When my children were younger, they regularly asked deep spiritual questions. Preschool drop-off conversations were filled with reflections on why the grass was green instead of blue or orange or how to become a rainbow, or why people are so mean sometimes. But as they got older, curiosity decreased. Educational psychologist Susan Engel, who researches curiosity in children, explains that formal schooling models tend to encourage passive listening and repetitive tasks that dampen curiosity. Still, there are ways that parents and other caregivers can help support and promote a child’s curiosity. One method is to encourage the act of questioning.
Engel’s research mostly focuses on how children use questions to explore objects and ideas about how the world works. She notes that children’s initial inquiries lead to yet more questions when adults take young questioners seriously and encourage further exploration. One approach she finds helpful is for adults to model asking questions and making space and time for exploring potential answers to satisfy their curiosity.
Just about anything can be the subject of curious exploration, including oneself. Throughout the centuries, various religions and philosophical movements have valued daily practices of self-questioning to gain greater self-awareness and knowledge. Parents can model this spiritual practice of questioning themselves to encourage spiritual curiosity in their children. Through these shared experiences of self-questioning, families can establish a habit of being spiritually curious about how well they are being the people they desire to be.
Set aside a few minutes each day to reflect on a pair of questions with your child. Select the pair that best fits your family’s understanding of spirituality, or try out different pairs to explore additional ways of being spiritual. Once you have posed the two questions for the day, encourage your child’s curiosity further by asking if they have any other questions about themselves they want to wonder about.
- How have I received love today? How have I given love today?
- Where have I made mistakes so far today? How could I be wiser the rest of the day?
- When was I wise today? How will I practice being wise tomorrow?
- What do I think I need from God today? What does God want for me today?
- What values have I tried to live out today? What values will I live out tomorrow?
- What do I like about myself today? What about myself do I want to change?