Do Children Get Better With Practice?

Deliberate Practice

Does your child rehearse music or dance daily? Does s/he diligently revise his/her lessons without tears or tantrums? No? What do you do next? Do you advise him/her to practise harder? What if s/he doesn’t want to practise or doesn’t know how to practise harder per se?

We ask them to continue practising because archaic adages, like ‘Practice makes a man perfect’ or ‘Practice creates champions’ has misled several generations, including ours. Over the years, we’ve started believing that kids master almost anything (may it be academics or extra co-curricular activities) with regular practice.

However, Dr Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at the Florida State University and ‘expert on experts’, would beg to differ. Ericsson believes it’s not just regular practice and hard work that creates champions. Efficiency and quality of practice are equally important.

Often, we overlook the areas that require improvement. We miss telling our tots how to improve and why it is important to improve in order to succeed. We ask them to keep repeating their lessons, without realising that mindless repetitions won’t help. Kids must practise with a purpose every single time. This practice methodology is called deliberate practice.

Experts Believe, Just Practising Won’t Make Our Children Perfect At Everything!

Experts state not engaging in effective practice, or indulging in purposeless practice is what prevents us from delivering an Oscar-worthy performance, bagging an Olympic medal, winning the Pulitzer prize, or simply excelling in any craft.

Many have attempted to quantify the time required to master a skill, without any success. In this context, Ericsson gave us his 10,000-hour rule—the foundation of his deliberate practice theory, which says:

Practice is not about dedicating 10,000 hours to a specific task. It’s about how meaningfully we use those hours to become an expert.

To put in simple words, how we practise is what matters, not the duration.

What Is Deliberate Practice? How It Helps Us Accomplish Our Goals?

Deliberate practice
The 5 golden rules of deliberate practice.

How many times have we criticised our children for not practising enough? They memorise lessons by writing the answers again and again. Still, many kids, despite having a brilliant imagination and excellent vocabulary, are not able to score well. Perhaps they don’t know how to structure their answers and that’s the reason they don’t get decent grades. But do we address this shortcoming? We must!

We may not realise, but tots may be facing problems with sorting their thoughts. S/he may not be understanding how to form proper sentences or to use words and examples at the right places. Disregarding these limitations, we snub them for not practising on a regular basis.

Asking them to mindlessly mug and reproduce concepts won’t help. However, encouraging them to practise deliberately would make a huge difference. Children don’t just need to practise differently but also fine-tune their skills while taking incremental steps towards their goals.

8 Keys To Deliberate Practice: How To Excel In Almost Everything

Deliberate practice begins with inspiring kids to:

  1. Discover their purpose in life (I must acquire knowledge to be able to use it for pursuing my dreams.)
  2. Set small, realistic goals (I must learn to differentiate between short and long-term goals. Getting good grades in class is a short-term goal. Improving my grammar, spellings or calculation speed will help me with many other things in the long run.)
  3. Structure tasks (I’ll practise diagrams first to be able to link it with the theory.)
  4. Acquire knowledge (I must read the newspaper, watch YouTube tutorials and seek expert advice to understand my subject.)
  5. Make consistent and conscious efforts (I must start with the easy topics first, then move to the intermediate ones and do the harder ones towards the end.)
  6. Apply knowledge (I must test my knowledge and skills by trying out different exercises to discover the next step toward fulfilling my purpose).
  7. Seek feedback to improve (I must assess my mistakes and seek tips from my teacher/coach for self-improvement.)
  8. Re-strategize, rework to excel (I know where to improve. I will rework.)

Thus, a clear mind, conscious efforts and the grit to improve despite challenges, when combined with a purposeful, focused and systematic practice, empower your child to perform.

Deliberate practice
The best way to practice simplified.

Practise doesn’t end with excelling in our craft. Self-observation, self-evaluation, and self-reflection on one’s performance follow. Our journey towards excellence include:

  • Focusing on goals
  • Minimizing potential distractions
  • Dedicating time for activities related to our tasks and
  • Mental exercise

Deliberate practice is applicable and required in all the aspects of life. When we practise with a purpose, we can reach our maximum potential and move ahead with a clear mindset!

Whatever may be a child’s purpose, when we persuade them to improve, asses and learn by practising deliberately, we’re making them independent. A self-confident, independent child says “Yes, I can do better with practice” and develops a progressive mindset, with which she excels in life.

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