6 tips to help your child become more self-directed

In a previous article, I have shared that self-directed learning is an invaluable learning technique, empowering children to take ownership of their own learning process and continually refining it by identifying their strengths and optimal learning strategies. As a skill that is nurtured rather than innate, self-directed learning requires the help of both parents and educators to be instilled in children. Let me share more helpful parenting tips for Singaporean parents to do so.

Self-directed learning allows students to control their own education. Being in control can be an important skill. It can involve setting goals, choosing what and how to learn, and monitoring one’s own progress. Many of us might think that learning by ourselves is a hard thing to do, not to mention that it will be harder for our children. 

However, there are a host of tools we can now use for self-directed learning. 

Self-directed learners often use different methods to learn, such as books, the internet, videos, and audio recordings. Independent learning is becoming more popular as technology makes it easier for people to access information. Children as young as four can be self-directed. It is a matter of how the intervention is done, what we use as learning tools and how we prepare our children mentally for it. 

Here are 6 tips for helping your child become more self-directed:

1. Set a good example. 

If your child sees you taking an active role in your own education or learning, they are more likely to want to do the same. Be an example, by giving your child a sense of autonomy and independence. Don’t be a nag. If your child is not doing something you think they should be doing, don’t ask them to do it. Instead, tell them what you expect from them and ask them to help you with the task instead.

2. Discourage your child from being dependent on others. 

Make sure that your child is not in the habit of always asking for help from you or others. Encourage your child to take the lead.  The child’s personality is a combination of all of the genetic predispositions that make up his or her basic characteristics. These characteristics are inherited from both parents and the environment, but can also be enhanced by the experiences that he or she has had in life.

3. Encourage your child to embrace challenges to gain new skills.

Encourage your child to take on challenges and explore new concepts or to try new things. This will help them develop confidence and problem-solving skills.

4. Provide age-appropriate learning tools for your child. 

Teach your child more about school subjects that interest him/her and help them find resources and materials that appeal to them. Make use of resources available online and at home. (I shall cover more of these in my future post.)

5. Harness on the right technology

Make sure your child has the right tools to achieve their goals. Let the child get used to being alone with their technology. If they are new readers, this means books and other reading materials.  A good reader will want to be able to read on their own and not have to rely on others for comprehension.  A good reader will also want to know what the author meant when they wrote something.

6. Work out attainable goals with your child

Discuss with your child about their goals, tasks and progress, and how they see themselves achieving their goals and be specific about what steps you will take to help them on that path. Keep them bite-sized, so that your child will be motivated to achieve more. Don’t forget to incentivize your child!

It can be a challenge for parents to get their children to embrace self-directed learning, but with some effort, it can be very rewarding. 

Children who embrace self-directed learning are able to build strong problem-solving skills and confidence. Although this is a time-consuming process as you have to lead your child to learn to be independent, the results are well worth it!

I am an educator based in Singapore. Known by my students as Ms Carean Oh, Writers Studio I run Writers Studio, a private English language school for children from 7 to 17 years old. Day in and day out, I teach children and work with a team of teachers to help young children embrace language learning positively. 

By Carean Oh, Writers Studio

- Carean Oh

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