By Heather Vale Goss
Personal development is a multi-billion dollar industry, and one thing participants hear over and over again – whether attending seminars, or buying self-help books– is, “These are the skills you were never taught in school!”
True, teaching children how think positively and achieve more in life just never seems to fit into the curriculum alongside reading, writing and arithmetic (not to mention history, geography and science).
But parents can help teach these skills at home, and we’re not talking about just getting them to study. Here are some guidelines for giving your child the tools and strategies to develop a genius mindset, and achieve more in the classroom and beyond.
Visualization is a very effective technique used by professional athletes and other top performers. Picturing what you want to achieve before you do it preps you to actually accomplish it, because our brains can’t tell the difference between vivid imagination and reality. Since our kids have such amazing imaginations, they’re at the perfect age to use this technique.
Author and life coach Terri Levine says, “When children are able to visualize, they are able to learn better as well as fully comprehend subject matter. When a child can see and imagine possibilities they can create solutions.”
Your child can visualize doing well on a test, or imagine pictures that help her remember the answers. Levine has several strategies that will help:
- Tell your child a short story, and then ask him what he sees in his head. What does the character or the scene look like?
- Describe a made-up animal or a vacation spot, and ask your child what it looks like to him.
- Pick a new word, and encourage your child to picture something that will help him remember it.
- Have your child visualize math answers coming easily, and showing up on the page – often children with poor math skills end up doing better just from this tip.
Affirmations are positive statements we say to ourselves, and can have amazing results. Adults often struggle with not believing the words, but kids haven’t established as many limiting beliefs, and their brains are more receptive to new ideas.
Leah Davies, M.Ed., former teacher and creator of the Kelly Bear learning materials for kids, says, “Affirmations serve to encourage children to be the best that they can be. For example, ‘I do not give up; I keep trying,’ or ‘I am unique, one of a kind.’ Parents can help their child through discussion and by example to use ‘self-talk’ when needed. The result is increased self-awareness, and a happier, well-adjusted child, both at home and at school.”
Both visualization and affirmations work better when coupled with an appropriate emotion. “As a child reads, for example, if they feel the words and images they can determine if what they are reading makes sense. This learning strategy helps them make important connections to the material they are learning,” Levine says.
Developing a genius mindset is not just about the inner world, and activating the subconscious mind. The physical outer world is just as important. Therese Pasqualoni, Ph.D., health educator and creator of the Strike It Healthy System, says, “Healthier choices are digested easily and healthy nutrients affect brain chemistry in positive ways, such as improved learning and memory capabilities. On the flip side, unhealthy choices affect brain chemistry in negative ways… like clogging the mind and impeding learning opportunities.”
More specifically, “A whole grain breakfast and mid-morning fruit break improve learning, and consistent study habits that include association games improve memorization. Children should steer away from food dyes and preservatives that can hinder their ability to learn.”
She suggests spending one hour a week being active with your family, and eating at least two meals a day together. At the same time, you can play word games, such as introducing your child to a new definition, or taking turns coming up with similar or opposite words. “Research shows children remember family-time conversation that has shown to improve their verbal skills,” she says.
Whichever strategies you choose for physical, emotional and mental health – seeing, saying, feeling or tasting – rest assured that you’re giving your child tools that will help him for the rest of his life.