Kids are naturally curious. Studies show that if we harness that curiosity, we will develop their love for learning and perseverance in education. This, in turn, helps them realise their fullest potential as they mature.
Apart from helping them achieve academic success, learning is also about guiding our kids to enjoy the process so they can be resilient in this ever-changing, fast-paced world. Help them learn to turn failures into successes and not lose hope, to have the courage to confront their weaknesses and the ingenuity to capitalise on their strengths.
How then do we support our children?
Leverage on their interests
Listen to what your children talk about, and notice what makes them excited or what they take pride in doing. Resist the urge to force them to do only what you or the majority of the family enjoys. Instead, help them explore their unique interests, letting them be the “family expert” for a sport, hobby or for one of their interests. Feed your children’s curiosity by building some family activities around their interest.
Focus on the process and not the results
When your child does well at something, resist the urge to praise them for being “a genius”. Focus instead on the effort put in to practice the skills they’ve learnt, for example. On the flip-side, if your child doesn’t do as well as expected, don’t ridicule but try to commend where effort or improvement has been seen and discuss what can be done differently next time.
With younger children, affirm them for persevering when the Lego structure they’re building keeps collapsing, for example. Encourage them to consider why it happens and what can be done about it.
Explore answers to questions, instead of dictating them
Even though it seems like the children are never short of questions, we need to take their questions seriously. However, instead of giving them answers outright, we need to make the effort to help them discover the answers themselves.
The key is in throwing back the questions at them, and not to cut them off (our kids can sense it when we’re doing that). Ask leading and guiding questions in an affirming manner – “That’s a good question. What do you think about that?” Help them apply facts they already know to come up with theories and conclusions together.
If you are unable to address the question on the spot, make a note by keying it into your mobile phone or scribbling it down, promising your child that you will search for more information alongside him later, and make sure that you keep your promise.
Enable them without disempowering them
When we swoop in to help our children do their projects or solve their problems on their behalf, the underlying message we convey is that we do not trust they can do a good job, and that will kill any curiosity and motivation they have in their learning journey in the long run. A child with less confidence in their own abilities will not try hard to learn more nor do more.
There are no hard and fast rules as to how much help is too much when it comes to enabling our children. The key message they need to know is that you believe in their abilities and whatever help you give is meant to guide them and not belittle their efforts.
Be mindful about helping them discover the solutions to their problems as opposed to providing them with the answer key. We need to be disciplined in letting our children solve problems, explore and complete projects independently.
Make the love for learning infectious by walking the talk
Be excited for and with your children when they learn a new skill or discover something new.
Show them that you love learning too. Have your own personal interests and share with them what you are doing to develop and pursue your interests. Whether it is demonstrating a new baking technique you learnt or relating stories as to how you grew to love a sport and what you are doing to get better at it – let your love for learning be infectious. Let our children see that we can never be too old to enjoy learning something new and to pursue our own interests.
In this way, it becomes your family culture to always thirst to learn and love to learn.
© 2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Written by Elvira Tan