As parents, we have the noblest intentions when it comes to parenting. We want to ensure that life is good for our children, and in this attempt, we search for the “right road” to take. Even before our children are born, we immerse ourselves in reading books about feeding, bedtime routines, books to read aloud, brain development, potty training, and the like. In a way, this is a good thing, as the more we know, the more we can rely on that knowledge to make good decisions. From those early days, our search continues to engage our children in a sea full of activities, assuming that all of that enrichment will be beneficial. Oftentimes, when it comes to school, we want the experience to be nothing short of fabulous! That includes the perfect teacher, the right mix of friends, exposure to the optimal blend of experiences, and no ‘bumps in the road’. When we fixate on raising our children in a world that we’ve orchestrated, we miss out on the opportunity to give our children life lessons that will ultimately be most important in their grown-up lives.
Recently, I was re-reading a few articles that have spoken to me over the years. One was from Independent School magazine. The title of the article is Parenting for Potential . . . How to Inspire Lifelong Learning in Your Child. Just the title is suggestive in a good way. The words potential, inspire, and lifelong appeal to me! They reinforce the idea that every child has capacity to learn . . . that an important role for us as parents and teachers is to arouse excitement for learning . . . and that we want our children to be passionate learners for their lifetime. The author, Susan Hutchison, explores the question, “What strategies in parenting promote the focus on continuous learning?”
· Help children develop a sense of wonder, curiosity, and discovery. This is the soil in which the seeds of learning grow. Knowing the answer is less important than knowing how to question and consider the possibilities.
· Encourage children to embrace ambiguity. Uncertainty is an important aspect of learning because it leads to new possibilities. It is a natural part of learning.
· Praise effort, not accomplishment. Effort is the single most integral ingredient to successful learning. Through effort, we discover our strengths. Effort is an internal attitude that we can nurture.
· Give your child the opportunity to find and explore his/her passions and interests. It’s important to encourage children to explore topics and develop passions. When children are excited about something, they take charge of their own learning and delve deeply into it.
· Explain the difference between confidence and self-esteem. Self-esteem comes about from being love and valued. It is a deep, intrinsic feeling of self-worth and is a general sense of one’s goodness. Confidence refers to a sense of our specific abilities in different situations, and it can change depending on how comfortable we are in each situation. A lack of confidence is simply a sign that we’re on the path of learning, and when we view it as such, can serve to motivate us.
· Help your child understand the value of different perspectives. With respect for diversity, curiosity for cultural differences, and openness to the voices of others our own understanding becomes richer and deeper.
· Remember that resiliency is critical in continuous learning. Mistakes, difficulties, and failure help build internal resiliency. They tell us where to place effort and how to revise our actions. In school and in life, resiliency is critical in learning.
· Provide structure, but avoid over-programming and over-scheduling. Children develop security with a certain amount of structure, and develop stress when their lives are too full. Resist the temptation to over-schedule . . . instead strive to achieve balance. Help your child make choices, find time for play, and develop the habit of reflection.
As parents, a most powerful tool is modeling. Children watch and copy our actions, words, and attitudes. Model the joy in learning that will last a lifetime. It’s the best gift you can give your children!