As parents it is expected we know our children. Most parents think they truly know their children. But the human mind is complex and this complexity can add various dimensions to a child’s personality. If we do not really understand our children, we will not be able to fulfil all their needs. We will not be able to guide them on the right path that truly belongs to them.
The problem with most parents is that we expect our children to be like other children. In India, even today, parents equate intelligence to academic performance. Parents equate being a doctor or an engineer as successful. But really is there all there is to life? Are we as humans so limited in our thinking and our capabilities? Are we unable to think beyond the stereotypical standards that we have set for ourselves and now for our children?
The answer to all of this, is that there is more to life than academics. Dr Howard Gardner proposed the theory of multiple intelligence, to understand how children can intellectually differ. In his book ‘Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, he stipulates that the conventional psychometric views of intelligence are too limited. He further proposed 7 different types of intelligences that have become popular in most schools and educational Institutions. (There are 9 currently) The multiple intelligence theory is being used a lot more now to discover learning pathways for children. It is also being used to identify a child’s core strengths, therefore highlighting the type of Intelligence a child has the natural aptitude for.
What are strengths? How can a tutor or parent identify them?
It is important for tutors to be able to understand strengths of a student in order to bring out academic or non academic performance to peak levels.
Strengths are the innate qualities where there is potential to make a significant contribution to life. Once children learn to combine their strengths with their interests, they can turn it into a passion.
According to Dr Lea Waters in his book The Strengths Switch, states that the dimensions you need to look at to evaluate your child’s strengths are:
Performance: Observe your children when they consistently show above age-levels of achievement, repeated patterns of success and rapid learning.
Energy: Is your child feeling good while they are doing a certain task? Strengths are usually reinforcing. The more a child uses them, the more energized they become.
Choosing to do it: Watch for what your children choose to do during their free time. Observe how often they engage in these and how they speak about these activities.
As parents and teachers, it is important to understand that each child different, with different capabilities, core strengths and personalities. In George Reavis’s book, he talks about how we can accept these differences through analogies of The Rabbit, The duck, The squirrel and The Eagle. Through this simple narrative, he gives us a very powerful message about understanding children.
In his story, he narrates how the duck is excellent in swimming but merely passes in flying and was bad at running. In order to improve his running, he is made to stay back after school for practice. This causes his web feet to wear out badly, that in the end he becomes average in swimming also.
The message to parents and educators is that many times we waste time focusing on a child’s weakness instead of recognizing and nurturing their strengths.
A duck is a duck and only a duck - George Reavis
In her article in positivepyschologynew.com, Lisa Buksbaum talks about Dr Lea Waters' book called The Strength Switch. Here, she highlights the various dimensions that will help distinguish between strengths. Understanding these dimensions could really help tutors provide a more conducive learning environment in the classroom. It also help tutors guide children with the right learning pathway based on their intelligence type.
Core Strengths: These strengths are responsible for powering peak performance and energy levels. They are a critical part of a child's personality and form a large part of their nature and behavior. These strengths become the child's identity. Asking questions like 'what are the core strengths that make you the person you become?' can help identify them.
Growth Strengths: These offer great potential for outstanding performance. It usually comes to the fore with nurturing. These strengths can be recognized by a tutor when the child becomes energized or achieves good performance levels at an early stage.
How can you encourage a student to use a growth strength?
a) By acknowledging her natural aptitude towards it.
b) By helping her recognize her levels of performance.
c) Help the student reflect on her positive energy while using the strength.
d) A student will exhibit a natural tendency to use the strength without being prodded and the tutor can use this opportunity to praise the child for doing so
Learned behavior: These are often learned in order to cope with the expectations of school, home and society. The child may perform well but it does not innately motivate the child nor exude the same energy levels as a core strength does.
The key to strength-based training is to encourage the student to practice regularly and with discipline. It is also important to help the child with a weakness without getting into the trap of spending too much time on it. While working on a weakness, it is important to make your child understand that:
a) everyone has a weakness, just like how everyone has a strength
b) spend more time on your strengths
c) a weakness does not define a person, it does not make anyone less loveable.
Learner Circle wants to help you 'Know Your Child' through our KYC tool
In order to help parents understand their children better, Learner Circle has curated a ‘KYC” assessment that will help identify a child’s core strength and aptitude. How do you know if your child is capable of being a musician, a philosopher, a dancer or a doctor? The KYC test is based on Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory and highlights the top 3 intelligence types. It is a great guideline to understand a child’s potential career path. It will also help parents guide children to nurturing their strengths instead of spending too much time in correcting weaknesses. With this assessment result parents can help children choose their passion and pursue it.
At Learner Circle we have various courses to cater to a child’s core strengths and interests. Pls do not hesitate to call us if you would like to attempt the KYC assessment or try one of our short online courses.