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How Is Your Child’s Affective Learning?

One of the biggest concerns of every parent is their child’s academic performance. Most of their daily efforts and engagement with their young ones is in some way or other related to the child’s study regime and results.

Parents, especially mothers can be all the time seen either telling or yelling at the children to study, read their books, finish the homework or projects and prepare for the tests.

For everyone from parents at home to teachers at school, a child’s academic results are so important that his awards, rewards, appreciation, even the parental affection and love that he receives has become conditional to the marks scored in exams.

If a child fares well in school or higher studies, he becomes worthy of all praises and perks and if he doesn’t perform as per expectations he loses all credit and credibility.

Is the immense importance that is given to the numerics or alphanumerics on the scoresheets really right and rational or not is not the topic of discussion here. It’s an important one so will discuss that in another write up.

Rational or not, there are reasons why so much stigma is attached to the child’s good academic evaluations and why everyone goes bonkers pushing their progeny to prepare, perform and excel in their academic assessments.

Let’s assume for some time that it is imperative for children to learn and do well in their educational pursuits and hence the parents and academicians who provide them the resources, instruct them and then remind them regularly to do well are doing a great job in doing so.

But is all that is being done sufficient for the child? Is a child’s academic performance really just a function of learning the languages, texts and arithmetic and then recalling what is learned and producing it on a sheet of paper? Is the cognitive learning provided in school system enough to educate a child?

Cognitive learning entails studying from books, comprehending the meaning, memorizing the texts or formulae, applying logic to the problems, reasoning, analyzing the problem, recalling the information and then producing it during the assessment which is conducted again to check the performance of the cognitive skills used to learn the inputs and provide the output.

Cognitive skills are skills of perception, memory, attention, logical reasoning, comprehension and all other skills required to learn and acquire knowledge and cognitive learning involves using cognitive skills.

Undoubtedly, cognitive abilities are important to learn, reason, use and apply learned information and hence are crucial for academic performance. And that’s the reason a child is taught to use these capabilities and is constantly subjected to a curriculum that requires the application of these skills.

The school curriculum is designed to enable, employ and evaluate the cognitive learning domain, hence, it may imply that students with good cognitive learning ought to perform well in academics and vice versa.

But that may not necessarily be the case. It was earlier believed by psychology scholars and academicians that cognitive learning is the sole key to educational excellence and its effective application.

But not anymore.

It is now a well known fact to the academic researchers that cognitive learning alone may not necessarily make someone proficient in gaining knowledge.

Rather it is quite possible that someone who is absolutely capable of perceiving and applying the information given to him may fail to learn and apply it effectively.

I, as a parent-child counselor meet youngsters everyday who have excellent cognitive abilities, who are proficient at learning languages and applying logic to mathematical problems, but are not at all performing well in their academics. The parent accompanying the child would say that she knows that the child is very intelligent but for reasons unknown do not yield desired results.

The reason is not unknown anymore. The fact is that there is another domain of learning that supplements the mental abilities to learn and acquire knowledge.

It is called affective learning.

Affective means related to moods, emotions and attitude and hence affective learning deals with the learner’s moods, emotions, interests, attitude and motivation to learn.

A child, irrespective of his capabilities, learns when he is willing and motivated to learn. If cognitive learning is the how to learn then affective learning is the why to learn.

Affective learning is a much ignored domain of learning and is not given much space and importance in the annual school curriculum.

The school system works primarily to provide the inputs to a child’s cognitive learning but ignores the fact that it is the child’s affective learning or affects (emotions and moods) that have to be willing to receive and respond to the inputs being given.

Similar mistake is made by parents at home who again emphasize on reading, writing, memorizing functions but miss out building up the right emotional environment for the effective affective and cognitive learning.

Affective learning entails the willingness and motivation to learn and use the cognitive abilities. It precedes the cognitive learning.

In simple words, it means being in the right mood to study, being emotionally charged to pay attention and learn, to value the learning process, to be motivated to spend attentive hours to gain knowledge and feel happy and accomplished with the knowledge gained.

Affective learning is the precursor of all learning. If you have a child who is not doing very well in his/her academics ask yourself a few questions.

“Does she seem interested in her daily study program?”

“Does she look forward to her classes where she will acquire knowledge about the various subjects?”

“What is her attitude about studying and all that it involves?”

“Is she really motivated to learn and to apply all that she learns?”

You may think that every child feels unhappy and uninterested when asked to sit and study but that is not always the case. There are children who read and learn with joy and enthusiasm. They enjoy using their cognitive abilities and their results always show that.

Even they occasionally lose their enthusiasm or may find one or two subjects less interesting but fall back in line with time or little intervention. You definitely know someone like this.

And it is okay and normal to be uninterested and unhappy sometimes but the real concern is mostly or permanently having a negative feeling and attitude towards the learning activities.

In your case, your answers to the above questions have told you what your real concerns are if you have any and if you belong to the category of parents who wish to see good academic results of their young ones, now you know what requires your attention.

If you have understood by now that your child does not have the right emotion, attitude towards learning and is not too willing to receive, respond and value the process of acquiring knowledge, then know your real and immediate job is to work on improving his/her affective learning.

Affective learning is all about providing an affective environment where a child is happy, not criticized or judged, neither too anxious nor too carefree, is not over indulged, has right role models and is motivated to learn and apply knowledge.

In today’s time, the affective learning is mostly inadequate and ineffective because of the following reasons.

  • The young generation of today is over provided and over indulged. They already have everything and that does not provide them enough motivation to strive and work hard to perform and excel.
  • They have too many distractions in their lives. There is so much that attracts their attention and thus does not leave much willingness to divert that attention to the tedious task of studying.
  • They are either too pampered and protected or are too much judged and criticized. This results in either making them too carefree or too anxious and both conditions are negative affects for learning.
  • In some home environments, especially where parents are engaged in running traditional business, there is sometimes less importance given to their academic activities or that is what the children perceive. They are unable to relate knowledge and success and thus may not realize the value of learning and seeking knowledge.
  • Another major reason is less engaging ways of imparting education in schools. An effective and engaging teaching system can make the process of learning interesting and stimulating and once a child starts to enjoy the process and its outcome and the appreciation that follows, it becomes a continuous cycle of enjoying learning, performing, enjoying getting appreciated and repeat.
  • A child is less interested in learning when cognitive abilities are poor and despite efforts the results are not good. If affective learning precedes cognitive learning, the later also effects the former. If a child finds it easy to comprehend and learn, he will enjoy learning but if despite putting in hours he is not able to solve the problems he will lose all enthusiasm. Both the domains are interrelated.

Considering the reasons for poor affective learning of the students, what are the ways to improve the ignored but essential domain of learning.

First of all, out of the reasons mentioned find out the reasons responsible for your child’s indifference, lack of interest and motivation. Acknowledge all the things missing in his/her emotional environment. Is he over indulged or over criticized, lacks some cognitive skills, is not aware of the advantages of being well educated or is the way of teaching less engaging and encouraging?

Whatever is lacking find ways to improve it. If the lack of good feelings and motivation is in initial stages you can talk it out yourself but if it has become a deep rooted belief then you may seek professional help from a good counselor.

Change the environment at home and in school. Make sure your child is happy, not bullied, is less anxious, not judged and is constantly encouraged and appreciated. Give him/her realistic goals and support him/her to achieve them.

Tell your child to enjoy the process of learning new information and knowledge and not to chase the high scores. If he/she will do his/her best to just learn, excellence will automatically follow.

Ask the school and teachers to follow a more engaging teaching program and to include affective learning in the school curriculum. it is a prevalent practice in most of the developed countries where a lot of emphasis is given to the emotional and psychological well-being of the students.

Affective learning is all about a happy, confident, alert, aware, empathetic, keen to learn child who knows how to enjoy studying as much as she enjoys playing.

Affective learning does not just apply to academics but to every sphere of learning and life. If your child enjoys playing a game he will put in the efforts required to learn it, the same will be the case for learning arts, music, dance and every other skill. In case of academics it is more important as the academic curriculum is lengthy, needs long hours and more attention and efforts. The key to gain knowledge is to feel happy while doing it.

Affective learning is not about results but the feelings and the efforts and parents, you too learn to appreciate their feelings and efforts.

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What Makes A Child Confident?

“I don’t think I can do this.”

“It is too difficult for me to try.”

Almost everyday I meet teenagers who are clueless about what they want to do with their lives. As a career counselor, when I suggest them various career options based on of their potential and inherent capabilities, rather than seeing their excitement on the prospects what I hear are their doubts and reservations. These apprehensions primarily stem out of their lack of self-confidence and self-worth.

Ever wondered why are our children and teenagers so full of self-doubt? Why does this generation of English speaking youngsters who are well groomed, sent to best schools and provided with extravagant lifestyles, lack in self-assurance when it comes to decision-making and acting upon the choices they make?

The key reason that our youth is engulfed in self-doubt and self-deprecation is their poor self-concept. Self-concept means one’s idea of self which gets constructed by the beliefs formed about self. Since the beginning of our life, whatever happens in our life, contributes to the building of our self-concept or self-image.

Some of the most critical yet overlooked contributors are:

1. Love and affection of parents.

When a small child is unconditionally loved and showered affection at by parents and other elders the innocent mind of the child doesn’t think, “My mother is so loving.” It rather thinks, “I must be very special. That’s why my mother/father loves me so much.” Think of it. ‘I am good or special’, is a self-concept that gets constructed by something as natural as a mother’s love.

On the opposite hand, when a child is often reprimanded or scolded by a parent, the immature mind doesn’t form a bad image of the parent but of self. “My mother doesn’t like me. I must not be good.” Thus, the self-loathing self-concept is formed.

2. Appreciation from parents and teachers.

Few positive words of acknowledgment on any small and big feats of a child can form the positive self-belief and the exact opposite happens when criticism is spewed on the young mind. In our society, negative appraisal is granted easily to the young ones as it is considered as a motivator. Parents think that if they tell a child that he can’t do something, he will be prompted to do it and prove himself.

Little do these parents know that their critical words are actually dispiriting the child by forming the child’s image in his mind as someone incapable of doing the job. And Why not? Those words are coming from the ‘know it all’ parents who are idolized by the unknowing children.

The opposite happens when an encouraging parent or teacher tells another child that he can do something. The simple words paint a picture of a competent self in the child’s impressionable mind. The child just acts his image and sometimes even an average child outdoes others.

Many a times parents are wary of bestowing praises on their progeny as they worry that accolades may make them arrogant. It is a myth. Appreciation doesn’t lead to arrogance. It rather forms a self image that the child wants to live up to.

3. Acceptance of the individual.

When a child is accepted for who he is, he gains confidence in self. On the other hand, comparison and discrimination are confidence killers. When a child is discriminated and given differential treatment because of her gender, color of skin, shape of body, height, intelligence, talents, performance, etc. the feeling of being less creeps in.

Every child is unique in his unique self and shall be treated equally and fairly. Give your child respect for who he is and see the leap his self-confidence will make. And also protect your child from any discrimination he might be getting from other sources. The world is still full of its prejudices and our children need to be proofed from it with our confidence in them.

3. Accomplishments of the child.

The biggest motivator in one’s life is one’s own achievements. Our previous accomplishments are the reference points for our self-confidence for our next endeavors. When a child does well in her tests, exams or other competitions, the self-concept of being competent gets formed automatically. The child faces the next competition with her positive self-image and performs well again and the positive image gets further reinforced and then the cycle continues.

The opposite happens when a child doesn’t perform well consecutively a few times and then another pattern of failure persists. It is thus vital that a child does well in something or anything. It can be academically, in sports or in any curricular or extracurricular activity.

They say, “nothing succeeds like success.” That means every success leads to the next success because every success creates a successful self-concept in the person’s mind.

The renowned psychologist Erik Erickson in his psychosocial development theory has called the age between six to twelve years as the stage when every child has a crisis or conflict of industry and inferiority in her mind. A hardworking or industrious child succeeds and forms a positive self attitude and the not so hardworking kind forms an inferior self image.

Thus, victory or failure becomes a natural self expectation and we in easy language call it self-confidence or lack of confidence.

So, how do we enhance the confidence in a child? It is clear by now.

  • Love your child. Shower your affections on him.
  • Say encouraging words to your child. Give genuine appreciation whenever you get a chance.
  • Help your child achieve. Tell him it is important to do well and make it happen together.
  • Celebrate the successes and the failures. Celebrate the efforts.
  • Never let your confidence in the child go low. Never give up hope in him.
  • Teach him perseverance.
  • Be a good role model yourself and share your stories.

A confident child is a dream of every parent and it is also your own creation. Your own small acts of love, kindness and empathy paint his best picture in your child’s mind. Be mindful of this and help his mind see him as a self-assured doer and capable of fulfilling his dreams.

Bond Over A Shared Passion.

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These days, we often hear parents complaining that their growing up children are mostly engrossed in their routines and they don’t spend much time together. Couples are struggling in relationships and the mother of the problem is not investing enough time in each other.

Reason is simple.

In this fast paced life, where everyone has a lot going on in their work spheres, lifestyle routines and busy social lives, spending quality time together for any two people is a dream.

People these days have so much to do for themselves apart from the usual day’s work. The fitness program to stay in good shape is important and so is staying updated with news from all over the world. Social networking is unavoidable and staying abreast on all Netflix series and shows is a new compulsion.

Novel interests of baking, painting, photography, YouTubing, Instagramming as well as old ones like reading and writing are contagious, so easily find place in our busy lives.

So in our busy lives, there is an office time, zen time, fun time, social time, and even the quintessential ‘me’ time but there is no ‘you and me’ time. That being so, relationships are withering and people especially life partners and parents who seek affection are feeling unloved and abandoned.

Today everyone has a lot of personal space with all the personal means like a personal income, phone, TV, room, car and circle of friends and hence there is no dependence or even need of bumping into each other.

But is it a lot of personal space or actually a huge, invisible boundary between the relationships, which could only exist and flourish, if there was some sort of dependence on one another?

The lack of time and over self-indulgence is causing deterioration of bonds between the closest ones. Hence, there is a need like never before to invent a new work-life balance equation, that has a place for the ignored dear ones in it.

There is an easy way to do it and that is to bond over one or more shared interests. Yes. There are too many interests and hobbies in everyone’s life so why not do some of the daily ‘to do list’ together. Don’t forsake the newfound passions or your life partner, just find out the common interests. If you are a parent, find some shared passions with your young ones.

So here goes the list. Read it and discover your common calling.

If you are a fitness freak, have joint work out sessions. If you both are cyclists, go out together on your favorite route, watch the stunning sunrise, challenge each other for a race and come home exhausted yet full of exuberance.

The creative ones can bond over the masterpieces or projects you can do together or help each other do better.

The culinary enthusiasts can bond over their favorite cuisines and occasionally cook a multi course menu and feed the gang or own clan and be applauded.

The nature lovers can grow and nourish plants and themselves, watch birds, go for nature walks and find solace in the greens in unison.

The readers can read together, exchange book reviews, tell tales, discuss plots and characters and engage in intellectual insights that this breed does have in abundance.

The dance lovers can boogie to the beats, perform a Zumba, salsa, Bhangra or whatever their heart desire.

The music lovers can have recitals, go to concerts, form own band, have karaoke evenings and if nothing listen to their favorite melodies and distress on the rug together.

The list is endless. Binge watch, have movie marathons, play domino or cards if that’s your calling, do anything but do it almost daily and do it together.

I thoroughly enjoyed making this list and could easily envision myself bonding with those who I call my family over our common obsessions. I am someone for whom my ‘me time’ has always been sacrosanct but so is the need to share my time and life with those who I call mine.

Life inside home in these times have proved that family is the new friends, our babies are our new buddies and spouse is the second self. So invest in them and insure your precious partnerships for life!!!

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