Posts

Math Is Difficult, but Far from Impossible

Maryke K. is a  Nobel Tutor. She knows a lot about Chemistry, Physics, English Language, and Statistics, but one of her greatest loves is Math! She makes math fun (yes, it’s possible!) and finds the best way for students to learn it. Here she answers common questions about math and shares her personal experience in learning it.

 

Question: Let’s begin with fun stuff. What is the best math joke you’ve ever heard?

Maryke: What do you get when you cross a mosquito with a mountain climber?

You can’t cross a vector and a scalar… (laugh).

 

Q: Can you tell us how did you end up falling in love with mathematics? How did you become the math tutor?

M: From an early age, math has been fascinating to me. Because of that, I focused on it and worked hard. As I began sharing my knowledge with others, I discovered that mathematics was a path to helping people, and that’s what I love to do! And that’s why I became a tutor.

 

Q: Even though some people, like you, enjoy mathematics, there are others who find it hard. Based on your experience, why do some students fall behind in math?

M: Some people have a natural aptitude for mathematics, but that’s not the reason why others fall behind. I think the reason they do fall behind is they need it explained in a different way and there isn’t always time to do this in a classroom setting.

That’s why math tutoring exists! Not because you don’t have the ability to do math, but because a tutor is usually a few years older than you and they were in your shoes a few years before. So it’s easy to relate and find a great way to explain the unexplainable.

 

Q: Is there anything you’d recommend to those students? How should they study math?

M: If you don’t get math, just like anything else you don’t like, you’re going to have to motivate yourself.

Still, what I used to do is play. When I was younger, up to 6th grade, I would use computer games. I played educational games which meant I had to constantly do math in my head. Because of that, and by really putting thought into it, I made math fun, linking it to games.

So how you should study math? You find the fun in math and keep practicing. If you’re not good at it, practice is the only way to fix that.

 

Q: You’ve already mentioned teachers. Do you think that if you don’t understand math, maybe you have the wrong teacher?

M: It’s not about the teacher all the time, it’s usually about their workload. You can’t put a workload of 40 students on a teacher and expect every one of them is going to be catered to.

I think that everybody should be able to get tutoring. But since not everybody can afford a tutor, perhaps ask a friend who’s good at math to help you with the things you’re having difficulty with. You just need to have the additional help.

I come from a very humble background. I begged my parents to get me tutoring because despite having good grades, I needed even better grades to enroll in this program I wanted to get into. But we couldn’t afford it. The only help I had was reading math books and learning it by myself. That still wasn’t enough. I feel that if I had been in a smaller class, if my teachers could have catered to me specifically, then I would’ve had even better marks.. But it just wasn’t in the cards.

So I worked with a friend who was good at math and we made sure we helped each other. I did that my whole university career – we’d teach each other those concepts that we mightn’t otherwise understand.. We’d just work together and help each other. I feel everybody should do that because there’s always something that you don’t understand. So let the students be the teachers, as well.

 

Q: Some people believe that being good at math is a natural ability. What do you think about that? Can anybody be good at math?

M: I don’t think everybody can be good at math. However, I think everybody can do it. You just need the right way, the fun way to approach it.

There’s always going to be someone who gets 100% no matter what – someone with the natural aptitude. It may seem like you’ll never be as good as that person, but you can do it! You just need to accept that you have to practice a lot more than they do.

So, you can be good, but you have to practice. Practice as much as you can and eventually results will come.

 

Q: Natural talent vs. hard work. Do you think that people who aren’t naturally good at math but practice a lot eventually can become better at it than people who are naturally good but don’t practice?

M: Yes, that was me! I fell behind in my first year of engineering because I was like, This is going to be so easy! And all those people who were a little bit weaker than me in high school, were surpassing me. They were doing so much better than I was!

That’s because at some point math catches up with you. You might think it’s easy now, but there will be a time when you don’t understand anything. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way, so you don’t need to.

 

Q: What is your approach to teaching math?

M: Making it fun. I’m a very outgoing person and I always try to make people think of a fun way to go about something. I use visuals, I use tricks, I use anything that might make something entertaining and interesting!

No matter what your learning challenge is, what your skill is, it has to be fun!

 

Q: How do you choose between being an authority figure and a friend?

M: I think balance is the key. You need to be both an authority figure and a friend. I do believe my students respect me, but I also believe I open this door into letting them talk to me about their personal problems, not just focusing on math.

You need to listen to the challenges they have as that can affect their learning as well. For example, if their dog dies and they just don’t feel like doing math today, take things easier.

Being their teacher doesn’t mean you can’t be their friend. You just need to evaluate when that is appropriate. They’ll learn to trust you, and then they will respect you.

MAKE MATH FUN WITH MARYKE

She can’t wait to meet new friends!

 

Q: Does fun make math easy? Do you find mathematics easy overall?

M: Math is never easy. I have an engineering degree and when I was doing models I failed the math model. Yes, that thing destroyed me (laugh).

Now I’m doing a mathematics degree. I’m in my final year now and I’m realizing that math is always difficult. If you’re in that spot, it’s going to be hard. Right now, final-year math is unbelievably difficult, but first-year math was also unbelievably difficult. Math will always be difficult. It’s up to you to practice and find a way to understand it. So practice, practice, practice.

 

Q: Do you have any advice for parents to help their students with math?

M: Don’t start too late. I wish my parents had started earlier in letting me have fun with mathematics. I did start early, earlier than most people. But if they’d started even earlier, I feel that I would’ve been further ahead right now.

You need to make sure your kids are exposed to this environment. Let them play puzzles, let them play logic games when they’re very young. Because it opens a door for problem-solving skills and so on.

Make it fun and start early. But don’t overdo it. so that they start to hate it. Like anything, if you push your child too much, they’re going to resent it. Make sure you strike a balance between giving them constant stimulation and not overworking them. A great tutor would know how to help in that area, for sure.

 

Q: And if I’m a parent of a student with learning challenges (ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia…), what approach would you recommend for me to help my students with math? What should I do?

M: We all have those times when we’re faced with difficulty that causes anxiety. So did I. I know it’s not the same as ADHD, but it does pose a challenge when it comes to learning. One way to deal with it is to learn how to study despite the difficulty. Wishing it away won’t help, but finding a way to figure things out will.

What I would actually do was enjoy some free time but then dedicate 10 minutes to some math homework. It forced me to think about it, but not overwhelm myself. Of course, if you have a lot of homework you might need to up that to 15, 20 minutes. Some people will go up to 30 minutes or more, but if you constantly push a child they’re just going to completely resist.

If you’re helping your child with math, you need to make sure they’re not overwhelmed and that you are making it, again, fun. They need to have that feeling of I really want to solve these logic puzzles.

Also, I’ve always told my mom she needs to reward my brother, because my brother was a very, lazy boy when it came to math.The way she got him to finish his math was by giving him rewards. He has ADHD, and the reward for finishing was time playing computer games. And he would be so excited! Because that’s what children like to do, including me (laugh).

So,give them rewards, make it fun, and don’t make it too intensive!

 

Q: Why do we need math? Do we really need to know algebra, geometry, integers..? Why does math matters in the real world?

M: The things you’ll use depend on the field in which you’ll work. I don’t think you’ll need all the complex formulae and stuff.

But the basic reason everybody needs math is for logical reasoning. If you know math, you build a certain skill when it comes to reasoning with people, when it comes to logical thinking, solving problems at work in the future… So even though you don’t need quadratic equations, you still need to build these skills to be able to function in life and today’s world.

Long answer short, reasoning in real life and problem-solving skills.

 

Q: What are the uses of math? Are there any benefits to knowing math for a future career? What are applied-mathematics jobs?

M: As I’ve said, reasoning and problem-solving but not just that. For example, you’ll use it if you’re an animator. You’ll need math to put things together in a program and work through possible problems you might encounter when you animate different things. The same would apply to working as a game designer, It doesn’t mean that if you’re not good in math you can’t go into these areas. However, knowing math can be helpful.

Additionally, think about engineering, architecture, law… each requires logical reasoning, (especially law) and a background in mathematics.  Computer science, astronautics, the visual arts (such as painting).

 

Q: What message would you like to leave with our young readers?

M: Mathematics is always useful, so practice it and study it. You’ll use it in any career you choose. You’ll use it in the future just by practicing reasoning and in everyday activities that you need to think about.

However, if you’re not good at math, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to be successful. If math is not going to be your career, you just need to find someone who can help you with logical reasoning so you can have a foundation to build on in your future life.

Math can be very useful and if you can’t figure it out on your own, there are great tutors to help!

IF YOU NEED ADDITIONAL HELP WITH MATHEMATICS OR ANY OTHER SUBJECT, OUR EXPERT TUTORS ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

How Do We Gain From Being Kind?

Kindness is one of those paradoxes – we become happier by making other people happier.

This sounds a little weird, right? Usually, when we think of being kind to someone, for example to a friend, we think how that friend can benefit from our actions. But we may also gain from being nice to others, too!

This article will show you the benefits of being kind and suggest some acts of kindness you can add to your daily life.

Benefits of being kind to others

There are many ways of being kind – you can donate, help, volunteer, or anything else that comes to your mind, but each one has benefits for you.

More happiness.

Acting kindly helps you relax and makes you feel good. It is shown that giving to others makes us happier [2]. We’re even happier when we’re buying things for others rather than buying things for ourselves. However, buying things for others is just one way to be kind – you can smile, pay a compliment, and much more.  For example, helping others elevates our mood, makes us happier and more optimistic. These feelings may last for days!

Fewer negative emotions.

In the same way that kindness elicits positive emotions, it reduces negative emotions [5]. If you are kind, you’ll feel less stress – you’re less likely to feel anger, sadness, or fear.

Better health.

Did you know that negative emotions are often harmful to health? Conversely, positive emotions are linked to better health. So kindness has its positive side effects on your health and well-being. It strengthens the immune system and enhances psychological and physical resilience. [5].

Better relationships.

People are drawn to others who are kind and look for this attribute in their romantic relationships and friendships [6]. If we think about this in a school context, it’s good to know that prosocial behavior boosts peer acceptance and popularity [3]. It also reduces the likelihood of being bullied.

Kindness is contagious.

Did you know that observers of a kind act may benefit, too? While witnessing a kind act, the watcher experiences a warm feeling, called elevation, which motivates them to behave positively and helpfully [1]. When you’re being nice to someone, you benefit not just the two of you; you help spread kindness. This way you influence the world for good! 

How to be kind to others?

Kindness doesn’t have to be about money – you can give your time or things you don’t use anymore, help someone, call or text others, etc. Think about what you’re comfortable doing, what is okay for you. Every smile, every thoughtful act counts!

Yet, sometimes it’s hard to start. It helps if you think about small kind acts and write down ideas that cross your mind. Think what could you do today, tomorrow, or on some special day. That way, you’ll more likely spot opportunities when they come up. You could also set out with the intention to perform a kind of act, like, “I’m not coming home until I’ve done something nice for someone else.” Intentional acts set the habit to see other opportunities in the future. Also, you can ask your friends or family members to join you. This way you can exchange ideas, do some things together, and support each other.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

Hold a door open at a store for someone.

Share your lunch with a friend who forgot theirs.

Offer to help your younger siblings with their homework.

Tell your parents how much you love them.

Do a chore you usually don’t do.

Let somebody know you appreciate their help. Show appreciation of others in general.

Give an authentic compliment.

Say please, thank you, and sorry and really mean it.

Volunteer your time for a charity.

Be kind to yourself

Authentic kindness matters. Think about what you appreciate in others. Of course, don’t feel like you need to do more than you can do. Be kind to yourself too!

Being kind to yourself is equally important as being kind to others, sometimes even more so. However, experience suggests people are often much harsher and unkind toward themselves than they would ever be to others they cared about, or even to strangers [4]. But we all should be treated with kindness and caring and you need to treat yourself with the same compassion you extend to everyone else.
So, don’t forget – build a relationship with yourself, befriend yourself. Show kindness and understanding to yourself rather than harsh judgment and self-criticism, especially in instances of pain or failure.

References:

[1] Algoe, S. B., & Haidt, J. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The ‘other-praising’ emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. The journal of positive psychology, 4(2), 105-127.

[2]  Dunn, E. W., Aknin, L. B., & Norton, M. I. (2008). Spending money on others promotes happiness. Science, 319(5870), 1687-1688.

[3]  Layous, K., Nelson, S. K., Oberle, E., Schonert-Reichl, K. A., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2012). Kindness counts: Prompting prosocial behavior in preadolescents boosts peer acceptance and well-being. PloS one, 7(12), e51380.

[4] Neff, K. (2003). Self-Compassion: An Alternative Conceptualization of a Healthy Attitude Toward Oneself. Self & Identity, 2(2), 85.

[5] Post, S. G. (2005). Altruism, Happiness, and Health: It’s Good to Be Good. International Journal Of Behavioral Medicine, 12(2), 66-77.

[6] Sprecher, S., & Regan, P. C. (2002). Liking some things (in some people) more than others: Partner preferences in romantic relationships and friendships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 19(4), 463-481.

 

If you need any kind of advice related to the emotional development of your children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

Why Teens and Alcohol Don’t Mix

Alcohol is cool!

People drink, it’s not a big deal.

Adults (my parents, siblings, coworkers, etc.) are drinking, so why shouldn’t I?

I only drink sometimes…

I only drink beer and wine.

Do you recognize some of these thoughts as yours? What do you think about drinking alcohol?

You’ve probably heard a lot about it from your friends, parents, favorite TV show, and on the internet. But that’s not enough when it comes to deciding what role alcohol should have in your life. It’s important to fully recognize its effects on your health and behavior. For that reason, we’re providing you with facts about underage drinking in this article, so you can decide to be healthy and happy.

Adolescent alcohol abuse in numbers

Drinking is illegal for youth under 21 in the United States. However, people aged 12-20 drink almost 20% of alcohol consumed in the United States and there are over 10.8 million underage drinkers! Further, when young people drink, they tend to drink heavily – underage drinkers consume on average four to five drinks per occasion about five times a month [2, 4].

Drinking too much and at too early an age, creates problems for teens, for the people around them, and for society as a whole.

Eight reasons why underage drinking is dangerous

The negative consequences of underage drinking include a range of physical, academic, and social problems [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].

  1. Underage drinking is the number one cause of death among youth under 21 years.
  2. Drinking causes many injuries – there are more than 150,000 emergency-room visits each year by youth under the age of 21 for alcohol-related injuries.
  3. Alcohol abuse can have serious consequences on your health. It damages the heart, liver, pancreas, and other organs and leads to numerous problems with them. It increases the risk of developing cancer and dementia.
  4. Drinking alcohol is particularly harmful to teen development because it can cause significant cognitive or learning problems and make the brain more prone to alcohol dependence. This is especially a risk when people start drinking young and drink heavily.
  5. Drinking may cause students to have trouble in school. For example, kids who drink are more likely to get poor grades and often have problems with social integration.
  6. Persons under the effect of alcohol are more likely to engage in risky behavior and illegal activities. Drinking makes it harder to keep your wits about you and to avoid or react appropriately in “dangerous” situations.
  7. Underage youth who drink are more likely to carry out or be the victim of a physical or sexual assault after drinking than others their age who do not drink.
  8. People who start drinking in adolescence are at increased risk of having alcohol-related problems later in life.

Some people think that only drinking too much over a long period of time leads to these complications, but that’s not true. Sometimes drinking too much on a single occasion is enough to lead to serious consequences [1].

How to avoid drinking?

Okay, now you know reasons why you shouldn’t drink, but how to say no? Sometimes it’s not easy not to drink, especially at parties where your friends might pressure you to join them. There’s the fear that you might be left out. However, although you may feel pressure to drink, it’s your decision to drink or not. Make your choice and don’t let yourself be a victim of someone else’s behavior. Surround yourself with true friends. Would true friends make you do something that’s bad for you?

Here are some other ways to avoid drinking alcohol.

Prepare yourself.

Think about how you want to respond and behave. It’ll raise your confidence. It would also be helpful to share your thoughts with someone you trust.

Say no and let the person know you mean it.

Say it firmly and don’t make a big deal about it. Try to stand up straight and make eye contact. Keep your response short, clear, and simple – no, thank you. 

What should you do if the person persists?

If they’re pressuring you, repeat the same short response each time the person does this. If that doesn’t help, simply walk away.

Practice your “no”.

The first few times it may be difficult to say no. Because of that, try to imagine a situation where someone is offering you a drink. Think what that person might say and how you’d respond. Practice it out loud – for example, in front of a mirror. Another way is to ask someone you trust to role-play with you. That way you could experience real pressure and get feedback about your response.

Although there are many underage drinkers, remember most young people don’t drink alcohol and don’t support it. You are not alone in making this decision.

Why is this article written in April?

Did you know that April is Alcohol Awareness Month? Talk with your friends and family about drinking alcohol and its side effects. Help spread awareness. Also, Do you think that you or your friend has an alcohol problem? If that’s the case, don’t wait – get help. Reach out to a trusted adult!

Resources:

[1] National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (U.S.). (2011). Beyond hangovers: Understanding alcohol’s impact your health. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

[2] Sommers, A. R., & Sundararaman, R. (2010). Alcohol use among youth. In Underage Drinking: Examining and Preventing Youth Use of Alcohol(pp. 9-22). New York: Nova Science.

[3] Taite, R., & Schraff, C. (2016, September 16). Here’s Why Your Brain Makes Quitting Drugs/Alcohol So Hard. Psychology Today. Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ending-addiction-good/201609/here-s-why-your-brain-makes-quitting-drugsalcohol-so-hard

[4] The Scope of the Problem. (2004). Alcohol Research & Health, 28(3), 111-120.

[5] Underage Drinking [Brochure]. (2017). Retrieved March 30, 2018, from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/UnderageDrinking/Underage_Fact.pdf

If you need any kind of advice related to substance abuse in adolescent period, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

Supporting Children’s Transition to Adulthood

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. – Agatha Christie

Before heading to preschool or grade school, children spend most of their time with their parents, from whom they learn and with whom they laugh, cry, and share everything in between. And so, when the time comes for parents to let their children grow up, it’s completely understandable why it can be so hard and challenging to do so.

As children grow older, parents are faced with the fact that their children won’t be spending as much time with them as before. Some parents may be looking forward to this stage, and others may be dreading it, but regardless, obstacles may arise. Kids are going to make new friends and relationships which will differ from the one they have with their parents. They are sometimes going to prefer hanging out with their friends from school, which can come at the expense of family time. Nevertheless, this is crucial for building social independence with their peers. When children reach adolescence, parents need to loosen their restrictions and trust their children to take some risks and explore (e.g. going out with friends alone, entering dating relationships, etc.). Finally, and probably the hardest to bear, parents have to let their children leave home and start their own independent life.

The path of parenting can take many different turns. There are some parenting practices that can slow down children’s transition from childhood to adulthood. For example, parents may feel as though they’re abandoning their children if they don’t provide them with enough care and supervision – which could lead to overparenting, or becoming a helicopter parent. Doing everything for your children may result in you controlling them, and denying them the power to make their own choices and to express themselves. All of this sends a clear message to them – that you don’t believe that they can do something on their own.

The quality and nature of relationships between parents and children differ. Even within the same family, roles and relationships change over time as parents start down the path of raising their children. From an early age, children learn to internalize their experiences with parents and translate them to other relationships in their childhood and adulthood [2]. For example, if parents continually undermine their autonomy and risk-taking, children may become overly dependent on them, as well as experiencing increased anxiety when making decisions or dealing with life choices. This can result in them not being prepared for the adult world.

Parent-Child Relationship in Adolescence

Adolescence is one of the most turbulent periods of childhood. In this phase of development, adolescents tend to vacillate between childhood and adulthood, so a parent can’t always react today exactly like they did yesterday. Research shows that a positive relationship in adolescence functions in exactly the same way as it does in early childhood. In this kind of relationship, it’s likely that a parent will retain a substantial role through the school-age years. Or, as one child puts it [1]:

I can go to [my mom] with my problems, I can rely on her to be there for me, I know that she won’t get mad at me for you know, for like a mistake or something like that. If I have problems, whatever, she, I don’t know, she’s always there for me.

Studies show that having a good relationship with your child is associated with them being less engaged in high-risk behaviors, having fewer mental-health problems, and better social skills and strategies to cope with distress [2]. Also, they’re less likely to engage in excessive drinking, drug use, and risky sexual behavior [2]. Children who have this kind of positive relationship with their parents also “manage the transition to high school more successfully, enjoy more positive relationships, and experience less conflict with family and peers” [2].

So, building strong and positive relationships between parents and children leads to desirable outcomes in early childhood, as well as in adolescence. In this type of relationship, parents encourage their children to explore and take some minor risks, while at the same time providing them with a safe and reliable harbor to come to in times of trouble. We’ll now look at some parental practices that can be beneficial in helping a child’s transition from childhood to adulthood.

How to build and maintain a positive relationship with a child who is coming of age

– Although the parent’s availability and sensitivity in times of distress are essential for maintaining a secure attachment with adolescent children, adolescents don’t need the same amount of proximity and physical availability as do young children. Knowing that they’ve got the support of their parents is more important to them [2]. Keep in touch, stay close, but not too close, and don’t ask too many questions. Give them the space they need to try their own wings. Parents are the safety net, rather than the cage.

– Make sure your children have an opportunity to do some tasks all by themselves, without standing over their shoulder every second, even if that means they’ll occasionally make mistakes. Try to give them some commitments and obligations that are more grown-up, such as paying the bills through the mail, taking care of their younger sister/brother, taking up some new chores and more responsibility around the house, etc.

Don’t demand, suggest! Clearly and thoroughly explain your reasoning behind a proposal about, for example, something they should do differently. Your relationship should be less about dependency and authority, and more about mutual respect.

– Instead of monitoring their every move by playing 20 questions, start a conversation by telling them about something interesting that happened to you on that particular day, and then ask them about how their day went. If you haven’t already done it, try establishing a routine where you talk and learn about each other’s day and experiences in a conversational way, rather than pressuring answers with question after question. Remember, it’s fine if they don’t have anything to report – some days can just be slow and uninteresting.

– It’s important to understand that your children now have other important people in their lives. You should be proud and happy because they have different people they can rely on in times of need. In the end, you have to acknowledge that you’ve done your best as a parent and appreciate the life choices your children make. Otherwise, caring too much and controlling your teenagers may be overwhelming for everyone.

We at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring know there are many variables that can take you off your intended parenting path to the point where your relationship with your adolescent could be in distress. Connect with us to hear how we assist students and their parents through Coaching and Tutoring!

References:

  1. Freeman, H., & Brown, B. B. (2001). Primary attachment to parents and peers during adolescence: Differences by attachment style. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30(6), 653-674.
  2. Moretti, M. M., & Peled, M. (2004). Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development. Paediatrics & child health, 9(8), 551-555.

If you need any kind of advice related to adolescence period, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING:

Getting into Flow

The concept of flow

What makes us happy? What does it mean to have a meaningful life? Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi thinks that the answer to these fundamental questions has a lot to do with a specific kind of experience that he named “flow”. He defines flow as a psychical state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it. Flow is a universal phenomenon that can be achieved while performing many activities ranging from cooking and performing surgery to dancing and rock climbing. However, some flow activities are more likely to provoke a flow state. These activities have rules, they require skill learning, they make it possible to set goals, and they provide feedback.

What are the positive effects of flow? Many studies have shown that experiencing flow is in positive relation with psychological and subjective well-being, increased concentration, self-esteem, creativity, and performance. Adolescents who regularly experience flow are friendlier, happier, and more sociable.

In the first part of this article you will learn more about the concept of flow and its characteristics, while at the end you can find some practical tips for nurturing flow in your own family.

How to recognize flow?

In his TED talk, Csikszentmihalyi specified different aspects of flow. We can use some of these aspects to determine if we succeeded in entering flow or as guidelines that can help us enter this state.

Firstly, someone experiencing the state of flow feels completely involved in the activity they’re doing. The human cognitive system has a limited capacity for information processing and during flow this capacity is used for only one activity. Our attention is focused. At the same time, this means there is no more capacity left to process any other information, which leads to merging of action and awareness – you stop being aware of yourself as separate from your actions, your attention is completely absorbed by the activity.  However, in everyday life, we are often bombarded with various stimuli and our attention is dispersed. Therefore, attention plays a major role in entering and staying in flow. This has some practical implications. In order to facilitate entering flow you should get rid of potential distractors (for example, turn off your smartphone while studying)

Secondly, it is important that we know what needs to be done and how well we’re doing it. This means that in order to achieve flow, we should set specific goals and pay attention to the feedback. The nature of this feedback differs from situation to situation, but its main role is the symbolic message it carries – I have succeeded. However, sometimes we cannot set clear goals (for example, in some artistic activities). In this case, we must develop some sort of personal sense of what we want to accomplish.

Thirdly, the experience of flow is intrinsically rewarding. Contrary to extrinsic motivation, where someone performs an activity in order to attain a desired outcome (money, reputation…), intrinsically motivated people perform an activity for its own sake. The state of flow itself is recognized as a reward, or as Csikszentmihalyi would say, an action becomes autotelic (auto – self, telos – goal).

The fourth aspect of flow has to do with our skills. In order to achieve flow, we must perceive an activity as doable. In other words, we must evaluate our skill level as high enough to successfully perform an activity. The relationship between skills and challenges has a key role in entering flow and is described in the following section.

Finally, we experience temporal distortion. A person in flow usually has a feeling that time passes much faster compared to time spent doing mundane, boring activities.

Models of flow – relationship between skill and challenge

Csikszentmihalyi “mapped” flow experience using a simple schema that includes measures of skill and challenge.

models of flow

 

In his early work, Csikszentmihalyi thought that in order to enter flow it was necessary to find a balance between your skills and challenges (as represented in the first model). If the equilibrium was broken, you would experience either anxiety (when challenges are overwhelming) or boredom (when challenges are too easy).  However, many studies have shown that balance alone is not enough to enter flow. In situations where both skills and challenges were slight, people did not experience flow or actually, anything at all. Imagine playing a Tetris game set on minimum speed. You would most likely be very successful in sorting blocks and clearing rows but eventually it would result in complete boredom, even apathy.

These findings led to the modification of the prior schema. The new model included the concept of apathy (low skill/low challenge alternative), and a more detailed view on possible states when there is a discrepancy between skills and challenges. The center of the concentric circles represents an average level of skill/challenge that is different for every individual. In order to achieve flow, a person must perceive their own challenges and skills as higher than average. States of arousal and control are close to flow, and one can easily slip into the desirable flow state by making adequate modifications. A very important thing to notice is that we have the power to modify or change our challenges/activities, and improve our skills. In order to achieve flow from the state of arousal (high challenge but the skill is not quite there), we must improve our skills. On the other hand, when someone has a feeling of control (high skill, but the challenge bar could be set higher), one can easily slip into flow by increasing the challenge.  We all have the power to choose and we are responsible for our chosen objectives. Another important fact is that we can use the feelings presented in the second model as feedback that informs us what kind of  change we need in order to achieve flow.

way to slip into flow

 

Let’s return to our Tetris example. What happens if we increase the difficulty of the game to maximum without any prior practice?  Blocks would start filling the screen before we could react and the game would end, resulting in a player who would experience, maybe not anxiety, but certainly some level of dissatisfaction. What happens if we develop our Tetris playing skills but always stick to medium difficulty? In this case the player is in control (which is a good state to be in, according to Csikszentmihalyi) and can have a reasonable amount of fun, or, at some point, play the game for purely for relaxation. However, flow as an optimal state of mind can be easily entered from control just by increasing the difficulty and creating a more challenging task.

How to nurture flow in your family

Rathunde, one of the authors who studied flow, specified five family characteristics that provide an optimal context (autotelic family context) for adolescents to achieve flow.

  1. Clarity – adolescents have a feeling they know their parents’ expectations. Communication in the family should be unambiguous and goals explicitly defined. Parents need to provide clear feedback regarding the adolescent’s behavior.
  2. Centering – adolescents have a feeling that their parents are truly interested in their actions, feelings, and experiences. Parents need to explore the teenagers likes and dislikes, and pay close attention to both verbal and non-verbal communication.
    Existence of choices – adolescents have freedom of choice. They can even disobey the rules set by their parents if they accept the consequences. This may be hard for parents to accept, but having freedom of choice has many positive effects, including development of an internal locus of control – the feeling that we can have control over various life events.
  3. Commitment – children need to feel secure in order to lose themselves in an activity. If parents threaten to withdraw their love from a child every time a rule is broken, the child can become anxious and insecure.
  4. Challenge – parents need to create/provide increasingly complex opportunities for action. In doing so, parents must be careful not to set challenges way above or below the skill level of their children. Providing both support and challenge helps your children become more confident and independent.

These 5 C’s of nurturing – clarity, centering, choices, commitment, and challenge – set the stage perfectly for adolescents to be able to enter the state of flow. As mentioned earlier, there are numerous positive effects of flow. Some even argue that regularly experiencing flow is the secret of happiness. Because of that, it is not surprising that there are experts on flow who can help adolescents and parents create an optimal environment and bring more flow into their lives.

by Marko Nikolić

References:

  1. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding flow: The psychology of engagement with everyday life. New York: Basic Books.
  2. Csikszentmihalyi, M., & Csikszentmihalyi, I. S. (1988). Optimal experience: Psychological studies of flow in consciousness. New York: Cambridge university press.
  3. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2014). Flow and the foundations of positive psychology. Dordrecht: Springer.
  4. TED Talk – Flow, The Secret To  Happiness (2004).

If you need any kind of advice related to motivation and development of your teen children, you’ve come to the right place!

Schedule a FREE CONSULTATION with one of our Coaches:

KEEP READING: