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Social and Intellectual Learning

Do you love learning? The best way for kids to be excited about learning is to see your joy.

Learning Tickles the Brain

We are biologically embedded with hormones that generate a sense of satisfaction that reinforces our drive for learning. But old school (literally) learning methods hijack learning satisfaction by eliminating discovery, and introducing punishment, shame, fear, and comparison (the grading system). This is intellectual abuse.

Parents can accelerate the extinction of learning motivation when treats, toys, and financial rewards are layered over the intrinsic reward of learning itself--the "light bulb moment."

Smiling at someone else's light bulb moment and sharing their excitement is a social reinforcement of the intellectual satisfaction. In contrast, scolding, frowns, and frustration with a learner, undermine their desire to learn. More importantly negative reactions can impact the learner's confidence in their ability to learn. Damaged confidence will significantly reduce learning motivation. Teachers who are "tough" and disapproving should be forced to find a different career before another generation of learners are damaged with false beliefs about their intelligence and learning ability.

Alternatively, excellent teachers get their own dopamine hit from seeing a learners' excitement at comprehending a new concept or performing a new skill--not because they passed a test or raised a grade, but because their eyes came to life. The joy of teaching does not come from meeting administrative expectation. The joy of parenting is not at all related to social approval for your parental prowess. The joy comes from a humble acknowledgement that you have improved a life in some way.

Can we be really honest for a moment? When we are frustrated with our efforts to teach, it is usually because our motivation is incorrect. Are we trying too hard to control outcomes or shape the child? Is our personal agenda interfering with our ability to see them as distinct from us? Is our identity too closely tied to the "success" of our child? Are we trying to change them or turn them into something? Or are we joyously discovering the wonder of who they are?

The subjects and skills we deliberately teach are a fraction of what they are learning from us. Social learning allows young people to absorb the entirety of the environment and form psychological maps of what it is to be human. Values, identity, meaning, and behavior are not taught with words as much as they are conveyed with everyday living.

"Careful the things you say, Children will listen. Careful the things you do, Children will see" --The Witch, Into the Woods

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