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What are some good approaches to raising and motivating bright kids?
As much as possible, let kids take ownership of their own learning.
You know how young kids are curious and like to ask “why?” all the time? While a habit of wanting to know more is already great among youths, you can take it a step further by being a guide on the side, rather than a sage on the stage. Rather than giving them the answer they seek, whenever possible or appropriate let them contemplate an answer on their own to see if they could arrive at their own answer.
You could simply ask them back “Why do you think?” You could ask “What if ___?” using an alternate, contrasting case that nudges them toward answering their own “why.” You might co-create a story with them, where you provide enough contextual information as well as knowledge gaps that they can fill in on their own, leading them to build up their own explanation toward their “why” question.
The bottom line is to remove yourself as the director of the learning experience. A few things are happening here:
When you provide a direct answer to a question, there’s nowhere else to go from there (except maybe more “whys”, but that becomes mundane). The child has to take your answer for granted, because, well, that’s the very function of a Q&A. But as soon as you assume the role of a guide rather than a sage, you refocus the learning on the dynamic process of generating that answer, rather than the take-it-or-leave-it, static answer itself.
You also compel them to build upon their prior knowledge, and in turn make deeper meaning of the world (building more complex connections within their schemas). For me, one indicator of brightness is an ability to ask insightful questions or state the non-obvious. This depends on an ability to comfortably reframe a problem/knowledge, which takes practice.
It can make learning relevant to the child’s identity and interests, and thus more motivating. Similarly, it reinforces the notion that learning is an ongoing, rewarding process, and not something that just happens under a teacher’s command in a classroom or out of a textbook.
Curtis Wang is a learning designer at Stanford and Skyship Educational Design. Read more from Quora below: