Asian societies are famous for being competitive. Asian parents are so famously competitive about their children that they have become a stereotype.
Ever heard of the Tiger Mum? That’s a mother so committed to creating brilliant children that she will not shy away from criticizing, scolding, threatening and shaming children to push them to achieve ever more.
While I’m still unsure about going to such extremes, we all know that it IS important in this day and age to be educated. An educated individual makes better choices, and feels more in control of their lives. They have more fulfilling careers, are more responsible citizens and lead richer, happier lives.
But success in school is only possible when children love to learn. So how do we inspire children who love learning from an early age?
Encourage physical exploration
Physical exploration opens the door to intellectual exploration. A baby who is constantly told “No” learns not to question. Her inner world will be filled with limitations and her IQ will suffer for it.
Safety is undoubtedly a concern for our precious little ones, so instead of telling a baby “No” and leaving it at that, give them a watchful eye and a helping hand to achieve what they want.
Heaps of toys out there are marketed as “educational” but preset games have been proven to be counter-productive. Offer your kids toys that can be used creatively in many ways.
Blocks, paints, clay, puppet, dolls, stuffed animals, cars are still the best. Encourage flexible, creative play which exercises the mind and imagination and limit time spent in front of the television.
“Wow you’re so clever!” is one of the things every proud parent looks forward to telling their child. But children praised for solving a problem are more motivated in school than children who are simply praised for being smart. The latter get frustrated when things don’t go easily.
So praise results and effort (“You did a great job of working out the answer!”) instead of broad praise (“Smart boy, what a champ!”) and encourage them to learn from their failures.
We all know how curious children can be. And how frustrating it is when they break something or create a huge mess. But children are natural scientists and they learn by experimenting.
So as hard as it can be, we should take a step back and cultivate some tolerance to a certain amount of mess. And of course we should encourage them to help clean up, although it could certainly help make things worse!
Emotional development and an excitement about learning is more important in young children than memorizing ABCs and the times tables. They will learn all this in time, but what’s most important is to cultivate an ability to manage frustration in order to tackle new challenges.
The more we can challenge a child, the more we can stretch the intelligence. Your child’s main work in the toddler and preschool years is to develop a healthy emotional life and an excited curiosity about the world.
Inspire questions, don’t overdose on facts
Children develop their curiosity when they grow up with adults who are also excited and interested in the world around them. Encourage this curiosity by asking them open ended questions, like “What would happen if it rained this afternoon?” Questions help a child reflect on what he knows and tell him his opinion matters.
Have conversations with them about the news on the radio, teach them a skill you know (Steve Jobs father taught him programming when he was just a boy), help them voice their own opinions and theories. Facts will always be there but a love for the magic of life is what will inspire your child to learn them.
Take an interest in schoolwork, but don’t do it for him
It’s not enough to simply demand for the report card at the end of every school term, it is extremely critical to the success of the child for the parent to take an interest in his homework. Find out what he’s working on every day, but be careful not to provide answers! Your goal is to help your child to internalize good study habits.
How should she solve this mathematical problem? How should he go about learning spelling words? How should she manage her time with an end term project so as to do it well by the deadline?
We all know it is easier to skip class when all your friends are doing it too. Our children’s attitudes toward schoolwork are influenced greatly by their friends. So do take an interest If you want your child to do well academically, be sure he or she is in a peer situation with kids who value learning.
Inspire brilliance from an early age: Read, read, read
Reading is the foundation of all learning and reading to your child is the single most important thing you can do to raise her IQ. That means reading with her even once she can read to herself, because you’ll be reading her more interesting stories than she can decipher. Be a role model by indulging in good reading habits yourself.
Keep books easily accessible and share what you’re reading with your child. Invite them to do the same. This can spark conversation and help your child’s vocabulary and comprehension.
Help your child find answers
Again, although facts are important, it is even more critical that a child to know how to find and evaluate answers for himself. The web is a great place to look things up so it is important to give early lessons on web literacy. Teach them how to tell which is a reliable source and which is not. Of course you should also include lessons on basic web safety.
Whether your child is a baby genius or simply average, the best you can do is to be involved. The foundation you lay for your baby makes up his tools for life. So your goal is simply to create a loving environment and encourage them to be the best they can be.