When it comes to teaching kids there is no “one size fits all” way to do it successfully. For some kids the idea of receiving an eventual reward drives their behavior (more time to play with friends), while other kids are more motivated to do things out of fear of what might happen if they do not complete the task at hand (i.e. a punishment). And for other kids, the best way to teach them is to simply mitigate other distractions (i.e. video games) to get their attention in order for them to engage. Regardless of your methodology, perhaps the most important factor when it comes to teaching kids is to watch out for the aha moment (or “Eureka effect”) when a connection is made and the child shows his or her first true understanding of what it is you are trying to teach. So how do we know when we are in the throes of the aha moment? Granted, no bells or fireworks will go off, but the immediate and emotional connection made in the moment will be witnessed in other ways including positive facial expressions, direct eye contact, relief, excitement, and pride. If you are open to the aha moment, you’ll know when you are experiencing it.
Understanding the significance of “aha!”
The aha moment, or Eureka Effect, refers to the common human experience of suddenly understanding a previously incomprehensible problem or concept. While you may not have ever called it an aha moment, I am fairly sure you have experienced a number of moments in your life where after struggling to solve a problem the answer suddenly emerged, providing for an exciting moment. There is a growing body of literature examining how and why the aha moment occurs for humans, but what may be even more important is how successfully we capture these moments and use them to help kids not only build self-confidence, but use their success to build scaffolding toward even more future success.
Parents, teachers, and coaches regularly mentor kids, but these efforts can be frustrating when there does not seem to be a connection that inspires kids to learn and independently solve problems. Fortunately, genuine interest and care for kids — including empathy toward their challenges — will create an environment where kids stop thinking they can’t, and begin looking for any kind of evidence that they can do it. It is at this precise juncture where you will witness the aha moment and can use the experience to foster strong, inspirational, positive relationships with kids.
Aha moments are unpredictable and can happen at any time, but the more engaged you are when teaching kids, the more likely they will engage and the greater likelihood a Eureka effect will occur. When you get to say “aha!” after an important discovery, make sure to laugh, smile, and enjoy the experience as it is this precise moment that helps kids believe in their abilities and confidently go after future goals and dreams.