The art of thinking critically is being lost in the west at an amazing rate. The spirit of relativism, television, the loss of reading, popular culture all conspire to rob our kids and grand kids of the most important skill they could every acquire, the ability to think, to reason, to work through a problem logically and come to a logical conclusion. We cannot change the world in which our kids and grand kids live but we can give them the gift of helping them to think well.
With our two boys the forum for thinking was often our dinner table. Anything was fair game from politics, to church, to work issues to current events or the drama at school. In those conversations we would often ask questions to draw out their thinking. The boys would challenge us and one another and we them. It was a wonderful conversational free for all that put ideas on the table and didn't separate adult conversation from kids conversation. Often the conversation was alternatively serious and then very funny.
Kids love to talk, play with ideas and express themselves. The simple act of dialogue where there is a back and fourth with lots of questions that help them clarify their thinking, reasoning and conclusions is a gift that will stick with them for a lifetime. In the process they learn critical thinking skills that help them separate current sophistry from truth.
In fact, helping kids understand that there is truth, that there are absolutes that we can count on is huge today because the relativism they grow up with in school is "you have your truth, I have my truth and both are true" (a non sequitur if there ever was one: But wait, that is logic!). That kind of garbage thinking is raising a whole generation of kids to believe that anything and everything can be true simply because one believes it. As the British would say, that is pure, unadulterated rubbish! The shallowness of our political dialogue today is testimony to the fact that politicians count on the fact that people don't think. So much of what is said is pure rubbish but taken as fact.
All of this means taking time with our kids and grand kids. Their ability to think well impacts their faith, their personal lives and their vocations. It separates those who get their truth from Oprah and Chopra and those who understand real truth from Scripture. The ability to reason, to work through an issue logically and be able to defend it with real facts is a dying but necessary skill to successfully negotiate life and faith. Make that investment in the next generation and you will have given them a great gift.