On the heels of last weeks “Being Schooled! The assumptions of a parent & how they are serving us” we wanted to share with you the article “How to help them succeed? Talk, talk, talk,” by Adriana Barton (Globe & Mail Friday Sept 7, 2012).
In this article Adriana Barton says “to boost academic achievement (in their kids), one of the best things parents can do – according to at least two decades of research – is talk to their kids about school”. However, it’s not just what you talk about, it is how you do it. For all you parents who tire of grunts, “fine” or “I don’t remember” when squeezing information out of your kids about their day, we have help for you. In this article, Carl Corter, a professor at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study at the University of Toronto shares with us the importance that parents express genuine curiosity about their child’s day “including the child’s play time and social experiences”. According to Dr. Corter, our common strategy to get the after school scoop with “how was school today?” is “too vague to spark a meaningful exchange”. He goes on to suggest that parents dig deeper and be more specific, curious in their daily discoveries which will spark more interest for their kids to share. Open questions such as “What kind of activities did you do in science class today?” and “How did you and your friends figure out how to build such a strong bridge out of Popsicle sticks?” are questions framed in terms of discovery and are more likely to engage a response. Another great question we loved from the article was “What cool things did you discover today?”. We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t want to share their new “cool” discoveries with others.
We love this approach of fine-tuning open questions and taking curiosity one-step further to learn new discoveries about your child’s day. On the way home from school today I decided to jump in and try this new technique, so I asked my 6-year-old son what cool ways his new 1st grade teacher was teaching the class. While his response was limited to “my teacher is pretty strict this year” he did follow-up (unprompted) with all the new “cool” things that he was allowed to do in 1st grade that he couldn’t do in Kindergarten, sharing things I didn’t even consider to ask about. Curious to know what makes a 1st grade teacher strict, I did probe deeper and he was more than willing to share with me all the reasons he felt she was too strict.
“Parents can best support a child by understanding that they are an integral part of a child’s learning process,” Dr. Corter says. Much of that learning process begins at home. Listening, asking open questions, being curious, testing assumptions not only nourish a conversation and the culture you are creating in your home, they are also the building blocks of successful communication skills that support any learning process. Like with so many other things in life, it’s not just about what we do as parents, it’s how we do it.
How are you supporting your child’s learning process? What are you curious about?