Saturday, October 31, 2015

Discovering (and Building On) Your Child's Natural Strengths

Each Human Being Learns Differently

There really isn't a definitive "difficult" child. The child who is most challenging is the one who doesn't think like we do. Much of what we perceive as our children's deliberate efforts to frustrate us are actually a difference in perception. If we can learn to recognize and appreciate their learning sensitivities, as opposed to true disobedience, we will become more knowledgeable and happier parents—and the child will be too.

parenting, learning styles
My strength is painting the walls, hahahaha!

As I read Cynthia Ulrich Tobias's excellent book, The Way They Learn, I began to understand the truth about each newborn’s uniqueness in a deeper manner. Many parents expect their children to learn the way they did. And many children will grow up loving their parents' teaching models. As Tobias declares, "Parents rarely intentionally frustrate their children".

As a little boy, I was a daydreamer who enjoyed gazing out the window more than the chalkboard monotony of a lecture. School was difficult but I loved my fellow mates. I was relaxed and thrived on the playground! At home I could play outside all day creating imaginative adventures for my friends and me.

Study habits
We work best together on the floor with colors!

The basic concept behind Tobias's The Way They Learn is that when you, as a parent, show confidence in your child's innate learning personality, he or she is much more willing and able to blossom. Tobias explains that it helps to comprehend the basic theories for yourself—to know your strengths, as in how your mind works—how it learns best. And then to extend that knowledge to how your child’s mind operates. And, to be clear, these insights are worthy for the spousal relationship as well. Tobais, rightfully so, spends much time in expounding the benefits to the teacher-student dynamic within a school-learning environment.

Summary of Key Ideas from Cynthia Ulrich Tobias's book: The Way They Learn  

  • First, we need to realize that because each human being is so complex, no one fits neatly into any one category.
  • Each of our children perceives the world differently from the way we do.
  • Each child is an individual with his or her natural strengths and preferences.
  • We should focus on natural strengths, not weaknesses. It is difficult to build on weaknesses—strengths provide a much better foundation.
  • Getting to know each of our children as individuals is an exhausting but rewarding proposition.                                              

Parenting learning styles
Are you getting this, Mom and Dad??? 


Perception is the way we take in information and how we view the world. Perceptions shape what we think, how we make decisions, and how we define what is important to us. There are two basic perceptual qualities that each mind possesses:

1)   Concrete – registers information directly through the senses.

2)   Abstract - visualizes ideas using intuition and imagination.

Everyone uses both concrete and abstract abilities every day, although most people are more comfortable using one over the other and this becomes their dominant ability.


Ordering is the way we use the information we perceive:

1)   Sequential - follows a logical train of thought—a linear step-by-step or conventional manner—prefers to have a plan and follow it.

2)   Random - organizes by chunks with no particular sequence, skipping steps in a procedure or even starting in the middle or at the end and working backwards—seemingly impulsive or spontaneous.

Parents may want to recognize their own natural ways of perception and ordering so they may better understand what comes naturally to themselves and to their children.

Child development
I learn best outside on a playground!


Understanding the Effects of Environment on Concentration

Sounds - some learners like solitude and silence while others learn best in activity and noise. I need quiet at home, but there is an exception, and that is a coffee shop where I am able to focus very well.

Light - some need bright light and others prefer moderate or dim lighting to focus. I work best in bright light unless I am composing poetry, then I need a candle and dim light!

Temperature - some are most comfortable dressed lightly while others need many layers of warmth. I like layers of clothes so I can strip down to match my body heat!

Eating habits - some focus best with no food or drink while others find snacks and a beverage necessary to focus. I like a tea or coffee next to me.

Time of Day - the internal clock works differently as far as best time to be efficient in getting things done. Some prefer early morning while others operate best in the evening. I like late afternoon.
Childhood development
I need silence to focus so turn down the bass people!

How Do We Remember?

There are basically three ways in which humans take in and retain information. Most people are fairly strong in two of these areas, and no one is restricted to just one area. In fact, it may vary from day to day.

1)   Visual - Learning by seeing or watching; using strong visual associations.

2)   Auditory - Learning by listening to verbal instructions; remembering by forming the sounds of words.

3)   Kinesthetic - Learning by becoming physically involved with what is being studied.
early childhood development
If I can see and touch, I will remember... spinning the globe is fun, too!

How Do We Understand?

Understanding information is fundamental to everything we do on a day-to-day basis. No one person understands in strictly one manner; however, if we can identify natural inclinations, we may discover more efficient ways to learn. Note that the terms 'global' and 'analytic' are extreme style characteristics, but it is true that each person sees the world from his or her own frame of reference, and therefore, there are definite differences in how different people learn best.

Analytic - These types break new information into component parts and then focus on details. They sometimes have trouble with identifying the overall concept the details are describing.

Global - These types don't worry about the details as much but are more interested in the overall big picture or "gist" of things. They quickly get the main idea but miss the details. A global learning style often does not fit the traditional analytic school structure.
We all have a bit of dog/chimp/turtle/lion in us, don't we?

Different Types of Intelligences

We now know that each human being possesses several aptitudes (Howard Gardner), each housed in different parts of the brain. Gardner originally identified seven although he recently identified an eighth - Naturalist. While everyone can develop a reasonable use of all seven intelligences, most beings are particularly strong in two or three areas. It is up to us as parents to help identify and encourage our children to show us how their minds function best. The more we learn to identify and use our multiple intellects, the more effective our educational system can become in developing the next generation of individuals that shall value the differences among the various world cultures. And this is the big picture that I wish for—world peace. The seven intelligences are categorized as follows:

1) Linguistic - verbal abilities
2) Logical - number and pattern capacities
3) Spatial - ability to think in vivid pictures.
4) Musical - natural rhythm and melody powers
5) Kinesthetic - bodily movement or physical activity talent
6) Interpersonal - a gift for understanding, appreciating, and getting along well with other people
7) Intrapersonal - a natural bent for understanding oneself—often expressed in self-refection.
8) Naturalist - involves understanding the natural world; keen observer with ability to classify.

You can't see more even though you may want to... don't be so curious... ha!


If you can help your children discover and use methods that work with their natural strengths instead of against their natural strengths, you may find them succeeding more than you ever thought possible. If you as a parent can help your child discover his or her areas of aptitude and then reinforce them, you will help to build your child's confidence while developing his or her abilities more than you could ever have imagined. 

Smiles, Papa Green Bean