Children flourish when they are able to express themselves and explore their individual gifts and abilities. One way in which parents can help is by using the Discovery Learning Model to nurture and guide their children in their unique strengths and capabilities.
A Common Goal
All families share a common goal. This goal is to provide children with the support, unconditional love, acceptance and guidance that will develop them to their full potential so that they can in future contribute to both the family and community alike. Parents have a role to play in creating an environment in which our children can develop a strong self-identity whilst learning to be considerate towards others.
Recognising and Supporting Differences
Some children are cautious, while others are outgoing; some are active, while others are calm; some are very expressive, while others are more reserved. Even talents vary, ranging from sports to art, music and science. It is important that parents understand and acknowledge the unique strengths of each child and appreciate how different one child is from another.
When children are affirmed and valued, they flourish: their sense of self-esteem, confidence, worth and belonging is strengthened. It will be easier for such children to cultivate traits such as empathy, tolerance and compassion as well as understand where they fit into the world and have a deep appreciation for diversity in others around them.
Children often possess sophisticated thinking skills and creativity that may be overlooked by adults. Parents can start tuning in early to their children’s range of strengths, interests and passions as they begin to emerge, in order to gain insight into their potential.
Parents can help to maximise their children’s strengths by providing healthy, stimulating, informative and growth-producing experiences. One powerful strategy they can adopt is allowing their children to learn through discovery.
Discovery Learning is a way of exploring concepts in order to develop new ideas and new models of thinking and behaviour. Instead of being given concrete answers, children learn by trying and discarding; they learn through investigating options and discussing possibilities (Gross, 2013).
Putting Discovery Learning Into Action
You can draw upon the Discovery Learning Model as a simple, yet empowering and effective way of engaging your child’s brain. Rather than treating your child as a passive recipient of knowledge, encourage your child to seek out answers on their own and tap into their innate curiosity. By doing so, you help to stimulate your child’s creative and intellectual development. This can lead to amazing discoveries of your child’s unique gifts and talents that not only build their self- confidence and bring them great joy, but also propel them towards success later on in life (Gross, 2013).
Express a Genuine Interest in Your Child
Ask them to share one thing they enjoyed about their day and do not rush or interrupt as they tell their story. Actively seek out and show respect for your child’s opinions, even if they differ from yours.
Allow Your Child to Experiment
For example, if your child is interested in trying a new musical instrument, rent the instrument instead of buying it. If your child decides they are no longer interested, do not accuse them of being fickle. Childhood is a time for exploration and children must test themselves without feeling pinned down to a pursuit.
Comment on your child’s unique qualities and talents and be specific with your praise. For example, say, “You did a great job with the flower arrangements, I really like the way you combined the colours” rather than just, “It was nice of you to help.”
You risk sending the message that your child is inferior in some way. Avoiding these comparisons will encourage your child to have healthy and secure relationships with others, without feelings of resentment, defensiveness, jealousy and anger.
Explore the Roles and Perspectives of Other Family Members
During times of conflict, sit down and talk to your child. For example, tell your child “I understand that you’re upset because you value your quiet time and you felt that your sibling was invading your personal space. Based on what you know about her personality, what do you think motivated her to act in this way? What do you think she was trying to achieve?”
Allow Your Child to Make Decisions
Have your child cook dinner and give them complete freedom to decide what to cook, what ingredients to use, and how the meal should be prepared. Mealtimes are often regarded as central to the family and allowing your child to handle meal preparation on their own gives them a sense of responsibility and pride, while expressing their creativity.
Plan some family activities around a theme. Allow everyone to take turns to decide what the theme should be. Healthy families have a balance of doing things together and doing things alone. Let your child retain their sense of individuality by showing them that they are a key stakeholder in decision-making about family matters.
Focus on Problem Solving Skills
When your child is faced with a problem that has them stumped, do not give them a definite answer immediately. Instead, prompt them to reflect on different options. Ask them how they would react if they selected option A vs. B and what kinds of consequences they may expect in each scenario. Talk them through the different options before letting them make an informed choice.
If a toy or machine breaks in the house, ask your child to help come up with different solutions to fix it. Even if your child is responsible for damaging the item, resist the urge to punish them. Turn it into a strategy game for them, which could lead to a win-win situation for both you and your child.
Keep it Fun
Remember not to push too hard. You should take your child’s interests seriously and try to nurture his or her talents, but do not take the fun out of the activity and turn it into a chore by putting undue pressure on your child.
Gross, G. (2013). How to Foster Your Child’s Unique Gifts. Huffington Post.
The Children’s Trust (2014). Discovering & Developing Your Child’s Interests & Gifts.
About the Author: The Family Matters! Resource Team comprises local content writers and experts, dedicated to developing useful resources for families.