Motivating & Helping Your Child Succeed

Every parent wants their children to succeed. It is very common these days to see moms and dads taking their children, toddlers or even infants to various play groups or classes. It is the parents hope that by attending these classes, their children will be smarter, happier and more social able.

Vancouver is a multi-cultural city. More often you will see children of mixed racial backgrounds. How can parents help their children to learn in this diverse culture or technology advanced generation? What will be the best way for your child to learn? What are the “tips” for helping them to succeed?

Children learn the best when parents provide a safe, caring & trusting environment with appropriate and necessary limits. When your child feels safe and accepted, they also can feel confident about himself or herself. He or she will be more open to learning new things, trying new tasks and completing tasks at hand. In addition, when a child feels more confident, he or she is also more able to initiate and maintain friendships.

As parents, how do we help our children to succeed and motivate them to try?

Encourage & Praise the Effort Vs the Outcome:
Praise his /her effort of trying even though he or she can not complete the task. It is important to focus on the effort and not only on the outcome. As human beings, we are bound to make mistakes and we can never be perfect. If we only focus on the outcome, we may pressure our children wanting to be perfect all the time. Such pressure may lead to anxiety in some children. Children need to know that there are rooms for mistakes and they do not need to perform perfectly all the time. They also need to know that they will still be loved and accepted. The most crucial thing is for your child to feel that they (the person) are more important than what they can do / offer (the completed task).

Parsing only the outcome may lead your children to conclude that they are not important and they are worthless if they cannot “succeed”, “produce good outcome”, “useful”, or “productive”. Focusing on the effort is very significant. As adults, we require continuing effort to finish our chores, our schooling and our work. We may also make “mistakes” along the way and it takes effort to try again or to “re-do” them. If we only do things when we know that we can do them perfectly then some of us will all give up easily and things will be left unfinished.

Understand & Accept your child’s learning style
Each child learns differently. Some are visual learners, while some others are auditory. Some are always ready to experience and experiment right away. Some need more time to observe before they participant. Some think out loud and are energetic. Some like to think first before they act. Parents need to be reminded that there is more than one way to learn. The most important is for parents to respect their children’s learning styles and allow the time frame they need.

Provide appropriate challenges & stimulation
Stimulation & challenges at an appropriate level will facilitate your child to learn and encourage curiosity. Curiosity will bring about creativity and therefore, motivate your child to learn further. Providing the right level of challenges and stimulation are necessary to help your child succeed.

How do we present appropriate challenges & stimulation? When your child is able to complete certain tasks, you can gently present tasks that are slightly more difficult. It is important not to present tasks which are way beyond his or her ability. When it is too difficult and impossible for children to achieve the tasks, it is easier for them to become frustrated and give up altogether. When the challenge is appropriate, it will stimulate and encourage them to solve the puzzle and feel a sense of accomplishment when the task is completed.

Acknowledge & Accept their feelings – e.g. frustration, Pride, Happy or Anger, etc
When your child is attempting to learn something new, sometimes they succeed and sometimes they fail. Regardless of the outcome, they will experience different emotions. Sometimes they may feel angry or frustrated when they fail. Sometimes they are excited or joyful when they succeed. Sometimes they are tired or confused when they are not getting anywhere. Feelings are normal for human beings and we all experience various emotions on a daily basis. Whatever the feelings will be, it is important for parents to accept and verbally acknowledge their feelings. By verbalizing and acknowledging their feelings, parents can help their children to learn about human emotions, to deal with their feelings and to become accepting towards themselves.

Provide adequate support but allow opportunity to problem-solve
Allow your child to solve the problem and find the solution themselves whenever you can. Nevertheless, it is equally important to provide necessary support when it is needed. Let your child figure out the solution when the task is challenging. Allow your children to experience the frustration & confusion but be ready to provide some guidance. Parents will take away their changes to learn problem-solving skills but providing support too early or solving the problems for them. It is important to strike a balance between letting your children struggle on their own and helping them all the time. Remember always to encourage them while they are trying hard and acknowledge their frustrations.

Perhaps there is no one definition for ‘success”. In this society, people often value higher education or a high salary job positions. There is of course a lot of “success” involved when a person can achieve higher education or has found respectful employment. Perhaps we should wonder if “success” should also mean when a person is able to try repeatedly even when he or she ‘fails”; when a person can be proud of his or her effort and for trying all their best; and most importantly; when a person can still respect & love oneself whether one has accomplished anything.