Last week I wrote about what parents can do to help kids learn the-skill of “self regulation“. This and several other skills appear on the Ontario Progress Report Card for a reason. They are hugely important in determining success in all areas of kid’s academic and personal lives. The Ontario Ministry of Education states that students should take initiative. A student:
- looks for and acts on new ideas and opportunities for learning;
- demonstrates the capacity for innovation and a willingness to take risks;
- demonstrates curiosity and interest in learning;
- approaches new tasks with a positive attitude;
- recognizes and advocates appropriately for the rights of self and others.
What does this mean really?
Children who are curious seekers of knowledge often take initiative to find new information, and they confidently approach new opportunities with ease. Their attitude is not a negative one, rather they seem to possess a positive outlook when trying something new. Children who take initiative often have a strong sense of independence and prefer autonomy when doing things. A part of taking initiative is related to being able to face and attempt to overcome obstacles (do you see the correlation between this and self-regulation?). Finding opportunities for growth can be about developing a self-understanding of strengths and weaknesses and figuring out and acting upon creative ideas to get beyond challenges.
Here a a few ways you can make the best of your child’s attitude towards taking initiative:
- Be aware of your child’s developmental stage. Young children are unlikely to take initiative the way you may envision it. Younger children learn these skills by playing and exploring. You can mentor them by facilitating safe exploration of their world. When you encourage them to explore, they develop confidence to explore and try new things.
- If your child has already learned how to do something independently (e.g., tying shoelaces, feeding themselves, folding their clean clothes), try not to do that task for them. Expect them to do it and they will gain confidence and belief in themselves.
- Encourage them to participate in community events that develop a sense of empathy. This could stem from a personal situation/ issue that they feel connected to (look into the examples of Craig Kielburger, Hannah Taylor and Iqbal Masih, -three youngsters who have changed their local and global communities).
- Be a role model by taking on issues that affect your community. If they see you take initiative or if they have other role models who do so, they are more likely to replicate those actions
- Try to encourage them to do things for internal rewards (pride), rather than external rewards (“bribery”). Keep in mind some children need those external rewards in order to start being motivated, and can eventually work towards internal rewards.
- Help your child to reflect upon their choices and actions when they do see that they have a challenge ahead of them, and facilitate and assist them with planning their next steps.
- Being proactive can be hard for some children to grasp; be their mentor and hold their hands less and less as you see them able to do more and more of the work themselves.
- If they fail, – which they will, – help them to see the growth and learning that occurred from that “failure”. Come up with language that your children feel comfortable using, as “failure” has negative connotations.
- Be genuine and specific with your praise. They need to hear you say specifically why what they did that was great or what they can do to plan for a better result in the future.
- Listen. Allow them the space to give themselves praise and constructive feedback.
What other tips can you offer to help children of all ages develop initiative?
Your child’s final Ontario Progress Report is going to appear in their backpack fairly soon. While you may be tempted to file it away after noting the overall marks, the summer is a perfect time to work on “Next Steps“.
Many parents noticed a change in format and content in 2010 when the new reports were being implemented in different districts in Ontario. The Growing Success document gives the context and expectations for assessment and evaluation that teachers must use. At the forefront of the changes and literally now at the front of the Report Card, you’ll find the learning skills section that outlines six “Habits of Mind”, titled, “Learning Skills“. These are vitally important for students to integrate into their actions and learning, at school, at home and within their communities. These skills also go hand-in-hand with learning in the content areas.
Below you’ll find the Ontario Ministry’s breakdown of Self-regulation, which is only one of the Learning Skills. More attention will be given to the other Learning Skills in future posts.
• sets their own individual goals and monitors their progress towards achieving them;
• seeks clarification or assistance when needed;
• assesses and reflects critically on their own strengths, needs, and interests;
• identifies learning opportunities, choices, and strategies to meet personal
needs and achieve goals;
• perseveres and makes an effort when responding to challenges.
Below are some of my thoughts on how to facilitate these skills with your young ones:
- You can start by: setting 2 or 3 goals. When children are setting goals, they need to be very much involved in determining what goals they will work towards. Keeping it manageable by setting just a few goals and making them possible to reach ensures that children will believe that they can achieve them. (For example, instead of “being more organized” as a goal, try “putting my bag away as soon as I come home”, “picking up toys off the floor before bedtime”, or “placing my plates in the sink after eating”.)
- Setting goals speaks very much to a child’s ability to know themselves as learners, to understand their interests and choose goals that are relevant to themselves.
- You will need to figure out what needs to be done to achieve the goals, they will need to work on the goals, you’ll assess with your child if they were achieved satisfactorily and together re-set new goals if those were met. Along the way, your children will need plenty of genuine encouragement and you’ll have to frequently check in to make sure that the goals don’t need to be changed to better suit your child’s current situation or needs.
- A perfect time to start this is during the summer months. As much as your children are going to hate me for saying it, there are “Next Steps” in that report card. This is an excellent moment for kids to take stock of everything that they excel at both in and out of school. I like the format of “Two Stars and a Wish“. You can tell your child two areas where they did well and one thing you’d “wish” for them to improve. They should also develop their own and put it in writing so that they can look back on them and reflect on their progress.
- If there aren’t a lot of academic goals to be met, then have your child focus on a personal goal related to family relationships, an extra-curricular activity they do or something new they’d like to try out.
- For those needing lots of help on the academic front, be aware that your child can feel overwhelmed if you try to tackle all of their needs all at once. Start small to build confidence and pick only one goal at a time, especially if school has been a source of stress in the past.
- Minimize stress around said goals!
- Talk about people you know that have persevered through challenges. This helps to bring to life that challenges are a part of life and that goals can be a great way to manage and move beyond hardships.
- Help them to understand that small hurdles along the way are to be expected and overcome. Give them examples from your own life.
- Your child may like to visualize themselves achieving their goals as it helps to envision the final outcome and lessen patterns of negative thoughts that some children are prone to doing.
- Kids need to count on you to make it fun. (The child who needs help with math is ging to HATE doing worksheets during the summer, so why not find them some online math games, or have them help you with the countless activities in the home that are related to math?)
What else do you do to build these skills?
Anyone wishing to take an in-depth look a the Ontario Ministry’s document on assessment and evaluation can link to: Growing Success.
You read that properly. Writing with food.
By now you know that my ideas are not for the faint at heart. Creative and messy is how I roll!
Writing with food is perfect for children who are learning new words or for those who are having a hard time remembering how to write some common words which do not seem to have any easy way to be remembered. For example, the words, “said”, “write”, and “would” are words very often found in the English language but they can’t be read by using a sounding out strategy. In cases like these, it helps to find many opportunities for kids to write these words, but without the worksheets please! Writing with food and the like go much further than pencil-and-paper tasks because writing them in various ways with a variety of materials helps to develop muscle memory.
Alternatively, if you’re at a beach, children can write words in the sand, if you’re at a park use fallen branches, in the craft room there’s plasticene and pipe cleaners, and at home, there’s food, of course. Anything that is pliable (cooked pasta works nicely) can be used to write single words.
You can choose to reuse the food if it’s dry food as is the case of the beans and pasta in these shots, and given the state of affairs in the world today, it’s the most responsible way to play with food.
Must go tend to baby!