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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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.

If you have any questions about motivation, you’ve come to the right place!

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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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Good Parenting without Overmonitoring – Yes, It’s Possible!

Have you ever been tempted to read your teen’s diary or check their Facebook messages? Have you ever made a social media profile so you could spy on their online activities? Do you make very strict rules for your teen without allowing them to question them and invite you to a debate?

If the answer to some or all of these is YES – then this is just the article for you, because we’ll explain how you can navigate the continuum of monitoring your teen in a healthy way that maintains communication, trust, and your overall relationship.

We Know You Are Worried!

You hear of all these terrible things on the news, or even in your own neighborhood – underage drinking, drugs, accidents… So it’s perfectly normal to be worried that, with the right combination of circumstances, your teen might become susceptible to some of these high-risk behaviors. With that in mind, knowing where your child is and who their friends are – that is to say, a little bit of monitoring – is not a bad thing. [1] The thing that damages parent-teen relationships is extreme monitoring. [3] It’s when parents, in an attempt to calm themselves down and protect their child, resort to what teens would call “extreme measures” or strict parenting: being home by a certain time and not one minute later, always volunteering to chaperone or attend their social events so you can see who they are with and what they’re doing, asking (or trying) to see their instant messages so you can be certain there is no mention of unwanted activities in there.

So after you’ve done this, you feel calmer and believe you now know everything there is to know about your teen. Meanwhile, a young person with the need for psychological and physical autonomy is ignoring you, answering all your questions with one-syllable words, and spending more and more time outside the house, or in their own room. You will have inevitably hurt your relationship with your child in an attempt to keep them safe.

But what if we told you that over-monitoring is exactly what might cause them to engage in some of those unwanted things you were trying to prevent? Moreover, what if we showed you that creating a warm but firm relationship that still allows them some freedom will lead to them being much more open to you and you knowing much more about them and the way they spend their time?

Why Extreme Monitoring Does not Work

Just because you have established some hard rules and checked their messages does not necessarily mean you now have full control over their comings and goings. Much of the conflict between parents and teens could be avoided with some honest talk. In fact, much of the rebelling and rule-breaking happens as a response of teens who feel like they have no control over their own lives. [2] So in an attempt to both gain some control and get back at their parents, they may intentionally act in the very way you were trying to prevent.

For example, you have a rule that you always drop them off when they go to a friend’s house, so you know who they’ll be with and where. But as soon as your car turns the corner, they might leave with that friend, meet with some different people and go to a different place. And whether you come to know about it or not, they’ll be happy. If you don’t find out, that means they’re getting away with it. If you do, they’ll feel like they’re getting back at you for the lack of autonomy.

Similarly, if you ask to read their texts, they might find their way around that as well. They could buy another phone you don’t know about, or have a profile on some social network hidden from you. What we want to say is this: prying and asking to have complete control over someone, even if they are your child and still live under your roof will only succeed in making you feel better temporarily. In the long run, it might lead to the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish, and it will definitely affect your relationship with them. Your alleged selfless act of overprotecting through extreme monitoring is actually quite self-regarding in that it only relieves your worry in the short-term while increasing the odds of your teen feeling resentment towards you.

Full Disclosure is the Only True Knowledge

Research shows that when parents know about their child’s real whereabouts, it comes from the child themselves, and their decision to be honest, rather than through extreme monitoring. [3] In order to create a positive atmosphere that will allow them to open themselves to you, no matter how scared or embarrassed they feel, you might want to give authoritative parenting a chance. [2] A parent who nurtures this style is warm but firm, and they give their child the freedom to choose their own beliefs and make their own choices. A lot of research has shown that this way of parenting leads to the healthiest, happiest, and academically most successful children. [2]

So how would an authoritative parent handle potential conflicts?

For one, they would still be interested in their child’s life, but in a warm, healthy way. They wouldn’t ask questions like “How many people will there be? What will you be doing?” or mandate a curfew time. Instead, they would simply ask – “So what is this party about?”, and allow their child to tell them everything they want to disclose. If they want to warn them, they won’t do it through harsh words and placing blame, automatically not trusting their teen to make a wise choice. Instead, they would say “I hope you understand that I’m a little bit worried that there will be alcohol there, but I will trust you not to drink.” This way, the child won’t feel threatened. They’ll just feel guilty at the thought of disappointing you, and that has proven to be a much better prevention technique.

However, an authoritative parent still needs to set some rules – but they’ll do so with the help of the child. If you’re deciding on a curfew and believe 11 pm is late enough, consult with your teen and listen to their opinions. If they tell you that everyone else can return by midnight, that they’ll have friends to accompany them on their way home instead of going alone, and that they’ll be responsible, maybe think about giving them the benefit of the doubt – especially if they’ve never given you a reason to doubt them before. Making parenting decisions based on trust will help them make choices to keep that trust.

If the trust is weakened through a broken rule, the consequences need to be just as clear and reasonable for the type of rule that was broken.

Tell them, for example, that they can be home by midnight, but if they are even a minute late, they won’t be getting that late a curfew any time soon. As much as an authoritative parent wants to give their child freedom, they still need a firm set of rules that they decide on together with their child. Setting rules is a positive thing, and it leads to much better decisions than monitoring and blocking someone’s psychological development. It will also teach them responsibility and independence much better than you going everywhere with them and checking their every move.

Some Final Words of Wisdom

Imagine a line with “no monitoring” on one side and “extreme monitoring” on the other side. People are most comfortable in their working environments and in relationships in the middle of that line. At work, you probably don’t like being micromanaged and having to account for each and every move you make, but you thrive when your work is being noticed and your superiors care about the circumstances of your work and the outcomes of your efforts. Teens are similar – they want their parents to care about them and have clear expectations and limits, but are also seeking autonomy in order to build their identities. Parents may feel a sense of security through extreme monitoring; however, it may cause more damage than the effort intends.

You’ve heard that adolescence is often accompanied by a great deal of conflict, but the thing is, it only happens if parents’ and teens’ views on autonomy are completely different. Everyone wants to feel like they have control over their own life, while parents find it hard to watch their child separate themselves and spend less and less time with their family. The best way to get through this is to start treating them more like an adult and less like a child, as long as they keep proving they can be responsible for themselves. This kind of atmosphere will allow them to tell you everything, as they won’t fear your judgment. The possibility to negotiate future rules and consequences that impact their choices, all while building their understanding that you want to keep them both happy and safe, will lead to them being much happier and more open. You’ll have peace of mind and your teen will have the comfort of a healthy, trusting, and supportive relationship with their parents.

References:

  1. Dishon, T. (1998). Parental Monitoring and the Prevention of Child and Adolescent Problem Behavior: A Conceptual and Empirical Formulation. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, Vol.1, No. 1, pp. 61-73.
  2. Steinberg, L. (2001). Parental Monitoring and the Prevention of Child and Adolescent Problem Behavior: A Conceptual and Empirical Formulation. Journal of Research on Adolescence, Vol.11, No.1, pp. 1-19.
  3. Stattin, H. (2000). What Parents Know, How They Know It, and Several Forms of Adolescent Adjustment: Further Support for a Reinterpretation of Monitoring. Developmental Psychology, Vol.36, No. 3, pp. 366-380.

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Supporting Children’s Transition to Adulthood

A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. – Agatha Christie

Before heading to preschool or grade school, children spend most of their time with their parents, from whom they learn and with whom they laugh, cry, and share everything in between. And so, when the time comes for parents to let their children grow up, it’s completely understandable why it can be so hard and challenging to do so.

As children grow older, parents are faced with the fact that their children won’t be spending as much time with them as before. Some parents may be looking forward to this stage, and others may be dreading it, but regardless, obstacles may arise. Kids are going to make new friends and relationships which will differ from the one they have with their parents. They are sometimes going to prefer hanging out with their friends from school, which can come at the expense of family time. Nevertheless, this is crucial for building social independence with their peers. When children reach adolescence, parents need to loosen their restrictions and trust their children to take some risks and explore (e.g. going out with friends alone, entering dating relationships, etc.). Finally, and probably the hardest to bear, parents have to let their children leave home and start their own independent life.

The path of parenting can take many different turns. There are some parenting practices that can slow down children’s transition from childhood to adulthood. For example, parents may feel as though they’re abandoning their children if they don’t provide them with enough care and supervision – which could lead to overparenting, or becoming a helicopter parent. Doing everything for your children may result in you controlling them, and denying them the power to make their own choices and to express themselves. All of this sends a clear message to them – that you don’t believe that they can do something on their own.

The quality and nature of relationships between parents and children differ. Even within the same family, roles and relationships change over time as parents start down the path of raising their children. From an early age, children learn to internalize their experiences with parents and translate them to other relationships in their childhood and adulthood [2]. For example, if parents continually undermine their autonomy and risk-taking, children may become overly dependent on them, as well as experiencing increased anxiety when making decisions or dealing with life choices. This can result in them not being prepared for the adult world.

Parent-Child Relationship in Adolescence

Adolescence is one of the most turbulent periods of childhood. In this phase of development, adolescents tend to vacillate between childhood and adulthood, so a parent can’t always react today exactly like they did yesterday. Research shows that a positive relationship in adolescence functions in exactly the same way as it does in early childhood. In this kind of relationship, it’s likely that a parent will retain a substantial role through the school-age years. Or, as one child puts it [1]:

I can go to [my mom] with my problems, I can rely on her to be there for me, I know that she won’t get mad at me for you know, for like a mistake or something like that. If I have problems, whatever, she, I don’t know, she’s always there for me.

Studies show that having a good relationship with your child is associated with them being less engaged in high-risk behaviors, having fewer mental-health problems, and better social skills and strategies to cope with distress [2]. Also, they’re less likely to engage in excessive drinking, drug use, and risky sexual behavior [2]. Children who have this kind of positive relationship with their parents also “manage the transition to high school more successfully, enjoy more positive relationships, and experience less conflict with family and peers” [2].

So, building strong and positive relationships between parents and children leads to desirable outcomes in early childhood, as well as in adolescence. In this type of relationship, parents encourage their children to explore and take some minor risks, while at the same time providing them with a safe and reliable harbor to come to in times of trouble. We’ll now look at some parental practices that can be beneficial in helping a child’s transition from childhood to adulthood.

How to build and maintain a positive relationship with a child who is coming of age

– Although the parent’s availability and sensitivity in times of distress are essential for maintaining a secure attachment with adolescent children, adolescents don’t need the same amount of proximity and physical availability as do young children. Knowing that they’ve got the support of their parents is more important to them [2]. Keep in touch, stay close, but not too close, and don’t ask too many questions. Give them the space they need to try their own wings. Parents are the safety net, rather than the cage.

– Make sure your children have an opportunity to do some tasks all by themselves, without standing over their shoulder every second, even if that means they’ll occasionally make mistakes. Try to give them some commitments and obligations that are more grown-up, such as paying the bills through the mail, taking care of their younger sister/brother, taking up some new chores and more responsibility around the house, etc.

Don’t demand, suggest! Clearly and thoroughly explain your reasoning behind a proposal about, for example, something they should do differently. Your relationship should be less about dependency and authority, and more about mutual respect.

– Instead of monitoring their every move by playing 20 questions, start a conversation by telling them about something interesting that happened to you on that particular day, and then ask them about how their day went. If you haven’t already done it, try establishing a routine where you talk and learn about each other’s day and experiences in a conversational way, rather than pressuring answers with question after question. Remember, it’s fine if they don’t have anything to report – some days can just be slow and uninteresting.

– It’s important to understand that your children now have other important people in their lives. You should be proud and happy because they have different people they can rely on in times of need. In the end, you have to acknowledge that you’ve done your best as a parent and appreciate the life choices your children make. Otherwise, caring too much and controlling your teenagers may be overwhelming for everyone.

We at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring know there are many variables that can take you off your intended parenting path to the point where your relationship with your adolescent could be in distress. Connect with us to hear how we assist students and their parents through Coaching and Tutoring!

References:

  1. Freeman, H., & Brown, B. B. (2001). Primary attachment to parents and peers during adolescence: Differences by attachment style. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30(6), 653-674.
  2. Moretti, M. M., & Peled, M. (2004). Adolescent-parent attachment: Bonds that support healthy development. Paediatrics & child health, 9(8), 551-555.

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School Stress: High Achievers

Children, especially adolescents, frequently deal with significant stress during their school years. They usually cite academic requirements, school transitions, peer relationships, and over-commitment as their most challenging issues. So it is notable that so-called high-achieving students, almost without exception, are able to excel despite such challenges [2].

Low achievers versus high achievers

There are high and low achievers in every school and the academic disparity between them can often be linked to differences in motivation.

Less accomplished individuals are often more motivated to avoid failure [1]. They try to protect themselves from failing important tasks and the feelings of embarrassment and incompetence which result. When it seems that something is unlikely to be a success, they quickly give up. If they can’t avoid it, they procrastinate or don`t give their best effort. For example, the night before an exam they might decide to clean their room or go to a party. To them, this serves as an excuse for less success or outright failure.

On the other hand, high-achieving students perform much better academically because they have strong motivation to achieve something that’s important and valuable to them, so they’re willing to put in significant, extended effort [1].

High achievers and high levels of stress

Sometimes the stress high-achieving students experience is underestimated. High achievers are often admired and people aren’t always aware of their inner struggles. They’re faced with demands and expectations from themselves, school, their parents, peers, etc. They are trying to be perfect in every area of their lives and cannot permit themselves to make mistakes.

Sometimes parents’ reaction to “not an A+” increases the feeling of stress. Too many parents think that the road to college starts in elementary school and that every grade counts. They ask themselves, How hard should I push my child to get better grades? This is precisely the wrong question. Pushing a child makes the situation even worse. By focusing only on grades, parents lose sight of the importance of social interaction in academic performance.What matters most are not grades, but the habits of mind that children form in elementary school: self-control, goal orientation, responsibility, persistence, and resilience [3].

Students may simply not communicate their distress to the adults who are invested in their achievement or non-achievement [2]. Be aware that the consequences of stress differ. Pay attention if their grades drop rapidly or if they have a high frequency of absences. Personal stress in gifted students can also manifest itself in other ways. They can still excel academically and in extra-curricular performance, but might quietly experience significant stress from heavy commitments in or outside of school. One way to maintain the same level of high performance is to cheat, so it shouldn’t be surprising that high achievers are more likely to cheat.

If you are the parent of a high-achieving child, we have some suggestions for you that will make it easier for you to recognize these “quiet” indicators and help your child handle the pressure through communication and coping strategies.

Ways to deal with the situation

Talk casually and often.

It’s a good idea to talk casually to your child about their feelings and how they’re managing high-stress times in the academic or extracurricular year. Don`t push it! Your efforts could boomerang and the student might withdraw even more. You also need to be aware that you are a role model for your child. So try openly discussing minor stresses you yourself encounter every day and show them that communicating your frustration can help – not only to relieve the stress but also to help find solutions.

Highlight your student’s strengths.

Gently comment when you see them “down” and offer credible comments about personal strengths and resilience. It could be crucial support at a time of vulnerability and reinforces your confidence in their ability to cope. You trust them.

Help a student find “me time”.

Don’t let them over-commit themselves. They need some unstructured, free time with their peers or alone. Model the behavior of taking care of yourself as a parent as well. They need to realize it’s okay to take “me time”. If they’re already over-committed, help them rethink their choices about extra-curricular activities and set priorities. Some activity has to take a back seat to a higher priority one, which will allow them to be even better at the one (or more) they’ve chosen.

Mistakes can be a path to success.

Help them understand that it’s okay to make mistakes and that sometimes mistakes are a learning opportunity. They can teach us to see the positive, and encourage initiative and growth. Expect to make mistakes. Try to persuade them not to judge themselves against others and help them recognize their own progress.

Sharing feelings is good.

Show them that admitting their worries and mistakes is a way to get them out of their head and get advice. Help them realize they aren’t the only ones feeling that way.

 

If you are having difficulty helping your high-achieving student cope with school stress, we have coaches who are trained to help students and their parents manage the demands of being a top performer in school.

 

References:

[1] Beuke, C. (2011, October 19). How Do High Achievers Really Think? Retrieved February 13, 2018, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/youre-hired/201110/how-do-high-achievers-really-think

[2] Peterson, J., Duncan, N., & Canady, K. (2009). A longitudinal study of negative life events, stress, and school experiences of gifted youth. Gifted Child Quarterly, 53(1), 34-49.

[3] Tough, P. (2013). How children succeed: grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. Boston: Mariner Books.

 

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Benefits and Risks of Social Media

Children nowadays have a way of connecting and interacting continuously with friends. They use various electronic gadgets, play games with people from other countries, have live face-to-face conversations via Skype, etc. It’s hard to even imagine a childhood without the internet and social media.

In a study conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2015, 89% of teenagers reported using at least one social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. At that time, the most popular was Facebook, with 71% of teens between the ages of 13 and 17 reported using it [1]. In a more recent study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in December of 2016, Instagram and Snapchat led, with about 75% of teens reported using them, while Facebook usage declined slightly to 66%. However, the use of social media in general was on the rise, as 94% of teens age 13-17 reported using them [2].

 

Benefits of Social Media

1. Making Social Connections

Social media provide a convenient way for children to connect with their peers and keep in touch with friends they already spend time within the offline world. This mutual, constant availability can lead to the strengthening of these relationships – they have someone they can share their problems with and ask for advice, or just chat with if they’re feeling bored. Furthermore, they use social media to explore their interests and connect with their community, which helps them further develop existing relationships with like-minded peers. Researchers from the Netherlands found that children between the ages of 11 and 14 who use social media report a higher level of friendship quality. Even though this study focused on their version of Facebook, authors believe their findings can be generalized to users of other social media beyond the Netherlands [3].

Social media also makes it easier for children to make new friends, as they don’t have to deal with the stress that comes from meeting new people face-to-face. For example, they don’t have to worry about being faced with an awkward silence when they feel pressure to speak but aren’t quite sure what they should say next. Texting doesn’t always require an immediate response, so children with less confidence in their social skills can take the time to come up with an adequate answer and reply with less pressure than in a face-to-face situation. In a longitudinal study, researchers concluded that instant messaging increases the quality of existing friendships because adolescents feel less inhibited and disclose their inner thoughts and feelings to one another earlier on, which enhances the relationship [4].

One of the undisputable benefits of social media is the ability to overcome geographical barriers. Using social media to keep in touch with friends who live in a different city, state, or country is a great way of ensuring a relationship doesn’t suffer because of distance. Two kids from Argentina and Iceland can communicate online just as easily as two kids who live in the same neighborhood. And, social media can help bring together diverse groups of children. Having contact and communicating with children of a diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious background can be the key to developing tolerance and respect for different groups of people.

2. A Helpful Tool for Dealing with Problems

There are many ways in which children can communicate online while staying anonymous, i.e. joining Reddit. Shy children, who often feel socially awkward, might use this controlled environment to express themselves and speak their mind without the fear of negative offline consequences or of being stigmatized. This gradually leads to the development of higher self-esteem. On social media, it’s easier to find someone who’s got the same problems and with whom one can talk and be listened to. Reading about the experiences of children who are dealing with the same issues as you are is an invaluable basis for evaluating your own problems.

The internet in general is a place where children can easily access online information about their health concerns, or, for example, a proper diet. Health resources are increasingly available to youth online, but social media can provide even more health information, as users share medical information online with each other [5, 6]. Also, children with chronic illnesses can join supportive networks of people with similar conditions. People with diabetes, for example, often create online communities, which allows them to connect to one another and to members of the healthcare community [7].

3. A Useful Resource in Education

Students often use social media to share information about school assignments, as well as to organize their time in accordance with their homework. Facebook groups, for example, present a common mode of communication and for the exchange of ideas. There are even schools that embrace social media as a teaching tool and find that it’s a necessary resource in education. However, there are some disadvantages when it comes to using technology and social media in the context of education. If you want to learn more about that as well as how children can best use the internet for their educational benefit, you should take a look at our article on this topic.

 

Potential Risks of Social Media

1. Social Media Addiction

All those likes, comments, pictures, texts, etc. can be overwhelming for children. As previously noted, children can reap many benefits from social media, especially in the area of socialization. On the other hand, constantly being online and on-call for friends can inevitably lead to sleep deprivation, which can cause further problems. It’s important not to become dependent on quick replies and a blizzard of instant messaging. If children are spending all that time on social media they’re probably neglecting other commitments at home and school. This also leaves them with less time for those necessary and irreplaceable face-to-face interactions with others.

2. The Burden of Comparisons with  Idealized Depictions of Others

Despite the upside of having a large amount of information available online regarding health and other issues, there’s clearly a downside. Much of what children might see on social media is a calculated and idealized picture someone is trying to present. Most people don’t post photos of themselves on Instagram when they’re sad or angry. You usually only see happy moments, such as them enjoying a party, or going to the movies with lots of friends, which seems to suggest they have a perfect, worry-free life. When children see the idealized life someone they follow on social media appears to be leading, they might ask, “What am I doing wrong?” and “Why is my life not like that?”, and feel like failures.

Also, it’s worth mentioning that it’s not hard to stumble upon complete disinformation online regarding an issue that’s important to children. Sometimes it’s challenging for even the most experienced users to tell if a source is accurate or if there’s a hidden agenda behind the information.

3. The Dangers of Disinhibition and Cyberbullying

Improper use of social media and a lack of restraint in online interactions can lead to the development of behavior patterns that aren’t commonly a part of life in the offline world. Anonymity is a two-edged sword. On one hand, it can help children overcome shyness and social anxiety, but it can also stimulate unwanted reactions, such as hostile or aggressive online behavior, potentially lead to cyberbullying. Bullying and cyberbullying have some elements in common, such as aggression, power imbalance, and the repetition of this type of behavior [8]. Researchers believe we should look at these two as distinct phenomena. Someone who is cyberbullying doesn’t have to be physically stronger than the victim, and usually doesn’t get to see the effect his or her behavior had on the victim. Another difference is in accessibility of the victim. Whereas bullying mostly happens at school, cyberbullying can be engaged in at any time and reach a much wider audience, which makes it potentially even more dangerous [8].

4. Invasion of Privacy

From the moment children start using social media and spending time on the internet, they start making a digital footprint. This can have ramifications for their future personal or professional life. One part of the problem is sharing too much information, which can be used by advertisers or third parties. About 90% of boys and girls share their real names and photos of themselves on social media. Most of them also share their birthdate, interests, city where they live, school name, etc. [9] We’re also witnessing people revealing personal information on Facebook posts, sharing their personal photos on Instagram daily, or indicating their political views on Twitter.

Besides the negative consequences of posting too much information about themselves online, potential threats for children also include security attacks such as hacking, malware, or even identity theft. A recent study by the Pew Research Center shows that internet users are able to answer fewer than half of the questions when asked about their knowledge of cybersecurity [10]. Although this research was conducted on adults, we have no reason to believe children would be any more informed. This makes children vulnerable to scams and invasions of privacy, especially if they didn’t get adequate education on these topics.

 

What Can Parents Do?

Let’s face it – most children nowadays can’t imagine life without the internet. As we’ve seen, social media is a helpful tool in many aspects of children’s lives, when used properly. On the other hand, if used recklessly, they can cause more harm than good. With this in mind, we’ll now go over a couple of practices that can help parents ensure their children use social media to their advantage.

– If your children are spending too much time on Facebook or another social media app, you should help them find some other activity to fill in their time. Try talking to them and seeing if they’re interested in taking up a hobby, or a sport.

– Try to set an example for your children and don’t use your cell phone too often. As a matter of fact, don’t use it at all in front of them, especially not for endlessly scrolling through social media, reading the news, etc. Use the free time you have together to connect and bond. Make a rule for everyone in your household – for example, that no one should use their phone during a meal or while having family time in the living room [11]. This will help them realize that the outside world is more important than the online one, and hopefully, they’ll understand that they aren’t going to miss anything important if they don’t reply to a text message right away.

Don’t invade their privacy! One study suggests it may not be the best strategy to intervene in your children’s use of social media [12]. A better approach for children’s online safety implies not necessarily intervening, but mediating their online behavior. For example, you should occasionally monitor the information they post online and talk to them about it, but you shouldn’t read their private conversations or use parental monitoring software to block content that contains online risks. If you merely reduce their exposure to online risks, they won’t be able to learn how to effectively cope with them. The suggested approach is to provide children with more autonomy to take risks, as well as for parents to take corrective action to mitigate those risks [12].

– Make sure you help your children learn not to evaluate themselves in comparison with an idealized image someone presented on social media. Let them know that they should be what they feel and think they should be, and not be driven by their perception of unrealistic depictions of others.

– You should suggest your children make their profiles private on social media such as Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, so that their posts are only visible to their friends. Educate your children to cautiously and more securely access the online world. Think about enrolling them in one of the many interesting upcoming projects here at Nobel, such as the one concerned with teaching children about networking, firewalls, ports & internet security, etc.

 

References:

1. Lenhart, A., Duggan, M., Perrin, A., Stepler, R., Rainie, H., & Parker, K. (2015). Teens, social media & technology overview 2015 (pp. 04-09). Pew Research Center [Internet & American Life Project].

2. http://www.apnorc.org/projects/Pages/Instagram-and-Snapchat-are-Most-Popular-Social-Networks-for-Teens.aspx

3. Antheunis, M. L., Schouten, A. P., & Krahmer, E. (2016). The role of social networking sites in early adolescents’ social lives. The Journal of Early Adolescence, 36(3), 348-371.

4. Valkenburg, P. M., & Peter, J. (2009). The effects of instant messaging on the quality of adolescents’ existing friendships: A longitudinal study. Journal of Communication, 59(1), 79-97.

5. O’Keeffe, G. S., & Clarke-Pearson, K. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. Pediatrics, 127(4), 800-804.

6. Moorhead, S. A., Hazlett, D. E., Harrison, L., Carroll, J. K., Irwin, A., & Hoving, C. (2013). A new dimension of health care: systematic review of the uses, benefits, and limitations of social media for health communication. Journal of medical Internet research, 15(4).

7. Cotter, A. P., Durant, N., Agne, A. A., & Cherrington, A. L. (2014). Internet interventions to support lifestyle modification for diabetes management: a systematic review of the evidence. Journal of Diabetes and its Complications, 28(2), 243-251.

8. Kowalski, R. M., Giumetti, G. W., Schroeder, A. N., & Lattanner, M. R. (2014). Bullying in the digital age: A critical review and meta-analysis of cyberbullying research among youth.

9. http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/05/21/what-teens-share-on-social-media/

10. http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/03/22/what-the-public-knows-about-cybersecurity/

11. https://childmind.org/article/how-using-social-media-affects-teenagers/

12. Wisniewski, P., Jia, H., Xu, H., Rosson, M. B., & Carroll, J. M. (2015, February). Preventative vs. reactive: How parental mediation influences teens’ social media privacy behaviors. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (pp. 302-316). ACM.

 

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How To Tame Your Fear Of Public Speaking

Have you ever experienced dry mouth, trembling, difficulty breathing, or your voice starting to shake during public speaking?

Racing heart, sweating, your face turning red?

Have you ever frozen in front of an audience?

These are some of the major symptoms of the Fear Of Public Speaking [1]. The body reacts to a perceived harmful event, attack, or threat to survival by releasing the hormone, adrenaline, which causes these symptoms. And in order to be able to overcome this fear it’s first necessary to understand it.

What is the fear of public speaking?

The fear of public speaking involves an overriding fear of being scrutinized or evaluated by others [2]. It may happen in the classroom, where a student hopes the teacher won’t call on him/her to answer a question. College students may avoid certain courses where speaking in front of the group is required or decide against certain careers for the same reason. Some students may even avoid social events they would like to attend.

The fear of public speaking is often linked with shyness, unwillingness to communicate, low self-esteem, and communication apprehension [3, 4] and these also frequently lead to avoidance of any situation that is perceived as a threat.

This all might sound scary, but there are many ways in which, with help, you can overcome your fear.

How to tame your fear

It’s okay to be a little nervous

Public speaking is a situation where most people feel anxiety. It’s a normal and common reaction, so remember – you’re not alone! Some people even believe that a little anxiety makes you a better speaker! Learn to accept it and use these tips to reduce the fear to a manageable level.

Prepare yourself

It’s important to be well prepared, so that you feel confident regarding the topic you’re going to be talking about in front of the audience.

Practice, practice, practice

The more you practice, the better you’re going to be! You can start by practicing in front of a mirror. Then, practice in front of friends or family, or someone you trust. You can even videotape or audiotape yourself, so you can have better insight in what to improve.

Use positive thinking

Visualizing speaking and the wanted outcome can reduce negative thoughts and some of the anxiety you feel about performing in front of an audience.

Slow down

Talking too fast can interfere with your breathing and lead to the sensation of running out of air, which could increase the fear. Choose a pace of speech that makes you comfortable and allows your audience to follow you.

Take deep breaths

To prevent the onset of any of the symptoms of public-speaking anxiety, take slow, deep, abdominal breaths before you stand up. This will calm you down and help even if you start feeling anxious during your speech.

Give yourself some credit

Perfect presentation doesn’t really exist, so concentrate on what you did well and remind yourself that a single unsuccessful speech does not automatically mean future speeches will be unsuccessful. Instead of worrying about your weaknesses, concentrate on your strengths.

Fear Of Public Speaking versus Public-Speaking Anxiety

Many people fear speaking in public or performing at events. However, some people suffer from public-speaking anxiety. If you’re afraid of speaking or performing in front of an audience, it doesn’t mean that you have a phobia. There’s a big difference between a fear and a phobia. A phobia is a fear that is excessive, persistent, and interfering. Public-speaking anxiety is a subset of social phobia, the fear of social situations. People who suffer from this have the symptoms we’ve described earlier, but they’re not able to manage and control their fear, so it causes problems in school and in social or professional settings. They tend to freeze in front of even a couple of people and suffer intense anxiety prior to, or even at the thought of, having to orally communicate with any group.

If your fear of public speaking is overwhelming, we recommend seeking the outside help of a coach or counselor, who can help you work through the fear and make your journey from fear to confidence a happy and successful one.

by Jelena Nedeljković

  1.  http://www.glossophobia.com
  2. Westwood, James D., ed. Medicine Meets Virtual Reality 02/10: Digital Upgrades, Applying Moore’s Law to Health. Vol. 85. IOS Press, 2002.
  3. Jovanovic, A. (2017, July 27) Retrieved from  https://nobelcoaching.com/shyness-in-child-development/
  4. Vevea, Nadene N., et al. “The only thing to fear is… public speaking?: Exploring predictors of communication in the public speaking classroom”. Journal of the Communication, Speech & Theatre Association of North Dakota 22 (2009), 1-8.

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“New Year, New You” – the Nobel Way!

Don’t give up on your resolutions – Nobel can help you modify them to actually work!

New Year’s resolutions often start with the grand idea of perfecting something or making yourself perfect. We all know, though, that perfection isn’t a realistic, achievable goal, which is why many resolutions tend to be unsuccessful. Nobel Coaching & Tutoring truly knows how to help clients set goals, utilize strengths, and work to achieve success, so we’re offering some quick tips and insights on how you can get started.

  • Prioritize: Be mindful of what you actually want or need to achieve and prioritize two or three realistic and measurable goals.
  • Set short-term targets for long-term goals: Define what can be tracked in manageable, short-term periods that could help you reach a long-term goal.
  • Accountability: Use your resources to help you work on your trackable short-term goals (calendars, reminders, loved ones, personal trainers, Nobel Coaches, etc.).

So, let’s see where you should start!

Setting S.M.A.R.T. goals

Have you ever created a long list of New Year’s resolutions, adding one wish after another, full of motivation and confidence, only to give it all up as your motivation starts declining and your goals start to seem unattainable?

To prevent that from happening, each and every goal you decide on should be created based on the above catchy abbreviation, that stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. [2] We’ll now go through the most popular New Year’s resolutions for 2018, see what they’re missing, and turn them into more easily achievable goals!

The three most common resolutions for this year are:

  • Eat healthier
  • Get more exercise
  • Save (more) money. [1]

But since Nobel Coaching is dedicated to students’ academic success, here we’ll add another, very common one:

Let’s start with the first thing from the S.MA.R.T. template and try to make these goals more specific.

Specifying your goal

Although “eat healthier” is a very positive goal to strive for, this definition allows for a lot of cheating! You need to define what eating healthier means for you and be as specific as possible. [2] Does it mean eating at least one vegetable a day? Does it mean no chips and soda? If you don’t define it, you could make yourself believe one vegetable and two sodas a day constitute a good diet, and once you don’t see any results, it would be easy for you to give up. But if your goal is clearly defined, you’ll be much more motivated to go on.

So, instead of making “eat healthier” your goal, let’s say “cut out chips and soda”, or “instead of sweets, eat fruit for dessert”, or “no eating after 8:00 p.m.”, or – why not all three of these combined?

Instead of  “get more exercise” (you could convince yourself that walking for just a few minutes constitutes that!), you should set a clear goal, such as “exercise three times a week at the gym” or “jog for half an hour three mornings a week”. Notice that it’s important to specify even the place or time; the more specific your goal, the easier it will be for you to make it a habit.

“Save more money” could turn into a specific monthly sum that you want to save, depending on your salary. Even if it seems like only a small amount for you, be sure to specify it! You’ll still save more money that way than if you give up after a month or two!

Finally, “do better in school” also lacks precision. So instead, you could put “go from a C to a B student”, or even better – “Go from C’s to B’s in these three courses”. Then you can choose two or three courses you’re currently having trouble with, and decide to focus on those first.

Measurable goals

You can see that most of our goals have numbers in them, which allows for them to be measurable. [2] If you only say “get more exercise”, there’s nothing to stop you from exercising only once every ten days. But if you say you’ll exercise three times a week, it will be harder for you to skip a day! In order to set goals that are even more measurable, you can separate them into short-term and long-term goals, but be patient: while you could achieve short-term goals fairly quickly, getting to the long-term goal will take more time. Make sure not to give up and not to change the long-term goal in the middle of the time-frame you’ve created!

For example, both “instead of sweets, eat fruit for dessert” and “no chips and soda” could amount to the goal of  “eating two portions of fruit and vegetables every day”, while “save more money each month” can be a stepping stone towards a specific sum you want to save altogether. When it comes to grades, your long-term goal could be a fixed GPA; getting to your B’s and A’s could be just a start towards this goal!

Attainable goals

Reading this, you might start thinking: “Jogging only three times a week? I can do much better than that!” And although one day you will be able to surpass these temporary goals, starting too big too soon more often than not results in disappointment. This will cause you to drop all your motivation and stop trying altogether, and we don’t want that! Once you’ve achieved your current goals, there’s nothing stopping you – you can set more goals and make them bigger!

But for the very beginning, they should be more easily achievable, to make sure you don’t lose your motivation and the will to achieve them. This is why we said “jog only three times a week“ instead of “jog daily”; similarly, make sure to take your financial situation into account when making plans concerning your savings. Regarding your grades, although going from C’s to A’s sounds wonderful, don’t push yourself too hard. Going up a whole grade is something to be proud of, so start with B’s first. Once you’re there, feel free to find new goals for yourself. [2]

Relevant goals

Although we want you to succeed, we don’t want you to put as little effort into your goals as possible. Your goals should be your actual goals, and not just something made up to keep your spirits high while you’re actually not accomplishing much. For example, if you rarely eat sweets and are eating a healthy diet, putting “no more sweets” on your list means you’re crowding out other, more important goals. If you’re a student, these important, relevant goals could be “go from C to B in five of my classes” or “pass all of my tests this year with at least 80%”.

The relevance of the goals also means that your list of resolutions shouldn’t be a mile long – decide on two or three most important long-term goals and once you’ve achieved those, you can add others to the list! [2]

Time-bound goals

Now, what do we mean exactly when we talk about short-term and long-term goals? Short-term goals are simply your stepping stones towards long-term goals. Long-term goals tend to be more specific and measurable. “Going from C’s to B’s in these three courses” would be a short-term goal, while “reach a 4.5 GPA” would be a long-term one. Make sure to give your short-term goals a time limit; this makes it easier to achieve your long-term goal (which should also have a time limit!) more easily and quickly. For example, your short-term goal could be to save “this much” the first month, “this much” the next –  and so on until you reach your long-term financial goal. [2]

To make sure these goals are met, you should use all the resources available to you that could help you track and achieve your short-term goals. This applies to all the groups and individuals who could be helpful: for example, you can join a gym and find a personal trainer, team up with your friends when it comes to jogging or studying, or contact us at Nobel Coaching & Tutoring and decide on a plan together!

But as you embark on this journey, remember one more thing… Don’t tell everyone about your big resolutions! You can share them with your family and one or two close friends, but that should be it. If you go around telling everyone you plan to start jogging or studying two times a day, you’re tricking your brain into thinking you’re actually doing it. This is because the reward centers in our brains are activated by both words and actions, so your brain will essentially be rewarding you just for talking about your big decisions!

So, make S.M.A.R.T. resolutions, use all the resources at your disposal, and your motivation will be sure to stay with you all the way through!

by Jelena Jegdić

References:

  1. https://www.statista.com/chart/12386/the-most-common-new-years-resolutions-for-2018/
  2. https://www.smartsheet.com/blog/essential-guide-writing-smart-goals

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Cultivating a Sense of Gratitude

Gratitude is the emotion we experience when we notice and appreciate gifts that have been given to us in our lives. These gifts are frequently thoughtful things others do for us, but they can really be anything that makes us stop and say, “I am so grateful for this!” You can appreciate the gifts of nature, be grateful for feeling good today, or just for being alive!

But gratitude is often overlooked in the fast-paced world of today. It’s easy to get lost in the hassles of our everyday lives and never pause to look at the big picture and realize there’s a lot to be grateful for. And although gratitude is an emotion, it can, through time, grow into a positive personal ethic. If we feel gratitude as an emotion, we feel it only briefly and not necessarily often. But if we integrate it into our value system, it becomes part of us and we feel it more often and more deeply.

However, that requires persistence and hard work, but we’re here to help! Today, you’ll learn about all the positive outcomes of gratitude, as well as how you can practice it to become a happier and healthier person.

Psychological benefits

Gratitude can be beneficial for our mental health in many different ways. First and foremost, it’s a good stepping stone for combatting – and preventing – depression and anxiety. [4] People who suffer from mild depression have said that when they feel as though they’re sinking, being grateful helps them feel they can survive and swim instead.

But besides that, gratitude can simply make us feel happier, more enthusiastic, and more optimistic about our present and our future as well. [3] People who tend to focus on all the gifts they’ve been given also tend to experience negative emotions like envy, sadness, or bitterness, less than those who focus on their problems. [3] This isn’t to say all our problems should be completely overlooked and expected to solve themselves; rather, we should start by being grateful for what we still have, before proceeding to work on the issues we’re facing.

Finally, gratitude is a very adaptive feeling when it comes to facing stressful situations. People who often feel grateful say they feel calmer and less stressed when it comes to difficult situations, compared to those who don’t practice gratefulness that often.

Interpersonal benefits

As we mentioned before, gratitude is often related to other people in our lives. Although we may feel grateful for life itself, we tend to appreciate the people we have in our lives and everything they are giving us wholeheartedly – all their help, love, and care. When we feel grateful about that, we start feeling loved and cared for, which further leads to us trusting other people and wanting to preserve our existing relationships, or even build new ones. [2]

Some say that gratefulness is the core of altruism. [2] If we feel other people have been kind to us and if we appreciate it, we’re more likely to help them out when needed, even if it can sometimes come at the short-term expense of ourselves. Through gratitude, we learn to let go of our fears of being hurt or used, and we start feeling good if we help others, just as we feel good when they help us.

Physical benefits

You may have now realized that gratitude can have mental benefits, but can you believe it also helps you be physically healthier? And it’s not just self-reports, either.  If you start feeling grateful often, people close to you are bound to start noticing both mental and physical differences in you. There are cyclical physical benefits to the immune system: gratefulness helps lower stress, which lowers blood pressure, too; having more balance in your body means your immune system will be stronger and thus you’ll be getting sick less often; being sick less often decreases your psychological anxiety, which lets you sleep better. Finally, all of this helps you look better and have more energy, which is very helpful if you’re having trouble convincing yourself to exercise. Of course, exercising helps the body, too. And it all starts with gratitude! [4] [3]

We can be very focused on what we don’t have – so much so that we forget about the things we do have. But after hearing of all the benefits gratefulness can give us, the question remains – how do we cultivate a sense of gratitude? How do we internalize it, instead of it being an emotion we tend to feel only once a year during Thanksgiving?

One thing you can do is keep a journal. [4] Writing in it every day might be a bit too much – you could get so used to writing gifts down that you start feeling indifferent towards them. Instead, write in it once or twice a week, or as often as you feel like – everybody is different when it comes to that.

What you should do is create a list of things you’re grateful for – family, friends, a wonderful day, that great new song you heard – anything that makes you happy. Simply think of all the things you have that are not really a default in life, as well as things you didn’t even have until recently.

Another useful thing you can do is help your community. You can volunteer or donate to the less fortunate.  Getting a sense of other people’s misfortunes and feeling you are helping someone makes you feel more grateful for the things you have in your own life. [4]

Finally, a simple meditation practice can help open your mind and make more room for gratitude. [4] Each person has their own preferences, and gratitude works best if they choose the practice that fits them best. So choose yours and ask yourself – What am I grateful for?

by Jelena Jegdić

 

References:

  1. Bartlett, M., & DeSteno, D. (2004). Gratitude and Prosocial Behavior. Psychological Science 17(4):319-25.
  2. Emmons, R., & Stern, R. (2013). Gratitude as a Psychotherapeutic Intervention. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 69(8):846-55
  3. Emmons, R., & McCullough, M. (2003). Counting Blessings Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, No. 2, 377–389
  4. Sheldon, K. & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to Increase and Sustain Positive Emotion: The Effects of Expressing Gratitude and Visualizing Best Possible Selves. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(2): 73–82

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