In today’s constantly changing world of work, if there is one ability that determines the child's capacity to deal with future, it is his capability to learn effectively. This is called Learning Coefficient – LCF. Just like we develop any skill with practice, child’s LCF also increases when the child utilises his/her existing capacity more efficiently. Unfortunately, schools and coaching classes practice rote learning – memorization technique based on repetition. Hence it becomes parent's responsibility to help child in enhancing his/her LCF by practicing meaningful learning i.e. learning by understanding the meaning.
Good thing is that child learns through his natural urge of understanding the world. Jean Piaget, the first Swiss psychologist to study cognitive development in child, suggests that child learns by constructing his mind-map brick by brick. This is called theory of constructivism. If parents understand this theory well, they can contribute to child’s learning ability.
While constructing his/her mind map, a child develops certain ability and faces a specific hurdle according to his/her age. The three distinct stages are: Preschool (up to age 6), Elementary School (Class I to V) and Secondary School (Class VIth to Xth). Parent's response to child’s achievements and challenges at every stage influences childs learning ability.
If parents wants to help his/her child develop his LCF, they must understand cognitive and emotional hurdles of every stage and respond accordingly.
Preschool stage (up to age six)
Until age of six, child constructs his mind-map by using extensive motor coordination (hand and eye coordination), language-learning (use of mother tongue to communicate), and sensorial development (use of five senses in understanding the world). All these three developments help the child to construct his mind-map 'unconsciously'. At this stage, parents face two hurdles in helping the child to increase his Learning Coefficient (LCF).
One hurdle is to abstract. Building intelligence of child is helping him to abstract or differentiate essence from non-essence. To 'learn' numbers, child must learn to abstract 'quantity' in the number symbol. For instance, in the number symbol of 36, he must learn to abstract the quantity of three tens and six units or understand that 36 is larger than 26. For a child below six, it is very difficult to abstract because he can only see and relate to concrete 'items' like number symbols.
But the second hurdle of 'emotions' is much bigger for a preschool child. Due to emotions, preschool-child is highly distracted and experiences huge stress of failing whenever he takes up a new thinking challenge. Without helping child to negotiate his emotions (or increasing his EQ) parent cannot help child in developing his IQ.
Dr Maria Montessori, an Italian born physician and educator, discovered unique method of negotiating these two hurdles which is why her education method is so popular in the world. Parents, with some expert guidance, can use this method now to help their preschool child.
Elementary school group (class I to V)
If you have missed helping your child at Preschool stage, your child has to develop his/her 'thinking' mind from scratch.
On the one hand, child's 'thinking' engine is ready to negotiate the challenge at this age. But, on the other hand, her 'emotional' engine is yet to start 'ticking'. These children therefore require extensive help in coordinating the emotional development (which is EQ) with the development of thinking mind, which is IQ. Increasing LCF is like climbing on two ladders: IQ and EQ. One cannot go too much ahead on one ladder. One has to coordinate both. Learning coefficient increases when the child coordinates this climbing of two ladders.
At this age, the child can understand instructions. Parents mistakenly therefore believe that 'teaching' is equivalent to 'learning'. They overuse 'instructions'; they bombard the child with explanations which the child cannot understand. Unable to understand, the child feels inadequate. Either he accepts it as his 'fault', or he blames his parents for being too domineering. In both situations, child becomes defensive and stops learning.
Parents have to understand the child psychology and respond differently. They have to wait for the right 'moments' that emerge in the daily encounters with child. In order to spot these moments, parents first must become keen observers of child. But observation is the first step. They must also learn to channelize their 'advice' that suits a given moment. This is the skill of facilitation. Parents therefore must be keen observers and facilitators to help their Elementary stage child.
This stage is important for another reason. At the end of this stage, the child makes a subconscious 'conclusion' in dealing with his life. Alfred Alder, founder of the school of individual psychology, calls it 'lifestyle' conclusion. This conclusion hinders or helps the learning of next stage: Am I capable to make my own mind-maps? Can I negotiate the hurdle of my emotional mind? Can I use challenges to develop my thinking mind? Are friends to help or hinder? Are elders to guide or instruct?
Secondary School stage (Class VI to X)
At this stage, the child's thinking mind is better prepared to abstract. He starts learning algebra, physics and other abstract subjects. Because he has started learning to think, he has also started explaining his emotions, which helps his EQ development.
If the child's lifestyle conclusion at the end of earlier stage is dysfunctional, the child will not listen to parental advice in this age even if the parent has honest intentions and well developed skills.
In this stage, parents also must understand the process of abstraction in details. Without understanding this, a parent cannot find ideas to help his child utilise his learning capacity further. For instance, without understanding the abstraction involved in numbers, the parent cannot help the child unfold the mystery involved in unraveling prime numbers. Without understanding the abstraction involved in using language, he cannot help the child in telling a compelling story. Without understanding abstraction, Parents also cannot increase child's learning capacity. They are stuck.
But the bigger hurdle that Parent has to overcome is to help the child process his emotions. Like a preschool child, Secondary school child is flooded with emotions due to his hormonal changes. Adolescent child also identifies more with his peers in this age. If parents understand these changes in his emotional make-up, they help construct a resilient and strong child. But when parents fail to understand, they unwittingly construct their child as emotionally-fragile and diffident. And without processing emotions parents cannot help their child in finding their sources of motivation.
By understanding the principles of learning and child psychology, parent can make a huge difference in their child's learning ability, LCF. Even if they fail to help the child in earlier stage, they can catch up in the next stage by investing more effort. But when parents try to help their child without understanding these principles, despite their good intentions, they unknowingly obstruct their child’s learning ability.