The rationale of a 5 year old

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Hahaha ahem – I found this funny. I am teaching my 11 year old daughter how to perform issue and dialogue mapping. Each night, we pick a relevant family topic, discuss all of the issues around the topic and my daughter maps the discourse.

Recently and the root question of the day was whether her little brother (Liam) should get a cat for Christmas. We already have a cat named Jessica and a detailed conversation unfolded, where my 5 year old outlined his reasons to the family. We all had a good laugh and by the end if the session, my 5 year old changed his mind and decided that he’d rather ask Santa for some lego. 

Check out how it unfolded.

Start: Root question, some basic background and Liam’s first two answers


Round 2. Mum and dad challenge both of the initial ideas and Liam offers a potential counterpoint. Unfortunately, Liam has the perfect comeback that his mother and I cannot argue with – Santa will take care of it!


Round 3. Liam offers a new reason why he should get a cat. It will help him with spilt milk. When challenged on the grounds of the new cat eating fish as well as milk, and the possibility of the cat not liking milk, Liam offered to hiss at it to protect the fish.


Round 4. Unable to get buy-in for the milk idea, Liam switches tack and comes up with quite a clever idea that has some merit. Our current cat has a particular talent for catching mice and then leaving what is left of them at the back door for our approval. Liam suggests that we can grow vegetables in the garden because of the fact that two cats are now hunting mice, thereby reducing the population (not bad logic for a 5 year old). Unfortunately for Liam, he is reminded that our current cat also has a habit of chewing plants in the herb garden now.


Round 5. My personal favourite. Mrs Cleverworkarounds suggests that Liam should not get a cat because there will be more cat poop to clean. When asked who will clean up said poo, Liam was adamant that it would not be him. When pressed for suggestions, he firstly says he will cover the mess with Kleenex and as alternative suggests that we can get a “cleaner man” to pick up the poo. When Liam was further challenged as to who the cleaner man is and how to find him, he suggested the police would help. He also then hit upon the idea of teaching the cat not to poo as well! 🙂


This proves that mapping discourse does work. At this point, faced with the prospect that he would have to clean up after the cat, Liam conceded defeat and asked for Star Wars lego instead.

The full map in context can be found below (click for the full size version).



Thanks for reading

Paul Culmsee

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10 Responses to The rationale of a 5 year old

  1. Boxy says:

    I love reading your blog. I also have kids and find it refreshing to read how others teach their kids what they do for a living.

  2. Ryan says:

    Hahaha, That is gold Paul. A fun exercise in dialogue mapping. Just love how Liam says he will teach the cat to not poo, or use a kleenex to cover it up.

    He’s going to make a great project manager one day =)

  3. admin says:

    Damn Ryan!!! I missed the opportunity to make a joke in the post at the expense of project managers. Crap – I am losing my touch!

  4. Jeff Conklin says:

    Fabulous, Paul! Funny, human, and a great practical demo of dialogue mapping. May our children all learn deep listening and critical thinking! Thank you!

  5. You have the best family ever.

  6. David Locke says:

    So who is going to pick up the Legos? Who will be injured when they step on the Legos?

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  8. Excellent work Paul. You’ve inspired me! I’ve shared the story of my 9 year old daughter’s first map with a few folk, but you’ve inspired me to get it out there…

  9. Andrew Jolly says:

    Awesome Paul,
    your kids are going to save the world someday, you better get them mapping Copenhagen and sort out all those napping world leaders, someone needs to put tissues on them and bring in a ‘clean up man’ job done!

    Merry Xmas and a happy new year to you and your family.


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