Experts share

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!

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.

Looking ahead

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;
  • Creativity;
  • Collaboration;
  • Communication.

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 bulldozerdoormatdoormat 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 bulldozersdoormats 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.