Reflective Thinking: Passing on the Life of the Mind to Your Children

Reflective Thinking: Passing on the Life of the Mind to Your Children

As a person committed to the truth of historic Christianity, I am compelled to pursue the life of the mind to the glory of God. That means that a critical part of my love for and devotion to God involves rigorously using the mind he gave me to pursue truth, goodness, and beauty. The robust Christian world-and-life view reveals that the Triune God is the source and ground of these profound realities. Therefore, when I encounter and apprehend these actualities, in a sense I move closer to God.

Whenever I talk about the importance of the life of the mind among believers I am inevitably asked one question. Christian parents inquire: How can I help my children to value the life of the Christian mind and to become more critical and discerning in their thinking? I respond that the best way to help children to grow intellectually and to develop genuine critical thinking skills is for the parents to model it for them.

Valuing Ideas Is Infectious

In a real sense, learning to value the life of the mind is something that is caught more than taught. More than teachers and even churches, parents have the greatest impact upon their children. When moms and dads model a genuine love for ideas and a deep value of truth their children cannot help but be influenced by it. When parents love learning, the children will as well—even if they initially try hard to resist. Though they might not show it immediately, children will likely return to this love later in life. It is hard to overestimate the power of parental nurturing.

Three Tips for Parents

Here are three suggestions for parents wanting to model the life of the mind for their children in a general family context:

  1. Use family mealtimes as a time to discuss important ideas. Feed the body and the mind at the same time. This practice serves to model for your children that the most natural thing that you do as a family includes the life of the mind.
  2. Combine entertainment with learning. For example, watch television programs and movies together as a family and then discuss the relevant themes and ideas. Even TV can offer opportunities to model critical thinking.
  3. Take family vacations that involve times of learning and discovery. Visit museums, art exhibits, or sites of historical or natural significance. Children remember these vacations for the rest of their lives so why not take the opportunity to impact their developing minds.

More Caught than Taught

Now that my three children are all adults my experience tells me that pursuing life of the mind is a contagious act and is indeed more caught than taught. That is, the things we daily model as parents tend to stay with our children for a lifetime.

So my question for you is: Does the life of the mind exude from your very being?

For more about the life of the mind from a Christian worldview perspective, see my book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.