How Can Pets Benefit Children’s Development?

We can all agree that most children love animals and find them to be lots of fun. Having a pet can enrich their young lives and provide them with a playmate they can enjoy whenever they like. Parents usually acquire pets for children to teach them some important values and lessons about responsibility, to love and care for other beings, and to help them develop companionship. As a matter of fact, households that have children are more likely to have pets, when compared to households without children. In the United States, in a survey that included families with young children, 76% were pet owners [1].

Did you know: Even Freud was interested in children’s relationships with animals after seeing their fascination with them. He noted that animals appeared frequently in the dreams of children, and he interpreted the animals as representations of powerful adults, such as parents, who were too threatening for the child to show up in their dreams [1].

But it’s not simply the ownership of a pet that is beneficial to children. What is crucial is their daily involvement in caring for and playing with a family pet, which can often vary as children become older and develop more substantial relationships with their peers. If a child is not especially fond of or interested in, let’s say, a pet fish they have at home, it’s hard to expect they will benefit from this kind of relationship in any way (such as cognitive, socio-emotional, or other).

That’s why it’s important to recognize that attachment to pets may have a much more beneficial effect on the development of children than mere ownership [2]. Some pets offer assistance, comfort, and protection, so children can sometimes view them as important as the people in their lives. Pets are especially valuable at those times when children have disrupted relationships with their parents or siblings (caused, for example, by divorce), when they can, in a way, assume the caregiver’s role. In this special kind of relationship, pets have the potential to promote healthy development of children in many different ways, which we’ll discuss next.

Cognitive Benefits

Motivation for learning. Some authors believe pets can even stimulate children’s cognitive growth through curiosity and learning. They are powerful motivators for learning because the children are emotionally connected to them [4]. For example, kids are more interested to learn about animal nutrition and health if that would mean knowing more about and understanding their own pet better.

Language. Pets may facilitate language learning in children because they serve as recipients of children’s babble, or their praise, encouragement, and punishment [3]. Also, pets are frequently the subject of children’s conversations with peers or parents, which can stimulate the development of their vocabulary as they try to come up with words to describe what the pet is doing [3].

Moral code. There’s also the argument that attachment to pets can help develop and foster children’s moral development, as they begin to reason what is morally “right” or “wrong” with respect to animals and their feelings and rights. In other words, they start to think about complex concepts such as justice, fairness, etc. [2].

Socio-Emotional Benefits

Responsibility. Pets are usually a lot of work, so parents should make sure that they don’t assume the bulk of the responsibility themselves, but rather give the children the responsibility of daily care. This teaches important lessons and can help them learn to manage their other commitments (e.g. finishing school tasks or household chores) in order to have time to take care of their pet. It boosts their accountability and leads them to feel more competent, as they learn that they are able to take care of another living creature without the help of the parent.

– Social competence. Pets are great catalysts for making new friends. Walking a dog in the park and meeting other children with pets, or showing their classmates their new pet turtle, can lead to making new friends or enhancing existing relationships. Psychologists believe that bonding with a pet “encourages healthy social development in terms of social competence, social networks, social interactions, social communication, empathy, and social play behavior, leading to higher age-adjusted developmental scores” [3].

Self-esteem. Children’s self-esteem tends to fluctuate, especially as they reach adolescence. Having a pet companion in this period of great turbulence can mean having an emotional and nonjudgmental support in whom they can confide, and who can make them feel less lonely and socially isolated. Research has shown that children who grew up with pets had higher levels of self-esteem and became more socially competent as adults than children who didn’t have a companion pet in their childhood [3].

Empathy and experience of loss. Children are usually the ones that are being taken care of by adults. Having a pet makes them a caretaker themselves. Feeding, grooming, and taking their pet for walks teaches them to recognize the importance of tending to the needs and desires of others. This can improve their self-awareness because children are able to better understand why they feel a certain way (e.g. they can realize that they, too, are pretty nervous and irritated when they haven’t eaten in a while). This way, they develop sensitivity for the feelings of others and non-verbal cues and learn about empathy first hand. What can be an especially valuable experience to young children is having to cope with their pet getting lost or dying. Experiencing the loss of a pet can help them cope with this kind of stress in the future as adults.

Benefits for Physical Activity

– Anything that can ensure children are not glued to the television set, computer, or their phones is welcome nowadays. Some research has indicated that children who own a dog are generally more physically active and are at lower risk of being overweight or obese than children who don’t own a pet. In other words, having a dog can facilitate active play and contribute to children being more physically active (e.g. talking the dog for a walk) [5].

A Few Guidelines for Parents

– Choosing the right pet for your children is very important. As we have already established, it’s not ownership of a pet that matters, it’s the attachment and connection we make to a pet that brings us the benefits of such a relationship. The most obvious choice is to get a dog or a cat, but there are other options to choose from. You should talk to your children and see what kind of animals they especially like, because that would raise the probability of their connecting to the pet and not getting bored with them after a few months.

– Some children, usually very young ones, aren’t mature enough to control their aggressive impulses, so you should monitor their play from time to time to check whether they are behaving appropriately towards pets.

– Young children will also need some growing up to do in order to take care of a large animal, such as a cat or a dog completely on their own. You should, of course, serve as a role model and show them how to properly do all the necessary things regarding taking care of a pet.

 Whether you already have a pet, or you intend to get one, make sure your children treat them the right way and that they have a loving relationship, so that they can reap all the benefits we discussed.

 References:

  1. Melson, G. F., & Fine, A. H. (2015). Animals in the lives of children. In Handbook on Animal-Assisted Therapy (Fourth Edition) (pp. 179-194).
  2. Hawkins, R. D., & Williams, J. M. (2017). Childhood attachment to pets: associations between pet attachment, attitudes to animals, compassion, and humane behavior. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(5), 490.
  3. Purewal, R., Christley, R., Kordas, K., Joinson, C., Meints, K., Gee, N., & Westgarth, C. (2017). Companion animals and child/adolescent development: a systematic review of the evidence. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(3), 234.
  4. Melson, G. F. (2003). Child development and the human-companion animal bond. American Behavioral Scientist, 47(1), 31-39.
  5. Martin, K. E., Wood, L., Christian, H., & Trapp, G. S. (2015). Not just “A Walking the Dog”: Dog walking and pet play and their association with recommended physical activity among adolescents. American Journal of Health Promotion, 29(6), 353-356.

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Talking to Your Child About Tragic Events

You turn on the TV in the morning and the first thing you hear about is another shooting. Unfortunately, this isn’t such a rare occurrence lately.  If you’re a parent, the first thought that comes to mind is probably “How will I explain this to my child” and this thought is even more concerning when you realize that you have to tell them about something we as adults can’t fully grasp ourselves.

When faced with this question, many parents’ first instinct is to shield their children. Turn that TV off, hide the newspapers, even go out somewhere where the chance of hearing bad news is close to zero. This is especially true if you have a young child who still doesn’t have their own way of hearing about what’s going on in the world on a daily basis. But our first instincts are not always right and, in fact, we may be doing more harm than good by shielding our children.

The truth is, in today’s world it’s almost impossible to hide something from your child, no matter how young they are. Sooner or later, they ’ll hear about whatever tragic event you are trying to hide from them, and they won’t know how to make sense of it. Hearing about these events accidentally from strangers will most likely make them feel less safe than if you’d explained what happened and talked with them about it.

It’s also crucial to talk with children about these events because they often occur due to discrimination or hatred towards a particular group of people. In choosing not to tell our children about this, we raise them to be insensitive to many of the problems people face and they’re more likely to dismiss the complaints of minority and discriminated groups, simply because they were never exposed to these challenges themselves. We, instead,  are raising them under a generic umbrella statement parents often use “We are all equal”. Parents usually mean this and want to teach their children about the importance of equality and inclusion. But the consequences of not facing reality can mean that when your child learns about Charlottesville or events similar to this, they react with “But we are all equal” confusion. By talking about events such as Charlottesville or the more recent Florida school shooting, and the motives behind them, we’re teaching our children to be more sensitive to complicated issues, and more conscious about the world they live in. Honest and thought-out conversations are more likely to make our children able to understand morally complex issues than blanket statements that can lose all meaning as soon as something unexpected happens.

Raising more conscious children, together with making them feel as safe as possible when these events occur, is why we should try to fight the urge to turn off the TV and engage in an honest talk with our child instead. Of course, how we approach these topics depends on the children’s age, too. It’s extremely important to discuss such events in an age-appropriate way.

Talking with Younger Children

  1. NEWS OFF, TALK ON

Even though we said you should resist the urge to turn off the TV, if you’re the parent of a younger child, turning off all media outlets isn’t such a bad idea –  but this doesn’t mean you should pretend that nothing tragic ever happens. Constant exposure to news might be too much to handle for your young child and might be too confusing, especially if they hear reports from different sources or if investigations are ongoing. Instead of having the news running, sit down with your child and tell them what happened. There’s no need to be too graphic, but try not to beat around the bush when it comes to the more difficult parts of the story. There might be a need to explain the concept of death in these situations. Explain it.

  1. LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY

If you weren’t with your child when they first heard the news, ask them what they heard and what that means to them, and listen to everything they have to say without interrupting them. This will help you realize how your child is processing the event and give you guidelines on what to talk about with them. Don’t hesitate to try to explain the motives behind some of these crimes in a language they’ll understand, especially if they ask why somebody committed them. But, since these events are usually hard to grasp even for adults, don’t feel like you need to give an answer to every question. If you don’t know something, it’s okay to say that you don’t know it. Even if your child is young, they might surprise you by how much they actually understand about the world.

  1. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS

Parents usually don’t want their children to see them as vulnerable, but it’s important to show children that these events are upsetting to adults as well. By sharing our feelings, we also validate their own feelings and give them a chance to see that we can carry on even if we feel upset and these events make us worry. Talk with your child about how they feel and make sure that they know you understand and acknowledge their feelings.

  1. REASSURE

When these tragic events happen, as well as considering how to shield our children from the news, we also think about how to reassure them if they do hear about them. Reassuring is actually an important part of talking about these things. Make sure that your child knows that you will do everything in your power to keep them safe, that they know you are there for them and that they are loved. In the end, it always boils down to this.

Talking with Teens

All the tips above apply equally to talking with your teen, but there are also some specific things you can cover when talking with adolescents about tragic events, especially those involving their peers, such as the school shootings.

  1. DISCUSS THE EVENT ONLY IF THEY WANT TO

Instead of pushing your teen to talk about a certain event right then and there, give them some time to process it and let them come to you when they’re ready to talk about it. If they never want to talk about it, that’s fine, too. They might have their own ways of coping with it or the event didn’t affect them as much as you thought it did.

Make sure they know you’re available to discuss the event and all that it entails with them, and that you won’t judge them no matter how they feel or think about it. Also, don’t treat them like children. Of course, you should be mindful of their age, but don’t try to shield them from everything and don’t shy away from complicated topics. They probably already read a lot about it in the media, and it’s much better they talk it over with you than to read comments on the Internet.

If you see that they want to learn more about a certain issue or event, try to find some books they could read that cover a similar issue. You can even read them together and discuss them.

 

  1. ENCOURAGE THEM TO TAKE ACTION IF THEY WANT TO

If you notice that your teen wants to do something about what happened, be sure to let them know that there are things they can do and that they shouldn’t feel like they can’t help or that the situation is beyond help and hopeless. You can encourage them to go online and find causes they can volunteer for, or think about what they like doing and try to figure out how that can be used to help the cause. For instance, if your teen likes writing and wants to stop gun violence, you can encourage them to learn more about it and write a blog, or get their friends to work on the blog together. If they enjoy drawing and/or graphic design, they could help various organizations create slogans and leaflets. And if they’re more interested in the tech side of things, they could even work on an app that would show where organizations that help prevent gun violence are located or who to contact if you need help. The options are endless!

In March, 17 people were killed in a Florida high school and many students wanted to do something about it, so a National School Walkout was organized and students went to the streets to protest gun violence. If your child wants to participate in a peaceful protest like this one and you think they’re mature enough to do it, don’t be afraid to let them fight for their rights. They can only become responsible citizens if they are aware of the world around them and aware of the fact that they count and can help make changes.

Last but not least, and this applies to children of all ages, be sure to keep track of how they are behaving. If you see that they are more agitated than they used to be or can’t sleep well, talk to them about it. If they are quiet and withdrawn, try to find out how they feel and if there is something they’d like to share. It is normal that their behavior is unusual when something tragic happens, but it is of extreme importance to make sure that they don’t feel alone or scared and that they feel protected. And if you think your child took it pretty hard and you don’t know how to handle it, don’t hesitate to contact a professional who will know how best to guide your child to overcome their challenge.

 

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The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: You Create Your Future

If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right. – Henry Ford

Have you ever studied for a test and thought to yourself: This is too difficult, I’m not going to pass this test and exactly that happened – you failed? In that moment, you probably concluded you were right. But why was it that your prediction was proven correct? The answer to that question is the self-fulfilling prophecy.

What is the self-fulfilling prophecy?

A self-fulfilling prophecy is simply the physical outcome of a situation being influenced by our thinking. It can be both positive and negative [2, 3]. This phenomenon describes how our identity shapes how we act and communicate. We’ll explain it this way…

Studying for the test

Let’s say a student is facing that test we mentioned. He’s anxious and is convinced he’s destined to fail. So he spends more time worrying than studying. He may also procrastinate – hang out, watch movies, text, etc. Yet he probably thinks he studied the whole day. He does poorly in the exam, a consequence of the negative thinking that interfered with his studying – thus, a self-fulfilling prophecy..

So, now let’s imagine the same test scenario, but this time the student predicts he’s going to pass the test with flying colors. He’s really focused on studying, puts in the necessary effort, and doesn’t procrastinate.  He may even ask a friend for help if he needs it. He passes the test and gets an A!  Here we have a different thinking pattern, with consequent actions and a positive outcome.

These may be extreme examples, but each reflects the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy. So now we can see that a self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or expectation that comes true simply because one acts as if it were true [1]. However, not only do we ourselves buy into the expectation that makes us act in a certain way, so do the people with whom we communicate.

The self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle

Have you ever been invited to a party you didn’t want to go to because you expected to have a terrible time? If you were, is it possible that your prediction of having a very bad time increased the likelihood of its occurrence?

Imagine this prophecy as a cycle with five basic steps [1]:

  1. You form expectations of yourself, others, or events – for example, you may think – Emma won’t like me.
  2. You express those expectations verbally or nonverbally – so I`ll keep my distance from her.
  3. Others adjust their behavior and communication to match your messages – Emma thinks you’re convinced that you`re superior and decided not to talk to you.
  4. Your expectations become reality – you may conclude that Emma actually doesn’t like you.
  5. The confirmation strengthens your belief – every time you see Emma, you’re reminded that she doesn’t like you.

Feeling bad and unlikable is an unwelcome outcome, but it doesn’t have to be like this! More positive beliefs that lead to different behaviors could bring about the desired outcome.

Now, let’s imagine a positive self-fulfilling-prophecy cycle. You can’t wait to go to a friend’s party. There is Emma and you hope she’ll like you. When you see her, you approach her and make small talk. Emma is having fun and thinks that you’re interesting. You see that she likes you and you’ll be happy to meet up with her again.

How to break the cycle of the negative self-fulfilling prophecy

The cycle of the self-fulfilling prophecy frequently has an unfavorable outcome, but that isn’t always the case. Some people use it to their own advantage [2, 3]. Here are some ways to break a negative, vicious cycle and create a positive one.

Be aware of the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now that you know how our expectations can impact our behavior and that of those around us, you should keep that in mind in both your self-talk and when you talk to others.

Change your beliefs.

You are your own ego breaker or maker. Break with old ways of thinking and update the way you think about yourself. Replace negative self-talk and upsetting mental pictures with objectively more accurate expectations. Practice your positive self-talk, be optimistic about yourself and your performance!

Work on your self-esteem.

When we have low self-esteem we may have lower expectations than what is reasonable. If we think we’ll fail, it might seem outlandish to believe we could pass a test, but that’s exactly why we need to adjust our thinking. Focus on who you want to be/what you want to do, and not on your current expectations.

Fake it.

In the beginning, if you’re struggling with negative thoughts, just fake it – fake it until you make it. As you practice positive thinking, your behavior will change as well. Remember that making this change may be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you’re being less yourself. It’s not an all-or-nothing thing –  you’re just adjusting your behavior to match your values.

Change your language.

Try to avoid using absolute words such as never, always, I can`t, and hate. Vicious cycles usually include those words. Instead, replace them with neutral or positive words and phrases, such as I`ll give it my best. Thus, instead of thinking negative thoughts, say to yourself I can do this.

Surround yourself with people who believe in you.

How others treat us influences the person we think we are. Choose the people you surround yourself with. Over time, they will convince you and a magical process of fulfilling these expectations will be launched.

Take your time.

Changing your thought patterns is a process which takes a lot of time, consistency, and persistence. Be patient with yourself! When you recognize an unproductive thought pattern, stop, re-group, and begin again.

References:

[1] Gamble, T. K., & Gamble, M. W. (2013). Interpersonal communication: Building connections together. Sage Publications.

[2] Merton, R. K. (1948). The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. The Antioch Review,8(2), 193-208. doi:10.2307/4609267

[3] Merton, R. K (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. New York: Free Press.

 

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Choosing Your Future Self: How to Decide which Career is Right for You

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

We all heard this question when we were kids. Back then, we’d say things like – Astronaut! or Dinosaur finder! or Pilot! When we’re that young, we don’t think about any obstacles we might face, such as student loans, the effort it will take, or the kind of money we’ll make. We simply follow our passion and believe nothing will stop us from succeeding.

Then, as we move through adolescence, we start questioning everything, including ourselves. “What am I good at?” “What do I value?” and, finally, the big question: “What do I want to do for the rest of my life?”

This article is here to guide you towards choosing the best path for yourself, whether you’re approaching college, you’re still a few years from it, or if you’re wondering about your true calling.

We’ll start with a couple of stumbling blocks people tend to come up against as they try to figure out what it is they want to do in life. After listing each, we’ll offer some tips to help you get past them.

Gender Stereotypes

If you’re a boy, you might be dreaming of playing soccer professionally, or being a programmer. If you are a girl, though, the picture is very different – you might want to become a nurse or a teacher. Although we’re living in the 21st century, there’s still a lot of imbalance when it comes to gender. Certain jobs are still looked upon as masculine – programming being the clearest example, while many jobs involving direct communication with people (and especially children) are considered feminine [1]. So from a very early age, grownups tend to tell us that males are naturally inclined towards sports and math, while girls are more attuned to taking care of others. Due to this imbalance, if you’re a girl but feel that programming is your passion, the people around you might not be understanding of it. Similarly, if your dream is to become a teacher but you’re a boy, the adults in your life (and even your peers) might poke fun at you instead of supporting you.

What’s the solution here? Ask yourself – “What’s more important to me, following my heart and my passion or letting others put obstacles in my way?”  To help inspire you, here’s a list of five brilliant female programmers. We need to be aware of stereotypes in order to break them. So the next time someone mentions that coding isn’t for girls, show them this list – they might realize they’re being foolish.  And, guys, if you’re told dancing is for girls, draw their attention to one of these men – it might change their minds!

Passion vs. Ability – I Want vs. I Can

Some of you might be really passionate about something, but feel like you’re lacking the ability necessary to master it and work in that field. The harsh truth is that just because we’re interested in something doesn’t mean learning it will come easily. It will, however, mean that you’ll have a lot more motivation to study it until you perfect it. Take me for example: I really, really wanted to major in psychology. Despite that, it took me six months to prepare 250 pages for the test. Meanwhile, my friend studied it for two weeks and managed to get a better result than me! But fast forward five years, I graduated with an average grade of 3.56 – and all because I was so passionate about it that I decided I would study as much as necessary to graduate.

Some other (research-based) good news is – you’ll do as well as you believe you will do. In psychology, there’s something called self-efficacy beliefs [1]. Those are the beliefs you have about your own ability to succeed in a certain area, and studies show that those beliefs do not have to correspond to your actual abilities! It means that your C’s in science might be the result of test anxiety or low self-esteem more than your actual ability. If you make yourself believe that you won’t get a good grade, you’re blocking yourself from giving 100% effort.

But there’s even better news! People whose self-efficacy beliefs are higher than their actual efficacy tend to perform better than we’d expect based on their abilities only. So, as cheesy as it sounds, science says that if you believe in yourself, your results will be better than if you doubt yourself all the time. The conclusion here is: follow your passion and believe in yourself, because it will give you a lot of motivation to put in the necessary effort. And never forget – effort is what counts in the end!

I Haven’t The Slightest Idea What I Want To Do

Explore! [3][4]. There are jobs out there that you wouldn’t believe are real. We tend to think in terms of what we’re most familiar with, so you might be thinking: I don’t want to be a businessman, an engineer, or a doctor, so what can I be? For starters, here’s a list of a huge number of professions you can choose from. You can also talk to your school counselor. They can point you in the right direction to help you discover what kind of job would best fit you.

If that helps narrow it down, great! But if you still have some doubts, try picturing your ideal self 20 years from now. Imagine your average day. You’re waking up. What does your bedroom look like? What do you eat for breakfast? Do you have a family? How many people are there? As you’re preparing to go to work, what are you wearing and where are you going? Are you sitting at home, preparing to open a laptop, or are you going towards your car to drive to your personal office on the 20th floor? Imagining your future helps you discover thoughts, ideas, and wishes you didn’t know you had, because you were too busy worrying and wondering.

The final step is to put it all together. What kind of job are you doing in the future to allow you to have the life you just imagined? The answer to this question – or something similar (check out the list again), might be the best possible profession for you.

I Have More Than One Passion

Quite the opposite from the last issue we discussed, in this scenario the problem is having too many options. We wouldn’t say it’s a problem so much as a blessing! You’re a lively, interested person and you want to live life to the fullest. The good thing is, you can – without needing to have three majors. We live in a time when everything is easily accessible to everyone. Follow the advice from the last section to choose which profession interests you the most. And now that you have your major, there’s no reason to focus on that alone. You can always find a course (physical or online), read books, or find apps that can help you learn a lot about your second (or even third) choice. When I was 17, I wanted to major in psychology – but then again, I always wanted to study languages, too! After a month or so of going back and forth, I decided to major in psychology while studying languages in my free time. Today, I want to thank Duolingo for teaching me Spanish, German, and a couple of greetings in Scandinavian languages.

The Most Important Advice

We’ve mentioned this already, but the best thing you can do to decide on your future is explore! Find books about professions that interest you, attend lectures, find Youtube videos, ask people around you who are happy with their professions what helped them choose. It’s a difficult thing – suddenly deciding what you want to be in a couple of years. Just keep these things in mind: explore, follow your passion, think about your values and what kind of job fits them best. And if you have an issue that we haven’t mentioned here, feel free to book a free consultation with one of our Coaches – they’ll be sure to help put your mind at ease!

 

References:

  1. Brown, D. (2002). Career Choice and Development. Published By Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company, 989 Market Street, San Francisco.
  2. Dick, T. & Rallis, S. (1991). Factors and Influences on High School Students’ Career Choices. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education,  Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 281-292
  3. Gati, I. & Saka, N. (2001). High-School Students’ Career-Related Decision Making  Difficulties. Journal of Counseling and Development, Vol. 79, pp. 331-340.
  4. Hirschi, A., & Läge, D. (2007). The Relation of Secondary Student’s Career Choice Readiness to a Six-Phase Model of Career Decision-Making. Journal of Career Development, Vol. 34, No.2, pp.164-191

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Raising an Honest Child

Honesty is something children learn and develop during their early years. All children lie at some point in childhood, so it’s important for parents to learn to distinguish between different kinds of lies and understand that there are different reasons why children lie. Not all lies are equally bad or have the same consequences. Parents play an important role in guiding and directing this kind of behavior, so they need to be well equipped and familiarized with the issue in order to act appropriately and help their children be more consistently honest.

Why Do Kids Lie?

There are numerous reasons why a child would tell a lie in a social situation. It may be to avoid or escape imminent punishment (“I didn’t break the vase!”), or to obtain material benefits (“I ate my soup, can I have a dessert now?”) [1]. It may be that they’re not honest for an entirely different reason – they lie to get out of doing something they don’t want to do (e.g. homework), or because they’re just mirroring what adults around them are doing, or perhaps they’re not old enough to know the difference between truth and a lie. Furthermore, children with low self-esteem may lie to impress others in order to feel more secure about themselves, or in general, to get attention.

Learning the Difference Between Lies

In the first few years of life, children may indicate or say things that aren’t true. These should not be taken as lies, but rather as mistakes, since the child does not yet fully understand the difference between what is the truth and what is not. Their “lies” can be seen as a product of their not differentiating fantasy or wishful thinking from reality. Lying in early childhood is related to adaptive cognitive and social functioning – so it’s pretty normal for young kids to lie – but it can become a problem behavior as they reach late childhood and adolescence [1].

When a child’s brain develops enough to distinguish imagination from reality, they start to use lies purposefully in order to obtain different goals. Researchers have found that children’s lying progresses through three levels [1,2]:

  1. Primary lies begin at 2-3 years of age when children learn to deliberately make untrue statements. These falsehoods are not that frequent and are usually told to avoid getting into trouble after violating a rule. Such early falsehoods may be a rudimentary form of intentional verbal deception, but children more often than not confess their transgression when asked about it by adults.
  2. Secondary lies reflect a significant shift that takes place between 3 and 4 years of age. During this period, the majority of children will readily tell a lie to conceal their own transgression but are not yet completely capable of making a lie consistent. Their deception is usually easily detected by adults. At this age, children also start to lie to be polite, to benefit someone else, etc.
  3. Tertiary lies emerge around 7 to 8 years of age. Children’s lies become more sophisticated and well controlled, and they seem more plausible. A child will tell a lie and make sure their subsequent statements don’t contradict the initial lie, which makes it difficult for other people to tell the difference between the lie and the truth.

As we can see, lying by using deception to avoid negative consequences, such as punishment, develops prior to the ability to lie in a socially appropriate and effective way [1]. There is an important difference to bear in mind between the two [1]:

  1. Antisocial lies, or “self-serving” lies, are motivated by self-interest and are used to avoid punishment, or even to harm others. Their occurrence at an early age is important because it shows that children are able to grasp that their deeds and thoughts are not evident to others. In other words, antisocial lies imply that a child has developed a sense of self and has a rudimentary understanding of the mental states of others (e.g., Mom will be angry if she knows I did something wrong).
  2. Prosocial lies, more often called “white lies”, are positively and socially motivated and are told without malicious intent. For example, children can lie about enjoying a meal their friend’s parents have made, because they don’t want to hurt their feelings. Knowing when to tell a white lie is an important skill in life. There are situations where it’s not OK to simply tell the truth because it can unnecessarily hurt someone’s feelings. Of course, this doesn’t mean people should always lie to avoid hurting someone.

Parents need to take into account circumstances that lead to children’s dishonesty so that they can properly respond to these kinds of behavior. Lying to gain some benefit is not the same as lying to make someone feel better. If the lies are well intended and are prosocial, there’s not much a parent should do, except try to show the child that there are other responses that are both kind and truthful. This can be done by modeling their responses to others so the child can see it can be done. These responses are, however, not easy to come up with, so it’s completely OK for parents to sometimes just acknowledge the prosocial lie and thank the child for trying to make them or others feel better.

On the other hand, when faced with more serious lies on a regular basis, parents need to act and correct this kind of behavior in their child.

What Can Parents Do About Lying?

Point out the lie. If a young child is making up stories and telling tales that are obviously not true, try pointing out this behavior and ask them to try and tell the story again. They must learn that other people can tell if they’re being dishonest, and that they can’t get away with lying without anyone noticing [3].

Teach them that truth always finds a way. Explain to them that lies are difficult to hide, as they will eventually come out in the open. This can often be seen as a take-away message in cartoons, movies, books, etc. and when that happens, be quick to point out that lying didn’t quite turn out be useful in the end.

Introduce some consequences for lying. For example, if a child lied about not having any homework and went out to play, and you find out they actually did have homework, you should let them know there will be repercussions for this behavior, and make sure they sit down and do all the required work. On the other hand, it’s crucial that the consequence is something short-lived, that it only serves to remind them that this behavior is not desirable, so they can get back to practicing honesty [3].

Rather than focusing on undesirable behavior, it’s better to focus on encouraging the positive. That’s why we’ll also discuss some ways to encourage honesty in your children.

How to Encourage Honesty

Make them confess a transgression indirectly. Never call your child a liar. To avoid a showdown with your children, rather than asking them directly if they’ve broken the lamp, you should try saying “Look, my lamp got broken”. The idea is not to make them feel accused of the crime and cornered, but instead give them space to come clean about it themselves, without pushing them into it (such as by saying “Did you have anything to do with my lamp being broken?”) [3].

Be a role model. As with any kind of behavior, children learn by watching their parents. If you want your children to be honest, then you have to be honest – with them as well as with others. For example, make them know it’s better to openly say you don’t feel like doing something than coming up with excuses. Children have to feel comfortable talking to you without having to conceal anything, regardless of the consequences, and the only way to accomplish this is for you to be honest with them, too.

Appreciate their honesty. When a child comes clean about doing something wrong, besides telling them there will be consequences, be sure to praise them for their honesty. If a transgression isn’t too serious, you should relieve them of consequences and let them know that’s their reward for being honest. Also, explain to them why it’s important to tell the truth. Friends and family members should trust one another and you can’t build a relationship based on lies.

It’s important to once again acknowledge that all children lie, but some of them do it chronically (and for no reason), which can become a serious problem as they grow up. If your child manifests this kind of negative behavior, you should think about talking to a professional about it. Here at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring we have amazing coaches who can help you define the specific problem and help get your child through it.

References:

  1. Talwar, V., & Crossman, A. (2011). From little white lies to filthy liars: The evolution of honesty and deception in young children. In Advances in child development and behavior (Vol. 40, pp. 139-179). JAI.
  2. Talwar, V., & Lee, K. (2008). Social and cognitive correlates of children’s lying behavior. Child development, 79(4), 866-881.
  3. https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-lie/

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Where’s My Motivation? How to Motivate Yourself to Study

Motivation used to be easier to find when there was no internet to abet our procrastination, don’t you think?  We Millennials and Generation Zs have been dealing with two big issues for quite some time now. And through no fault of our own! How are we supposed to resist the perks of modern times? These two very related issues are, as you might have guessed already, beating procrastination and finding motivation. These terms might sound like synonyms, but the truth is you can beat procrastination by forcing yourself to do something without necessarily seeing the point of it. Finding the motivation for it, however, will make you into a much better learner. A person who’s motivated will learn more and understand the material much better than someone who has no idea why they’re studying, but is convincing themselves they should.

Let’s define procrastination as “the lack or absence of self-regulated performance and the tendency to put off or completely avoid an activity under one’s control” [4]. In other words – you’re able to do something – finish your homework, prepare for an exam, or simply clean your room. You know you should definitely do it – but you’re avoiding doing it for different reasons that we’ll talk about later. On the other hand, motivation is “the force that drives a person to engage in activities” [2] – aka, your strongest weapon when it comes to overcoming procrastination.

Now, an article titled “How to Motivate Yourself to Study” might sound like the magic solution to procrastination: (“You mean, I’m finally going to stop checking Instagram instead of writing that essay?!”)

Alas, there aren’t any magic solutions, but what I can offer you here are some tips to first recognize what exactly is making your motivation so low and then how you can try to best solve the problem according to your own individual personality.

So, if you’re determined to overcome your procrastination through some reading and planning, you’ve come to the right place.

Why, Oh Why, Am I Procrastinating?

In order to answer this all-important question, let’s first discuss why people study to begin with.

There are a couple of different goals that people hope to achieve through studying. Some have a mastery-approach goal orientation [1]. This means that they study because they find the topic interesting and they want to learn as much as possible about it. These people often experience the state of flow – the feeling of being so interested in an activity that you lose track of time, space, and your mother calling you to dinner for the third time in the last five minutes.

Others have a different idea and thus foster a performance-approach goal orientation [8]. They may not be interested in the topic itself, but they like to shine in front of others – they want to show off their ability and results.

Now, both of these approaches are positive as they’ll ensure that you’ll have the necessary motivation to study. However, with the first one, people tend to enjoy the process of studying, while the second one may produce anxiety [5]. We’ll come back to that later, but first, let’s talk about some of the more negative approaches to studying.

Where The Dark Approaches Dwell

Some students nurture avoidance orientation, and that’s where procrastination comes knocking. Whether it’s about mastery-avoidance or performance-avoidance, the idea is similar: avoid accomplishing too little – failing (which can sometimes be avoided in ways other than studying extensively), or avoid spending a lot of time studying only to realize you haven’t learned as much as you wanted to [8]. These students have a fear of failure that can produce two different (both negative) outcomes – anxiety and self-handicapping.

Some will try their best not to fail, being anxious and fearful all the time, checking their notebook in the middle of the night because they believe they’ve skipped over something and they won’t succeed on their test.

Others will fear failure so much that they’ll resort to self-handicapping [8]. They set up external barriers for themselves as justifications for failing. If you’re this kind of student, your thought process will go something along the lines of: “I’ll definitely fail. But if I fail due to the lack of ability or effort, I’ll be so ashamed and everyone will be disappointed in me. However, if I fail because the tasks were too difficult or because the teacher just doesn’t like me, or because I’m bothered by the constant chatter in the library when I try to study, it’s not up to me, right? And if it’s not my fault, I’ll feel much better about it.”

Now that we understand motivation and procrastination a little bit better, let’s go to everyone’s favorite part: tips on how to overcome it!

Finding Your Ideal Approach

In order to increase our motivation, it’s sometimes necessary to take a look at our reasons for procrastinating.  We’re going to list a couple of common reasons for the lack of motivation, and after each, some questions you can ask yourself in order to determine whether that’s the cause of your procrastination. Next will be some tips on how to overcome those specific issues. Buckle up, procrastinators, here we go!

  1. My fear of failure gives me anxiety. (Am I afraid of failing?  Do I get anxious when I study?)

Being anxious is no walk in the park. However, to a certain degree, anxiety can be motivational; we call this type facilitating anxiety [3]. If you think “I don’t want to fail, I’d better start studying!”, that’s not a bad start to having healthy motivation. But the other type – debilitating anxiety – is the one that troubles many students [3]. The thought process here is different: “I’m going to fail. I don’t understand anything, I don’t know anything, I’m a good-for-nothing failure!” Such thinking makes it difficult to focus on the human anatomy or Einstein’s laws of physics, doesn’t it?

The root of these thoughts are the avoidance approaches we mentioned before. Instead of trying not to fail, you should decide to try to achieve something. The stakes are higher, sure, but the results – and the process itself – are going to make your life a lot easier. So the next time you recognize those debilitating thoughts, get out a piece of paper right there and then and write down three goals for your study sessions. Make them both short-term and long-term, and, most importantly, make them sound positive. For example, write down: “Read 20 pages by 8pm today, finish chapter 3 by 7pm tomorrow, go over it once more by Wednesday at 7pm.” Then get some rest the day before the exam – go for coffee with friends or finish that comic book you never have time for. The important thing is: make your goals as measurable and clear as possible [4]. Focusing on your goals instead of the outcomes may make your life a bit easier.

If you do suffer from debilitating anxiety and don’t think you can deal with it alone, talk to someone. You can even schedule a free consultation with one of our Coaches.

  1. “I just don’t have it in me. I’ll never understand math.” (Do I believe that I’m not capable of understanding this subject no matter how much I study?)

This was me in high school (guilty as charged!) until I came to the quite reasonable realization that different people are talented in different things. As for me, I always did well in physics, but simply couldn’t understand the logic of math. How did I get through it? By understanding that just because I’ll need three weeks to prepare for my math exam and that other kid from class will only need three days doesn’t make me stupid or a failure – it simply proves that we’re not all built the same.

Most people have a certain self-serving bias wherein they believe that successes come from inside them, while something outside of them is to blame for their failures [2]. This is why we tend to say that we got an A in history because we studied, but got an F in math because the exam was too difficult [1] [6]. This way we protect the positive image we have about ourselves, but we lose any and all motivation to study certain subjects.

Now let’s imagine you spend the next three weeks preparing for that test instead of giving up right away. Two things could happen: you could succeed, or you could fail. If you succeed, imagine the pride you’ll feel for, essentially, being better than your past self. And if you fail, you’ll know you gave it your all, and you can’t really blame yourself for not being talented in everything, right?

But to be fair, whenever I spent that much time preparing for math exams that I “just didn’t get”, I never once failed them – not because I discovered some hidden talent for math, but because effort is what counts in the end. And there’s also something called self-efficacy beliefs: it turns out that we can do much more if we believe we’re capable of doing it [6].

  1. Nothing interests me. (Do I find anything interesting at all when it comes to this subject?)

This is a tough one. As we mentioned before, having an interest in something makes it a lot easier to sit down and study. But all is not lost! If you lack interest inside yourself, you need to find it outside of yourself. Do you like to brag and be the best? Use that to make the subject more interesting for yourself. If that doesn’t interest you either, we have something else in mind for you, which is:

Find your routine.

Nothing kills motivation faster than having no plan whatsoever [3]. It’s easy to convince yourself that you’ll study as soon as you finish watching that video, isn’t it? But if you have a whole day planned: what time you get up, what time you exercise, what time you study – postponing things becomes a little bit more difficult. To make the plan even more bulletproof, use one of our previous tips: set clear and measurable goals. That way, if you’ve been on Facebook for 15 minutes while your “read 20 pages” time is getting shorter, you might start feeling a little bit guilty. If you don’t believe you’ve got that much self-discipline, ask someone to help you – like a motivation-buddy of sorts. Make sure they know your schedule and remind you to study. Better yet, you can study together: just make sure they’re not the procrastinating type! And while we’re on group sessions…

  1. I don’t have the discipline.”  (Do I believe that I can’t, for the life of me, convince myself to study for more than X minutes at a time?)

Good job on recognizing that – you’re on the right track! Now I’ll let you in on a secret not many people will tell you: having group study sessions doesn’t mean you’ll just be gossiping and wasting your time! Of course, you’ll need to find someone who’s not a procrastinator, and you’ll need to have a clear plan for studying, such as: finish 30 questions, have a 15-minute break. The thing is, some people find it easier to motivate themselves to study (alone), but others thrive in groups [7]. They find it easier to study if they can talk to people while they’re doing so; the sense of togetherness gives them motivation. It’s all about the learning style that fits you best.

I hope you found these tips useful! Once you discover how to motivate yourself, you’ll find many things much easier to tackle and will procrastinate less. And if you came to this article procrastinating, then I also hope you could recognize yourself in some of these thoughts and will be on your way to preparing for that exam. Good luck!

 

References:

 

  1.      Ames, C., & Archer, J. (1988). Achievement Goals in the Classroom: Students’ Learning Strategies and Motivation Processes. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 80, No.3, pp. 260-267.
  2.   Brownlow, S., & Reasinger, R.D. (2000). Putting off  Until Tomorrow What is Better Done Today: Academic Procrastination as a Function of Motivation Toward College Work. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, Vol. 15, No. 5, pp. 15-34.
  3.   Entwistle, N.J., Thompson, J. & Wilson, J.D. (1974). Motivation and Study Habits. Higher Education, Vol. 3, pp. 379-396.
  4.      Lee, E. (2005). The Relationship of Motivation and Flow Experience to Academic Procrastination in University Students. The Journal of Genetic Psychology, Vol. 166, No.1, pp. 5-14.
  5.      Linnenbrinck, E. (2005). The Dilemma of Performance-Approach Goals: The Use of Multiple Goal Contexts to Promote Students’ Motivation and Learning. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 97, No. 2, pp. 197-213.
  6.   Pajares, F. (1995). Self-Efficacy in Academic Settings. Paper presented at a symposium held during the meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Francisco.
  7.   Weiler, A. (2004). Information-Seeking Behavior in Generation Y Students: Motivation, Critical Thinking, and Learning Theory. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Vol. 31, No. 1, pp 46–53
  8.      Wolters, C. (2004). Advancing Achievement Goal Theory: Using Goal Structures and Goal Orientations to Predict Students’ Motivation, Cognition, and Achievement. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 96, No. 2, pp. 236-250.

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Books About Girls

The benefits of reading to children are well known – from their earliest years, it helps improve their language skills, enriches their vocabulary, teaches critical thinking and logic skills, and encourages creativity and a thirst for knowledge. Reading is, therefore, a great parenting activity to bring you closer to your child as they reap its benefits.

Also important, to adults as well as to children, is the way reading and literature can impact our ideas, goals, and moral code. Recently there’s been lively discussion about the importance of representation in media – with good reason.  As sociologist Stewart Hall wrote back in 1973: “the mass media are more and more responsible for providing the basis on which a group constructs an ‘image’ of their lives, meanings, practises and values”[1]. Though he refers here to constructing images of others, it’s safe to say we also construct an image of ourselves through media consumption – and through literature. The image created can be either positive or negative, so with a vulnerable group such as young children, we need to participate and expose them to the best possible role models to help them construct an image of their own identity through positive character representation.

Accordingly, with principles of equality and feminism now in the forefront of public discourse, we need to think how we can raise young girls to grow up confident and with healthy images of themselves. And literature can offer them many examples of characters they might want to emulate – not simply the ‘strong female character’ trope, but diverse girl characters – emotional girls, stubborn girls, shy girls, talented girls, smart girls, imaginative girls.

Books do not have to have female lead characters in order for them to have a positive impact on girls – you can choose from many which feature girls among the protagonists. It’s worth noting that these books are not only good reading material for girls, but for boys as well – they can learn a great deal from these remarkable heroines and enjoy their adventures along with their female friends. Moreover, these stories impart a healthy and varied image of girls, which can teach boys important lessons in valuing and respecting strong and different women in their lives as they grow up.

Here are some of the books that feature those exact types of characters. Consider reading these with your daughter and afterwards engaging in discussion, pointing out positive aspects of the characters, especially their diversity, character growth, and the fact that not only strong-willed girls are mighty girls.

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (ages 8+)

This classic series by Louisa May Alcott seems like a good start to bring your child into the world of literature. For a century and a half, girls have grown up with the four March sisters, and there is a good reason for that. This is not only a coming-of-age story for girls, but a story about four very different girls and their tight-knit sisterhood. The most obvious role model is Josephine ‘Jo’, a strong-willed, wild girl and aspiring writer, who is stubborn and kind at the same time, always putting family and friends first.

Yet the other three sisters should be considered equally valuable models. The eldest, Meg, illustrates the value of maturity and personal growth, as we see her personality transform from a vain lover of luxuries to a down-to-earth, dedicated family girl. Beth, second to youngest, shows how shy, fearful girls can also have a lasting impact on others and change lives; Beth is hardworking, helpful and humble, a great example of the power of quiet, introverted, peaceful people. Finally, the youngest sister, Amy, considered the most self-centred, selfish and spoiled,  also proves to be a great example of growth, as further along in the story she becomes compassionate and principled. It’s also worth pointing out that this character was based on Louisa May Alcott’s own little sister, who was one of the few women who made it into the art world of Impressionism at the time.

 

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton (ages 6+)

When it comes to tomboy characters, Georgina – George – of the Fantastic Five has always been the pivotal example. With short hair, fierce temper, wild nature, and dressed as a boy, George stands out from the girly-girl type of character usually present in children’s stories. Even in this particular series, we have her friend Anne, part of the five, who is the spot-on picture of the motherly, caring, domestic girl. George, therefore, can be a great example of the fact that not all girls have to have these qualities to be loved. But the greatest importance of her character might be to parents of non-gender-normative girls, those who do not fit into stereotypes, or are particularly masculine from an early age. If you want to support your child’s journey in search of gender identity and show them that they should act as they feel comfortable, without filling a certain mold, this just might be the best book to read and discuss with them.

 

A  Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett (ages 7+)

Another beloved classic is famous for its young protagonist, Sara Crewe, who has influenced generations of girls over the years. In this well-known story about a girl who seemingly lost everything in a day, we can see the strength of resilience, kindness, and imagination. Sara’s best quality is her willingness to help others, her ability to benefit from other’s happiness and her wild, wonderful imagination that helps her confront events much bigger than herself. If you decide to read this book to your child, be sure to point out Sara’s empathy and strength to deal with other people’s problems, while she also fights her own. Two movies have been made from the book – the famous 30’s version with Shirley Temple, and Alfonso Cuarón’s colorful imaginative version, so we recommend watching them with children after reading the book.

 

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (ages 11+)

Kira-Kira deals with the very serious and fraught subject of cancer and illness of a sibling, but if you think your child might be able to deal with this topic and difficult emotions, it’s a great piece of literature from which kids can greatly benefit. This coming-of-age novel has Katie, a Japanese-American girl, as its protagonist, and it follows the narrative of the illness and death of Lynn, her sister and best friend.

Katie is not a typical strong heroine in terms of fighting evil forces, but constantly throughout the book she fights with tragic problems of everyday life, from racism and bullying, to illness and death. Children reading the book should pay extra attention to the changes in character of both Lynn and Katie –  their boldness while they deal with something much bigger than themselves, and their amazing connection and influence on each other. While the book does not deal with happy, light topics, what is key in the story is how Katie manages to see the beauty in things and finds strength even in the darkest times – which is a good lesson to teach a child. Finally, as the characters are of Japanese descent, the story of Katie and Lynn can offer some diversity, as the lack of children’s books with characters of different races and ethnicities is very evident and problematic.

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (ages 10+)

This very atypical series of books for children might not be for everyone – the series follows, as the name suggests, the unfortunate lives of the Baudelaire orphans, three very special children who find themselves in the middle of terrible tragedies. Even with a storyline like this, Lemony Snicket manages to make books as light-hearted as possible, with quirky humor and strong emphasis on the children themselves and their strengths. The oldest of the orphans is Violet, a brave and smart girl who has a knack for inventions and logic. While she is charming, polite, and kind, she’s not your typical strong-willed heroine, but someone who manages to pull herself and her siblings, Klaus and Sunny, out of various situations using her imaginative brain and her masterful inventions. Violet is a perfect example of the force of intelligence, and she might motivate your young girls to develop a love for inventions, explorations, science, engineering and mechanics.

 

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray (ages 14+)

This trilogy falls under the category of young adult fiction, so it is not exactly reading material for very young girls, but it’s a great book for your teens. Set in Victorian England, this fantasy fiction, set in an all-girls school and magical realms, features best friends, each one a great example of a well-written, well-rounded character with both good and bad sides. The heroine and narrator, Gemma, is an obvious role model, being strong, brave, and full of hope and kindness.

However, her friends are even more interesting in that regard. Felicity, who starts off as Gemma’s enemy, grows into her faithful friend and proves to be a woman-warrior, going against all the norms of her society. Stubborn and strong-willed, she’s not always right or kind, yet she can be a thrilling character for your fierce, rebellious girl. Poor, shy, and hard-working Ann starts as a closed-off character with an unfortunate fate ahead of her, only to grow out of her shell throughout the book and follow her dream. On top of it all, the trilogy also features a great spectrum of strong and amazing female teacher and tutor characters, and a great representation of multi-ethnic romance. Readers should reflect on how these girls work on their  personal growth, try to be the best versions of themselves, turning more and more towards their growing friendship.

 

 

These are only some of the titles that can prove to be useful when trying to find quality reading material for your children. Reading and discussing literature is always valuable for children, so these book will hopefully make it even more fun and influential.

References:

  1. Hall S. 1973. Encoding and decoding in the television discourse. Univ. Birmingham, Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Stenciled Occ. Pap., No 7. Media Ser.

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Learned Helplessness in a School Context: What It Is and How to Deal with It

Imagine a student who’s repeatedly experiencing failure in school. As time goes by and they continue to fail, they start to put in less and less effort as they get the impression that no matter what they do and how much effort they put in, they’ll still fail. Let’s imagine for a second that a student has failed a math exam for the third time in a row. They may start to think that math is too hard for them to understand or even that they’re too dumb for school/math, which can negatively affect their self-confidence and self-respect. The underlying problem is that their lack of trying causes them to fail once more and thus reinforce their negative beliefs about themselves. In other words, they set themselves up to fail before they even try. Ultimately, this can lead to them believing that they’re not capable of overcoming difficulties at school.

This case is illustrative of learned helplessness, the belief that our own behavior has no influence on consequent events [3]. Although learned helplessness can develop in students who don’t fail that often, children who repeatedly fail are at greater risk of developing it [2].

It’s clear from the above-mentioned example that learned helplessness affects three different aspects of one’s functioning [1]:

  1. Motivational: Children lack the will to try to accomplish something and are discouraged to make an effort, believing that their learning process is out of their control.
  2. Cognitive: Students have the notion that failure is inevitable (even though that’s not true), as they miss seeing the logical connection between trying and succeeding (and not trying and failing).
  3. Emotional: Children start to think less of themselves and start to doubt their own abilities, which can lead to lowered self-esteem and even depression.

In this article we will first look at how to identify learned helplessness in the classroom and then explore ways teachers can address it.

How to Spot Learned Helplessness in the Classroom

– A student shows signs of low motivation for work and looks disinterested and passive in class.

– A student rarely asks questions or shows genuine interest and enthusiasm towards topics during class, so the teacher must engage them as they don’t tend to show initiative [4].

– A student is quick to answer the teacher’s question with “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure”, without really putting any thought into it [4].

– A student has a tendency to get easily discouraged when a teacher corrects them or points out a mistake in their work – this makes them feel like they won’t be able to finish the task [4].

– Getting a bad grade doesn’t make them sweat, as they’re used to it and think that no matter what they do at school, a bad grade is inevitable.

The Importance of Mindset

In another article, we discussed different Mindsets children develop during childhood and at school. In short, students who have developed Growth mindset perceive their abilities as something that can be changed and developed over time. They tend to seek challenges and get engaged when facing obstacles, knowing that’s a good way to increase their knowledge and skills. On the other hand, students with Fixed mindset believe that their abilities are carved in stone and can never be changed, so when they fail, they start to question their abilities. In other words, they make the mistake of attributing their failure to something they can’t influence, instead of towards the effort they put into studying. So, when a student who believes that abilities are unchangeable repeatedly fails in school, they might conclude that there’s nothing they can do to change that, so they just stop trying and start to feel helpless.

This notion is important to bear in mind, because addressing the mindset of a student is an important step in overcoming learned helplessness.

How Can Teachers Help Students Overcome Learned Helplessness?

  1. Tackling the Motivational Aspect

Encourage the Effort and Assure Them There’s No Reason to be Afraid of Making a Mistake. A student’s motivation is a fragile thing. It can be easily diminished. Making a mistake in class tends to put pressure on students and can make them feel like failures. In reality, they cannot grow without making some mistakes, which is something they need to understand. Try not to be critical when they give a wrong answer, otherwise they can develop a fear of trying and making an error. Students should be comfortable with exploring new ideas, without having to worry whether they might make a mistake. So, it’s important that the teacher reassures them that making mistakes is fine, as long they keep going and keep trying.

Take Special Care Not to Overlook Quiet Students. A student can also develop low motivation in the classroom by being overlooked by the teacher and not being given enough responsibilities when it comes to school tasks. Teachers should take great care and give special attention to children who are shy or who feel less competent than their peers, because they need the teacher’s help to become motivated and engaged in school.

  1. Tackling the Cognitive Aspect

Show Them the Difference Between Growth Mindset (effort) and Fixed Mindset (abilities). Be sure to emphasize the effort students put into studying for a test, and not some innate abilities they possess. It may be helpful to say something along the lines of “If you study hard for this test, you’ll certainly do well and your effort will be rewarded”. They need to learn that studying is not about manifesting some unchangeable trait or intelligence, but rather that it’s all about the effort, which is what increases knowledge and skills. In other words, they need to adjust their Mindset and learn to take control of their academic performance.

Educational therapists who work with children with learned helplessness have a great way of illustrating this [1]:

They would turn off the light in a room and ask a student, “Does this mean there is no more light?”

A student will say, “No, the light went off because you turned off the switch”.

The therapists then say, “There’s a switch in your head that you turned off because you didn’t like what was happening in school.”

This can help student change their rationale for failure from “I’m dumb” to “I turned off my switch”, meaning “I didn’t put in the effort”.

  1. Tackling the Emotional Aspect

Slowly Build Their Confidence by Providing Them More Time and Help. When a student doesn’t have the inclination to really think about the questions teachers ask in class, and easily gives up, it’s important that educators do their best to encourage them to try to nevertheless put some thought into it. For example, you can guide them with additional, easier questions so that they can, with your help, come to the correct conclusion. You can also encourage them to take their time or consult a classmate sitting next to them before answering a question.

Praise the Effort, Not Just the Outcome! It’s important not to miss the opportunity to praise the effort a student had put into coming up with an answer, even if it may not be entirely correct. Students often have good initial ideas, but they tend to stumble somewhere along the way. If a student who’s experiencing learned helplessness really tries hard but still gets the answer wrong, it’s very important to give them a “Good job!” or “I like the way you’re thinking”, because they need ongoing encouragement to continue making an effort in the classroom. This feedback should be well timed in order for them to make use of it.

If they’re not doing well in school at all, it’s unrealistic to expect that they’ll start getting the best grades right away. It’s a process and that’s why it’s crucial that the teacher provides encouragement and praise along the way, to let them know that they’re improving, and also to make sure their motivation isn’t fading.

If you’re a parent and you suspect your children are showing signs of learned helplessness regarding school, it’s perhaps a good idea to talk to their teachers or consider consulting our experts here at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring.

References:

  1. Gordon, R., & Gordon, M. (2006). The turned-off child: Learned helplessness and school failure. American Book Publishing.
  2. Licht, B. G., & Kistner, J. A. (1986). Motivational problems of learning-disabled children: Individual differences and their implications for treatment. Psychological and educational perspectives on learning disabilities, 225-255.
  3. Seligman, M. E. P. (1975). Helplessness. New York: Freeman
  4. Yates, S. (2009). Teacher identification of student learned helplessness in mathematics. Mathematics Education Research Journal, 21(3), 86-106.

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Moms are Superheroes, but Superheroes Need to Take Care of Themselves, too!

Mothering is one of the most demanding jobs there is. Of course, the rewards are great – seeing your children grow up to be happy and independent, enjoying all the smiles, games, and trips along the way. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In honor of this year’s Mothers’ Day, we’ve decided to dedicate the following to moms. We want to thank you for raising us and making us into the people we are today by reminding you that even superheroes like you need some time for themselves.

Is Mothering a Full-Time Job?

Your instinctive answer as a mother will probably be – yes!, especially if you have very young kids. But that doesn’t need to be – and shouldn’t be – the case. If you have someone to help you out – a husband, a sister, a friend, a mother – don’t take it all upon yourself! Some mothers feel like they need to be with their newborns 24/7, and if they don’t, they’re somehow failing them. That is far from the truth. Your baby needs to get their sleep, be well-rested and happy, so why do you think you don’t deserve the same? You don’t need to do everything alone.

Finding Time for Yourself is a MUST

The happiest mothers are those who regularly find some time to do what they love – read, go swimming, grab a cup of coffee with their friends. And happy mothers are more likely to raise happy kids! If your child is always seeing you tired, cranky, and wishing you were somewhere else, but not actually going, they’ll start feeling bad. If they’re very young, they may not be able to verbalize their feelings, but you’ll notice it in their play or the general change in their behavior.

Many mothers don’t want to be away from their child because they feel they should be always there for them to give them the best possible childhood. But by doing this at your own expense, you’ll eventually guilt-trip them and they’ll end up feeling sad for you: “My mom gave me everything, and I took her life away in return!”

Here’s a couple things you can do instead to ensure both you and your child are happy, healthy, and enjoy a great relationship.

Activities for Busy Superheroes

  1. Ask for help.

 

Needing help when you work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is nothing to be ashamed of. [2] It doesn’t make you a failure – on the contrary, it means you care enough about your health and the well-being of your child to not let your pride get the best of you. Having your husband take care of the baby while you go out for an hour isn’t the end of the world. If there’s no one around to help you, hiring a babysitter once a week doesn’t mean you aren’t fit to be a mom: it simply means that you need time to recharge your batteries, just like anyone else. You don’t have to do it all alone, nor should you.

 

  1. Leave the house. [4]

 

If you spend all of your time inside the house feeling tired, you’ll soon start associating your home with negative feelings and emotions. Some moms tend to feel like leaving the house even for an hour would mean abandoning their child. “What if this happens? What if my husband/babysitter forgets to do that? No, I’d better stay home and make sure everything is okay.” These thoughts and the overprotectiveness behind them will only make you even more stressed and lead to you feeling chained to the baby’s room.

So remember this: leaving your house and child for an hour or two doesn’t mean you are a bad mother! Even you need some time to blow off steam and forget about crying, diapers, and the lack of sleep. Go for a walk; go to your favorite coffee shop with your best friend; do something you used to do before becoming a mother. You deserve to have something else in your life, too.

 

  1. Find your identity [3]

 

Remembering and practicing things that used to bring you joy is very important for mothers. Even if you are a stay-at-home mom and you’re completely devoted to your child, thinking of motherhood as your defining characteristic can eventually lead to negative emotions. One day, your child will grow up and leave to start their own life, and if being a mother is your only – or the most important part of your identity – you’ll be in trouble. You’ll probably be left with very strong feelings seeing the empty nest, and without other things to bring you joy, become increasingly sad.

That’s one of the reasons that finding your true self as a person, not only as a mother, matters. Do you like painting? Swimming? Getting together with your best friends? Then don’t forget to do these things occasionally. Try to figure out what you liked doing before and what you’d like to see yourself doing in twenty years – and pursue that.

 

  1. Get enough sleep [3]

This might sound like a fairytale, especially if you have a baby at home. However, it’s crucial for you to be able to get some healthy sleep in order to be fully focused and prepared to do all the necessary, everyday-baby-things. This is connected to our first tip: if you’ve already gone for a week without decent sleep and every time you sit down you end up nodding off, ask for help. Ask your husband to be responsible for the baby the next night, get some ear plugs and tell him to only wake you up if it’s really important. If you’re a single mom, try to find someone who will do that for you, even if only for a single night. You can also take advantage of the time of day when your baby sleeps and use it – sleep when they sleep, instead of using that time to clean up the house or cook. A day of healthy sleep is much more important than cleaning some week-old dust.

  1. Practice mindfulness and meditation [1]

 

The good thing with this is that you can choose when and where to do it – and really, it can be anywhere and anytime, so it can fit any schedule! Practicing mindfulness is about accepting things as they come. For example, if you’re having negative thoughts about yourself and believe you should be doing more, try to experience those thoughts as a wave of sorts: don’t shy away from them, but don’t overthink, either. Accept that these thoughts will find their way to you every once in a while and do your best to not give them too much value. Do your best, practice recognizing the negativity in your life, and don’t beat yourself up about every little thing.

Meditating has enormous benefits, especially when it comes to stress and negativity. By learning to clear your mind, you’ll be able to find some time for yourself where you’ll simply enjoy breathing and not thinking about what you should do next.

 

  1. Teach your kids responsibility

 

And finally, teach your children to be responsible for themselves from an early age. This does not mean they should be cooking dinner at the tender age of seven, but if you can send them to school alone and teach them to be responsible enough to send you a message when they arrive (same thing with visiting a friend), it will give you some time for yourself. As they grow up, they’ll get to be more and more responsible, both inside and outside of the house,  and you’ll be having more and more hours to spend taking care of yourself.

 

References:

  1. Shapiro, S. & Brown, K. (2007). Teaching Self-Care to Caregivers: Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction on the Mental Health of Therapists in Training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, Vol. 1, No.2, pp. 105-115
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mia-redrick/mom-selfcare-is-nonnegoti_b_1171034.html
  3. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/deborah-chalk/10-essential-selfcare-practices-for-mothers_b_7303910.html
  4. https://www.parents.com/parenting/moms/healthy-mom/17-habits-of-very-happy-moms/

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When More Help is Needed

If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. – Mary Engelbreit

We all want to feel calm, contented, and joyful as much as possible in our daily lives, and most of us strive to capture those feelings by making choices that enhance our lives. There are times, though, when every one of us feels down, unhappy, sad, angry, anxious… These unwelcome feelings may last for hours, days, or even months.

Duration is not the only important criterion for seeking support. Another important factor is effort; some episodes are easier to overcome than others, which require more effort and energy. We manage to solve some situations ourselves, but there are some for which we may seek help from a close friend or a loved one. And then there are those particularly difficult times when we feel like we’ve tried everything we know how to do and the problem is not yet resolved, even with the help of people close to us.

So what then? Begin by answering these two questions:

Has something been bothering you for too long?

Does the feeling interfere with your daily life?

If the answer to at least one question is yes and if you’re struggling, seek additional help.

Although there are many ways we can help ourselves increase our own happiness and well being, sometimes it’s best to seek mental-health support from a trained professional.

Professional counseling

What is professional counseling?

It is a collaborative effort between the counselor and client [6]. Counselors work with clients on strategies to overcome the obstacles and personal challenges they’re facing. A counselor may help clients reach their mental health, wellness, education, and career goals. For example, they can help clients with making school choices, getting a relationship on the right track, recovering from trauma, reaching their full potential, and so much more [2].

What are the benefits of counseling?

A counselor may help clients deal with the specific problems that are bothering them. Also, a counselor may help clients work to achieve goals in school or college. Furthermore, clients may learn how to become aware of their decision-making tendencies and avoid making bad choices to prevent future problems. Another goal of counseling is to encourage wellness – the state of being in good health and well being, so you can find meaning and fulfillment in life [4].

Should you choose to seek help from a professional counselor, do not expect things to change too fast or too easily – counseling requires fairly intense desire, time, and effort commitments. The return on this commitment is worthwhile, though, and you should know that even the smallest step forward is getting you closer toward achieving your goal!

How can a counselor help?

Well, while it might seem “nice” for a counselor to give you advice on what to do, that answer might not be one that works for you [3]. And, let’s be real – how do we react when someone tells us what to do? Often, we react adversely immediately. A counselor helps you sort out your thoughts through active listening and specialized therapeutic techniques. Clients often find their own answers buried beneath the chatter in their brain.

Logically, the first step toward counseling is deciding to see a counselor. Still, many individuals who could benefit from counseling never seek the help they need [1]. So counseling suffers from one serious limitation: It can only help those who seek it out.

Barriers to seeking help

What prevents people from seeking help? Some of the key themes in the barriers young people identified were [5]:

  1.      Stigma

This is the most frequently reported of all the barriers. It includes public, perceived, and self-stigmatizing attitudes to mental issues. These create embarrassment and fear of being identified with a mental-health problem or seeking help for it. Also, young people are usually concerned about what others, including the counselor, might think of them if they were to seek help.

  1.      Difficulty identifying the extent of their distress or depression

Young people often don’t know how to identify when the difficulties they’re facing are beyond the “normal” response to stress. Also, some people are aware of their distress, but continuously alter their definition of “normal” distress to avoid seeking help.

  1.     Confidentiality and trust

A major concern for youth is a lack of trust with respect to the potential source of help. Concern about confidentiality and trust may also relate to stigma, where fear of a breach in confidentiality stems from the fear of stigma and embarrassment should peers and family find out that the young person had sought help.

  1.    Self-reliance

Studies show that adolescents and young adults prefer to rely on themselves rather than seek outside help for their problems. The act of asking for help from someone else is often seen as an indicator of weakness or incapability of dealing with problems in life.

Looking for a way to overcome these barriers and get the support you need? Nobel Coaching & Tutoring is a confidential, online coaching service that can help you find your own answers and teach the skills you need to become even more self-reliant. What is really good is that our coaches insist on a highly individualized approach. We all differ from one another and something that would be helpful for one person wouldn’t be for someone else. Find out what our coaches do and what our coaches can help you with at Nobel Coaching.

Resources:

[1] Andrews, G., Issakidis, C., & Carter, G. (2001). Shortfall in mental health service utilization. British Journal of Psychiatry, 179, 417–425.

[2] Counseling Awareness Month. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2018, from

https://www.counseling.org/counselorshelp

[3] Get help if you’re struggling. (n.d.). Retrieved April 18, 2018, from

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/get-help-if-youre-struggling

[4]  Gladding, S. T. (2012). Counseling: A comprehensive profession. Pearson Higher Ed.

[5] Gulliver, A., Griffiths, K. M., & Christensen, H. (2010). Perceived barriers and facilitators to mental health help-seeking in young people: A systematic review. BMC Psychiatry,10(1). doi:10.1186/1471-244x-10-113

[6] What is Professional Counseling? (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2018, from

https://www.counseling.org/aca-community/learn-about-counseling/what-is-counseling/overview

 

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