Curiosity helps kids learn and grow, but innate curiosity generally isn’t encouraged and supported as it should be. Mental conditioning coach and educator, Mike Ferry, offers some excellent ideas for strengthening, activating, and even recovering, much-needed curiosity.
Whether we are adults or kids, curiosity is a path to happiness. When we allow our imaginations to roam freely and our minds to absorb whatever interests us, we feel happier and less stressed. Our children enter the world as happy little sponges, guided by light-hearted, curious natures. Kids love to learn and make sense of the world. When you think about it, the amount of knowledge children acquire by being curious is truly amazing.
Unfortunately, our innate curiosity tends to be trampled as we grow up. Parents get tired of answering their kids’ endless questions. Children learn that Mom and Dad are frustrated by their inquisitiveness. The questions gradually slow to a trickle before the faucet is turned off. Also, as children enter school, they realize that producing the “right answer” is more important than exploring and making their own connections. Sadly, school plays a huge role in squashing a child’s natural desire to learn. This ironic outcome helps to create an adult population that is less happy and more stressed than it would be if curiosity remained a priority throughout one’s educational career.
As a “mental conditioning” coach, I work with parents and teens to form habits for success in school and life. Curiosity is one of the qualities that I help my clients strengthen. When kids are curious, they learn more in the classroom. This tends to lead to higher academic achievement, which opens doors down the road. In addition, curiosity makes kids more creative. The more we learn, the more creative we become. Creative kids will be more attractive to potential employers, and they’ll shape a brighter future for all of us.
Want to help your kids strengthen (or recover) their curiosity? Here are some curiosity-boosting ideas that I share with my coaching clients:
– Be a patient parent. I know how difficult this can be. As a middle school history teacher, I am absolutely spent at the end of the day. By the time I come home to my own five children, most of my patience has evaporated. Despite my physical and mental exhaustion, I try to remind myself that my kids won’t be little forever. This is precious time, and it will be gone before I know it. After a walk around the neighborhood and some quiet time, my stress usually fades. Being in the moment makes it easier to answer questions and have meaningful discussions with my children. For more ideas on how to calm your brain and be a more mindful parent, check out my podcast episode, “Stop The Chatter.”
– Emphasize learning over grades. As parents, we recognize the importance of doing well in school. We want our kids to have the best possible educational and career paths in the future, and we know that report card grades determine what opportunities will be open to our children. This can lead parents to focus exclusively on the final result rather than valuing the learning process. When the report grade is all that matters, curiosity vanishes. On the other hand, parents can show that curiosity is important by taking an interest in what their children are learning at school. Is your daughter covering hurricanes or World War I in the classroom? Together, go to the Internet or the library to learn more. Turn the chore of school into an opportunity to make yourself smarter and more creative.
– Learn something new every day. Once you’ve communicated that learning is more important than grades alone, make continuous learning a part of your family’s routine. Do you know the countries of Europe? Could you identify all of them on a map? If not, start learning them here. Does your son love baseball? Maybe you could do some research on the history of the game. What games and sports are popular around the world? Find one that is unknown in your neck of the woods and have your kids teach it to their friends. When we get our kids (and ourselves) hooked on constant learning, we train our brains to look at everything with a curious eye.
I hope that these thoughts are helpful in your journey as a parent. Do you have other insights on how to boost curiosity at home? If so, I’d love to learn them! Feel free to contact me via my website, Facebook, or Twitter. ###
Mike Ferry is a mental conditioning coach, longtime middle school history teacher, father of five, and the author of Teaching Happiness And Innovation. His efforts to promote happiness and creativity have been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and radio shows and podcasts around the world.