We are all guilty of making definitive statements for point of emphasis, like “I never win contests” or “I haven’t eaten all day.” It’s just habit. We aren’t trying to deceive the person on the other end of the conversation. It’s just easier to default to generalities.
So when your child says "I'm not passionate about anything" or "there is nothing to do around here," is it the truth?
Not likely, right?
How to Get Your Child to Learn Something New
I ask because when it comes to learning something new, there might already be a handful of options at your disposal, and all it takes is for you - and your child - to look at things from a different perspective.
1. Accept that "new" doesn't have to be "brand new."
I'm sure your kids and teens are already interested in something like sports, music, theater, books, art, etc., And even perhaps at a more informal level underneath those things—playing video games, just goofing around with friends and a video camera, or simply watching TV.
Well of these activities make for great launching off points into learning something new. For example, how about turning that camera time into a budding YouTube channel, or that TV watching into an interest in production, marketing, and more?
So, start with the question: what is your child already passionate about?
When going over the answer, try to remember that every interest, no matter how "educational" you think it might or might not be, could offer a "new" and valuable learning component.
2. Find a related activity
So now that we know that one easy way to get your kids to learn something new is to start with a topic they already enjoy, it's time to think about how they can in fact take things a step further.
Let's look at the classic example of video games...something you might immediately think of as a "time waster." Well, I encourage you think again.
We’ve routinely touted the fact that an interest in video games could eventually turn into a career in the gaming industry—game design, development, 3D modeling, and more. There is so much that goes into getting a video game created and played that anyone with an interest in games might find a new and interesting path to follow.
(Not to mention that - gasp - kids and teens can actually make a career from simply playing video games.)
So yes, while it might look and feel like this is all just "video games," the act of diving behind the scenes of how games are made, or even into how to become a professional gamer can certainly be thought of as learning something new (and worthy of learning).
3. Balance education and fun
To go along with the above, think about the goals of getting kids to learn something new. While everyone will have a different reason, most of the reasons will probably revolve around wanting to keep kids busy, build their skills, socialize with other kids, etc.
So to do all of these things "learning something new" can't be all "learning" and nothing more. That's why starting with the foundational interests is so important.
For example, take learning something like Photoshop and getting your child going with some photoshop tutoring. The very nature of the word "tutor" is academic, yet combined with a tool that kids can get creative with and thoroughly enjoy.
And even if the "educational" part of it doesn't come to immediate fruition, think about the path that children might venture toward as they get into college and then on to a career in design?
4. Look for multi-level engagement
Once your child gets going, make note of how they are consuming materials and how they are progressing. Of course, this doesn’t mean hovering over them through an entire activity; an informal chat will do.
Why? Because learning something new can be a grind, no matter how much established interest they have.
Some learn better visually, others by trial and error. Some are great on their own, while others need to bounce ideas and thoughts off of another.
So, think about the things your child might need to keep going—real-time feedback, collaboration, expert guidance. There might be a handful of levers they can pull in order to propel them to their learning goals.
5. Set SMART goals
And speaking of goals, there is eternal wisdom in the SMART goals model; for kids and adults alike, it’s a research-proven framework for achieving just about anything.
What are SMART goals, you may ask? The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. Some go as far to make SMARTER goals, adding Evaluated and Reviewed to the process, which can’t hurt.
One notable study indicated the importance of doing more than a post-it note’s work in writing down your goals. This process requires critical thinking, planning, and reflection—all of which are proven ways to make sure you get where you want to be.
The SMART framework is an excellent means of refining your child's learning experience and making a plan for how they will see it through. It prompts questions like: is this goal realistic (achievable)? Why is this goal important to me; how will it change my daily life for the better (relevant)?
By spending time reflecting on each of these questions and more, their goal could emerge stronger and with a built-in game plan.
(To help you and your family get started, this post on goal-setting for kids is chock-full of ideas and ways goal-setting can be a family activity.)
While school is out, learning can still very much be in. And that means coding, designing, and innovating are also in. All of these topics, 21st century skills and more are in, and ready for kids to jump into right now. Check out our many online tutoring options for kids—Python classes, chess coaching, and more!