The first, and most important step, to building intellectual curiosity.

In my last post, I talked about how the Wright brothers, the ones who invented the airplane, had a distinct advantage over other Americans because they had a family that encouraged intellectual curiosity. This led me to think about how I can do this for my kids. I discovered that it can be incredibly difficult in a very busy world, but there are some easy things that can be done to encourage intellectual curiosity in our kids.

The first step in encouraging intellectual curiosity is managing your kids’  entertainment time against their learning time.

People crave entertainment. One report from June 2015 stated that Americans spent 2 hours and 49 minutes watching tv! This study found a correlation between watching lots of tv and lower levels of happiness. Parents look for ways to keep their kids occupied. Too often, this takes place by sitting kids in front of the tv or computer. A couple of months ago, I was talking with one of my co-workers. She told me that she was getting a 96″ tv for her young son’s bedroom. I guarantee you that he was not going to be spending hours watching documentaries.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as guilty as the next person. Sometimes you just need the peace and quiet that a good Sesame Street video provides. But next time you turn that video on for your kid, watch as he or she gets sucked in. I’ve done this for my son, and you have to work to get him to focus on anything else. The fact is, that by doing this you are helping your kid build habits. You have to think about whether these habits encourage or discourage intellectual curiosity.

Recently, I read the following quote: “Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning.” Read more about that quote here. Adapted for great dads: Ordinary dads seek to always entertain their kids. Extraordinary dads seek to educate and help their kids learn, to develop their intellectual curiosity, with some healthy recreation thrown in there.

At some point in our lives, we all dream of doing or being something great. As we get older, we hope that our kids will do or become something great. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, we don’t realize the effect that our daily decisions the realization of those desires. A book by James Allen, As a Man Thinketh, illustrates that what we tend to think about is what we tend to become. If your thoughts and actions, or your kid’s thoughts and actions, are so focused on entertainment that we never focus on intellectual curiosity, then we run into problems.

Next time you reach for the remote or direct your browser to your favorite sports site, look at your kids and ask yourself if there isn’t some way you could be encouraging their curiosity.

How do you encourage your kids’ intellectual curiosity?

How do you get work done around the house without turning on the tv? What activities do you do with your kids instead of watching tv?

Review of The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough

Recently, I read David McCullough’s, The Wright Brothers. I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading about people who overcame insurmountable odds (including gravity) to change the way the whole world operates. They started as sons of a preacher, bicycle mechanics. They did not have billions to fund their endeavors. They started a company in their garage, the ultimate side gig, that changed the world. Click on one of the pictures below if you are interested in buying this book.

This was a fantastic book! In writing this book, David McCullough again shown his masterful ability to present history in a compelling way. 

How does this all relate to dads? David McCullough describes it best on page 18 of his book. A friend was speaking with Orville Wright, talking about how Orville and Wilbur epitomized the American Dream, of how someone with no special advantages could become someone who changed the world. Orville responded that he did have a special advantage. He grew up in a family where “there was much encouragement to intellectual curiosity.”

That should be a lesson to us all. Rather than spending all of our time in the pursuit of entertainment, we should spend a portion of our time encouraging our children’s intellectual curiosity. We should help our kids understand the world, and if not understand the world, we should help our kids understand to how to examine and analyze the world. Who knows what they may be able to accomplish.