Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pressure Cooker

With all the talk of challenging your kids and having them achieve a higher standard in education, I think we sometimes forget the key word is "challenging" and not "pressuring" or "forcing". The secret to challenging your child and still maintaining a happy child is to have them enjoy learning. I remember that when I was studying in Asia, I HATED school and everything about it. Sure, I did well in the exams that actually mattered but hated doing the everyday homework and pretty much shut down when it came to day-to-day excelling. I suppose the intense pressure of constantly doing well and competing with the other kids in my class got to me. I hated the shallowness of the whole system. When we moved back to the states, that pressure was lifted off my shoulder. Suddenly, I enjoyed learning. I would spend hours reading my textbooks before class, make sure my homework was perfect, and got straight A's. In college, I noticed I tended to do better in independent study classes. Even though I did the class at my own pace, I noticed I almost always finished the independent study course way before the actual semester ended and always got A's as well. Interestingly enough, I also found that I retained the information learnt through the independent study courses a lot better than in normal classes. So, the question now is: "How do we get our children to ENJOY learning?" Here are some tips:

1. Have a Set Routine! Having a set routine allows your children to understand what your expectations of them are without having to yell at them constantly. For example, an after-school schedule can be something like this:

Snack/rest and change of clothes (After school)
Homework and any extra curriculum you would want to teach your child (4:30pm-6pm)
TV/Games time (6pm-6:30pm)
Dinner (6:30pm=-7:30pm)
7:30pm-8:30pm (Family Fun Time/Play-time)
8:30pm-9:20pm (Reading/Getting ready for bed)
9:20pm (Lights out)

Your child will learn self-discipline with a set routine and will still have ample time to play and have fun each day! On days that they get out of school earlier and what-not, have them enroll in extracurricular activities like soccer, art class, and so on.

2. Reward System. Create a homework reward chart and a learning reward chart. For each day of completed homework, have your child place a sticker for that day. The learning reward chart will be one where you teach your child more advanced materials. Reward charts should have an attainable goal. I like to have my students choose their own reward that they will get excited about. Have your child take ownership of their reward chart. You will find a child who is excited to work towards their goal and who will enjoy challenging him/herself as a result of that.

3. Be Patient. It is always harder to teach your own child because you expect so much out of them. When you feel yourself losing it when your child does not get a particular concept, walk away. Let your child know in a calm voice that you both will be taking a short break. Take a breather and when you've calm down, go back to teaching. Remember, some times it takes more than a few tries for your child to grasp certain concepts. It doesn't mean that they are dumb. It just happened to be a little tougher for them to understand that point but they will get it sooner or later. Think about computer games. When you get something wrong or do not pass a level, you simply get a calm voice that tells you to "Try again! You can do it!" Be that for your child! When you get impatient with their learning ability, you end up causing them to be self-aware, perhaps losing their confidence and end up hating to learn new things.

4. Be Enthusiastic and Positive. When your kids see your excitement about learning new things, they get excited too and think it's the coolest thing ever.

5. Praise. Shower your kids with encouragement and praise when they improve on learning something. Make it a point to compliment them during your family dinner about how so-and-so learnt their 2 times table today and did so well even though it was a tough thing to learn. Kids eat that up!

6. Encourage Them. When the lesson gets tough, sometimes kids get a little down. Remind them that this is just a bump and you went through the same exact thing too. Assure them that once they get this down, it gets SO much easier after this.

Well, hopefully these tips help. Do share with us any special thing you do with your child!

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