I recently started getting personal training sessions at the gym. I was recommended a lovely lady who’s a professional trainer and if the recommendations weren’t enough, seeing how she looks like a model after having 3 sons sealed the deal! She did the assessments and then came up with a workout plan that will help me work off all that I have accumulated from Christmas dinners, Chinese New Year feasts and the many buffets I’ve had. Aside from being a genuinely kind lady, I am most drawn to her because of her encouragement. Every time I do an exercise, she praises me for doing well. Despite my levels of unfitness, she always seems pleasantly surprised by what I can do. As I do exercise with her, I realised that I’m so motivated to do even better because I am made to believe I can. I want to do well. This experience made me think about children and how they learn which has led me to one conclusion:
All children want to succeed.
I truly believe that all children want to succeed but they might not know how. I don’t believe that children enjoy being told they’re not good enough, that they can’t do something or that they’re not as capable as someone else. I don’t believe that children like being nagged at or failing constantly. If they’re told negative things long enough, they are going to believe those things and soon live it out. If someone is told they can’t swim and will never be able to, soon enough they will believe it.
I believe that people want to succeed and can succeed but it also requires the environment and people around them to help them. Every time I see a child, no matter how ill-behaved or rebellious, I remind myself that this child wants to succeed. If it doesn’t come across now, it's believed he feels like he can’t so he’s acting in ways that show his frustration. Given a choice between winning or doing well, I believe that children would choose that over losing and doing poorly.
But the question then is: how can I help my child succeed?
I think there are a couple of things we can do (that have worked for me!):
1) Break things down
If I were told I had to skydive in 1 hour, my immediate reaction would be ‘I can’t do that!’ But if I were given time to mentally prepare, given training sessions about the equipment, what to do and how to do it, I would approach it with much more confidence. With all that children have to learn nowadays, some might feel like they are being told they need to skydive, mountain climb and fly a plane all in one day! When things get overwhelming, telling them that they can succeed probably won’t help them. Break down their task into smaller sections. For example, in learning to tie shoelaces, first learn to make ‘bunny ears’ with the laces, then learn to cross and knot. If tasks are divided into smaller chunks, it makes it easier to accomplish and master. They will want to succeed.
2) Give encouragement
In the process of trying, giving encouragement is so crucial. Praise the child for the effort and determination shown, not just for the successful end result. This ensures that he will use that same effort and determination for other tasks. I don’t think anyone dislikes encouragement so be generous!
3) See the best in them
It’s easy to forget that children want to succeed when they seem lazy, disengaged and rebellious but choose to believe that they want to succeed. Choose to see that they are gems waiting to be discovered to shine. Choose to see that they are full of potential. The way we see them determines the way we treat them.
All children want to succeed so let’s help them do just that!
Founder and Principal
JEMS Learning House
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