Monday, December 26, 2011

InfoGraphic - How-to Teach Children

Click for a larger version.
Teaching children can be a difficult process - especially if you don't have some type of system to start with.  Inventing a process from scratch can be useful sometimes, but you'd probably be better off applying a template and adjusting as needed.

The InfoGraphic above is a high-level overview of teaching the learning process, followed by it's application.  Here is a short breakdown of each step:

  1. Ingredients - teach them the base level things needed to understand the final picture.  If it's drawing, make sure they know what a pencil is, how to hold it, how hard to press, what to write on, etc.  These are each different lessons that are essential.  I can't stress enough how important this step is.  If your child doesn't have all the right ingredients - they won't make the same tool you're expecting to give them.  Look for base-level things that you would consider 'obvious' - they might just be the missing ingredient.  Think: the difference between a carrot cake with eggs and one without.
  2. New Tool - once the child understands the ingredients of the tool, the child can begin to use it as a whole.  He now has a new tool to express himself in whatever way he wishes.
  3. How & When to Use It - this is when you show him the 'proper way' (and certainly not the ONLY way) to use the tool.  Where to consider it, when to use it, how it applies some times and not others.  Let him experience situations where it is a poor tool as well as the perfect tool.
  4. New Tool in the Toolbox - after enough practice and experimentation, he now has a new tool in his toolbox.  All of those ingredients and how to put them together gets turned into a skill that can be used elsewhere.  He only knows those few limitations you showed him - the rest will be gained through trial & error.  Let him.
Looking for an example?  Having taught my son how to 'do' puzzles, I now knew I had a 'tool' for analogies.  I could relate this 'puzzle' tool or process to some other part of his life that he is having issues with in hopes that it would bridge the gap and spark the 'ah-ha.'

He wouldn't eat his vegetables one day and after trying to explain how healthy they were, I decided upon a new tactic.  I mentioned that his plate was like a dinner puzzle.  His meat was one piece, his sauce another, his drink another, and the vegetables another.  I then asked him if he didn't eat his vegetables, would he have a complete puzzle or have all of the pieces?  "No," he says.  So I told him it takes every piece to complete the dinner puzzle.  He gave the visible "ah-ha" look with a pleasant "ohhhhhh" and proceeded to eat his veggies.
  1. Challenge Presented - this is where the child is presented with a situation where he has a bunch of choices.  Which tool do I use in this instance? - he asks.  This will most often happen as he goes through the day.  However, I highly recommend setting up situations where you can guide the choices and learning process.
  2. Understanding - this is the big 'ah-ha' moment.  Where Step 4 in the LEARNING process gained the tool, it was really 'real-world' worthy at the time.  Now he has used the tool in his natural environment and really 'gets it.'  At a minimum, this is reinforcement.  At max, this is life-changing.
  1. Praise the process - not the end results.  You may have noticed that his VTech toys don't scold him for getting the wrong answer.  You may have also noticed he likes to keep playing with those toys.  This is in addition to some recent research that has shown praising only the end results leads to difficulties later.  For instance, teens who have no real self-motivation and lower their standards to receive the same level of "end result praise."
  2. If You're not Excited - Don't Expect Them to be.  Kids are smart.  You may not believe it - but they're on to you.  You can say "I want to take you outside" in so many ways and mean so many things.  Try it.  Go to the mirror and say that phrase in a sweet, high-pitched, lovey voice.  Crouch down a little, open your hands wide, palms up, and tilt your head to the side a little.  How do you feel?  Now try it again in a low, rough, and stern voice.  Stand up tall and big, point your finger, puff out your chest, and furrow your eye-brows.  Any different?  Kids are hip to body-language and tone of voice.  If you're not "in the mood" - they know it.  Best to try again later or work on yourself.
  3. Be as Helpful as When they Were Helpless.  You were so patient, understanding, and loving when you child didn't understand what you were talking about during infancy.  Do you kid a favor and show the same level of loving understanding when they get older.  Expect and work for more, of course, but patience, love, and support are needed now more than ever.
  4. Confirm Frustrations - Don't Push.  Try Later.  There is absolutely no point in continuing on if you child has lost it, is on a rampage, is hungry, tired, upset, cranky, groggy, etc, etc.  If you push them around when they are down, they will respond (consciously or unconsciously) in a way that makes it harder for themselves to learn in the future.  It is best to try again when conditions are more favorable.
 Now you can see why I put it all in a neat little infographic image / picture.  That was a lot to say. :)

Age Matters when Teaching and Raising Young Kids

Photo by: Holger Zscheyge

Give a 6 year old kid a pencil, piece of paper, and 15 minutes and you'll have a vision of a masterpiece.  Give the same to an infant and you'll have a poked eye, crumpled paper in the mouth, and 14 1/2 minutes left.

It's pretty obvious that we can't expect older-kid-output out of younger kids.  We know they don't know certain things yet.  They aren't ready.  This is a very important point when it comes to teaching them.  Knowing what they are working with and expecting is key across all age stages.

'Hope' - Are These Big People My Friends?

From Womb to 18 Months, infants are trying to deal with the onslaught of information going their way.  New sights, sounds, colors, shapes, textures, temperatures, tastes, smells, feelings, thoughts, and oh so much more.  Surely, you can understand their frustrations at times.

This is the time where they work on trust.  "Can I rely on this guardian taking care of me or not?"  This is a wonderful time to start working on the building blocks of learning.  That pun is probably intended.  We'll see in a future article.  Set out the foundations here for the stages to come.

Where There's a 'Will' There's a Way

From 18 months to 3 years, kiddos are trying to figure out what the can and can't do.  Whether or not they always need to rely on you.  Work with this.  Gradually give them more and more responsibility.  Enable them.

Sure, they can't wash the knives, mow the lawn, or use bleach on the toilets.  But they can set the table, pick pillows up off the floor, and hand you ingredients.  They want to feel involved.  You may think that little involvement is insignificant - they think it's the world.  See it from their perspective.  Get them involved and interested early on.  Who knows, it might stick through teenager-dom.

Time to Work on 'Purpose'

From 3 to 6 years, they are trying to figure out if they are bad or good.  They are working on their initiative and guilt.  You should, as much as possible, opt for descriptive language instead of judgmental language here.

Junior has mud on his face.  Does he "look like a mess" or does he "have mud on his face."  One is a simple statement that leads to cleaning.  The other is a hit to self-worth.  Exaggeration, you wonder?  Does the kid know you're talking about mud when you mention it on his face?  If he did, would the mud be there?  He hears, from his loving parent, that he looks like a mess. Period.  Try to cut back on the judging style.

You know what works for you and it won't be easy, but it makes a world of difference.  Picture Him as the child Jesus, knowing full well what He will be when He gets 'older.'  Talk as if you were in His presence or at least try... I know some days are super-rough.  But you get my drift.  You can at least *plan* for the best.

Ages and Stages and Learning, Oh My!

Kids go through so many changes in the first couple of years.  You must be prepared to change your game up, too.  Using the same tools you did when they were in the 'Infant' stage as when they are 'Preschoolers' will only end up frustrating everyone.

Grow with the kids.  Be as interested in life, love, and the awesome world around you as they are.  It becomes second nature if you see through their eyes.  Love them kiddos.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Kids Understand the Benefits of Positive Thinking - So Do It!

Just saw this article from child psychology gurus.  I knew it all along but it is good to see the science finally catching up. :)  Here's a snippet:

Children as young as five predicted that people would feel better after thinking positive thoughts (than they would after thinking negative thoughts).

Moreover, the children showed the strongest insight about the influence of positive versus negative thoughts on emotions in ambiguous situations. And there was significant development in the children’s understanding about the emotion-feeling link as they grew older.

The study also found that children (like adults) have difficulty understanding how positive thinking could boost someone’s spirits in situations that involved negative events—such as falling down and getting hurt.

In these coping situations, children’s levels of hope and optimism played a role in their ability to understand the power of positive thinking, but parents’ views on the topic played an even larger part.

“The strongest predictor of children’s knowledge about the benefits of positive thinking—besides age—was not the child’s own level of hope and optimism, but their parents’,” said study leader Christi Bamford, Ph.D.

Link: Kids Understand Benefits of Positive Thinking

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Judgemental or Descriptive Feedback - Self-Worth Weapon or Tool?

Self-worth.  It's not something we usually think a 3 year old would have.  I mean, come one, they're just little kids, right?

Wrong... oh so wrong.  Psychological research shows that what the child learns, around 3 to 4 years of age, HUGELY impacts their self-worth and esteem... for the rest of their lives.

Oh and before you run off saying "I don't have kids!"... stick around.  There's a deeper point

...I just had to upgrade this post to a full blown one over at the main blog...  go check it out:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Parents Don't Listen and Kids Miss Understanding

No you read that right... they really do MISS understanding if we don't use the right words, tools, and information that they are familiar with.  It is very, very important to speak their language.  Words are so powerful and mean so many different things to different people.

Did you know that the Inuit people have over 100 words for snow?  Each ones means something a bit different about that fluffy, white stuff we call snow here in Texas.  Try and wrap your head around that... does what we say to our children mean what we really think it does?

Here's a video of me blabbing on about our perceptions on communication. The response we get is the meaning of our communication... NOT what we think our words mean. Just because you said "nice pants" doesn't mean she heard "let's dance." Speak well my friends!

Teach Your Child Using Their Own Building Blocks of Understanding

Photo by: Pink Sherbert Photography
When it comes to teaching a child any new kind of philosophy, subject, tool, or basically anything that is new, you have to know that there a couple things that will determine your success.

For one, whatever you do you have to turn it into words and tools that your child will understand.  You can spend 14 hours every day for 8 months and still not have your child understand what it means to close the door if your child does not know how to close the door, or has never been shown how to work a doorknob.

Also, now that I've brought time into the picture, I would like to point out: when is the last time that you picked up the ability to do a new task at work?

When Microsoft Office switched over to the ribbon in the 2007 Version, how long did it take you to get back into the groove of things?  And on that same note, are you still a little bit unhappy with it?  You know what makes it even better, Office 2010 then seems have kind of gone away with it a little bit.  You can see that there is a bit of frustration in this process.

Work with your child, work at the base tool or bit of understanding you think is necessary to build up to the next level of understanding.

If you say to your child, “please draw a picture of an orange…” you have to understand that there are several layers of things here a child has to understand before they can complete that task.

What does draw mean?
How do I draw?
How do I hold this thing?
Which fingers do I put it between?
Do I need to apply pressure?
What's pressure?
Do I keep applying pressure?
Is the worst that you want me to draw the one you know about, although one I know about?
What do I draw?
Why is this thing that I am drawing on moving when I'm moving my crayon?
How can I stop it from moving?
How do I translate this thought of an orange circular thing into a Circle object on this piece of paper?
Why are mommy and daddy looking at me with those grumpy faces?
Will they still love me the same if I can’t do this?
I don’t want to draw anymore because I don’t want to make them have grumpy faces.

One of the best things that I've done to help me understand how to talk to my children is to take a complex task, take out all of the hard words, and replace them with words and concepts I know my child is familiar with.  Try this sometime.

How would you explain traffic to a child?  How about the concept of before and after?  How about recycling?

Get on the same level, speak the same language, use the building blocks you know they have, and be as patient as you think you can be while working through love through every step.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Teaching Kids to Learn

I believe that the task of teaching kids to learn is a big one.  One that requires some real gumption, heart, and unyielding commitment.  A task only a parent can truly take on to the fullest.

Close your eyes for a moment and envision a world full of bright, happy, highly capable little children running around and really enjoying life to the fullest.  Can you see it?  Can you hear their fun shrieks of joy as they run through the playground?  Your heart glowing, knowing you've given them the tools they need to succeed.

Teaching kids to learn, read, use math, think, and be creative is something anyone can do... and not just in a class room.  There are set guidelines, tools, and ideas to run with that make the whole process more manageable, fun, and useful for the kiddos.

Kid Up is here to help you gain these tools.  To take these tools and transform them into useful, life-changing ideas for the generations to come.

Are you ready to learn to teach and grow the little ones?

Photo by: woodleywonderworks