Everyone prefers to learn in a different way. For instance, I learn best by looking and my husband learns best by listening and talking. This causes problems, especially when he is driving the car and I am navigating. The conversation goes something like this –
‘Where do I turn next?”
“Keep going until you see the big tree’
“Then you turn”
“Which way do I turn?”
“That way” – me showing him which way to turn by holding out my hand
“What way? Left or right/?”
“Er, left” – me checking which hand I am holding out
“What’s the street called?”
“I’m not sure but it is just after we pass a big tree, you can’t miss it!”
“There are loads of trees! I need a street name!”
“Well I don’t know it” – me getting confused and upset
“So, how am I supposed to know where to turn?” – him getting angry and driving faster…
“I told you, after you see the tree…”
“That doesn’t help me at all, where am I supposed to go?” – as he drives past the turning we need to take…
Can you see the problem? (note – I used the word ‘see’ – he would have used the word ‘understood’)
I am a visual learner. I learn and remember by looking and showing (that hand gesture).
He is a verbal learner. He needs names and details.
I have to remember to tell him the street names and for he has to be ready to look for the things I am describing.
Now, imagine that your child prefers to learn visually but you learn verbally. You will try explaining things to him and possible have little success. He needs you to SHOW him how things work, he finds following verbal instructions alone very difficult. If you knew that your child was a visual learner you could adapt the way you work with him and make learning more fun.
What if your child is a Body Smart learner – she learns best when she is moving –and you keep telling her to sit still and do her work? You are not helping in fact you are stopping her learning.
I have worked with many parents who are frustrated and confused when their child never seems to ‘get’ the support they are offering. Both parent and child are doing their best but because they learn in different ways they don’t understand the issues and find it difficult to communicate.
So what can a parent do?
First – uncover your child’s learning preferences. Is she a People Smart, Self Smart or Body Smart learner? Does he learn visually, verbally or logically? Once you know the answer you can work out how to help your child.
Do you show or explain what to do? Does your child prefer to do homework in their room or the kitchen? Do you help your child see the big picture or describe the steps the need to take?
Remember, your child might not learn the same way you do. Don’t try to impose your way of learning on your child before you know how he or she learns best.
Then you can provide the type of support that is going to be accepted and that makes a difference.