Many adults today lose out on life-changing opportunities because they are stuck in their routines, unable to adapt or transform their ways.

You don’t want your child to be stuck in the same situation, so here’s how you can spark enthusiasm for lifelong learning in your children.

Lifelong learning is the development of formal and non-formal learning – the continuing development of skills, knowledge and competencies that people require throughout their lives that will help them create positive changes for themselves and others around them.

Just think, you were once single, now you are married and have children.

A monumental shift in your life has occurred. You undertake new responsibilities, confront new challenges, learn new skills and adapt to the changes.

You are on a journey of lifelong learning in the field of parenting.

There are three types of learners:

• Adaptive – Relying on solutions that worked in the past and are comfortable making incremental adjustments if necessary.

• Generative – Always in pursuit of new ideas and skills, experimenting with new behaviours, and setting challenging goals for themselves.

• Transformational – Have the skills to confront and create frame-breaking change. These people are adept at recognising gaps, setting goals, establishing a learning plan, and maintaining motivation to achieve set goals.

A person can be one, all or none of these depending on competencies they have acquired throughout life.

Therefore, lifelong or continuous learning is often viewed as the domain of adult or continuing education.

However, the seed that will fuel the motivation to learn, change and adapt is planted early during childhood.

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In order to encourage lifelong learning, focus on finding solutions together, but let the children take the lead. Photos: Positive Parenting

How do you foster fondness for learning in your child? Here are a few tips:

Don’t judge, nudge

Children make mistakes; it can be tempting to lash out and be judgemental. Instead, parents should:

• Acknowledge that mistakes do happen but that learning from them and not repeating them is key towards moving on and improving one’s self.

• Do not be overprotective, let them make their own mistakes from time to time – experience is the best teacher after all.

• Teach them to take responsibility for their own mistakes and not blame others.

• Praise their courage and support their efforts to overcome setbacks.

• Do not use past mistakes against them. Instead, use them as reminders to focus on the challenges ahead.

Focus on being ‘able’

Sometimes, parents emphasise too much on wanting their children to be better than everyone else. Unrealistic expectations can be a source of tremendous stress for a child.

Hence, it would be better to focus on helping them improve on existing skills and learning new ones – this leads to better self-efficacy and less prejudices.

• Nurture their interests and help them pursue their passions by making materials and activities related to their interests available to them.

• Provide leadership opportunities and work-based learning experiences.

• Help them polish their emotional and social skills by allowing them to engage and interact with different people through NGOs or community-related events.

• Discuss their future plans more often and how they can work towards achieving them.

Celebrate curiosity and creativity

Creativity helps kids be more confident, develop social skills and learn better.

Nurturing curiosity and creativity in your children encourages a lifelong drive and enthusiasm for learning.

Help your child gain the concentration, competence, perseverance and optimism necessary to succeed in creative pursuits.

• Cultivate creative critical thinking by allowing unstructured time to just have fun and play around.

• Help your child meet new people, go to new places and explore new experiences to broaden their minds.

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Nurture your child’s interests and help her pursue her passions.

• Let them be unique, support them and don’t worry if they are a little different from their peers – as long as they have a friend or two, it’s going to be fine, don’t give in to pressure of popular culture.

• Focus on finding solutions together, but let them take the lead.

• You yourself should be creative at home (i.e. cook fun meals and decorate the plates, make your own fun house using cardboard and other recyclable materials lying around).

Lifelong learning is about survival. Unlike fairy tales, there is no happily-ever-after because there will always be challenges – some familiar and many new.

Anticipating future challenges helps in preparation for better sustainability.

Problem-solving should be a continuous effort because as soon as a problem is solved, another one will crop up.

As such, lifelong learning should focus on inculcating a sense of ability, usefulness and belonging.

It can bring about change by creating new capabilities and opening doors to new and unexpected opportunities.

It also has the potential to empower a person to influence the future, providing choices that would not be available otherwise.


Assoc Prof Dr Alvin Ng Lai Oon is a clinical psychologist and founding president of the Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology (MSCP). This article is courtesy of the Malaysian Paediatric Association’s Positive Parenting programme in collaboration with expert partners: Nutrition Society of Malaysia, Obstetric and Gynaecological Society of Malaysia, Malaysian Mental Health Association, MSCP, Malaysian Psychiatric Association, National Population and Family Development Board Malaysia, Malaysian Association of Kindergartens and Association of Registered Childcare Providers Malaysia. For further information, visit www.mypositiveparenting.org or e-mail starhealth@thestar.com.my. The information provided is for educational and communication purposes only and it should not be construed as personal medical advice. Information published in this article is not intended to replace, supplant or augment a consultation with a health professional regarding the reader’s own medical care. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.