3 Tips to Help Your Child Learn
BY: CHRISTINE SHEN
How smart is my child?
Albert Einstein, one of the greatest minds in science, once said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
If we applied Einstein’s statement and measured William Shakespeare by his ability to do quadratic equations, Beethoven by his ability to debate theories, or Michelangelo by his ability to sing, each of these individuals might appear “below average.” However, in their respective areas of expertise, they have left grand legacies in writing, music, and art, respectively.
A gifted writer may not make the best surgeon, whereas a professional athlete’s knowledge of law may be limited. Similarly, just because a child isn’t gifted in math or science or is unable to obtain a high score on standardized tests doesn’t mean that that child has low intelligence. It simply means he might be gifted in other areas. When placed in the proper context, though, he or she will begin to shine.
Psychologist Howard Gardner, founding father of the multiple intelligences theory, said, “It’s not how smart you are that matters; what really counts is how you are smart.” Therefore, instead of asking, “How smart is my child?”, as parents we should begin to ask, “How is my child smart?”
Tip #1: Recognize that your child is unique
As humans, we have a natural tendency to measure success by setting certain standards and making comparisons. Similarly, as parents, we tend to measure our children’s intelligence by their academic ability. We wonder if our child is not as smart if he scores lower on tests than his classmates. However, although high test scores indicate intelligence, not all intelligence is measurable by test scores.
According to Gardner, there are eight types of intelligences. Because most children have a combination, and every child is unique, intelligence cannot be standardized. After all, how can we compare apples to oranges, or starfruits to jujubes?
When we focus on our children’s individual giftings, we encourage them to succeed according to their own unique strengths.
Tip #2: Understand your child’s learning preferences
Dr. Agnes Ip, a licensed marriage and family therapist, said, “Children learn most effectively when able to engage with their own learning styles. Parents can help their children by creating a study-conducive environment.”
For example, some children learn best with music playing in the background. If you find music distracting, you may think it distracts your child as well. As a responsible parent desiring to help your child focus, you might turn off any distracting sounds and, unknowingly, keep your child from learning in his or her optimal environment.
When parents try helping their child study, conflicts over study habits often arise, frustrating parents and hurting parent-child relationships. To assist their child best, parents must strive to understand and accommodate their child’s unique learning style.
Tip #3: Build your child’s self-esteem
More important than providing the best education for our children is helping them develop a positive self-image and confidence in their abilities. How we encourage our children to study hugely impacts their self-esteem. If we communicate, “You’re not good enough unless you always get an A+,” anything less than perfect becomes a failure. If we communicate, “You are smart,” they will believe it. Having confidence and a positive self-image will greatly contribute to their future success and ability to overcome challenges.
In the Disney movie “Mulan,” when the Hun general demands that the emperor bow to him, the emperor responds, “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow down to it.” We want our children to be resilient, just like the mountain – unbending, unwavering, and able to endure life’s challenges. In our desire to motivate our children to study diligently, rather than unintentionally demoralize them, we want to build up their self-esteem – to be confident in their ability to work through life’s challenges.
How can I prepare my child for success?
There are many paths to success. Every child is uniquely gifted with different talents, and recognizing this is only the beginning of preparing a child for success.
At Presence Possibilities, we understand that personal achievement comes in many forms. Our goal is to identify children’s unique intelligences, address children’s individual learning styles, and equip parents to help their children succeed. To learn more, please contact us at 626-810-5200.