Fostering a Love for Learning in your Child

39e721c257a482ad622494e29c8d954aSo, your child does not sit in one place when it’s time for homework? Let us rewind back to the time when the child was a toddler. If you spend a fair bit of time with the child early on, reading, telling stories, writing or just listening as the child was trying to piece sentences together, chances are, you are not going to have to deal with this problem later. If you have been able to get the child into a routine of reading or any other form of age-appropriate learning, the love for learning has in all likelihood, already developed. The child now sees ‘studying’ to learn new things as a way of life and does not find it a chore to sit for completing homework.

The more involved a parent is in the child’s everyday efforts at learning something new, the more likely the child might be to take to learning naturally. Being appreciated for learning a new thing fosters the will and ability to learn more.

So, how does one inculcate the habit of ‘homework’ even though there is no homework when the child is in pre-school? Here are some tips for parents to experiment with:

a)      Invest in Workbooks: Not all parents are internet savvy and not all might want to download worksheets from popular websites or from the school portal. If you are one of those, invest in buying some good workbooks from book shops. Sit the child down everyday, at least once a day, even if it is for 15 minutes and get the child to complete a set of chosen pages.

b)     Allow the child to choose: Dictating the routine is important but dictating what a child needs to study when is not critical in pre-school. Allow the child to choose one of a few types of things to do. You might be surprised how soon a child’s talent for words or numbers is apparent. Encourage the child by awarding stars or paste stickers to acknowledge a job well done.

c)      Make learning integral to everyday activities: Holidays don’t have to mean no workbooks. There are times when holidays are packed with social visits but then there are some when the child has ample time. Weekends can be fun learning time when the child is experimenting with cut vegetables or fruits or flour shapes or other such indulgences that need a lot of time and hence are tough to manage on a weekday.

d)     Make every travel a learning experience: We learn a lot while traveling. It is important to make that learning process conscious for the child too. Every travel can include an opportunity to play games that are portable and fun.

e)      Be excited about learning: If you catch yourself making statements like ‘No homework today! Yeah!’, you are indeed, making a child believe that getting homework is not cause of celebration but lack of it is. Who then, is, instilling the feeling in a child that homework is unwanted and is a burden?

A child learns best via role modeling. Love to learn and a child will follow suit.

This blog post is a reproduction of my blog written for Parent Edge, one of India’s leading parenting magazines.

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The Secret to Raising Smart Kids—Don’t Tell them They are!

dweckThis blog post has been reproduced with permission from ParentEdge, a leading Parenting magazine in India. The post is written by Sudha Kumar, Publisher of ParentEdge. .

The world overvalues smartness and undervalues hard work and effort. So, you would be surprised to know that research done at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, tells us exactly the opposite.

Dweck’s book Mindset talks about two kinds of attitudes with which individuals approach situations- fixed and growth.People with a fixed mindset believe that their basic qualities like intelligence and talent are fixed traits. They spend time in holding on to their intelligence rather than developing them. More importantly, they believe that talent alone creates success.

People who adopt a growth mindset on the other hand believe that ability can be developed and strengthened through hard work and effort. Talent you are “born with” is just the starting point. This view creates a love for learning and equally significantly resilience.

Now why is this so important for parents and society at large? Because unwittingly or deliberately many of us subscribe to the fixed mindset worldview- and how does this manifest?

By holding “bright” children in high esteem, secretly wishing our kids are tagged the “super smart” or gifted, applauding our children when they figure things out quickly, and also believing that talent is the biggest determinant of success.

Even last week end, when I was anchoring a discussion with parents, one of them said, my son is average in everything he does- he is not exceptional in any area- what does the future hold?

As parents, we categorize our children quite quickly and, as a consequence, we do not do what it takes to motivate them continuously.

If we subscribed to the growth mindset, on the other hand, we will encourage or children to keep trying, praise effort rather than outcomes, motivate them when they are struggling, share with them stories that so called genius is a product of at least 10000 hours of hard work, and inculcate an attitude that effort counts as much, if not more, than innate intelligence.

According to Dweck, the mindset shapes a child’s attitude towards learning and expanding one’s horizons. In life these are attributes that often determine success. An experiment carried out by Dweck among school children showed that a “smart child” with a fixed mindset is reluctant to take on risks, is afraid of failure, and so is unwilling to try the hard problem whereas the child with a growth mindset, even if he is not as smart, is willing to try the same problem, and does not worry as much about not being able to get the right answer.

No prizes for guessing which of the above kinds of children will grow up to be a Rahul Dravid (someone whose performance has far outstripped his innate talent)!

PS: I stole the title of this post from that of an article written by Dweck for the Scientific American!