In an academically-oriented city like Singapore, it’s tough being a kid.
“It’s more difficult to be a kid now than it was 10, 20 years ago,” says Eric Jensen, a leading educator in the US and the author of books such as Brain-Based Learning & Teaching.
First understanding this is crucial to not piling more stress onto your kid. “The ultimate answer to learning effectively would be to teach kids how to regulate their own stress so ultimately, they become more capable human beings.”
NEXT: Break down learning and build associations →
Break down important information into small chunks, and teach with a little humour and fun.
“I think it’s also really important to build on prior learning in kids. When they learn something new, build an association with something they’ve already learnt so it makes sense,” says Eric.
NEXT: Don’t worry about grades →
As radical as it sounds, “When your kid’s 30, no one’s going to ask him what his grades were in school,” says Eric.
“Parents in Singapore always want to know how much content their child amassed today to pass the test. But, what they often fail to recognise is that the number one factor to kids doing well in life is not grades or IQ. It’s effort. Second is, people skills. Schools don’t usually teach those.”
NEXT: Reassure your child →
“Children need to know it’s OK if they don’t get it all so they don’t get all depressed about school and work. Tell them, ‘We want you to do well in tests but these tests are not your life.’” Eric advises.
Support them in different ways, he adds. “Some kids study better if they had someone to study with. You can have his friend over but insist that by a certain time, both must accomplish this and that. If they don’t, you won’t do this again. It’s really important for parents to allow social learning.”
NEXT: Divide and conquer →
Don’t just focus on what your child’s good at – you might not know what they can be good at. Take for instance: A child who’s never played a musical instrument will never know if he has any musical talent. So, strengthen what your child is good at but never limit opportunities for exposure, says Eric.
“You never know. Sometimes your child picks something up and you’ll be surprised by what he can do.”
NEXT: Let your child teach you →
Instead of asking your child what he learnt in school today, follow the lead of the parents of physicist Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize winner. They asked him: “How many questions did you ask today?”
Encourage your child to be curious so he’s interested in learning and accumulating facts wherever he goes.
If he doesn’t get the answers he wants, encourage him to ask the question differently. Ask your child to explain simple things around the house, in nature, in science and in the news. “This allows parents to find the gaps in the child’s thought process.”
NEXT: Teach without really teaching →
“If you make it about schoolwork, kids don’t like it,” Eric says. Since kids generally don’t like their textbooks, leave the most interesting books related to the subject lying around the house. No matter how disinterested a child may be in learning, there will be something in there he likes.
Encourage learning by exposing kids to things and places way above them. “It’s really important to take a young child to places that are difficult for them to understand such as a science museum so they ask as many as questions as they can. Even if you can’t answer it, just them asking is worth a lot.”
If you haven’t found what your child is interested in then you need to expose him to more things until he finally says: ‘That’s what I like.’”
NEXT: Know the difference between then and now →
From Young Parents, April 2017 / Updated September 2019
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