How We Learn

I was watching one of the teachers at my daughter’s little school yesterday. She patiently held out the bottom part of a tower for my almost-three-year-old to attach the remaining part. This experience was riddled with frustration for my daughter and exhibited ultimate patience by the teacher. But completing the tower surmounted in a flood of happiness and jubilation. In the two additional minutes that she was allowed to fumble rather than to be shown, my daughter mastered a new skill and gained fresh confidence.


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The completed tower was a typical symbol of the way in which she learns by first observing others do it, then trying it out for herself in a simple construction, after which she reflects on the process and experiments with a more complicated version alter. We all learn according to this cycle (Kolb’s learning cycle) and have more experience than we’d like to remember about the frustration and discomfort that goes along with learning something new, only to hit that sweet break-through moment where we get it right and experience the deepest satisfaction that can surely account for one of the reasons we’re put on earth and make us feel alive. Few feelings make life more worthwhile. The harder the struggle, the better the satisfaction.

No, when I look around at (most of us) parents who aren’t blessed with the gift of patience like the teacher at school or haven’t yet thought about the value of allowing their child to fight through the frustration zone only to emerge more skilled and satisfied at the end, are withholding this incredible opportunity from their children.

In fact we should all be honing our skills and forcing ourselves through this valuable cycle by taking on new experiences more often. The reward is worth it, and think twice before you offer help (even if it means too much toothpaste), or heaven forbid, interrupt a valuable learning moment to snap a photo for Facebook.

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