Is your child struggling to pick up a new skill or giving up on math problems?” It may seem like your kid is giving up or not trying. That’s not because they’re unwilling or lazy. Research reminds us that kids may be giving up learning something not because they are lazy, but because they are not making progress. When kids struggle to pick up a new skill, they misinterpret “this is hard” for “I must not be learning much” and give up.
First coined by Dr. Robert Bjork in the 90s, learning scientists call this ‘desirable difficulty’ i.e. learning activities that are hard to do, but because we desire to learn them, we’re willing to put in the effort. And in so doing, we retain the information longer, and in greater detail.
If this sounds familiar, try these 5 power behaviors of a self-directed learner as a jumpstart for your kid.
- Shift strategy: “My approach isn’t working, so I’ll try something else.”
Students who are struggling may become more engaged through project-based learning. This is one way to shift strategy. Research shows that the strength of project- based learning (PBL) is its emphasis on decision-making, which is also an important skill for kids to develop in preparation for adulthood.
- Seek challenges: “I could set a goal that’s easy for me or I could stretch myself.”
This helps kids dig deeper into a topic. They can work for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to an authentic, engaging, and complex question or problem. And it’s an opportunity to turn a school assignment into a real-world learning moment.
- Persist: “This is difficult, but I won’t give up.”
Encourage your kid to push through setbacks and frustrations. Use examples from your own life to spur them on.
- Respond to setbacks: “I’m not going to be thrown just because my approach didn’t work out.”
Obstacles are a natural part of the learning process. Figuring out how to work through them helps kids realize what they are capable of. Ask them to take a breath, articulate what they’re struggling with, and then work through a response or new strategy together.
- Seek appropriate help: “I’ve tried to solve this problem myself using several different methods and I’m truly stuck. It’s okay to ask for help.”
This doesn’t mean get Mom or Dad to do the work. It’s about finding the resource that answers the question. It may be online or an aunt or uncle thousands of miles away who’s an expert in their field. Your kid can give them a call to ask for assistance.
Encourage your kid to use the starter sentences for each power behavior to develop a response and power through. Implement these behaviors to support the self-directed learning cycle. They will help your kid set and achieve their goals.