Today, I was sitting near a swimming pool. It was painful for me to watch fathers trying to teach 'swimming' their 5 year old children. I watched three examples which should never be followed if you want your child to learn anything.
- One father was constantly urging his child to do different things to expose him to different challenges of swimming. " Jump in the pool. I will catch you". " Catch me on the back and we will swim". The child was howling in a very big voice and constantly saying "No".
- Second father was over-helping the child. Child went to jump. Father was telling him "Come slowly or you will slip". Or when the child was using 'life jacket' to swim, father was constantly 'ensuring' that his buckles are strapped properly.
- Third father was too impatient with his child. Even when the child was swimming well with his life jacket, his father was urging the child to take up new activities such as " Close your mouth and go in the water". The child did it, but gulped lot of water when he went inside.
Three principles of learning are
- Learning is voluntary. Child volunteers when he learns to overcome his 'fear of failing'. Child slowly learns to 'overcome' this fear by 'expressing' his fear honestly without hiding it under the mask of " I am superman". But when we do not 'acknowledge' his fear, he is stuck. He stops volunteering for new activities.
- Learning happens when the child gets 'minimum help'. Do not help the child beyond what is necessary. Second father was doing this. When the child 'discovers' his way, he cherishes the learning and wants to repeat it again. By helping him too much, we rob the child of this joy. And also indirectly stop him from 'relying on his own capacity'
- Learning happens when the child is just stretching beyond his 'zone'. Third father was constantly forcing the child to go above his challenge zone. It is true that the child will not learn if he does not cross the challenge zone. But pushing him too high above his challenge , when he is not ready, is inviting trouble. One has to strike a fine balance between 'too high' and 'just high' challenge. Today's modern parents make this mistake a lot. They buy too many 'kits' for which the child is not ready. This only makes the child doubt his own capacity.
Swimming is perhaps a best activity for the parent to help the child learn because swimming has a 'short' feedback loop of learning. But it is important to remind ourselves that Learning is always done by the child. We can only 'enable' the environment around the child to help him learn. Patience, planning and right help are needed for our children to learn.