How to inculcate the Habits of the mind in children:
Let’s start with defining Habit: A habit is a routine of behaviour that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40% of our behaviour on any given day.
This little snippet tells us how important it is to form the right habits as they eventually affect our behaviour subconsciously. Research has shown that almost all the successful people in the world have ingrained these habits in them. these thinking habits are popularly known as the habits of the mind.
I came across a study that states 98% of 5-year-old children qualify as creative geniuses, however, after 5 years of conventional schooling, this number drops to 32% and by adulthood, less than 2% qualify as creative geniuses. Makes sense that only 2% don’t respond that ‘A is for apple’! the truth is our education system is designed to make us comply and not to become independent thinkers. However, if we provide children with the right kind of tools (habits of the Mind) they will learn to keep their creativity alive. The 4 habits of the mind we will talk about today are:
Persisting: Being persistent is basically the skill of being able to push through even when we hit a roadblock. Most of us have seen children being persistent. They are natural explorers and want to find out more and they will keep trying till they get the desired result. On the other hand, how many of us have seen persistent adults? As stated above, only 2% of adults continue to be persistent.
To make sure children continue to be persistent even as adults we must allow children to fall, fail and go through their heartbreak and be there to encourage them to get up and move ahead again, continuous encouragement keeps them going and gives them the confidence to start over. Beware, do not step in to rescue them or fight for them, teach them to fight their own battles.
Managing Impulsivity: being able to stay calm amidst a supposed crisis is an art and managing impulsivity is an essential habit as human beings are impulsive by nature; we tend to react first in a given situation before we think. For example, I have had parents come to me and tell me how their child is so good at acting and that he or she should get the main lead role in the school annual play. Dear parents do not step in for your children, if your child really wants that role they will work hard for it and get it and if not this time the next time they will try harder. Practising delayed gratification is essential as children need to learn to have patience, work hard and earn what they desire. It could be a toy or an award or a role in the play.
Anger is an emotion that takes away the ability to think rationally in the moment because our brain releases a chemical called cortisol that shuts down a lot of our systems and most often than not decisions taken in anger are not fruitful. Hence for children to be able to manage their impulsivity they need to learn how to manage their anger. A simple exercise one can practice from the beginning is to tell children to sit by themselves and count 10 backwards to calm down and then explain what they are upset about.
Listening to Others with Understanding and Empathy: Listening to others with understanding simply means putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and understanding their perspective and what they have to say. Why is this habit important for children? This habit helps because when we listen to people, we learn a new perspective, we learn to look beyond our thinking and it also helps us build strong bonds with people.
It is true when we say that children learn by observing than being told what to do. The same is true for listening to others and empathy. When children see you being kind and empathetic to others, they ape that behaviour too.
Thinking Flexibly: thinking flexibly simply means thinking out of the box. However, in the first place where did the box come from. In an interview I did with Seth Godin I asked him why does be advocate open-book examinations and his simple answer was because we need to test children to understand if they have understood the concept and are competent and not if they are compliant. For years now we have been training children to comply.
The fact I stated earlier in the article about 98% of 5-year-old children qualify as creative geniuses and by adulthood less than 2% qualify as creative geniuses. the reason is that we have been teaching children to comply. To help more and more to grow up to be creative geniuses we should allow children to explore, encourage them to continue to explore when they fall or get hurt. While reading them a story encourage them to think about how they would write the end of this story. Small little activities like this help them to think of different possibilities.
why do I emphasise on building these habits right from an early age is because it’s easier for children to learn and imbibe them and scientists say that it takes 20 hours to learn something new and then takes about 10,000 hours of practice to master the skill and I believe as caregivers we should work together to build a strong foundation so that children become the best versions of themselves and thrive.
I am sharing an activity you can practice with children on the four habits of the mind we have spoken about today:
Activity 1 Persisting:
Try the maze below and if you make a mistake, try again and again!
Activity 2 Managing Impulsivity:
Look at the behaviour in the picture and choose the correct yellow happy face if the behaviour is correct or the red angry face if the behaviour is incorrect.
Activity 3 Listening to others with understanding and empathy:
In this worksheet we will showcase the ways in which we are mindful. Circle all the actions that are mindful.
Activity 4 Thinking Flexibly:
This activity is all about thinking out of the box.