Claire Adams is a regular contributor in the blogosphere and I have always enjoyed her writing so was delighted when she asked if she could guest post for me. For those of you who haven't come across her before, Claire is a personal and professional development expert who believes that a positive attitude is one of the keys to success. You can find her online writing and giving tips about lifestyle and development as a regular contributor at highstylife.com.
Teaching our children the value of an inquiring mind is a cause close to my heart. It is a stepping stone to independent learning and here Claire pursues this and shows us how we as parents can teach our children to take academic responsibility.
From a very early age, children have a tendency to identify with some segments of their lives and to completely disregard others that they don’t find appealing, or that don’t resonate with them. Education for the large part seems to children like a forced responsibility, as if they would rarely opt for going to school in the first place if it were up to them – but it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way.
It starts when you encourage them to think for themselves and question everything, not blindly accept what they’re presented with, thus helping them embrace the value of learning through thinking, as opposed to merely absorbing information. But in order to own up to their success, failures (of equal value) and choices, our role as parents can be a pivotal one.
Provide perspective early on
While they are still in primary school, children have a tendency to view everything through creativity and play – which opens up wonderful opportunities for creative thinking, problem solving and independent thought development. However, as they step into their tween and teen years, context becomes all the more relevant for them to understand why they are making an effort in the first place.
Not to impress others (us, their parents included), or to get a satisfactory number on a piece of paper, but to enrich their lives, broaden their horizons and, most importantly, equip them for their life ahead.
This is a time when their childhood dreams of becoming astronauts or vets can be brought to life with the right choices. So, talk to them, tell them your own experience, and ask them if they see value in what they are taught at school, how those skills and knowledge can help them succeed later in life.
Know when to step aside or in
Mothers know all too well, how tempting it is to bring out our Wonder Woman self and bring hell to anyone or anything who tries to harm our kids. But they often need us to do something else, they need us not to bail them out, and not to solve their problems for them. Facing responsibility, consequences as well as achievements is essential for their future choices. Ultimately, they need to learn we should all clean up our own mess.
Then again, certain warning signs may indicate that it’s time for an honest one-on-one, if you see they’re frustrated, slipping with their work, showing no sign of positive engagement, or that their behaviour has changed. Help them by teaching them to view this as an opportunity to grow, a positive challenge to learn or improve their time-management skills and overcome their limitations.
Teach them to ask for help
Teens are relentless independence-seekers, and they might find the school work difficult, but they will often avoid admitting they need help. Fostering this independence is commendable, as long as it results in them taking action and developing problem-solving and proper coping techniques, but if they are truly stuck, they need to understand the value of asking for help or guidance, whether that is from their parents or their teachers. Not everything is everyone’s strong suit.
Once they realize that temporary help is another way towards greater independence, they will be more inclined to seek help to overcome learning obstacles. They need a stimulating learning environment that cultivates critical thinking, and offers the tools to handle academic challenges properly, and we all know that’s not easy to come by.
Focus on commitment
I’ll never forget our neighbours daughter’s violin recitals and the hours she would spend playing and perfecting her skills in the days and months before the performance. She was a hard worker and a gifted child, but her stage-fright was so severe she would often freeze on stage or play poorly despite all her practice. Her mother would always praise her, not falsely for the poor performance, but for all the effort she had previously invested in her playing.
Our childrens' grades, teachers’ comments and results often won’t correspond to the amount of work they invest in their studies – they will sometimes do brilliantly well despite poor studying, but they will sometimes fail despite doing their absolute best. Commend them for their dedication, discipline and effort, not merely the end result. This way they will learn how to value their effort above other people’s judgement and they will learn not to give up at the first sign of trouble in their later academic years.