Po Bronson wrote another article on the topic of “The Neuroscience of Children’s Passions” which further highlights the importance of following your child’s passions rather than trying to direct them. This is part of the reason why I gave up the idea of trying to turn Gavin into the future world golf champion, to be modeled after Tiger Woods. It was simply all too clear that Gavin had zero interest in golf.
But I digress… In this article, Bronson talks about “how passion/motivation and dopamine affect a child’s ability to concentrate. Attention networks and cognitive networks are distinct in the brain, but successful learning really requires both: a child can’t just be smart, she has to concentrate too.”
And that’s the thing, a child will only concentrate on a subject if the passion and interest is there. Think about how many times you tried to direct your child’s attention to something you felt was important only to have your child ignore you time and again? And when it was on a subject that your child was interested in, it was pure magic. You didn’t have to do anything and the focus and attention would be there.
An example from Gavin would have been the way he could sit down and listen to a whole book being read if it was a story he liked. Read him a book that he isn’t interested in and he’d be fidgeting and looking for other things to do. Now that he’s older, he will tell us straight up that he isn’t interested in the story and that he wanted to hear a different story.
In a way, something like this shouldn’t be news to us. Even as adults, it is clear that we focus best and perform better on topics and subjects that interest us the most. When you’re passionate about something, you’re too busy focusing on the doing part and enjoying yourself to notice that you have to work hard to get good at it. And when you’re having fun along the way, nothing ever seems hard. What is amazing is when you look back at the end of it all and wonder how you managed to come so far without realising it.
Taking this back to the early childhood educational programs I have been looking at, it would explain why some children do so well with programs like Glenn Doman and Shichida but others balk at them. I believe it all boils down to the child’s individual interest.
One of the things I tried to do when I first started Gavin on an early childhood educational program was to expose him to as many new stimuli as possible. I took him to the Butterfly farm, the Bird park, the National Science Center, and any other place I could think of that was interesting so that I could expose him to as many new interests as possible. How else can you help your child discover his passion if he never gets to see anything new?
In many ways this follows the key philosophy of the Montessori Method where you let the child lead the way and focus on his interests. One of the requirements for following the Montessori Method is to keep all a child’s toys and activities at a level that allows the child to access it for himself. That way, your child can select what he wants to do by himself rather than have to wait for your to direct him.
What’s the moral of the story? If you want to fast track your child’s learning progress, expose him to as many new things as is possible. Watch his reaction and hone in on the ones that capture his attention.