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Happy child, happy learner

Uncategorized Mar 30, 2021

As parents we often feel overwhelmed by the responsibility for making sure our child gets the best education and we want to make sure that we get it right.

I learnt something interesting many years ago. In French the word ‘Education’ means educating the child in the widest sense of the word – their physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development. In the English language we tends to think of it as ‘academic learning’ - but actually when we think of it in the round, we can give ourselves a pat on the back for all the extra things we do to educate our child.

Did you know that in Japanese culture the word ‘struggle’ is synonymous with learning? They encourage struggle and consciously set difficult tasks for children in order for them to struggle but it is seen in the culture as a good thing to struggle, not something to be ashamed of.

So many studies have shown that the children’s receptiveness to learning is inextricably linked to their emotional well-being and happiness but we must be careful to have them realise that effort and ‘struggle’ is a good thing that will bring them a sense of satisfaction and will help them to feel good about themselves.

Have you ever heard of psychologist Carol Dwek? She's is well known for promoting ‘Growth mindset’ where kids are praised for the effort they put into their work and given the message that effort is what helps them learn and grow not ‘intelligence’ which is seen as something that is fixed.

I wish I'd learnt about Carol when my kids were little as I think they younger you can give them the message that effort is what gets you the furthest in life, the better.

Anyway - you can probably guess... I've got 10 top tips for you.

  1. It isn’t our job to make our kids happy by doing things for them or giving them material objects – it can feel as if we need to make them happy by buying the latest gadget or doing things for them that they find hard, but it really isn’t good in the long run. We need to help them learn the value of working hard to achieve something and to know that happiness they get from a material object is short-lived.
  2. Children need to be encouraged to be independent from a very early age. To do that we need to let them fail at things, make mistakes, make mess and struggle. It is so tempting to jump in and correct them or make it easier but that won’t teach them anything in the long run.
  3. Our relationship and connection with our child is FAR more important than their output. We need to be encouraging of our children’s learning and know when to back off if things are getting tense between us.
  4. A simple way of encouraging happy learning is to break the task down and praise your child in very small steps. SO instead of ‘Do your homework’ take a look at the tasks and have your child choose which one they want to tackle first – perhaps with some encouragement for them to do the one they find the hardest first and then make a list of the other tasks that you’ve broken down.
  5. Make sure you don’t hover over them and point out that there’s a capital T in the name Tom or that they have to put a full stop at the end of the sentence, we are going to de-motivate them and cause friction between us.
  6. Praise tiny steps in the right direction – especially with a resistant child. Things like ‘You have already read two lines of your book and you are holding it so you can easily read the words.’. ‘I can see 6 out of 8 words spelt correctly in that sentence’. Our instinct is to notice all the things they are doing wrong.  We are genetically programmed to notice what’s wrong and we need to train ourselves to focus on what they’ve done right as it is far more motivating.
  7. Think about their education in the round ( like the French) and don’t focus only on their homework tasks. They can learn in so many other ways and if you are there to support them in a positive way (not do it for them) then they are much more likely to take input from you.
  8. Do things together like some baking or go on a nature walk. There are so many opportunities for learning during these shared activities – ask their opinion, get them to look things up, do measurements or plan a route.
  9. With homework, make it about quality rather than quantity and speak up for your child if you think the workload is too heavy or they are just not engaged in it. It is up to the school to set things that help your child learn, not for your child to conform to doing what is set.
  10. Be very aware of your tone of voice, it is easy to turn to nagging and criticism and children will tune us out and be extremely resistant when we use that tone. Even if you have to fake it, try to sound positive, upbeat and encouraging.

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