Monday, August 22, 2011

The child prodigy

When I was at violin class, there was a prodigy alongwith me. He was the teachers pet. He could do anything on the violin - while we lesser mortals struggled. On the face of it, his ability was sheer talent. But, as I grew up, I realized that it was neither talent nor was it self motivation - it was more of practice and discipline. Not taking away anything from the kids or parents (and they both surely did a lot for the child to reach there).

If a chlid starts at age 5 - anything - be it violin or music or dance or karate - it is hard for a child to be self motivated. You typically cannot start anything before that - except perhaps swimming or cycling, but age 5 plus is when you can start most things. The one way to be self motivated is when the child people around her do all of these things - which is why in a musical household - the children learn much faster - because the learning not by catching the child and plonking them down in front of a teacher - but they learn by seeing whats happening around them. Everybody is singing - they sing too - they think it is the natural thing to do.

Corollary: If our child is learning to watch TV, the chances that we are sitting around watching TV are extremely high. If your child is learning to read  - the chances that you have spent time with her reading aloud is very high.

That is stage zero. The next stage where the child has to be made to put in effort to learn something. So, if it is a musical household, the child is made to put in the effort with various members of the household or if they run a class with various students. This is the difficult stage. Putting in effort is difficult for children. It is tough for adults - so you can imagine how it is for children. Here parents, teachers or guardians put in the effort to make the child learn. It is not easy - especially in an age like this where there are many distractions and "enjoyments". A fair amount of rigor is required.

After this stage, the child probably gets to enter competitions, get encouragement and knows that "she is good". It is only after this level that self motivation kicks in - atleast to some extent - but the parents and guardians and teachers and coaches continue their work.

This is my theory. It has fitted in well with almost anybody I have known till now. Is it right? What are the lessons that can be drawn from it from a training perspective?

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