It’s said that if you enjoy a task, you’re good at it. Many would argue that learning is no different. So, how can parents inspire their child to love learning and to see how, while challenging, learning is rewarding, interesting and even possibly fun in some instances?
Below are five tips on how this can be achieved.
Read with your child regularly
Curtin University reading expert Dr Margaret Merga says not only do children enjoy being read to, it provides a boost for their learning.
According to Dr Merga, shared reading fosters the development of listening skills, spelling, vocabulary and reading comprehension. This lays the foundation for a strong literacy foundation. Shared reading also activates children’s imagination and develops their ability to follow a narrative.
Dr Merga says that children’s attitudes to books, as they grow older, reflects the enjoyment they derived from their earliest reading experiences. As such, she advises that parents make reading with their children a fun experience so their kids begin to associate reading – a form of learning – with enjoyment.
Don’t shy away from maths
For many parents, maths is intimidating. Like any other subject, maths should be taught by an expert, but leaving numeracy development solely in the classroom could mean some children fail to see the relevance of it in everyday life. Experts warn this can lead to children not liking maths as they begin to perceive it to be an abstract or dull subject.
Kylie Robson, a maths education expert from the University of Canberra, writes that there are many ways parents can get involved. For very young children, parents could count with their kids as to how many apples are in a shopping bag. Parents could also give older children $10 and a very small shopping list of items to buy. This requires children to use their calculation skills to get bang for their buck.
Activities like these not only show children that maths and numbers are all around them, but can be a fun way for parents to inspire their children’s learning. This is also another way for children to associate learning with fun.
Use praise to help your children develop their growth mindset
Parents love to praise their children. However, praise for its own sake isn’t helpful. Stanford University psychologist Professor Carol Dweck found that generalised praise – for example, phrases such as “well done”, “good job”, or “aren’t you clever” – could cause children to develop a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset refers to the belief that a person’s basic abilities, intelligence, skills and talents are fixed traits; nothing can be done to improve them.
Bill Lucas, an education expert from Victoria University, warns these children are often afraid to make mistakes, and unwilling to apply effort or practise, as they have a fixed view of their own intelligence.
Rather, both Professor Dweck and Lucas argue that parents who utilise praise well, cultivate their child’s growth mindset: the understanding that a person’s talents and abilities are the result of effort, good teaching and persistence, and that their talents can be further developed through continued effort, practise and further learning. Dweck argues these children are more likely to keep persisting when they face setbacks.
To develop this attitude, Lucas advises that praise should be focused on the effort children applied to complete a task. Praise should also be genuine and true, not overinflated. Phrases like “I can see how much effort you put into solving this problem” or “well done for trying so hard, you’ll get it next time” are helpful.
This will support children to like learning more as they see that their efforts can lead to positive change. They also see their parents appreciating and acknowledging their hard work.
Let children make mistakes
For some parents, this tip could seem counterintuitive.
But as Mandie Sheen from Edith Cowan University advises, parents should not shield their children from low-risk, natural consequences. For example, if your child doesn’t study and fails an assignment at school, don’t defend your child; let them deal with the consequences.
Sheen advises that parents should talk through the experience with their children to support them to see the mistake as an opportunity to grow and learn, and that the negative emotions associated with failure are natural and temporary. You can also work out with your child what to do differently next time.
This helps children to shift their perspective to see mistakes as opportunities for learning and not to catastrophise the error, as they know they can achieve if they keep trying.
Consider extra support
Sometimes children fall behind in class and they become lost. Other times, classwork can be far too easy, so they become bored and disinterested. As the latest Gonski Review into Australian schooling identified, either scenario is detrimental for children’s learning.
Extra support in the form of private tuition or an after-school learning programme, can fix gaps in learning as they allow children to go back to revise, practise and learn at their own pace. Similarly, these programmes support children to race ahead if they are able.