Why Discovering Their True Selves Helps Them Become Their Best Selves
Yesterday I shared a little bit about how our family is using ideas in The Smart Parenting Revolution, by Dawna Markova, Ph.D. when it comes to helping our kids (and ourselves) recognize individual strengths and work toward interdependence. These ideas can’t come to action, though, without understanding 3 key elements:
- Recognizing mind patterns
- Determining attractions and interests
- Honoring thinking talents
The Value of Learning Styles for Recognizing Mind Patterns
Markova looks at learning styles as integral to mind patterns – the unique and functional way different brains selectively work best. Children are hardwired to learn, but they are not all hardwired to learn the same way, according to Markova. When we teach them to recognize their own strengths in learning, they can more successfully pursue their own strengths in other areas of interest. I’ve written before about the importance of helping your kids find their learning styles – it is so vital to helping them become the best versions of themselves. Markova writes that:
“Because we are all wired differently, understanding how we and our children are wired is one of the most important keys to being able to learn how we learn.”
She also includes in her book a list of prominent individuals who made significant contributions to the world – but who in today’s society would be labeled with a disorder or medicated for their uniqueness. President Woodrow Wilson didn’t read until age 11 and Thomas Edison’s teacher beat him for not paying attention and being too fidgety in class. Just these two examples demonstrate how our tendency to label and compare our children to everyone else doesn’t lead to greatness – but allowing kids to be great at what they love does.
Have you ever said this to your child? Has her teacher? We all recognize that in order to learn, grasp concepts, and move forward we need to pay attention. If we want our kids to help with some household chores we might want them to pay attention to our instructions. If a teacher is instructing the class on homework, she wants her students to pay attention. But what does this really mean?
Markova gives a great discussion of attention in her book, but the highlights are descriptions of what she and researchers have determined are three basic types of attention.
- Focusing – when we concentrate. Beta waves are produced and we pay attention in organized and detailed ways, and this is when we have the most mental stamina.
- Sorting – when we are wondering or confused. There are more alpha waves produced in the brain, and our thinking becomes more relaxed and allows us to look at things from two perspectives.
- Imagining – when we are in our own mental world. The brain produces more theta waves, and it is also when we are more sensitive, seeking private thinking time, and most easily distracted. While it might appear that we are spaced out – our brain is thinking about many things at once.
Recognizing Mind Patterns
Markova asks us to think of the three basic learning styles that exist: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. So we have these 3 basic learning styles, and through the magic of math, we find that there are 6 possible “mind patterns” – 6 combinations of learning styles. If I lost you at the mention of math – hang on – and think of it this way:
- We all use the three learning styles, just to varying degrees.
- The difference is in which style we tend to turn to first in a given situation, and then second, and third.
- The order in which you use different learning styles also affects your state of attention (remember those three from above?).
Example: I have three sons. They all walk through the door after playing outside and into the kitchen where I am making dinner – they are sharing the same experience. However, one son might first look to see what I am doing, whether stirring the pot or chopping the vegetables – this is his kinesthetic style taking charge. Another son might be listening to the sounds of the kitchen and what I’m doing – using his auditory learning style to assess the situation. My third son looks to see what food I am making for dinner – using his visual learning.
Then in rapid – faster than you can tell succession – they use their other learning styles to complete the picture and create the mind pattern that works best for them. They all had the same experience of walking through the door, but they will all come to slightly different conclusions based on the pattern of their learning, and they will all remember the scene differently. There are a total of 6 different patterns that could exist. When we know which pattern our kids use most often, we can help communicate and interact with them and build the best environment for them.
Determining Attractions and Interests
This next key to opening the world of possibilities with your kids is all about motivation. I’ve shared countless research on this topic in the past, and Markova’s mirrors most of it. Intrinsic motivation, that which comes from within your child, is the most important factor for success. Pay attention to your child’s interests. You should be able to talk about your child endlessly – interests, passions, fears, cravings, and more.
In my family when I paused to consider more carefully my son’s attractions and interests I was able to see a very reluctant reader morph into a child who moved through the library stacks quickly and then devoured his selections. I stopped thinking that he would go through the motions like his siblings who came before and read “first readers”, and then move onto beginning chapter books. He had no interest in these – he had no intrinsic motivation for reading – until he met a Garfield comic book. I changed my idea of how kids learn to read, and he is now a reader.
Honoring Thinking Talents
Does your child look at the world in a different way, get teased for a unique perspective, or feel embarrassed because she does things contrary to her peers? She might be using her thinking talents – the world around her just hasn’t figured out it needs to honor those. These are the traits that researchers say are innate, give us pleasure and internal reward, and are the most comfortable way for us to think about the world. Researchers have even developed a list of 36 Thinking Talents they have discovered exist in children and adults. (Next week I’ll be sharing this list and ways to use them with your kids.)
It is vital to raising happy, successful, and fulfilled children that we meet them where they are instead of try to change them to meet our picture of them. When we honor the thinking talents of our kids, even if those talents are not ones we personally find useful in our own lives, we help them to develop their innate strengths.
Take today to ask your kids questions that will lead to discovery about them. Not only will you learn even more about your gems, but they will also begin thinking about their own ideas and actions even more.