The main teachers of the child are parents
It is no secret how much children learn by watching their parents. However, are parents always aware of their responsibility when showing the examples of their own behavior to children. For instance, if a father calls all his friends names, it is not surprising, however, when a teacher calls in and reports that the child is constantly calling others strangest names or insulting them. Parents are a perfect example to follow in the eyes of their child, and, therefore, their behavioral patterns are accepted as the most appropriate and unquestionable.
Knowing how great the parents‘ role in a child’s worldview is, we can take consciuos actions to develop certain child skills. For example, when a child finds it difficult to listen to others and interrupts constantly, parents can purposefully model situations in front of the child as they try to listen to each other and apologize after interrupting. The child will eventually take over these communication skills and use them in his or her life. Sometimes parents are afraid that their child might have trouble at school, will not fit in, or will not be able to join the group. It is worth considering, however, how it goes for the parents themselves. If a child repeatedly sees his or her parents willingly participating in various celebrations, connecting with the community of the educational institution, and integrating positively into social activities, it will be much easier for him or her to become an equal and confident member of the group. Above all, he will be motivated to do so because he has already seen that spending time with others is fun. By noticing parents’ behaviour, the child will take over key social skills that will help focus, engage, and courageously make new friendships.
So, when we dream about , or even reproach the child for what my child should be like, we have to take a look at ourselves first. Then things become much clearer.
„Erudito licėjus” teachers and psychologists share insights into and advice on how to help raise and educate a child. Enjoy reading!
5 Internet Safety Tips for Parents by “Erudito Licėjus” IT teacher Josiah Tan
The internet, a source containing a wealth of information is an entirely new world that is uncontrolled, stimulating and intriguing to people of all ages. It is a world that is outside the confines of your own homes and unrestricted. Hence, it is crucial that parents are aware of their children’s internet usage and impose restrictions to facilitate a healthy development of their children. “Erudito Licėjus” IT teacher and specialist in Information Systems and Cyber Security Josiah Tan shares a few tips for parents regarding the internet safety. These tips are practical and useful in providing a safe environment for your children.
Social Influence. In the recent years, children have been exposed to content from different ‘internet personalities’ from all around the world. The term ‘TikTok Generation’ comprises of millennials that are heavily influenced by the content they watch on the internet. This can be dangerous because when a children finds a celebrity/influencer that they admire, coupled with commendation from the internet community, could influence them to change their personalities and ethical behavior in their day to day lives. They might also feel inclined to buy material things to impress or associate with people around them. Therefore, parents are recommended to be involved in what their children are doing on the internet. Casually asking them about whether they watched something interesting recently, or what their favorite thing to do on their devices will provide parents with the general idea on what they are exposed to.
Social Networking. Social networking is the use of internet-based sites to network and contact friends, family, colleagues and more. Children nowadays are very proficient in using these applications to network with their fellow friends. However, these friends are not limited to their school, or neighbors. Many children playing multiplayer games online such as Roblox, Minecraft, GTA tend to come across other strangers. This exposes children to potential child-grooming. According to Wikipedia, child-grooming is the act of a stranger befriending and establishing an emotional connection with the child. Acts of gifting them in-game gifts, spending a lot of time with them, could eventually gain their trust which could lead to harmful outcomes. Therefore, parents should be aware of whom their children are in contact with, both online and physically.
Cyberbullying is also present almost everywhere on the internet especially towards children approaching teenage years. Their peers might leave hurtful comments towards them, that can ruin their self-esteem and confidence. A child needs to know that their parents are their refuge during times when they are hurt. They need to have someone that they can fall back to during times of emotional pain and loneliness. If a parent is not present for them, they would end up resorting to other means to alleviate their sadness.
Microtransaction/Online Purchases. Cases of children stealing their parents’ credit card to make purchases are increasingly common, especially during the pandemic era when children spent most of their time at home. A large majority of mobile applications and computer games commonly include ‘microtransactions’ that range from 0,99€ to 14,99€. These small payments can add up and become a liability to parents. Talking to your children about the importance of managing finances is crucial to the development of a child towards their future. Money management skill at an early age can greatly impact them when they grow older. One fun way to teach them about the value of money is to give them challenges or tasks to achieve and reward them with pocket money. They can then decide to either spend it immediately or to put it towards their savings.
Identifying scams. With the current pandemic, the number of internet users from all age groups has increased significantly. The more the number of users, the higher the chances are for scammers to find victims to fall for their deceit. Children should be educated on how to determine the legitimacy of links, offers and messages online. One way to identify a phishing scam is to always pay attention to the email address of the sender. Scammers commonly use email addresses that are similar to the company that they are impersonating. (e.g: email@example.com) with similar email design.
We also invite you to watch the lyceum psychologists webinar “Information Technologies: Threats and Opportunities”: https://youtu.be/JJ4VAsWbqRM
Children’s behaviour: impolite, rude or a bully? How to recognise and respond adequately?
Bullying is widely discussed both by society and at school. It is not only discussed, but also active attempts are made to reduce it. Because bullying does take place. It exists both among children and among adults. Parents are concerned about children’s bullying because they want to protect their children and make sure that their child is not involved in bullying. Finally, they fear that their child may become an observer of bullying. As bullying is discussed so widely, the question must be asked – can every disrespectful behaviour of communication between people be called ‘bullying’? A notion of ‘bullying’ is often relied on in the situations where some actions of the child cause the unpleasant feelings of another child: hurt, disappointment, sadness. However, the excessive and incorrect use of this notion may be harmful. First of all, it is because it diminishes the experiences of true victims to bullying. Where any action (or word) which hurts is called ‘bullying’ and that action (or word) is being responded to as ‘bullying’, the attention shifts from the response to true bullying. Bullying is a serious societal problem which requires responsible, accurate and coordinated ways of response. For where the word ‘bullying’ is heard from the parents or pupils at school, the school community reacts to it by taking proactive actions – it seeks to clarify the situation to effectively respond through necessary aid measures. Nevertheless, unpleasant emotions and experiences are caused by various elements of disrespectful behaviour, such as impolite or rude communication. Bullying is an extreme form of disrespectful behaviour with another person. How can one tell bullying from other types of behaviour then? According to Signe Whitson, the child and adolescent therapist, internationally acknowledged expert on bullying prevention and author of the books ‘How to Be Angry’ and ‘Friendship & Other Weapons’, child’s behavioural intentions and frequency of disrespectful behaviour can help recognise the forms of disrespectful behaviour.
Being impolite. Showing tongues, making faces and body gestures, for instance, sticking the tongue out, showing ‘horns’ by putting fingers to the head, etc.; standing at the beginning of the queue by ignoring other children; boasting about being the best (at school, in sport, art, etc.); even throwing leaves or grass at another child – all this is a disrespectful behaviour of the child. Such elements of disrespectful behaviour alone do seem like bullying. However, when we see the context where they manifest themselves, and if this behaviour is spontaneous and unplanned and is a result of an inability to anticipate the consequences of the action and a lack of respectful behaviour skills, and if that behaviour is not meant to really hurt someone, then it is disrespectful behaviour we are dealing with rather than bullying.
Being rude. The main difference between impolite and rude behaviour is related to the behavioural intention. Impoliteness is an impulsive and unplanned action. Whereas rude behaviour is meant to hurt, undermine, diminish and criticise someone on purpose. To hurt someone by saying, for example: ‘I hate you’, ‘you are ugly (stupid, disgusting, etc.)’. This is the language of anger. Very often it is anger, namely, that stands as a reason for children’s rude behaviour. After a surge of anger is over, the child often feels sorry about his rude behaviour. If the child behaves this way once or a couple of times but not always and feels sorry for the way he acted, we are talking about rude behaviour. Children with rude behaviour need help in expressing their angry emotions appropriately and in understanding their feelings as well as in learning adequate ways of expressing them.
Bullying. Bullying is an intentional, constant, recurrent action taken by the child with a psychological or physical advantage to hurt (psychologically and/or physically) another child. A bully treats a bullied child as if he is insignificant, helpless, unnecessary and without an opinion.
A bully seeks to increase his power, influence and status. He wants to achieve that by bullying because he is probably not aware of other ways to achieve that. And this is one of the reasons for why the public blaming, punishing and shaming of the bully gives an effect contrary to what is expected. Attention, although it is negative, is attention still, and attention is the influence and status. Another reason for public punishment being ineffective is related to the fact that when we publicly punish a bully, we distance him from a group of children he has difficulties with in constructive communication even more. Executioners and victims in the group of children detach the members of the group from one another and highlight their differences. Whereas, when a group of children is united, similarities are sought, etc., it is possible to find solutions as to how the group of children can learn to be together without hurting each other.
Ways of response?
Response to any disrespectful behaviour between children is paramount. Adults’ reactions, however, must be assessed and measured, whereas the response must be carefully considered. Wise but not fast. When responding to impolite and rude behaviour of the children, first of all, tell your children that this behaviour is impolite and unacceptable. If the situation requires, we can expand our response by saying that this behaviour will not be tolerated and will lead to certain consequences. Teach children adequate and respectful ways to express something that they wanted to express by impolite or rude behaviour. Teach children how to recognise angry emotions and teach them proper ways to express them – maybe hit the pillow, scream into a pillow, draw lines on a sheet of paper fiercely, tear a sheet of paper, clench and open the fists.
Do not give the child an opportunity to justify his impolite or rude behaviour by phrases ‘he/she started it’, ‘I was only defending myself’. When inappropriate behaviour is justified, children’s tolerance to aggression is formed. If self-defence in impolite and rude forms is allowed, this creates a space for the child to provoke other children to behave accordingly so that it leads to the situation where the child may start ‘defending himself’.
When reacting to bullying, it is important to understand that blaming and intimidation are totally ineffective strategies. If we blame a person for his action, we do not encourage him to seek changes. Blaming makes one defend themselves. When we are in a defence mode, we attack, become angry or withdraw into ourselves. Blaming is not an effective strategy in managing bullying as it does not encourage the child who is blamed to rely on thinking (especially critical thinking) skills. For a blamed child is not prompted to consider his behaviour, discuss and look for solutions, he is not taught to take responsibility. Whereas intimidation, which is typically related to taking away certain privileges from the ‘guilty’ (for example, an opportunity to use smart devices for some significant period of time), may be effective in exceptional cases only, for instance, where the child really acknowledges the damage done by his behaviour and agrees that ‘sanctions’ imposed are suitable and fair.
Effective response to bullying covers said ways of response to impolite and rude behaviour. When responding to bullying, however, the following strategies should be additionally employed:
Consistent conversations with a child. It is important for a bully to know that adults significant to him are aware of his bullying. When we ask the child to tell what happened, it allows him to describe the situation from his point of view, organise his thoughts, hear his story and learn to take responsibility for his actions.
Teach children to assume responsibility for their actions. To tell the truth and take responsibility. Being responsible means a critical approach to the situation and available resources necessary to make decisions suitable for the situation. We may say that taking responsibility is also a position. For no leadership is possible without an ability to assume responsibility. Tell your child that we all make mistakes but all of us have an opportunity to correct that mistake: by saying ‘sorry’, restoring damage done, taking responsibility, making a commitment to refrain from making similar mistakes in the future. By helping the child to understand the significance of assuming of responsibility, we may say that taking responsibility for is an act of courage.
Help the child to find his personal strengths. When the child finds his strengths inside himself, his relationship with himself changes – his self-esteem increases. When the child understands and accepts himself the way he is, and accepts his traits, he becomes more tolerant towards others; this reduces the communication conflicts and children are able to find more constructive ways to resolve interpersonal conflicts.
Encourage and praise appropriate behaviour and efforts. Encouragement and praise are necessary to ensure the continuous desired behaviour of the child. There are no children who bully all the time, everywhere and with everyone, irrespective of how frequent that behaviour takes place. When we manage to capture the moments when the child’s behaviour does not have the elements of bullying, we must be really proud of the child at those moments. Even the smallest desired outcome should be strengthened. It is even more important to reinforce child’s efforts that he puts to change his behaviour – perhaps instead of an immediate angry remark, he abstained and waited for two minutes. It is important to notice such efforts, as they may seem irrelevant to us, but they take a lot of willpower for a child. Perhaps if we are wise in our response to child’s efforts, he will wait for not two but maybe three minutes, or maybe, some time later, he will abstain from an angry comment after all.
By Virginija Rekienė, psychologist at ‘Erudito licėjus’
Assoc. Prof. Nerijus Pačėsa: we must decide who we are going to educate – decision-makers or decision executors
A clear economic pattern has been balancing our lives for a long time now – a small part of society creates their skills and labour force and the major part of it sells them. This model will change soon when artificial intelligence and robotisation will take over part of our jobs. To make this change less painful to us, as society and individuals, we need to focus on the promotion of competences which allow us to realise our human potential in a meaningful way and successfully adapt to new conditions. We need to start doing this now.
The trends predominant in global economies enable us to have quite a clear picture of the future that awaits. We have already come to terms with an idea that penetration of artificial intelligence will be huge, it will involve all sectors and radically change a human role, especially in the fields which apply repetitive solutions and use large volumes of information. Let us say that artificial intelligence will write this article much better in the future. It will simply take a properly designed task and AI ‘writer’ will process massive quantities of information on this topic, will draw conclusions based on multiple studies, research, scenarios, and will crystallize the most significant needs of society and business.
A shift towards robotization, autonomous devices and automation of processes is already taking place in manufacturing and our households. Complementing robots with artificial intelligence will provide a new impetus, when robots can operate autonomously and ‘improve’ the quality of performance.
People will ‘improve’ as well – we will live longer and longer when we employ genetic engineering. An increasing part of elderly people in our society will generate new social challenges and will make space for multiple new fields of activities. Growing awareness will promote the sectors which will tackle the challenges related to healthy lifestyle, ecology and sustainable development.
Human dilemma: how to adjust
Human history shows that all societal changes are initiated and implemented by a considerably small part of its smartest representatives. The rest takes part by carrying out the functions necessary to implement the solutions created by others and they make use of the results of the progress created.
In the future, the gap between ‘creators’ and ‘executors’ will become more and more prominent as the role of the latter will be successfully taken over by artificial intelligence. There will surely be new fields enabling people to realize their potential; it is obvious, however, that such new activities will require creative, teamwork-like and non-standard thinking and action as well as diverse and constructive communication skills.
School which educates creators – what is it?
Part of society that cannot compete against artificial intelligence and robotization solutions will become a burden to the State. Educators and businesses unanimously agree that we must start fostering such competences at schools which will enable people to successfully adjust to changing environments and become an active and creative part of society. These competences are also known as 4Cs:
- Critical thinking;
Education programmes discuss the need to develop such competences but they generally fail to specify how to foster, recognise and, especially, assess them. Therefore, fostering is left to the discretion of the teacher’s personal initiative. Successful education systems and schools have made such competences their priority goals. They have been established in the programme, methodological solutions have been generated, their success is integrated in the assessment and feedback schemes.
Advanced programme is not enough – we need advanced educational culture as well
One of such programmes is the International Baccalaureate programme. Its philosophy is based on developing learners’ abilities, known as Learner’s profile, which are identified as: Inquirers, Knowledgeable, Thinkers, Communicators, Principled, Open-minded, Caring, Risk-takers, Balanced, Reflective. Education and educational activities are based on those ten abilities.
The content of the International Baccalaureate programme incorporates these principles but the programme alone is not enough. Every school must develop a respective environment to apply these principles in the educational process. If they are applied in a traditional way, this will be the same as having a smart watch and using it to watch time only.
The greatest challenge for schools is how to change culture and methods to transmit the learning content. Schools like ‘Erudito licėjus’ have been established on the basis of a new culture and they mainly focus on fostering competences in order to teach how to apply knowledge, generate new solutions and continue autonomous learning in a rapidly changing environment.
Three things which will disappear in future schools: marks, disciplines, classrooms
Does it resemble a scene from a science fiction film? The only inaccuracy here regards the future – future of schools or countries which already have these developments in place. It is not these changes that seem strange in light of how our lives altered but the education system which has not changed over a century. Thus, the objective of such education innovations is not to introduce diversity to education and make students more interested, as it is usually the case, but to eliminate the gap so that schools correspond to the expectations of modern society and changing organisations.
Obviously, the essence of educational paradigm has been transforming. The foundation of conventional education was built to provide students with knowledge, to prepare them for predictable choices in life and for formalised professional environment, whereas all this is no longer present in today’s world. Contemporary education systems set completely different objectives: how to prepare students for undefined situations so that they are able to quickly find necessary knowledge and apply it in different human systems and mobile environments.
Single phenomenon – multiple disciplines
What do schools and lessons which are not broken down by subjects look like? Topics which combine several subjects are analysed instead of individual disciplines. For example, the topic on the European Union integrates geography, economics, history, culture and languages. Finland is a leading country in spreading this educational philosophy. It set the objective of switching to discipline-free teaching by 2020 and expanding its applicability during the last academic year – upper secondary pupils may choose phenomena to explore and knowledge to deepen with respect to the professional career they want to pursue.
Teaching individual subjects forms algorithmic thinking and there is not space for humans in the era of artificial intelligence. Therefore, learning how to analyse topics, explore phenomena, create new solutions enable discovering and combining various knowledge, use and improve abilities in unique combinations which are difficult to digitalise. In other words, distancing from disciplines should empower the re-discovery through applied and linking aspects, as the history of innovations reveals that the majority of them are created through connecting the solutions which already exist. This needs well-developed creative thinking whose formation could be reasonably identified as the main objective of future education.
Almighty marks – are they facing the end of the era?
There is ever-growing talk at the moment about a negative impact of marks on pupils’ motivation. Marks are still easier to understand for many people, this is why it is the main criterion of the assessment of learning quality. Parents, teachers and pupils themselves live by this illusion, therefore, there is no surprise that marks become the main learning goal.
Could we accommodate such a diverse and complex phenomenon as learning in a scale of several numbers? The modern educational process is oriented towards the strengthening of social competence and thinking skills, and it is difficult to mark them. In the end, a mark is only a snapshot. For a sustainable approach to learning, it is important to focus on the essence of learning which needs to foster intellectual curiosity rather than competition – to take an interest in and be enriched with both knowledge and skills.
Giving up marks is apparently a difficult shift which needs to encompass the entire education system – for universities also organise the admission process taking account of the students’ results. The situation, however, is changing in this respect as well. Singapore, where mark-based rating was generally acceptable and considered the main criterion of success, declared that it was gradually renouncing this system in 2018. As Ong Ye Kung, the Minister of Education of Singapore, said, learning is not a competition.
When classroom walls disappear
Learning through traditional methods does not reflect the reality and future professional environment of modern society. It is difficult to keep focus in the classrooms due to physical passivity and unidirectional information; moreover, the environment where all pupils sit at their desks is very much out of character of the working environment. In the working environment, employees become extremely mobile, they combine working from the office with working from home; hierarchic structures are diminished in modern organisations, and their place is taken by project teams and interactive work models. Therefore, people look for ways to transform traditional classroom environments or make them extinct even. Oerestad gymnasium in Denmark is one of the first schools in the world which gave up the classroom system. The whole school building is designed as one large classroom which may be divided into different, easy-to-transform learning spaces. Other schools are trying to move part of learning to an actual working environment – law firm, hospital, advertising agency or somewhere else with respect to the interests of individual pupils, thus enabling pupils to see actual work in the actual world from the inside.
In addition, cancellation of classrooms destroys both physical and social walls between the groups and moves learning to open and practical spaces which provoke the application of knowledge instead of trying to memorise it. Elimination of disciplines allows for better integration of knowledge in the overall context when solving complicated tasks, whereas elimination of marks makes room for other motivating factors which lead people towards growth.
These changes are fundamental and they must take place quickly as society, business and technologies are changing more and more rapidly and people who are able to adapt, act universally and learn fast will be the epicentre.
Psychologist notes – problems arise when children don’t control their emotions. How to help them?
We learn of inappropriate behaviour of our children very soon when they start attending a kindergarten or school. If they are inattentive, cannot sit still during lessons and hurt others, parents are informed. However, situations where children face emotional difficulties – become red in the face or stutter when asked, bite their nails or avoid other people – are less frequently discussed. Fostering children’s emotional intelligence might be handy in all situations like these. How to start?
Parents’ help is important
The well-known phrase that “parents are the greatest teachers” is more than true in this case. Parents play an especially important role in teaching social skills, expression of emotions and self-understanding. They often do this without any guidelines or textbooks.
Emotions and feelings are complicated; this is a very abstract notion. Even adults find it difficult to describe what it feels like to be sad or frightened. It is therefore important to teach children of emotions they are going through from their early days, from the moment when children’s reaction or behaviour is caused by how they feel, for instance, when they want to throw something if they’re angry or hug their dad when they’re sad.
Even a problematic behaviour should be dealt with by recognising emotions. Children who understand their emotions demonstrate aggression or outbursts of anger less frequently to draw attention to themselves. The ones who are able to say “I’m angry with you”, hit others rarer and try to resolve conflicts peacefully more often. When we teach children emotional intelligence, we strengthen their psychological resilience.
How to help children understand their emotions and express them?
There are several things which parents might do to help their children foster their emotional intelligence, i.e. perceive their emotions and express them appropriately.
Set an example. Children watch their parents closely and see how they deal with their emotions. Being smart watchers, they learn fast what adults do when they are angry, how they react to happy or unpleasant news, how they express joy or conceal their dissatisfaction. Children also see when their parents avoid showing their emotions – because of shame or for other reasons. They copy everything – what their parents do when flooded with emotions – they do exactly the same thing.
Help your children identify their emotions. To enable children say what they feel, they, first of all, need to learn the names of emotions and develop their vocabulary. Underfives need to already learn and recognise what it means to be cheerful, angry, sad or afraid. Older children may learn more complicated words, such as disappointment, frustration or anxiety. You may discuss what the characters from different books or films feel. When you read, you may stop and ask: “What do you think this character feels right now?” It’s also worth discussing the reasons for such feelings.
Talk about feelings. Use the names of emotions in everyday language. Set an example of how feelings may be expressed: “I’m upset because you didn’t share your toy with a friend, I see that he’s also upset”. Draw your child’s attention when you notice that he’s going though a certain feeling: “You seem happy about us going to grandparents”, “It seems that you are worried about tomorrow’s test”. One of the ways to help children recognise their emotions is to identify them aloud. This way children associate their emotions with the names of emotions.
Teach them emotion control strategies. Children’s emotional intelligence needs to be fostered throughout their childhood and adolescent years. They need to learn that they can’t hit or otherwise hurt others irrespective of whether they are angry or not. Instead, teach them ways to resolve conflicts and control their emotions when being overwhelmed. For example, you may encourage your child, when he feels something unpleasant, to have a break, change his environment, take a walk, find a remote place and calm down. It’s worth teaching how to deal with sadness. Children often have no idea what to do when they feel upset; that’s why they may become aggressive or seek attention from others through unacceptable ways. Look for solutions together: it could be drawing, reading a book or playing with a pet. You may share your experience: what you, as parents, do when you’re sad.
When a child makes a mistake, breaks something out of anger or gives up before reaching a goal – consider this an occasion as a lesson to learn what to do differently next time. For there will be numerous moments like this.
What are things you should never say to your child?
There are some things to refrain from saying out loud. Don’t forget that children learn about emotions when they see how their parents react to their moods. A child whose parents say: “Stop crying! Big boys don’t cry!’ learn that emotions should be hidden and supressed. It also happens that parents pay attention to their children’s anxiety by saying: ‘Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be worried about’. Children may then realise that their worries are trivial and insignificant. Although parents are trying to calm their children down, children learn how to hide their emotions.
When parents speak of emotions, they teach empathy. When they teach to recognise and express emotions, parents help to build strong foundations for psychological resilience. Those who understand their emotions and have skills to control and deal with them will be more confident in the future.
“Erudito licėjus” psychologist Rūta Žiaunienė
How to help teenager’s personality to grow: 4 possible strategies to resolve conflicts
Since the moment we are born we are “programmed” to grow and develop. Curiosity and exploration of what is interesting and new to us encourage us to develop. Growth, first of all, entails changes of the body when a baby becomes a child, then turns into a teenager and, finally, into an adult. The most interesting growth, however, is development of a personality. Briefly, the personality can be understood as the ways we respond to the environment and interact with other people. Each person has a unique and inimitable personality. This is why some people like voicing their thoughts and communicate a lot. Others, on the contrary, need silence, concentration and solitude. These differences make our communication fascinating, interesting and unpredictable but at the same time our dissimilarities create space for diverse misunderstandings and conflicts.
Personalities, like bodies, grow and are able to develop. Teenagers’ reactions, especially if we compare them with the child’s reactions, feature this personal growth when they understand why they sometimes feel the way they do much easier than the child does. In early years it’s difficult to understand, for example, how we become furious all of a sudden. But in adolescent years it becomes clearer what causes our anger, irritation or, on the contrary, extreme happiness. In teenage years we easily understand why other people’s feelings are completely different to what we feel. An integral part of personality development in teenagers is their need to know themselves and acknowledge their place in the world. Naturally, teenagers ask themselves: “What am I and how do I differ from others?”, “How do others see me?”, “What’s important to me?”. To satisfy this necessity teenagers need to belong to a group of peers where they can interact on equal terms. Where a child, who’s fun to play with, meets the criterion of a friend in childhood, the most significant criterion of friendship in teenage years is similar values, i.e. teenagers and their friends are bonded by similar hobbies because the values of friends’ groups are also similar. However, even being alike and bringing teenagers together, those values don’t protect them against conflicts and various misunderstandings. Teachers are people who encounter conflicts among the teenagers all the time. For a tremendous part of teen communication, including conflicts, takes part at schools or when dealing with the school-related issues. In fact, various misunderstandings accompany us throughout all our life. In early years, when children fall out with their friends, they usually look up to their parents for comfort, whereas in teen years, adolescents tend to resolve their conflicts on their own. The way they know it. At school, conflicts among teenagers are caused by a plethora of reasons, such as misunderstandings and miscommunication (lack of listening and communication skills); offended feelings, disappointment; inability to say what one wants; rivalry; inappropriate ways to resolve conflicts.
It’s important to understand that conflicts/misunderstandings are an inevitable part of communication between people. At the same time, they let out personalities grow and develop. When we encounter difficulties in communication, we, as adults, need to, first of all, learn how to properly react during conflicts. And then we need to help teenagers learn how to respond properly. According to clinical psychologist dr. Lisa Damour, teenagers (and adults) respond to communication conflicts in four different ways: as a bulldozer, doormat, doormat with spikes and pillar. A bulldozer participates in a conflict by diminishing and disregarding other people’s opinion, feelings and efforts. A doormat takes part in a conflict by letting other people disregard its opinion feelings and efforts. Whereas a doormat with spikes participates in a conflict by letting other people disregard its opinion, feelings and efforts but later on it takes revenge on those people who disregarded its opinion and feelings by employing cunning and, usually, covert tactics. Generally, this revenge takes place by involving third parties, playing the part of the victim or using guilt as a weapon. None of the three ways to participate in conflicts is healthy. Why? Because they neither make resolution of conflicts successful nor communication respectful in the future. Because they don’t help our personalities grow. Because they don’t teach us useful models of behaviour. Meanwhile, if we use a pillar response to a conflict, we’re able to express our opinion and feelings firmly and with respect instead of blaming others. At the same time, we respect opinions and feelings of other participants of the conflict. In conflict, it’s always worth to remember that a person we blame may only react in two ways – attack or cringe. In both cases, we won’t be able to have a constructive dialogue and/or find suitable ways to resolve conflicts.
How to help teenagers be pillars when resolving their conflicts? First of all, we, as adults, should have had tried this response to conflicts: teenagers as well as adults best learn through watching rather than through listening. When we, as adults, are pillars in conflicts, we, first of all, should pay attention to our own emotions, feelings and thoughts that we experience in conflicts. When we understand what we feel and think during conflicts, our verbal reactions should be focused on identifying our feelings and thoughts rather than on blaming another party to the conflict. For example, “I feel rejected when you make a decision without consulting me” or “I got confused when you interrupted me during my presentation because I was hoping you would listen to my opinion and I hope that we’ll respect each other even if we disagree with each other”.
When we teach teenagers how to be pillars, it’s particularly important to encourage them to remember most memorable or recent conflicts. When they do, it’s important to help teenagers recognise how they participate in conflict. If we together with our teens recognise that they are bulldozers, doormats or doormats with spikes in conflicts, let’s ask them to question themselves: “how do I benefit from being a … in a conflict?”. Generally, people, when asked a similar question, say “I feel better”. Then, we may ask them to imagine what they would feel if they used a pillar response to conflict, i.e. showed respect to themselves and others. Sometimes it’s easier to initiate changes by imagining them. Let’s help teenagers to imagine those changes by asking them: “when, in which circumstances, with which people it’s most likely for you to use a pillar response?” Let’s share our experiences, feelings and thoughts we deal with during conflicts. Let’s remember that teenagers understand both what they feel and what other people might feel. Finally, let’s encourage teenagers to try a pillar response because fostering skills takes practice. When we try out new, wise and useful things, we, as personalities, grow and develop.
By „Erudito licėjus” psychologist Virginija Rekienė
Children’s emotional well-being on the Internet – psychologist’s advice for turning risks into opportunities
The internet is an integral part of children’s life in the 21st century which has affected the ways children look for information, communicate, spend their free time, express themselves, play and learn. “Online risks for children’s psychological well-being are discussed more often and more widely than online opportunities; at the same time, we forget that encountering risks and tackling them successfully help children foster psychological resilience. However, both parents and teachers face challenges in assuring children’s emotional well-being,” says psychologist Virginija Rekienė from “Erudito licėjus”.
Today, new-borns enter the world full of digital technologies and they can’t imagine it being different. Their parents, however, didn’t have the Internet when they were children and when they think of online opportunities and risks, they naturally become worried whether such innovations are not harmful. The psychologist shares her insights and advice for how to identify the risks, help overcome them and ensure children’s emotional well-being.
What are statistical data of digital technologies and their use among children?
The world-wide number of children with home Internet access is constantly growing. In 2019, 90% of European Union households had access to the Internet (53% in 2007), and 82% had Internet access in Lithuania (in 2010 – 61%). Based on research, the average time spent online by 9- to 16-year-olds in the EU is 3 hours. In Lithuania, the average is very similar – 171 minutes.
According to V. Rekienė, the very first acquaintance with digital technologies occurs before the first birthday. “Little children use digital technologies for their own pleasure, they usually watch videos. They don’t care about devices – it could be tablets, TV sets, phones or computers. Yet, they understand perfectly that if the device is connected to the Internet, it provides the extensive range of video options,” says the psychologist from “Erudito Licėjus”.
The study published in 2020 revealed that 9- to 16-year-olds mostly spend their time online by watching videos, listening to music, playing games, visiting social media websites, and communicating with their families and friends.
How is children’s emotional well-being related to digital technologies?
The psychologist observes that children’s emotional well-being is an important component of children’s health. “Emotional well-being covers emotions that children feel, feeling of security and various personal problems they encounter. Children with a higher level of emotional well-being are more emotionally resilient, which means that they experience more pleasant emotions, such as happiness and joy, they are also better able to endure more difficult and complicated emotions, such as loss, sadness, anger and disappointment,” points out V. Rekienė.
She notes that the adults often enquire if children’s emotional well-being is not affected by digital technologies. “The media and some research communities still believe that smart phones are killing the entire generation. But studies and statistics show that children use digital technologies to relax, find sources of moral and social support, and maintain relationships, and all this is beneficial to children’s emotional health,” notes the psychologist.
Very often parents fear that their child spends too much time with digital technologies. V. Rekienė is convinced that it’s impossible to definitely say how many hours spent in front of the screens would be harmful. “It depends on every child and on a type of personality. When screen time interferes with other activities of the child, for example, when the child doesn’t leave the Internet even to satisfy the primary physiological needs, such as eating, or when torn away from digital technologies the child doesn’t engage in another activity – games, reading, being outdoors, it is a sign that the child spends too much time online,” warns the psychologist.
Online risks – how to avoid them?
Naturally, the more time is spent online, the more chances to face the risks. “Parents, school and community are mostly worried about what their children do online or, to be more precise, whether children do not face negative experiences online. These are experiences which make children anxious, annoyed, sad, worried, scared and uncomfortable,” says V. Rekienė. She notes that children who tend to be more vulnerable in real life are more vulnerable online as well.
The main risks existing on the Internet are advertisements, fake news, hidden marketing, harmful content, risk of being bullied, possibilities to meet people who are trying to use children and involve them in various unlawful activities; risks entail inappropriate use of personal data, likelihood of harmful advice related to suicide, eating disorders, etc.
The psychologist from “Erudito licėjus” notes that speaking of children’s use of digital technologies, the controversial position of the parents with respect to opportunities and threats of the digital world can’t go unnoticed. “Parents usually have two strategies for the use of digital technologies: allowing or restricting. Research showed that the selected strategy is related to digital literacy of the parents themselves: parents with higher digital literacy skills tend to provide their children with possibilities to use digital technologies, whereas parents which lower digital literacy skills tend to limit the possibilities to use the Internet”, says the psychologist.
According to the psychologist, studies confirm that the allowing strategy with moderate restriction is more efficient. This strategy allows the child to gain a more solid psychological resilience. Psychological resilience is an ability to successfully handle various difficulties under unfavourable conditions, learning to be critical about the risks, and assume responsibility for their consequences.
What should parents and teachers know?
V. Rekienė notes that children can also find a lot of opportunities on the Internet: information resources for learning, possibilities to contact other children sharing similar interests, share experiences and ideas, be involved in joint activities, express their civil position, create content, express their identity and look for ideas. Exploring the Internet, however, may not be left unattended.
The psychologist from “Erudito licėjus” points out that parents should be interest in their children and their online activities, and parents and teachers must be engaged in life-long learning. “Digital technologies belong to the fields which rapidly change; therefore, we need to follow all developments and not to lag behind. I sometimes meet parents who are proudly saying that they are not interest in social media and that this is an absolute nonsense. Actually, it’s a pity because this way they lose a chance to know the child’s world. It’s necessary to talk to children about the places online where they feel safe and get support, discuss the Internet security and dangers online, discuss actions to be taken when threats are encountered and notice things that children are worried about,” advises the psychologist.
Parents are responsible for initiating the rules for the use of digital technologies and ensuring that they are followed. “It’s important to have an agreement when and how the child can use digital technologies, for example, when all duties are performed and all homework is done. It’s useful to set the rules for when and under which circumstances the child cannot use digital technologies, for example, during meal time and an hour before going to bed,” says the psychologist.
She encourages to pay attention to situations when time spent online starts hindering the child’s routine. “This happens when children, when told that screen time is over, overreact and become furious and they are completely oblivious to the real world. We need to be careful: if children have difficulties in real life, they most probably will have them online as well. Most importantly, we need to teach them that the Internet is similar to life, both of them are full of good and bad things as well as useful and harmful ones,” emphasizes V. Rekienė, the psychologist from “Erudito licėjus”.
Tips for a constructive dialogue and how to be heard
Relationships between parents and their children can be very confusing and tense. Parents often criticise their children for being “insufficient”, they don’t listen to teenagers who are trying to say that they fell pressure and anxiety about their marks, appearance and hobbies. Psychologist Rūta Žiaunienė from the Erudito Licėjus says that most conflicts are invoked by differences in the values of parents and children. This time she’s on the side of young people and gives some tips for talking to parents. At the same time, she reminds the parents that the greatest gift that the parents can give to their children is freedom to be who they are and be appreciated for it.
Being a teenager
You are a teenager. Most likely you have some difficulties with your parents. They often criticize you for your marks being not good enough, that you don’t put enough effort when learning, even if you outperform most of your classmates. Sometimes parents are not happy with what you look like, they compare you with the children of their friends because they look like “normal children”. Sometimes you hear them saying that you are lazy because you spend much time in front of your computer and spend too little time outside.
When parents want you to “raise” your marks and you work on that, you hear them saying that you exercise too little and your physical activity is low. Sometimes they don’t notice that you have a lot of hobbies (you create videos, you have your own YouTube channel, you dance, sing, play football and do a lot of other things). You want to talk to your parents about the pressure your feel but you’re afraid they won’t understand you and will be even more angry with you? So, what should you do?
Why do parents act like that?
Parents truly believe that they just do their job – they are parents. If you ask them why they behave with you like this, they would probably say “because we love you so much”. Parents are convinced that good marks and physical activity are the foundations for your great future and happier life. They even think that their actions which you call pressure is well-wishing help and they would be confused if they find out that children don’t appreciate the parents’ attention they get. But they don’t realise that you don’t like this kind of love and affection, that it causes anxiety and keeps reminding you that you didn’t do enough. Instead of respecting your desire to do exactly what makes you happy, parents underestimate it and call it a waste of time. Sometimes you find yourself in a vicious circle: if you spend much time doing your homework, you don’t exercise enough, and if you move and do sports, you spend too little time for your homework.
Good news is that you don’t have to please your parents
You don’t need to get the highest marks and your body doesn’t have to be slim or muscular, your haircut doesn’t have to be perfect. A healthy person needs to learn how to like themselves rather than to be liked by their moms, dads, teachers and society which says what people should look like. You need to find out what’s important to you and refocus your energy. You need to care about balance rather than anxiety, you need to care about learning instead of marks, improvement instead of pursue of perfection, and beauty – the way you understand it and not how you’re supposed to understand it.
If you face similar difficulties, you need to know that maybe your parents experienced similar pressure. Your grandparents kept encouraging them to learn more and perform better instead of spending time doing “nothing”. Or maybe they kept ignoring them and your parents’ dream is to have had someone who had invested at least something in their success the way they invest in you by showing interest in your life.
If you feel anxious and stressed about scoring good marks, if you keep thinking that you are not enough, this won’t be the beginning of your successful life. If you always feel tension about your appearance, if you are always on a diet or, on the contrary, overexercise and feel exhausted, this isn’t what you wish for yourself.
A real conflict between you and your parents is not that you don’t stick to their rules but because your values are different. If you find it difficult to talk to your parents without voices raised or without interruptions, try to write them a letter.
How should you start a conversation or letter?
- You may say or write down that you appreciate their efforts when they care about your future, that you understand all this being for your own sake. You may explain that even if their goal is to bring you up and make your life full, the ways they are trying to do that won’t help achieve this goal.
- Tell them that you’re anxious not because you are underperforming, but because of their constant attention and pressure – this is exactly what makes learning difficult.
- Don’t be afraid to cite some studies which say that it is inner motivation (finding sense, inner desire to learn) and not external one (marks, parents’ acknowledgement) which has a greater impact on good results.
- When you speak of the comments about your appearance, tell them that you are happy about the way you look, you like your style and body, whereas their comments hurt you. You can also share that sometimes you feel that their love depends on what you look like, that you can earn their love only by looking the way they want you to.
- You may end your letter or conversation by explaining that the greatest gift they may give you is freedom to be what you are and be appreciated for it. You do the best you can, you have other activities and you value your free time. If you get your parents’ support, your relationships will only be stronger.
Let’s hope that your letter or conversation will help your parents understand you better and pay attention to the difficulties you deal with. If this doesn’t happen, you can always talk to a psychologist or another adult you trust. They will help you communicate with your parents. In any case, discovering your values and defending them is a great experience which will come in handy later.