Socratic Reasoning and Kids

Helping Kids through Socratic ReasoningSocratic Method and Kids

I’ve been asked about this as a Humanistic Parenting topic. As a Humanist parent, I want my child to learn how to think through problems and figure out how to solve them effectively and compassionately. I want him to learn how to make the correct choices for himself without having to be told what the correct choice is. I have taught him this by using the Socratic Method. And I’ve been asking him these sorts of questions since he has been old enough to talk.

I now have a kid who self regulates his emotions fairly well and who is courageous in his morality and who doesn’t argue with me too much, mostly because there is no point, he’s going to lose.  The thing is, there are so many benefits to how your child behaves when you raise them with Socratic reasoning. It goes well beyond just helping them learn how to think.

The first benefit is that it helps calm the emotions. Speaking takes up a whole bunch of brain power. When kids are first learning to talk, you can literally see the drop in their emotions as they form words. Their brains get better at multitasking emotions and speaking, but the two tasks do compete for brain power. When you ask your child a calm question, in order to answer you, they have to reduce their emotions in order to have brain power to understand you and answer you using speech. The act of asking a calm question requires the brain to take energy away from emotional processing and that helps kids calm their emotions down.

Once they are calmer, you can  use the questioning to help them, again, use their language, to articulate what they want, why they want it and how they might more effectively get what they want. Or, if what they want is not possible, help them understand that it isn’t possible using their reason as opposed to their emotions.

As you help your child practice these skills by engaging them in Socratic questioning whenever they are ramping up for a tantrum, they will start to anticipate the questions and to self regulate themselves and even if they don’t, they can usually come back down from the emotional rush sooner than they otherwise would.

Will this work for every child? No. Different kids have different neurological abilities and you have to tailor your approach to your child. But for a child who is relatively neurotypical, Socratic questioning can really help them avoid the emotional drama that might otherwise plague your happy household.

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Image: “Girl With Daisy” by Clare Bloomfield