The Four Styles of Childhood Learning (Episode 251)
Knowing what kind of teacher you are – what motivates you and how you best take on learning new things – is huge. This, however, is simply the first step. Knowing what kind of child you are working with is critical. No matter how excited you are about something, if you don’t present and communicate it in a way that resonates with your child, you might as well be speaking to a brick wall.
Life Long Learners Come In All Personality Styles
As a family coach who specializes in understanding personality styles as a way to open the door to awareness for yourself and others, I’ve laid out four general approaches our children can take when it comes to learning, and how we can best motivate them in the way they are already naturally bent.
Now, we are adaptable - we have the opportunity to try on any “hat” to connect with someone. And, knowing how your child is wired can give you incredible insights into how you can motivate them specifically. Not to change you into someone you aren’t; simply to give you the tools to meet your child where they are.
This child loves a challenge, but may not actually stick around to hear what the instructions are. When they show interest, they leap in and take over. This can be awesome when they understand – they jump to the end result and have an answer. If you are a parent that wants things done in a certain way, this will be a constant source of frustration. This type of child cares about the end result and will simply create their own path to get to it. The idea “rules are meant to be challenged” is attractive to them. They love to set goals and need to be rewarded for accomplishments.
Tips for the hotshot child:
- If they are frustrated, give them a challenge – make it fun. “I bet you can’t…” “Let’s race and see who can do this”
- Give them a goal to reach for – my daughter decides each year what her big accomplishments will be for that year – reading, swimming, tying shoes, riding a two-wheeler…now she’s looking at perfecting her spelling, learning all about iMovie, playing piano…Setting their own goals is a great way to keep them motivated (they may love a checklist to literally mark off their accomplishments as they go).
- Don’t micro-manage. Make sure you allow them independence and flexibility to figure things out on their own (bullet points are always appreciated to get to the bottom line).
The Class Clown
Always the entertainer, this child wants to play all the time and may not have much interest for “boring schoolwork”. Our culture has created this idea of “homework” and school as a drudgery we all have to muscle through – and for a child who craves fun and excitement in everything, monotonous tasks and analytical details will quickly lose them. Find ways to keep things fresh and new so they are eager for another adventure.
Tips for the Class Clown:
- Here is a child where multitasking may be a good thing. Focus is important, and making sure they go through to completion. However, when you are high energy and your attention span tends to gravitate toward shiny objects, you may have more luck having three activities up your sleeve where you can switch between the three, or doing shorter spurts vs. one drawn-out project. If you have a child who is antsy, set a timer and allow for breaks to get the energy out. Add variety, so if you are tackling something a bit more tedious (i.e. reading), maybe spend ten minutes reading a book together, then break and play word hopscotch to get the energy out, then move to them writing their own story. They may not be able to sit still for long, so add variety and don’t just aim for blocking out a full hour to complete one single task.
- If your child is antsy, don’t force stillness all the time. Maybe they learn/listen best while they are moving, and bouncing on a workout ball helps keep them focused. Maybe they need to ease into it by playing a game of “freeze” where they work on learning how to control their bodies even if they want to move all the time.
The beauty of homeschooling is our ability to flow with our individual child’s needs vs. managing a full classroom, so look at what sets your individual child up for success, even if it’s unconventional. This isn’t about the rest of society; this is you and your child and creating an environment where you both can thrive.
For this child, encouragement, support, and a helping hand are so, so important. Whereas you can encourage more independent work with the HotShot and keep things light and fun for the Class Clown, the Sweetheart child needs to know she/he is not alone in this huge world of newness.
They would rather explore the world while having safety and security in what they know, so check-ins and affirmation are huge.
Also, recognize that everyone goes at their own pace. Pushing this child to achieve and reach goals when they haven’t fully processed will lead to indifference, withdrawal and apathy. These children aren’t lazy; they may just choose to go at a different pace. Encourage them to move forward, but allow them grace when it’s not on your timeline.
Tips for the Sweetheart:
- You will see more assertiveness the more confident they are in their abilities. They love to feel needed, so if you are at a roadblock, ask them to teach you and/or help someone else. My daughters wanted to learn to tie their shoes, and, me being left-handed and them right-handed, it wasn’t the easiest task for me. When we all hit a point of frustration, I asked my daughter Clara for support and had her watch youtube videos on how to do it. Then, instead of pushing Ellie to understand and do just like her older sister, I asked them to help each other. They loved playing “school,” and Ellie was so wrapped up in the attention and encouragement she got from Clara that she immediately caught on and started tying her own shoes. Instead of shutting down in frustration, we created a supportive environment for them to work and learn together.
- If they don’t want to do something for themselves, help them see how doing it will help others. Remind them of the impact they have on the rest of the world, and how their own growth is what motivates and inspires others.
- Don’t isolate them. The key element is “we are in this together”. They learn best when in an environment of others who are excited and engaged in the process.
Ah, details, details. You cannot get anything past this one! Be prepared to have the facts and be able to answer “why”. Perfectionism is what they strive for – flexibility is key, since we all know it can’t be perfect all the time! They love logic and reason, so understanding the importance of why they need to know something will help them get motivated. They are more task-focused than people-oriented, so remind them that:
Tips for the Precisionist:
- You don’t have to have all the answers. Answer a question with another question. Encourage them to come up with their own answers and think outside the box a bit.
- If they have an interest, dig deep. Provide resources to really let them learn as much as they want to. It may seem an obsession with the Green Turtle doesn’t matter that much, but digging deep, you may discover the environmental impact they have, work on art/perspective, writing, spelling, reading and summarizing, and biology. One little interest can dig into a plethora of subjects.
- Help them with flexibility and allow for imperfections. Help them fail gracefully; don’t belabor the flaws but allow for analysis of what they learned and how they can improve. The details are their strength – let them have that – just don’t let them succumb to paralysis by analysis.
Light the Fire Within Your Child
You may have immediately seen your child in one of these descriptions - or maybe they are a beautiful combination of some of these traits. When you can speak to how your child is motivated, your ability to move forward with them is so much easier.
Navigating their fears is key in keeping the focus on intention vs. reaction. When your child falls into reaction mode and you are not seeing eye-to-eye, ask yourself these questions:
- Do they feel in control? (what choice can I give them full ownership on?)
- Are they feeling rejected? (kids can be relentless seeking approval if they aren’t feeling affirmed - what can you say that might be a confidence boost for them?)
- Do they feel secure? (life is full of transitions - both in their own bodies and in their lifestyle - what is consistent in their life they know as a tried and true recharge?)
- Are they in hyper-critical mode? (oftentimes this happens when someone feels bogged down by too many details, and the best solution is to give them a break with literal space - shut down a computer, get outside, and take a deep breath)
Finally, give yourself a break. When I ask my girls where they go to school, they say, “everywhere!” When I ask them who their teacher is, they reply, “everyone!” We have the opportunity to learn and grow from every interaction we have. Even if we’re simply learning what we don’t want, we can learn from others. Knowing my child is learning from everyone and everything around us, it allows me to truly focus on being the guide that fosters the way my child is bent, and keeps igniting the flame.
Be open to the many ways your child may learn, knowing it may look different than what you experienced. When you address those reactive fears and get to know a little more about how they are best encouraged and motivated, it’s amazing the paths they can create. Enjoy the journey with your children, and remember, the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us. Create that beautiful synergy in your home where you all are learning - and growing - together. Namaste
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