What is thinking? Do our kids really need to be taught to think? Join AMBrewster as he unfolds the reality of thought and emotion, what the Bible says about mature thinking, and how Christian parents can teach their children to have theo-logic.
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Discover the following episodes by clicking the titles or navigating to the episode in your app:
“Emotions and Parenting” (episode 32)
“Teach Your Children to Learn” (episode 207)
“Teach Your Children to Think” (episode 210)
“Parents Who Think” (episode 75)
“What Does God Think about Your Kid’s Music?” (episode 23)
“Watch Your Language! | don’t confuse your children’s thinking” (episode 352)
“Speak Like God | Al Mohler, Humpty Dumpty, Aliens, & Your Family” (episode 353)
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Have you ever thought about the fact that though all human beings think to one degree or another, we don’t naturally think well?
Today we’re going to look at why we absolutely have to teach our children to think as well what it looks like to do so.
Regardless of the age of your child, today’s show will be very important.
In fact, the younger your child is, the better off your situation. Though it can be done, it’s much more difficult to retrain someone how to think than it is to start from scratch.
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Now, let’s talk about why and how to we need to teach our kids to think.
First, we have to acknowledge that this topic is far too massive to cover in a single episode. For that reason, I am going to simplify many of my observations.
Simplification can be dangerous, so I will be very careful.
The point is not to be robust and comprehensive, but simply to grapple with the main ideas which we can explore in more detail later on.
According to Merriam-Webster, to “think” is to “form or have in the mind, have as an opinion, regard, reflect, determine by reflecting, call to mind, devise, have an expectation, center one’s thoughts, form a mental picture, or subject to the process of logical thought.”
It should be noted that we are going to discuss “thinking” as different and unique from simple brain-function in general.
Animals do not possess the ability to think as humans do, though it is clear they process information, and many of them process it very well.
Infants are in a similar situation.
Premise 1. No human is born into this world with mature thought processes.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. Yes, barring medical issues, an infant’s mind functions just as God intended it.
It keeps the child’s bodily systems running including the chemical reactions that occur as a result of external and internal stimuli.
In animals we often refer to their instincts. These are behaviors programmed by God into the animal which they do not need to learn, but — instead — comprehend innately.
In a similar way, children have innate, instinctual behaviors. Often their behaviors are referred to as reflexes. Some have conjectured there are as many as 75 such reflexes that most children have but which disappear over the course of their earliest years.
Such reflexes, when retained are actually considered a developmental problem.
But it’s also been noticed that infants tend to start helping, sharing, and even comforting without being taught to do so or even being able to cognitively understand why doing this may be helpful or beneficial.
Though humans are not simply highly-evolved animals, but are instead a unique creation of God, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have certain things in common with other aspects of God’s creation.
Instinctual behaviors are one of these.
In fact — we’ll talk about this more later — but the Bible even describes people who haven’t developed in their thinking and still function on an instinctual level like an animal.
So, my statement that you and I were born into the world without the ability to process thoughts in the form of mature language, logic, or in abstractions was simply that.
Yes, we’re all miraculous and very complex creations, but that doesn’t change the fact that babies have to mature in their ability to move from reflexes, instincts, and feelings into lucid thought patterns.
Premise 2. Infants respond to the world through instinct and emotions.
We’ve spoken quite a bit about emotions on this show, so I’ll link those episodes in the description. But even though we can’t rehash all of the previous content, I do want to remind us of one very important thing.
God gave us physiological emotions for three very important reasons. But sinful humanity has not only adulterated God’s purpose for emotion, we have also completely misunderstood what they are.
How many times do we use the words, “I feel,” when we mean “I think,” “I want,” or “I believe”?
What is feeling? What are emotions?
Again, this discussion is far too big for the scope of this show. Suffice it to say, emotions are chemical reactions in the body that cause a physical sensation that must be interpreted by the brain.
What some people interpret as fear, others experience as exhilaration. What some interpret as rage, others feel as courage.
The ability to rightly interpret emotions and respond to them correctly is a function of thinking. But, as we’ve discussed, no human possess the inherent ability to think. They must mature into it.
Barring medical conditions, we all are born with the potential for deep and glorious thoughts, but even that is not a guarantee.
3. If children do not learn to correctly interpret their emotions through accurate cognition, they will be ruled by them.
If there is one positive reason we must teach our children to think and one negative reason . . . this is the negative reason.
As I look at our world today, I see nations ruled by irrational feelings. We do and say and even think the most ridiculous, delusional, and unreasonable things simply because we feel chemicals rushing through our bodies, and we were never taught how to process them.
American cities are burning. Political parties are claiming that every life matters while simultaneously slaughtering unborn children and lobbying to murder them after they are born.
Disney will refuse to shoot a motion picture in the state of Georgia because of their Heartbeat bill, but they’ll shoot a movie in China in the very same province where the Chinese government is executing mass atrocities against men, women, and children.
The #MeToo movement was a banner around which to rally and a weapon with which to attack political enemies, but when one’s own political hero is accused of sexual indiscretion, eyes are blinded and ears are deafened to the previous cause.
Governments are training children to reject the legitimate authority of their parents all the while expecting these same citizens to respect their illegitimate attempts at authority.
Heroes live and die with no fanfare, but criminals are gunned down and anarchists justify wholesale destruction and murder in their honor.
The plain and simple biological realities of male and female are universally rejected because someone “feels” like they don’t identify with their God-given, biological sex.
Little children who were once viewed as innocent lives to be protected are being turned over to sex trafficking, and lobbyists are succeeding in normalizing the rape of these children.
The Bible introduces us to the most joyful, peaceful, loving, merciful, gracious, and almighty God of the universe, but the nations rage because they don’t feel that He exists or that — if He does — He couldn’t possibly be as good as the Bible says.
This is the world in which we live. This is the world in which are children are growing.
The same influences that persuaded a generation to act out the way they are today will only continue to encourage more and more irrational behavior from future generations.
And it has everything to do with the fact that mankind rejects logic, reason, and Truth, and they sacrifice it on the altar of what makes them feel good.
We must teach our children to think maturely and accurately because it does not come naturally. The Fall and subsequent Sin Curse has instilled in us a proclivity to act like blind sheep wandering around in the dark with no motivation beyond the silly voices in our own heads deceiving us into thinking that we’re right even though the evidences of our folly lay strewn all around us.
We must teach our children to think because — without careful instruction — they will prefer to turn their brains off in favor of wafting through life like unthinking animals.
Listen to II Peter 2:9-19, “The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
And consider Jude 1:8-13, “These men, also by dreaming, defile the flesh, and reject authority, and revile angelic majesties. 9 But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” 10 But these men revile the things which they do not understand; and the things which they know by instinct, like unreasoning animals, by these things they are destroyed. 11 Woe to them! For they have gone the way of Cain, and for pay they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam, and perished in the rebellion of Korah. 12 These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; 13 wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.”
If you love your children — regardless of their age, sex, or how they currently process information — you will desire to train your children to think the way they were created to think.
All throughout the Gospels, Jesus calls people to think. He challenged their thinking at every turn. He came — in part — to interpret humanity for itself and — in the same turn — teach men to think the redemptive thoughts of God.
This is why we’re admonished to have the same mind Christ did (Philippians 2:5). This is why in Philippians 4 Paul lays out exactly how we are to think.
This is why Romans 12:3 warns us, “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”
Why do we have to be commanded to have sound judgment? Well, in I Corinthians 13:11 we’re told, “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.”
Luke 2:52 even tells us that Jesus increased in wisdom as He grew from a child into an adult. The world translated “wisdom” speaks of cleverness, learning, and skill.
If Jesus had to mature and increase in His ability to correctly interpret and apply what He was learning, what makes us think that we and our children will somehow naturally learn these abilities on our own?
And so now we must discuss how we are to teach our children to think.
This too is a massive subject, but one that can be introduced simply enough.
1. It is not enough to teach our children what to think. We must teach them how to think.
If the greatest mistake in parenting is to assume that our children will naturally think God’s thoughts after Him, then the second greatest mistake is to assume that it’s a good idea to hand our children mind-ammunition without teaching them how to use the weapon that is their brain.
I can tell my children they should not lie. That’s what I want them to think.
In a best case scenario, they absorb that fact into the milieu of other tidbits they’ve collected and refrain from lying simply because they’ve accepted it as reality and it suits them to align their behavior with their held beliefs.
The psychological world would call this attempting to avoid cognitive dissonance.
In the worst case scenario, they view your statement concerning truth and lies as just one more opinion. Without a firm ethical mooring beyond the puny anchor of their own self-autonomy, they will utilize truth and lies as they see fit in order to gain themselves their desired comfort.
But neither of these cases acknowledges God, His will, or our relationship to Him.
On the other hand, teaching our children how to think requires that we provide them a baseline expectation for how human beings are to process information, respond to reality, and view truth.
If we fail to actually teach them how to work through our thoughts in a mature way . . .
2. If children are not consciously taught how to formulate ideas and logically work through concepts, they will unconsciously adapt the thought patterns of those who influence them the most.
Most of us spend far less time teaching our children to speak than we like to imagine. The best way for anyone to learn a language is to be forced into a situation where you have to learn it. Children are in that exact situation, and it’s absolutely amazing how quickly they learn and develop in their language acquisition.
In the same way, if we don’t teach our children to think, they will take on the thought-characteristics of those who influence them.
Just like children adopt their community’s accent, our children learn to work through questions and come to conclusions about truth based off the ways their parents, siblings, teachers, friends, entertainment idols, and the like think.
The more consistent and uniform the echo-chamber, the easier it is for kids to start thinking like everyone around them. And when no one around them is actually thinking God’s thoughts after Him, they won’t do it either.
This, my friends, should be our scariest admonishment today.
Whether you’ve actually taught them to or not, your children think exactly like you. Anytime I meet an anomalous, aberrant, or otherwise awkward child, I inevitably think to myself, “What kind of a parent would have a child like that?”
And when I finally meet that child’s parent, I inevitably think, “Oh . . . that kind.”
Now, I’m not suggesting that parents are 100% in control of their kids and that no child has any culpability for his actions. That could not be further from the truth.
The point I’m trying to make is that I counsel many, many families. And nearly every time there is a parental/child conflict, the thought patterns the parents so despise in their child are generally very obviously in the parent’s life as well.
This is why Christian parents must strive to do the following:
So, as you’ve likely already deduced . . .
3. Our greatest calling is to teach our children how to think God’s thoughts after Him.
God created us. He knows how we were created to flourish and prosper. He Himself is the standard of perfection when it comes to Truth, logic, reasoning, and observation.
In the same way that humans can only reach their full potential in any and every field through conformity to the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ . . . no one will ever think maturely until they submit to the mind of God.
“But, Aaron, our time is gone, and I don’t yet know how to do this. I understand that it’s important and why it’s important, but how do I teach my kids to mature in their thinking?”
I want to dedicate a number of episodes to this in the future. My plan is to work back through the Circle of Learning and expand on each part. Until then, though, I’ll link some more episodes in the description that deal specifically with teaching our children to think biblically.
But, for now, we need to dedicate ourselves to the following:
4. We need to teach our children to think like God by training them in theo-logic.
Most of us are familiar with the term “theology.” “Theo” refers to God and the “ology” suffix refers to the study of something. To be “theological” is to think on and study the things of God.
Of course, we also know that the word “logic” refers to “the science of the formal principles of reasoning.”
Therefore, when I refer to theo-logic, I’m talking about the mature, logical reasoning that views reality and interacts with it the way God would.
Remember, Merriam-Webster defined “thinking” as “subject to the process of logical thought.” This means that theo-logic is the highest form of thinking a human being can ever hope to achieve.
And how do we teach our children to think theo-logically?
First, we must teach them what the Bible says about Truth.
Second, we must teach them to understand biblical Truth.
Third, we must teach them to work through biblical Truth in logical ways.
Fourth, we must teach them to use that biblical truth in practical ways.
But we must also remember that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Therefore, fifth, we must teach our children what it means to truly worship God with our mind and strength.
If your children are young, this is easier than you may think. Yes, your children are still sinners, yes, they’re immature, but it’s must better to start them down the right road earlier.
A good example of this is how I taught my children to add. I can’t go into all the details here, but it’s much easier and makes tons of sense to add numbers from the left to the right. Since I didn’t want to have to reteach my kids how to add (like I had to do for myself), I simply taught them to add from left to right from the very beginning.
My kids can not only add multiple large numbers in their heads, but they also never had to go through the painful process of breaking a bad habit and relearning a skill.
In the same way, we must start early and work often to help our kids think with an ever-maturing theo-logic.
On the other hand, if your kids are older and you’re realizing that they are very instinctual in their reactions, or perhaps you’re realizing that you yourself don’t think God’s thoughts after Him, I’d encourage you to send an email to counselor@TruthLoveParent.com or call us at (828) 423-0894.
We specialize in serving families that need a massive trajectory shift, and we would be honored to speak God’s Truth into your situation.
Every one of us and every one of our family members must have the same mind that is in Christ Jesus. We must all take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).
And God has put you specifically into the lives of your children so that you can help them mature in their wisdom.
Please share this episode on your favorite social media outlets and join us next time as we build off this topic by looking at “God’s Truth, Satan’s Lies | and how to parent out of death into life.”
Once that episode is complete, I plan to move into more specific applications by discussing how our children understand justice and injustice, racism, diversity, unity, government, and separation.
Remember, if we want our children to grow up into Christ, we must parent in truth and love. One of the most loving things we can do for our kids is teach them the truth about thinking theo-logically.
3/10/2021 08:39:52 am
We're happy to hear it helped! Don't hesitate to let us know how we can continue to serve you and your family.
12/7/2021 06:03:58 pm
Thank you for your work.
12/8/2021 04:10:18 pm
Thank you! It's been fixed. :-)
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