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Coaching Your Child        < Previous        Next >



How to Make Your Child a Good Thinker


Q. My daughter is an emotional, expressive child. She doesn't like to take time to think things through, but is impulsive. She's been that way since she was a baby. Now that she's in middle school, I don't see her concentrating on her studies for long amounts of time the way she should. She makes a lot of thoughtless errors in homework and on tests. Everybody loves her, but I think she has a reputation as scatterbrained. I'm not sure she has very good thinking skills because she's always on her cell phone or IM'ing. What can we do to help her apply herself to her studies more?


Thinking skills are learning skills. We all think and we all can learn, but we certainly aren't all alike. You are observant and you care, and those are the two prerequisites for helping your child maximize her strengths and minimize her weaknesses. She sounds like she is creative, sensitive and intuitive. Those are all great strengths! For her, or any other child with any other personality style, a few lessons from a parent on what thinking and learning are all about should help a lot:


1. Teach her the differences in the things there are to learn: simple fact, concept, proposition, cognitive strategy, problem solving technique, model, theory. Some kids get "flooded" by academic content and can't learn because they think everything they're reading, seeing or hearing about has the same value.


2. Teach her about cognitive knowledge. She is expected to make inductive generalizations. You get that skill by comparing and contrasting examples - things that "match" -- and nonexamples - things that don't "match."


3. It sounds like your daughter learns by listening and discussing, rather than reading. Suggest that she ask the teacher for supplementary learning activities that don't necessarily involve sitting and reading.


4. Help her see that her communication has to stay focused, relevant and in logical progression of steps leading to the goal of the communication. Sometimes, expressive kids get distracted and don't end up learning anything.


5. Encourage her to correct her mistakes, practice on skills at which she is weak, and especially since she is a social being, seek extra help from the teacher or another student when she hasn't mastered something.


6. Help her see where she is in the different phases of the mastery process: acquisition (getting it), fluency (accurate and fast via practice and speed drills), assembling elements (e.g., separate events leading up to the War of Independence) into a whole (a model of the steps), generalization (application to new examples), retention (via practice and cumulative review), independence (students apply inspection routines to their own work).


7. Supervise her homework, so that she doesn't have distractions (it would be smart to ban the cell phone, background music and IM'ing until her homework is done) and can concentrate. If you rush through homework or only devote half of your brain to it, you'll make errors which will perpetuate wrong thinking.


Homework: The book, Your Child's Growing Mind by Jane M. Healy explains brain development, with good advice on building creativity and other academic skills.


By Susan Darst Williams Coaching Your Child 14 2008

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