Open to Learning

Open to Learning

If you are frustrated because your child appears to be “avoiding” learning, rethink that. All children love to learn, they just don’t like to fail.

For some kids, failing can become a huge risk, but it never stops them fully. Saying what you see can reveal the way your child has found to keep learning. Naming it puts your child back in touch with that STRENGTH.

For example, a mom had brought her 7-year-old daughter with her for a visit. While the child was watching TV, the mom was complaining that her daughter was behind in reading. “She won’t try,” was how it looked to the mom, so she was sure her daughter didn’t want to learn. This was the same child who she said as a baby “wouldn’t try to walk,” but at 16 months suddenly took off running!

That’s the hallmark of a child who learns by watching!

I turned to her daughter and noticed she was fascinated by a home decorating show that was on. I started a conversation with her using SAY WHAT YOU SEE® and focused on what she was thinking to see if I could help her see that STRENGTH:

SWYS: “You’re interested in that show.”


Child: “It’s only adults doing the work.”


SWYS: “You noticed there were no kids working.”


Child: “Kids could paint.”


STRENGTH: “You found something kids could do.”


Child: “They could paint the ceiling.”


SWYS: “You think they could paint way up there!”


Child: “They’ve got long handles for that.”


STRENGTH: “You know how that works. You learned that by watching.”

She returned to watching and began reporting back to us more things she had learned!!!

Learning is natural for kids. Starting where a child like this is — learning by watching — and pointing out his or her learning style as a STRENGTH would allow the child to gain the confidence needed to eventually try something without already knowing how first.

In this child’s case, a CAN DO for learning to read by watching would be to allow her to watch you sound out words first. If you do this pressure-free and focus only on her successes, she will volunteer her own efforts sooner and sooner until she begins sounding out words first on her own. It could sound like this:

SWYS: “You only needed to watch me make that ‘sh’ sound once, and then you tried it.”


STRENGTH: “You learn by watching.”


Child (pointing to the page): “There’s another one.”


STRENGTH: “Now that you know what an s-h sounds like, you’re finding it in other words on the page. You just tried another sound — ‘ch’ that time…”

Saying what you see, pointing out how children already learn (their learning style), and pointing out their successes can get them back in touch with the fact that they like to learn. These are the foundation steps required to open doors to other ways of learning, including doors like trial and error that seem closed to children who won’t try unless they know how first.


  1. seema |

    I love both your article sandy! so true!

  2. Seema,

    Thank you. I knew you would be nodding while reading them. It’s what you teach, too <3


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