Zest. Approaching life with excitement and energy; feeling alive and activated. What an amazing concept! Can you imagine, as an adult, waking up every day with excitement and energy for what the day is about to bring? Of course this is an unlikely scenario as an adult but for children the opportunities are far greater with their young imaginations and the world in front of them.
Zest is a key component to child happiness, success in education and living a fulfilling life. Therefore, as parents, we should look for opportunities to encourage zest and help this trait flourish in our children for the long term. This is nothing new to parents of course. For example, if you google, “Getting kids excited about”, the search engine populates the top 5 searches as:
- Getting kids excited about reading
- Getting kids excited about writing
- Getting kids excited about engineering
- Getting kids excited about exercise
- Getting kids excited about school
Why is Zest Important
In summary, Zest (aka Enthusiasm; Excitement; Energy) is important to child happiness and child education as research has identified it as one of the top seven characteristics that can predict life satisfaction and high achievement.
Prior to authoring How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (2012), Paul Tough contributed an article to the NY Times titled, What if the Secret to Success Is Failure (2011).
In the article (and the subsequent book for that matter), Tough discusses efforts to improve the success of their students by Headmaster Dominic Randolph at Riverdale Country School (a prestigious private school in New York City) and David Levin, the co-founder of the KIPP network of charter schools and the superintendent of the KIPP schools in New York City.
Randolph and Levin had become intrigued by research conducted by some of the world’s most renowned experts in psychology. The studies included a set of character strengths that were, according to research, likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement.
The list of traits began with 24. They came from the book titled, Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification, by Martin Seligman, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Christopher Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Michigan. (NOTE: At 800 pages, the book is more of a text book rather than a nice ‘how to’ book for interested parents).
Tough explains how Randoph and Levin had asked for a more concise list from Peterson. A shortened list of specific traits that, again, were likely to predict life satisfaction and high achievement. Peterson was able to narrow the list to the following seven traits (in no particular order):
- Social intelligence
It makes perfect sense why Zest is on their list of seven traits to help a child succeed and help with child happiness. Consider the Google searches noted above. Each of the top searches are items that, as parents, we’d love our children to be excited about. But being excited about reading or writing or exercise, etc is not necessarily something that can simply be expected of our children. Rather, they are activities that we hope our children show zest for. They are activities that parents encourage excitement for because we know it is in their best interest.
How to Encourage Zest; Excitement; Enthusiasm
There are many resources dedicated to helping parents learn how to encourage excitement in their children. However, every child is different and what works for one may not work for yours and vice versa. This isn’t a bad thing though. The creativity and experimentation to get our children excited about a specific topic or activity is also a way for us parents to be engaged with our children on a daily basis.
With that being said, here are Kidamentals 2-Steps to helping deliver Zest in your child:
Step 1: Identify the activity that your child could benefit from added enthusiasm
This sounds simple but there are many opportunities that may go unnoticed. Let’s use the example of a toddler putting together a puzzle. It’s hardly rocket science and certainly isn’t necessary to their future college entrance submission. However, if the child consistently gets frustrated (after all, they are difficult) then they may have the tendency to stop and move onto other activities. Why is Zest important here? Because the enthusiasm and excitement for finishing the puzzle helps the child learn to push through those adverse situations. Some people call this particular trait “Grit” and it is also one of the aforementioned traits that can help predict life satisfaction and high achievement.
Step 2: Utilize creativity and experimentation to learn what excites your child
Continuing with our previous example, perhaps it’s reminding the child how they ‘feel’ when they work hard and then accomplish a goal. Or perhaps you have an artistic child who loves to see the finished picture. Or perhaps you have the child who loves animals and will be so excited to see the giraffe when the puzzle is complete.
The above example is specific to a toddler. But as our kids get older the sheer number of activities and implications of such activities increase. For example, those that are concerned with their child’s excitement to read. Or those looking for cool math games to encourage excitement for math.
A fun experiment for parents can be to google search what other parents are trying to excite in their child. I like the example of encouraging excitement for a kid to play piano.
There are a wealth of credible resources for such a topic and by reading through a few of them we learn the extent of creativity and experimentation that is needed. How would you encourage your child to be excited about playing the piano? Did you consider if your child is even at the appropriate age? Did you consider hiring a private instructor (even if you have the skill set yourself)? Did you consider a system of rewards and milestones?
Given time and effort, your creativity and encouragement will shine through in your child. Kidamentals firmly believes this.
Kidamentals also believes that fellow parents are an amazing resource and that we can all learn from each other’s trials, tribulations, and successes. Let’s keep this discussion going. We are all in this together!