We have more information at our fingertips than ever before. So why has new research revealed that more than one in three parents admit they feel ill-equipped to support their child’s learning over the next decade?
Education Advisor Dr Selina Samuels, has devoted her career to teaching young people and developing education programmes all over the world. Samuels believes that the way parents see themselves as learners has a big impact on their child’s learning journey, and recommends these surprisingly simple tips to help parents support their kids at home.
1. The biggest trick in the book: Carrying books around in front of your kids actually encourages them to read
Countless parents grumble about the fact that their children don’t enjoy reading. But when asked, they rather sheepishly admit that they themselves don’t read very much.
Before friends and school and TV icons, kids are most influenced by what they see at home. “If you want your children to read, you should place an emphasis on reading yourself,” argues Samuels. “Even if that just means walking around with a book in your hand. In particular, I always recommend that fathers of reluctant boy readers spend time reading in the presence of their sons.”
2. Forget pets, reading is the number one way to develop empathy
A significant amount of research points to reading as a way to build empathy. “Scans have shown us that readers’ brains light up in ways which echo the actions of characters that they’re reading about,” says Samuels. “When your child is reading, the areas of their brain associated with theory of mind are activated, which means that they’re vicariously experiencing what the character is feeling.”
Studies have shown that people who spend more time reading behave more altruistically and empathetically than those who don’t. “This suggests that regular immersion in reading (and particularly in fiction) develops social cognition and primes the brain to empathise with the feelings and actions of others,” says Samuels.
3. Turn “I’m not good at this” into “I could try this”
“People with a fixed mindset believe themselves to be intrinsically good or bad at certain things,” says Samuels. “We’ve all heard it from our kids — they’re ‘just not good at Maths’, so there’s no point trying.”
People with a growth mindset believe they’re “just not good at fractions yet”. There’s room to develop and grow as a learner, and so any mistake or failure is an opportunity to learn, rather than a disaster.
Sadly, studies have shown that girls are particularly prone to thinking of their skills as fixed, and are more likely to respond to a multiplication question with, “I’m just not good at Maths.”
4. Remove the cotton wool and teach kids to A-D-A-P-T
Aside from reality TV and cronuts (which are obviously the greatest inventions of the modern age), most people agree that the key to a happy life is learning to adapt to circumstances.
“This is a skill that we should nurture in our children from an early age,” argues Samuels. “Learning to adapt is key to coping with disappointment, adjusting to change and thriving in unpredictable situations. It’s aligned to developing a growth mindset.”
“The best way to encourage adaptability in your child is to develop and celebrate adaptability in yourself,” says Samuels. “Rather than protect your child from all the decisions and challenges that you’ve had to tackle, share with them the way that you navigated those complexities, made difficult decisions and adapted to change.”
“It’s okay to share these experiences with your child, but do so after the emotion has passed,” says Samuels. “If you can explain the problems that you encountered and how you solved them calmly, they likely won’t associate these situations with high emotion or stress, but instead see them as adult ‘business as usual’.”