Puja and Vivek are five-year-old children, asked to pick out their favorite book to read. Puja goes to the stack of book, not able to find her favorite book, she picks one that she would like to read, goes back to the table and starts reading. Vivek goes to the shelf of books but is unable to find his favorite book. Instead of asking for help, he starts to cry and hides his face.
Here Puja and Vivek approached the task differently. Puja is independent and she finds solutions to her problems. Vivek, on the other hand, gets easily frustrated and is unable to solve problems on his own. The question here is how do we develop our children to become self-supporting, confident learners?
Here are some ways you can help develop a self-sufficient learner who is confident and independent.
- Encourage your child to make decisions. Allow them the freedom to make small decisions by giving them a limited number of choices. For example, asking them to pick out one of two toys that they would like to purchase. As they are able to make more informed choices and with age, give them more important decisions to make like if they think they need tuitions for a particular subject. While you may be tempted to make such decisions for them, it is important for your children to learn from their mistakes and help them become more independent. Moreover, your children tend to make the right decision most times and will ask for guidance when needed.
- Inspire curiosity. To inculcate the love for learning, you need to start stimulating your child’s curiosity from a young age. Allow your child some free time to explore the outside world from a young age. Take them to the park on a regular basis; visit zoos and other play areas where they see new things and explore unfamiliar surroundings. Encouraging older children to read other books outside of their curriculum and engaging in open-ended conversation about what different experiences are will instill the curiosity for learning and they will develop an independent learning style.
- Strike a balance. When you are teaching your children to be independent learners, you may often find it difficult to draw the line between helping your children do their homework and doing it for them. hence, it important to make them do their work on their own two or three times before coming to you for help. Also, encourage them to find solutions on their own. For example, if your child comes to you with a problem and you know the solution, don’t just show your child the solution, but just guide the child in finding the solution themselves. You can say “ let us see if we can find this answer in the book” and then go through the book with the child and gently guide them to the answer. This will help them solve their own problems better and more independently the next time.
- Teach your child concepts and not just present them with information. Having the ability to build on concepts is essential to develop into a self-reliant learner. Encourage your child to understand one concept thoroughly before moving to the next. This is referred to as incremental learning. For example, if your child is having difficulty understanding division, then you can suggest that they go and review their understanding of the necessary basics like multiplication and learning the tables. When children start to learn and understand concepts rather than memorize the given information, they gain the confidence to tackle challenging situations on their own.
- Praise process and not achievement. Encouraging your child constantly is important to developing confidence in learning, but the key is to praise your child for their effort rather than their achievement or personality. Phrases like “you are a smart child” should be avoided. Instead, try using phrases like ‘you worked hard to figure the problem”. This gives reassurance to the child that they need to give importance to the concept and not just the end result. And, even if your child does come across failure, they will not be discouraged to try again.
Remember each child is different and they have different ways of processing information. This does not mean that they cannot be self-reliant and independent. Inculcating these traits early on will give them the confidence to tackle challenges independently and overcome them without getting frustrated quickly.