The article How Your Child Learns by Jeannie Ralston, in Parenting magazine’s September 2006 issue, addresses the different learning and motivation styles of children. According to Jeannie Ralston, there are three learning styles: by listening, looking, or doing. Most children will either rely heavily on one of the learning modes, or use a combination of the three. Children that learn by listening typically are not motivated by pictures, but by sounds and songs. Listening children learn through conversation and jingles.
Auditory learners need quiet for concentrated tasks and do well when asked to repeat back ideas to reinforce what has been learned.
Visual learners often are described as having photographic memories. Children that learn visually learn well from pictures, videos, maps, models, and charts. Visually oriented children often are so captured by pictures on a page; they have problems concentrating on any one thing. Kinesthetic or doing children learn by using their bodies. This can mean a child needs to move around while thinking or use his fingertips to absorb meaning.
Kinesthetic children tend to not be able to sit still for long periods and prefer to act out stories rather than hear or see them on a page. Active learners are easy to spot because they always want to be shown how to do things. Jeannie Ralston posits that there are also three styles that motivate kids to learn: the desire to please you; perfectionism; and competitiveness. Earning praise is the strongest motivator for children with a desire to please their caregivers. The key is to teach the child that pleasing himself is just as important.
Some children have a driven desire to master everything and be perfect. These children need to be taught that mistakes are inevitable and that productivity need not suffer in light of mistakes. Competitive children are driven by the ‘I’ll show you’ streak. These children need to be taught that there are different ways of learning and not everyone will do things the same way. Both learning and motivational styles need to be combined for an effective early childhood learning experience.
Combining motivational and learning styles of children allows parents to effectively support their children. I agree with the basic premise of Jeannie Ralston’s article and feel that most parents do not spend enough time or have the knowledge to figure how children learn and are motivated. Within one family, several children can have completely different learning styles. Children and parents alike are frustrated when presented with the wrong method of learning or motivation.
I posit that all children have a combination of the three learning styles, maybe favoring one over the others. In order for a life long passion for learning to be cultivated in a small child, the child needs to be continually positively motivated. Knowing a child’s learning style will allow the parent to formulate learning opportunities that will continually excite the child. If the wrong learning style is presented to the child, the child will quickly loose interest and seek motivation else where outside of the learning arena.
With all the current early childhood development research, parents need to understand that learning starts at much younger ages than five when a child starts school. Parents need an awareness of learning styles so that early childhood learning can be maximized. Parents also need to consider that each child will differ and what works for one child, may not work for the next. Parents also need to have flexibility and insight into their children to know when something is not working for the child.
Knowing motivational styles will allow parents to ease difficult situations into win-win situations for both the parent and child. In all, Jeannie Ralston gives a good over view of learning and motivational styles. Understanding how one’s child learns and what motivates them will make parenting and learning an enjoyable and bonding experience. Capitalizing on this research is essential for a life time of learning and bringing out the best in one’s child.