Episode summary:

When I was 16 and living in Kansas, I taught myself to speak Hindi, simply because my interest to learn the language had been awakened. Tune in to hear me talk about how to fan the flames of children’s passions and interests with Multiple Intelligences, even if they’re weary of school and think learning is “dumb.”

Susan Stiffelman is a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, an educational therapist and a highly lauded speaker. She is the author Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected and Parenting With Presence: Practices for Raising Conscious, Confident, Caring Kids (an Eckhart Tolle Edition).Susan offers online events for parents around the world on topics like Raising Tweens and Teens, Parenting in the Digital Age, and Raising Siblings and also hosts a monthly support group with Wendy Behary on Co-Parenting with a Narcissist.​​​​​​​ www.susanstiffelman.com

Things you’ll learn from this episode:

  • Why every child is a genius – regardless of their grades in school!
  • Why school often doesn’t serve our kids’ unique passions
  • How to help your child rekindle their innate passion for learning

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Read the entire episode!
Transcript here:

Speaker 1: (00:09)

Hello and welcome to the Parenting Without Power Struggles podcast. I’m Susan Stiffelman. I’m the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles and Parenting With Presence, so I’ve traveled the world working with parents. I’ve really traveled the world from Senegal to Tel Aviv to Paris to Kansas, and what you’re going to hear in this podcast and in all these episodes really has been used by families from every part of the world. In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about one of my greatest passions, which is learning, but first I want to say a few words. For those of you who want to know more about my work or stay in touch outside the podcast, if you visit Susanstiffelman.com you’ll get news about all my upcoming events and you’ll also get a free love flooding video, which is a great little three minute video that helps you reestablish connection with your kids and foster more cooperation. 

Speaker 1: (01:06)

You’ll also find information about my monthly Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program where I work personally with parents twice a month and there’s a long list of masterclasses on everything from chores to homework to parenting. In the digital age. So check it out and let’s get started. When I was 16 years old, I was teaching afterschool in a daycare center and one day a little girl was brought in by her parents who had recently arrived from India. Um, she spoke no English, super shy, kind of anxious, timid. And I asked her parents if they would just teach me a few phrases like, you know, are you hungry? Do you have to go to the bathroom? Because little Ruby was just seemed so kind of held back and, and they said yes. And I started going over to their apartment and they taught me not only some Hindi but, um, Indian cooking. 

Speaker 1: (02:04)

Um, but as I was learning these just initial phrases, something in me, and this is so kind of out of the blue there, I was in Kansas, I hardly met anyone who was Indian, but something in me really got excited and kind of woke up and I wanted to learn this very foreign language. So, you know, there weren’t too many resources for learning Hindi in Kansas city in the 70s. I somehow found that the university of Pennsylvania had a Hindi department and I called their long distance was a big deal and I ordered their textbook, which was in English, phonetics by Ernest bender. I still have it. And I began studying Hindi. I would do the exercises, it was very structured. I would do the exercises as [inaudible] as the textbook kind of unfolded. And then at the back there were answers. So I would do the exercises and then I would go to the back of the book and check my work. 

Speaker 1: (03:02)

And you know, this was very unusual thing for me to be a steadying. But that’s, that was something that I wanted to learn and, and to be honest, my parents were kind of mystified and it was hard. I was muddling through conjugations and tenses and there’s a lot of nuance to the language and I also taught myself to read and write, but it was so much fun. Even though it was hard because it was a natural draw for me. Eventually when I wanted more practice, I called people named sing out of the telephone book, which in those days is what we use to get phone numbers. I would look up, I was by now, uh, living in California and I, I looked up people named Singh and I would randomly call people and just say, I’m learning Hindi. Would you speak with me? My Hindi secret? 

Speaker 1: (03:57)

He whom cabinet? He said, petite Kuringgai. And people were obviously very surprised and um, and sometimes they even went to their houses. They were incredibly helpful and kind. And now I’ve been to India, I don’t know, four or five times and it’s really been incredible. It’s been an incredible gift to speak this language, to be able to visit this country that is so amazing and have at least I’m not fluent, but to at least be able to find my way. Now keep in mind that at the same time that I was learning Hindi, I was a junior or senior in high school and I was pretty much watching the clock. I just really wasn’t enjoying school. I couldn’t wait to go to my afterschool job out in the real world at the daycare center. And thankfully I had front-loaded a lot of my required classes in the first years of high school so I could leave most days around noon and, and here’s the thing, my story isn’t unique. 

Speaker 1: (04:55)

There are so many kids right now in school watching the clock, passing notes, trying to stay awake. And these kids, like all kids were born with a, an actual profound, deep passion for learning as babies. They wanted to explore the world. They touched, they crawl, they put things in their mouth, they begged for one more story. And in most cases it was only when they started school. It was only when they were put into a kind of a constrained learning environment and given required reading and homework that they started to turn off to learning. This is not okay. I’ve had an endless dream of these young people in my counseling office and they complain that they’re bored in school or they’re sloppy about their homework or they cut classes and most of their parents and teachers you know are not happy about this situation and they lectured them about how they should apply themselves or how they should live up to their potential. 

Speaker 1: (05:59)

The thing is though, these kids, like all kids, they want to learn, they just aren’t excited by what they’re being taught. Now before you think me a total Renegade about education, I want to say a couple of things. First of all, I have been a credential teacher for decades. I believe in schools. I believe in formal education and it actually pains me to see how overworked and underpaid our teachers are. But the model that we’re using to educate our kid isn’t a fit for some of them. And when we don’t acknowledge that they either associate learning with something that isn’t fun or they come to believe that they’re stupid. So in my work, I urge parents to set aside their judgements about their child being lazy or unmotivated. And to think about this issue of learning in a different way with a bigger lens. One of the people whose work I have long followed and who I highly recommend you look up is Dr. Howard Gardner. 

Speaker 1: (07:01)

Dr. Gardner developed the theory of multiple intelligences, which is just an incredible way of understanding the various ways that human beings come into the world and the gifts and passions that seem to come preloaded. So these are the nine forms of intelligence that he has identified. There’s the naturalist, which is nature smart, who’s are the children who are really interested in animals in nature. There’s musical intelligence, there’s logic, mathematic intelligence. This is numbers and reasoning. And, and by the way, logic, mathematic is one of the two areas or intelligences that are kind of focused on in the classroom. There’s linguistic or verbal linguistic intelligence. That’s the other one. So if you’re, if you’re gifted or you’d naturally inclined to logic, mathematic or pro bowling, [inaudible] intelligence, your teachers are probably patting you on the head. School is probably at least tolerable and you’re probably getting decent grades. 

Speaker 1: (08:02)

But in addition to those, there’s the existential kind of life smart intelligence. There’s interpersonal intelligence, which has to do with engaging with people, making friends, tuning into other, other people, developing rapport. There’s body kinesthetic intelligence, which are the athletes, the dancers. Uh, there’s intra personal intelligence, which is sort of a self awareness. And there’s a visual spatial intelligence, which are, you know, the artists, the interior designers, graphic designers. I find this so fabulous that we can help our kids know that there’s nobody born dumb. Every, every child is a genius. But we have to help them understand their particular leaning and talent. So here’s suggestion. When your kids complain about school, listen, don’t shame them. Don’t make them wrong. Take the multiple intelligence tests with them and get excited by whatever you discover about their gifts and their strengths, and talk about these different flavors of intelligence so that they can start to understand that being smart really has very little to do with getting good grades, especially for those kids who aren’t naturally gifted in a verbal, linguistic or logic mathematic learning. 

Speaker 1: (09:26)

And the other thing is when you discover where your child’s passion for learning does lie, pay attention and help him or her pursue that passion. So, so many activities that you can do outside the classroom to fan the flames on whatever spark of excitement your kids have for something. And it may change, but go with it. So, so for example, some kids are really interested in food and and often they may be very interested in cooking. So take a cooking class with that child or, or let them take a cooking class, record your own cooking show together. You know, the kids, let them have fun with it. Help them write a book of recipes. If your child is strong in Trump, personal intelligence, then honor their need for downtime, for introspection. They might enjoy a meditation class or you could share books with them on metaphysics or personal development. 

Speaker 1: (10:26)

If you have a youngster whose gifts are in the arts, then make sure they keep that fire alive. Especially because schools these days have almost completely eliminated programs that enriched their, their, uh, students’ lives in this way. So help them make music or create a little area where they can paint or invite friends over for dinner who are artists and that’s true for any of these areas in and engage with people who have really been able to pursue that passion so that your kids, even if they feel stuck in school for the next few years, they know they see light at the end of the tunnel. You can take them to a college campus or take them to lectures or events on a university near near you where they can see that there are a lot of options that will open up for them once they’ve finished high school because when we nurture our children’s passions, those, those inborn passions and gifts, even if those gifts don’t have much to do with the classes that they’re currently taking at school or the homework that they’re supposed to be doing, it often happens that they also do better in school because they’re just more awake. 

Speaker 1: (11:32)

They feel less depressed and tamp down and sort of muted. If you are resonating with this, if you have a child who’s just really struggling with school, I hope you take these ideas to heart. If you feel that you need more support around this. I have a wonderful class on my website that I did with Dr. Thomas Armstrong, who is another person whose work I really recommend. He’s, um, written about multiple intelligences extensively. He writes about ADHD neurodiversity, the adolescent brain, and we did a class together that was really popular on rekindling your child’s passion for learning. Um, you can watch or listen to that class if you want more kind of specific suggestions on how to bring back excitement for learning into your kid’s lives. But here’s something you can do today. Normalize your child’s frustration with formal education. If they complain, please don’t lecture or scold your kid. 

Speaker 1: (12:29)

Yes, they’re extremely fortunate to be able to get an education. But when we shame a child for not appreciating it and really they have no way of understanding, they don’t have a perspective on how precious it is to be able to go to school because it’s all they’ve known that does not inspire or motivate them. And also this is hugely helpful. Learn in front of your children. Pick something, two something, anything and read about it or take a class in something that you’re interested in, but maybe you haven’t pursued like pottery or glassblowing or flamenco dancing. Because I think that one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is to help them grow into lifelong learners. And when we model that, we ourselves are passionate about learning that even when we’re so busy, we make time to pursue our own interests. Kids take that message to heart. 

Speaker 1: (13:24)

And when our children leave the nest, when they’re ready to go out into their own adult life and they have a positive attitude toward learning, when they feel confident in their ability to master whatever skills they’ll need to pursue whatever interests kind of captures their fancy, then we’ve really given them a lifelong gift. So I hope this has inspired you. My tip for the week is to choose something. Anything that you can learn about and make sure your kids either are learning that with you or that they’re seeing you excited and pursuing that interest. Even if it’s 10 minutes a week, just turn the volume up on the value of passion for learning in your household and make their grades and their homework less important for at least giving it a try. Why you kind of again fan the flames of whatever really excites them. Again, if you would like more personal parenting support, I’d love for you to test drive our online Parenting Without Power Struggles membership program and if you joined be sure to let me know that you’re new to the group. I also run a co-parenting with a narcissist membership program with Wendy Beharyi and there’s lots of other resources for parents as well as the free newsletter at Susanstiffelman.com I guess that wraps it up for today. I hope you’ve taken away some things to think about and I look forward to joining you our next episode. If you’d like to leave a review or rating, that’s hugely appreciated. And meanwhile, remember that no matter how busy life gets, look for those moments of sweetness and joy. 

Speaker 2: (15:06)

I’ll see you next time. [inaudible].

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