The skill of learning is something kids can and should practice if they want to have a fighting chance at fulfilling all those lofty goals their parents have set for them.
But some people keep studying — and thinking — the same way all their lives.
Thankfully, cognitive science has taken a look at how people actually learn. The results are surprising and super helpful.
Skills are easier to pick up as individual parts.
If you want to learn the guitar, don't think about performing all the parts at once.
Set the smaller, more measurable goal of learning a few easy chords, how to strum correctly, and how to put those chords together.
Over time, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] will add up to the whole of guitar-playing.
It's a technique that applies to mechanical learning as well as fact-based lessons.
Mistakes should be celebrated and studied.
Being perfect is overrated.
The entire point of learning is to make attempts, fail, and find a lesson in where you went wrong.
In 2014, a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] found the brain has more or less reserved a space for the mistakes we make. Later, we can recruit those memories to do better next time.
If parents teach kids never to make mistakes, or shun them when mistakes happen, kids end up missing a wealth of knowledge.
Being optimistic helps you succeed.
Stressing kids out with negative reinforcement can get them stuck in a mental rut, filling them with self-doubt and anxiety, both of which are toxic for learning.
"Anxiety precludes you from exploring real solutions and real thought patterns that will come up with solutions," says [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].
Decades of [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] suggest that we will become more successful in just about anything we try to do if we approach it with an open mind and see tangible room for improvement.
Parents should teach kids to see learning as exploration. It will help give them a sense of determination, which they can manufacture into grit when the going gets rough.
Exciting topics are "stickier" than boring ones.
Kids naturally drift toward the weird and wacky, but as the rote experience of education gets them thinking in cold hard facts, that sense of fun can die off.
Parents: don't let that happen.
As early as possible, kids should gain an appreciation for why they remember Grandma's weird-smelling house and those highlighter-yellow shorts Dad wears on nighttime runs. It's because they're unique.
Author and former US memory champion Joshua Foer memorized [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] by tying each card to a weird image. Kids can do the same for their times tables and presidents.
Speed reading can condense learning times.
The premise is simple: If you can read faster, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.].
Though you might think speed reading takes a lot of effort, programs like[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] pick up the pace gradually to make it feel manageable.
By training your brain to process words more quickly, you get accustomed to reading entire strings of words, rather than imagining each one individually, which slows you down.
Practice, practice, practice.
A strong work ethic makes a real impact on the brain.
In 2004, a [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]found the act of juggling produced more gray matter. When people stopped juggling, the gray matter disappeared.
There wasn't anything special in the juggling itself, just the repetition.
Neuroscientists call this process [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]It refers to the new pathways that are carved by doing an act over and over again, to the point where it sticks around for good.
In other words, skills follow the use-it-or-lose-it principle.
Use what you know to learn what you don't.
If kids encounter a topic they have trouble wrapping their heads around, parents should help them to understand how it relates to something they've already learned.
The practice is called [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
A student might like football but struggle with differential calculus. If he can see the similarities between a spiraling pass and the slope of a curve, he stands a better chance at understanding the abstract concept.
Looking things up isn't always a bad thing.
Kids should learn how to grapple with tough problems — the act teaches them discipline.
But evidence does exist that suggests spending too long on a problem makes it worse.
In 2008, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] that unresolved tip-of-the-tongue moments can gradually slip people into an "error state," in which their memory of the concept or fact gets replaced by the memory of the tip-of-the-tongue moment.
The solution: If you know you know it, but just can't remember it, Google it.
Teaching other people helps you, too.
Scientists have dubbed it "the protégé effect."
When you take something that you've learned and put it into your own words, you're not only demonstrating mastery of an idea — you're refining your own understanding of it.
In distilling information into small pieces that someone can easily digest, the teacher must gain a certain intimacy with the subject matter.
That's why older siblings are generally smarter than younger siblings, [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] — because one of the jobs of the older sibling is passing knowledge along after having received i