On role of right questions in raising a child

Sometime back I had written a post (On role of a whiteboard in raising a child) which had got a huge response asking me to write more such posts on parenting. This is the fourth in probably what will be a series. Please read the disclaimer in the above mentioned post if you're new around here. If you already know me by now, read on!

Upto a  few years back, before I became a full time writer and artist, I used to conduct workshops on developing thinking skills in children, which were hugely popular and successful with kids and parents alike.
My workshops had three parts--the first was for logical and critical thinking, the second was for creative thinking and third part of it  involved a group discussion and then enacting a story (which usually reinforced a value) which would have been chosen with a lot of care and thought. The last part really helped the children get over their inhibitions. More than anything, it was a forum for the child to be heard, to be treated as an equal and the children loved it.

If we need to raise free thinking children, I do think it is very important that we treat them as equals, when it comes to discussing things. (Of course, they cannot be treated as equals when it is bed-time and they need to get into bed. We all know how children are master strategists for delaying bed-times :-)). Their opinions need to be valued. They need to know that what they have to say is important and will be heard and considered.

How do we ensure this? One of the ways is to introduce a 'thinking question'. These questions would be such that have no 'right answers' but can be answered in anyway you like and think right. One of the questions I asked my children a long time back was ' Would you rather be extremely wealthy (think private lear jets and indoor heated swimming pools in your home) and live all alone by yourself with absolutely no friends or family  or would you rather have to work  harder living for a living, but have lots of friends and a loving family?

Questions like the above really make one think. There are a lot of resources which offer such thinking questions.But you can easily make up your own questions too.

The thinking process in children can be stimulated to a large extent by asking the right questions. Sadly, in India, most schools discourage free thinkers. But that can be easily rectified by the parents at home.

To illustrate, my daughter has a Hindi test tomorrow for which she was asked to memorise the poem below. (My non-hindi speaking friends will have to kindly excuse. If you know to read Hindi, please do read the poem) Click on pic to enlarge even more.

After my daughter had memorised it ( I explained the meaning of each word to her), the free thinker in me still wanted something more. (Heart of hearts, I find the poem perpetuating the Indian obsession with 'fair is beautiful' which I totally do not agree with) The thinker in me, wanted to stimulate my children's thought processes and I wanted them to think out of the box.

So I asked both (my son is 13 and my daughter is 9) of them " If you had to use this poem to advertise three products, what products would you choose, how would you make the ad and what ideas would you use?"

We had a lively discussion as we brainstormed and came up with so many ideas and so many products (ranging from soaps to bathroom accessories to an exotic holiday location)  that could be advertised using this poem. :-)
A simple memorising exercise had been turned into a fun, creative one--but most importantly it made them (as well as me) think creatively.

If you want to join in the discussion  on 'How would you use the above poem for an ad?', you are most welcome to join in. Feel free to let your thoughts unloose in my comment box :)

If you have your own methods to make children think creatively, or if you as a child, were particularly impressed by any individual who made you think, I would love to listen to what you have to say.


  1. yup... i agree to most of the points emphasised..

  2. The above poem could very well be used for soaps and fair and lovely cream but I was trying to think out of the box and my idea is of a confidence booster pill..so like "kauwa" is very sad and then after eating this pill he can very confidently go for a modelling competition with "hans" and emerge the winner ... :)
    Love your idea of setting the mind free for thoughts....

  3. Its really hurting that such a poem has been included as a lesson for 9 year old !!

  4. Naan Podum: Well, don't read too much into the poem :) Concentrate on positives :)After all India is a country where 'fair and lovely' still sells..and on top of that now there is 'fair and handsome too'. So its nothing new or alien.

    Caterpillar: Thanks :)

    Seema; Some really good thinking there! Well done :)

    Mihir: Ok! :)

  5. Preeti, seeing this poem really took me down memory lane coz when I was in nursery we were taught these poem as one of the songs we used to sing during playtime. Our all resourceful teacher told us Ujala means to be good of heart (have a clean heart) – as opposed to being dark in colour !!

  6. Ruch: Your teacher was really wise indeed! Is this Harisvansh rai bachchan who wrote this poem? (it just says bachchan)

  7. What a bigotry instilled poem for children!

    Anyway, i might use it for one of those jewellery ads- comparative analysis b/w the good brand and the bad brand. However much they try, like the kaua with the soap, they can't be authentic! :P

  8. thats really an innovative and creative way to learn and make children think out of box ... you should definately write more on these things :) enjoyed reading :)

  9. Hi Preeti ! I am a teacher who is handling maths for std 6 & 7. I really liked this idea of creative thinking among children. I just tried in my class 6 today. i would like to share it --- Every new month i appoint board leaders for writing Homework, thought for the day, date , Subject name and many more... This months leader decorated the board fantastically. I asked my students if the leader has to draw a picture beside the SUBJECT NAME (which is written on the board at the beginning of every period) what all one can draw. I got various answers for the same ... like Maths - a scale or compass, biology magnifying glass, English - a dictionary , geography - globe... so on. This was a wonderful brain storming session for the entire class. They all enjoyed it. And i had my day in putting all of them to think!!!

  10. Even if half the teachers in all the schools adopted the freethinking style while teaching kids, rote-learning would have lost its roots ages ago!
    But unfortunately this doesn't happen, and its much more disheartening when it comes to me because i have been surrounded by teachers as well as some of my own classmates who detest the idea of freethinking. All they want are the good marks on the grade sheets at the end of the year. It doesn't really matter if anything taught has been understood or not.
    Conceptual learning simply doesn't exist in some places.

  11. Sunil: Wish it were not so..but sadly it seems to be the case.

    Vidya: Nice! :) teachers should surely encourage the kids to think like you have done.

  12. Anonymous7:58 PM

    Hi Preeti,

    My sister Sona who blogs at www.charmingthird.wordpress.com was totally flipped by your blog and wanted me to peek in to it...Just dropped by and found it interesting! I make my 7 year old geometry homework more intersting as we try and decipher things around our home that could fit the shape and description of any object! Its a fun way to incorporate shapes and dimensions in to learning and I remember I had a hard time understanding the concept of 2d and 3d when i was 8!!!



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