.

1.  Self-confidence.  The best way to instill confidence is to encourage autonomy.  We parents often intervene too much to spare our kids a moment’s frustration, uncertainty, or failure.  An infant crawls under the legs of the dining room chair and becomes momentarily uncertain how to get out.  She cries, and Mom leaps to her feet, ushering the baby into the open.  A first grader struggles with his seat belt—Dad clicks it into place.  A middle schooler gives up on a math problem after thirty seconds, asks for help, and gets it.

These rescues add up, and eventually the child sees a moment’s frustration as a brick wall and looks to someone else for help.  Who can blame him if he never had the opportunity to struggle and sweat and muscle through those walls on his own?

2. Curiosity.  No one asks questions if he isn’t curious about the answers.  It’s sometimes hard for a parent to stay patient and engaged, but you’ve got to nurture curiosity while it’s natural and wild.

3.  The unconditional love of reality.  Whenever I hear someone say, “I am only happy because...” or “Life is only bearable if...,” I cringe.  Help your kids to see the universe as an astonishing, thrilling place to be alive no matter what.  Children with that exciting combination of love and hunger will not stand for anything that gets in the way of that clarity. Their minds become thirsty for genuine understanding, and the best we can do is stand back.

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