Thursday, July 27, 2006

Learning Styles and Bullying

By Sharon D'Penha

School bullying is a very common cause of poor performance among students. Children who are bullied by other children tend to slow down as far as progress at school goes, and they tend to want to stay away from school altogether. Research has shown that violence among peers may cause a low rate of literacy among children of various age groups.

According to a September 2003 report in the Journal of Urban Health, 15% of children reported feeling unsafe in school, while only 8% felt the same way outside school. In the same study, nearly 31% of all children said their schoolmates "get away with anything." Billingsley, Janice, "Many Children Don't Feel Safe at School”,, Sept. 2003.

School bullying peaks during your child’s early teenage years, but it is experienced in most primary and secondary schools. In order to help our children, we need to know more about the nature of bullies and their victims.

Our task as parents and educators would be easy if all we had to do was give a child a questionnaire to complete in order to discover whether they are a potential bully or victim. Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complex than that.

How to spot a bully?

There are different types of children who turn into bullies.
· Some are ‘Attention seekers’: they want to be the centre of attention most of the time. They can be very friendly to some people (to the point of being overfriendly or overgenerous) and aggressive to others.
· The other type of bully may be dubbed ‘Wannabes’: they are underachievers and underperformers, but they want recognition for skills they don’t have.
· Yet others are known as ‘Gurus’: they are task-focussed and have no people-skills. They are sometimes regarded as favourites and valued by the teacher, either because they come from rich and famous homes, or because of their genuine knowledge in a narrow field.
· There are also those called ‘Sociopaths’ who interest only in personal gain, survival and can be very deceitful, manipulative and evil.

Is your child being bullied?

If your child is being bullied, you will be able to observe both physical and social signs. You may notice your child has come home with wounds and torn clothes, and when questioned, he won’t give a satisfactory or believable answer. Complaining of headaches and stomach-aches could be another sign of being bullied, especially if this happens right before the child is leaving for school.

Socially, a child can run down in numbers at school: his grades may suddenly go low instead of going higher, he may not like to participate in school activities and events anymore, not like to talk to his best friends any longer, he might keep to himself all the while. It’s important to find out what is causing this distress and change of attitude in your child, and it would be unwise to put it down to “typical teenage angst”.

What you can do?

You may not always be able to confirm your suspicions. "Bullies may instil a sense of shame in victims," says Kate Cohen-Posey, author of How To Handle Bullies, Teasers and Other Meanies. "Either they internalize the names they are being called, or feel like they should be able to handle it themselves."

All children are entitled to courteous and respectful treatment by students and staff at school. Educators have a duty to ensure that students have a safe learning environment. Fortunately, most educators take their responsibilities to stop bullying very seriously.

If you have any concerns or even unproved suspicions, speak to your child’s school in the first instance and ensure that together you form a Plan of Action to combat not only the bullying, but also the resulting issues (lower grades won’t necessarily go away when the bullying stops: you will need to bridge your child’s gap in knowledge).

For a chance to understand your child’s learning potential and strengths, as well as to increase their sense of self-worth, assess their Learning Style on

Make your children ‘BULLY-PROOF’: get wise, act now!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Carrot and stick - how to motivate our children using Learning Styles

There are two types of people in the world: those who are internally motivated, and those who are motivated by external means. That’s according to the Creative Learning Systems’ learning styles found on

It’s very easy to get an externally motivated child to do her homework, put away her shoes and be nice to her baby brother: all you have to do is promise her a reward. The reward can be verbal (you’re such a good girl, I’m proud of you), material (a chocolate bar if you allow your kids sweets), accrued (a star-chart with a well defined end-goal, such as a pair of skates once the child accumulates 20 stars) or a withdrawal of privileges (no TV after dinner if you don’t load the dishwasher). In the old days, there was also active punishment (the stick approach), but I’m glad to say that’s being phased out to the point of being made illegal in some countries.

(Do you have an opinion as to whether it should be illegal for parents to smack their children? If so, please comment at the bottom of this blog.)

It’s even easier to get an internally motivated child to do her homework, put away her shoes and be nice to her baby brother: you don’t need to do anything at all, because your child will do it all out of her internal sense of “I want to get this done”. That’s provided she herself sees that homework, putting away the shoes and being nice to the baby brother as important matters worthy of engaging her internal motivation system over. If she doesn’t see them as important, you have a huge problem on your hands, because no amount of chocolate or withholding of privileges is going to have an effect on her.

So, what do you do as a parent? The first step is, naturally, to establish what type of motivation works on your child, and to what extend: your child may have a strong or a slight preference for external motivation, she may have a non-preference for it (in which case it’s really not a good idea to offer her external rewards), or she may be flexible in this area (in other words, a combination of internal and external motivation would work well on her).

If your child is strongly internally motivated, all you can do is continue to instil your values in her and hope that her internal motivation system will make her do the right things. Particularly if she also has a non-preference for external motivation and would be unhappy with an external reward system, your task as a parent is very hard indeed.

If your child is externally motivated, set up a reward system for her. But - I hear you argue - isn’t it wrong to have to reward my child for doing something that’s her duty? Well, let me ask you this: how many hours would you spend at your place of work if you didn’t get paid for it? Also, the rewards need be nothing more than a clear and positive acknowledgement from you of the fact that your child did indeed perform her duty. It’s amazing how far you can go with loving and sincere praise.

Which brings me to the topic of over-praising. It’s currently fashionable to give your children praise whether or not they really deserve it. In my opinion, that’s wrong, very wrong, because it leads the child to believe that they need not put any effort into their tasks: whether they try hard or not, they will hear “good work, great drawing, you’re so clever!”.... In particular, internally motivated children will look with disdain at such empty rewards.

So, make sure the praise is deserved, sincere and specific. Avoid general feedback: “this is wonderful” in favour of “I like the way you drew the scales on the mermaid’s tail”, “Thank you for sharing your bun with your brother” and “I’m proud of all the effort you put into cleaning your room”.

And do remember the best praise of all, to be used on internally and externally motivated children alike: “I love you”. You can make it as general and as frequent as you like!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Learning Styles the “Magic Tool” in School Discipline

(By Sharon D'Penha)

There is a lot of competition in the marketplace today. As parents or teachers, we would like to make sure our youngsters are prepared for it. But the constant change in the world as we know it makes it all the more difficult to teach our children. What’s more, changing laws and rules alert the children to the fact that they need to respond to the changing environment at a moment’s notice.

It’s possible that these constant demands have a negative effect on our children when it comes to their performance and behaviour at school.

The growing need for discipline is a big challenge at school and at home. And yet, “How can we guide our children, if we are unable to understand their difficulties?” is the question on the lips of most educators.

Younger children tend to think and act differently every day. What can we do to teach them discipline and how can we make their learning effective in school?

Teachers naturally play a very important role in enhancing a child’s learning, but they can’t do it alone. Learning Styles (available from is a great tool for classroom management and can show teachers how to keep students motivated and effective in their studies. For example, if the class consists mainly of tactile students, then providing them with hands-on projects will keep them occupied (and thus happy and quiet) during the lesson. Best of all, it’ll teach them the syllabus far better than a lecture would have. Identifying the group’s sensory modality preferences is the first step towards teaching excellence.

Knowing the Learning Styles of their students will also allow the teacher to teach in a way that’s suitable to the Information Processing needs of the group: namely holistically, analytically, or a combination of the two.

Finally, Learning Styles will help the teacher set up the classroom in the way that’s most conducive to teaching their students. For instance, some students prefer to sit upright and study while others like to sit on the floor with their feet stretched out and relaxed. Some are happy and alert in a brightly lit room, but the same room can make other students hyperactive and stressed.

Learning Styles come with a free Group Profile: a summary of the group’s classroom needs. Visit today to see how you can change the world tomorrow.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

How to read with your tactile child

You will most likely know whether your child is tactile. They are the ones who look down when you speak to them and explore clothes in the shop by touching instead of looking. They love fingering fabrics, stroking wooden furniture, experimenting with play dough. If you cut out stars and moons from a piece of felt, a visual child might want to glue them onto a piece of paper to create “art”, but your tactile child will be happiest just handling them.

An auditory child will enjoy hearing you read a book to her. A visual child will want to read the book herself - even if she’s too small to read, she’ll want to look at the pictures, so you must remember to position the book for her, not for you.

But how do you encourage a tactile child to read, particularly if they’re not a mixture of auditory/tactile or visual/tactile?

As with any other child, the trick is to begin early, as soon as your baby can sit up. Use touch-and-feel baby books specifically designed to introduce texture: fur, wool, felt, silk, sandpaper, mirror, bumpy surfaces. Try interactive books for older toddlers: ones with flaps, sound buttons, jigsaw puzzles. For bath time, use specially designed waterproof books - some of them even come with squirt-buttons or bubbles.

Props are a fantastic reading aid for tactile children. If you’re reading “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, for example, let your child cuddle a soft toy bear and make her point to Teddy’s “two furry ears” and “two goggly eyes”.

Allow your child to handle the book themselves: to hold it, to read the pages, to point at pictures. When your child begins to read herself, make sure she is allowed to follow the text with her finger as she reads, even if she’s “advanced enough not to need that”. Remember, tactile children need tactile input, no matter what their age or skill level.

With tactile children who are also kinesthetic, act out the book together as you read it (it may be a good idea to record the words onto tape first). Move from the sofa through the lounge as you’re going on your bear hunt. Wade through the river. Get stuck in the mud. Stumble in the forest. Tiptoe through the cave (by now you should be at the other end of the house).

The most important lesson you’re teaching your child is that reading is fun. As soon as you notice their attention fading, stop. Little and often is better than none at all!

If you’d like to check whether your child’s tactile, kinesthetic, visual or auditory, have a look at

To improve your child’s reading skill, have a look at: