In a world deeply divided on how to raise, educate, and guide today’s children into becoming the adults of the future, Professor Mircea Miclea succeeded in uniting a room filled with 150 people around a common conclusion: children tend to follow their desires, while parents must focus on their responsibilities.
In addition to his remarkable patience and extensive wisdom in explaining the metacompetencies that should be nurtured throughout the learning process, Professor Mircea Miclea emphasised the pivotal role of parents in shaping their children’s behaviour through their own actions, words, and, most importantly, by maintaining consistency.
The invitation we extended to Professor Miclea to join us at Avenor College on International Teachers’ Day was not by chance. The question, “What is worth learning?” is a shared concern that we address through both practical experience and research. Our aim is to adapt the process of transforming today’s children into tomorrow’s adults.
Here’s how Professor Miclea responded to the inquiries of Avenor parents:
How can we teach patience to today’s children?
“It’s becoming increasingly challenging to instil patience in children, particularly as they spend more and more time engrossed in digital technologies. Digital technologies are characterised, among other things, by the fact that minimal effort, such as clicking a mouse, results in substantial rewards relative to the effort exerted, and the rewards are immediate.
The initial step in teaching patience is to limit their excessive use of these digital technologies, which tend to foster impatience.
DELAYING THE REWARD
The next step involves delaying the reward. This means that, even when they have completed their tasks, you don’t immediately grant them the reward you promised. For instance, if you’ve promised to take them out for ice cream, you delay it for some time, gradually increasing the time interval. Through this gradual process, their brains learn that the reward will come, but they must be patient.
In the subsequent stage, sometimes you provide the reward, and other times you do not. By not giving the reward every time they exhibit the desired behaviour, you teach them the value of perseverance.
Perseverance is cultivated when the rewards become less predictable – the child doesn’t know exactly when the reward will come. They are aware that it will eventually arrive, but the uncertainty instils patience, encouraging them to persist.”
Can ambition be learned?
”Ambition is intrinsically linked to self-discipline. The fundamental rule of ambition is this: my objective is more important than my emotional state.
Frequently, our actions are influenced by our mood. If we feel tired, we might not rise from bed; if we’re in a positive state, we’re inclined to accomplish a multitude of tasks, but when our mood turns negative, we tend to avoid tasks due to fatigue.
THE GOAL TAKES PRECEDENCE OVER THE EMOTIONAL STATE
This is a significant achievement, as you’ve observed that successful individuals prioritise their goals and objectives over their emotional states. Regardless of whether they’re feeling tired, sad, content, enthusiastic, or despondent, their goal takes precedence.
This rule is something that must be learned, initially from external influences. Then, you help them through all stages of acquiring this rule, which involves projection, identification, and finally synchronisation. As a parent, you must set an example if you wish to be emulated.”
What can parents do?
”First and foremost, parents should examine their behaviour in their everyday lives.
Our brains possess a remarkable ability to derive rules. For example, a 5 or 6-year-old child can speak grammatically correctly without formal instruction because their brains unconsciously extract grammatical regularities, a trait embedded through evolution.
Now, consider this: children also extract regularities from our everyday behaviour, such as how we handle conflict, for example. If a child witnesses a parent resolving conflict through violence, they internalise this regularity.
Similarly, when children observe a parent choosing to prioritise their emotional state over a goal – for instance, deferring a walk until they feel better – they understand that their emotional state takes precedence over their objective.
Secondly, parents should pay close attention to how they reinforce or penalise behaviour, helping their children develop these rules.
UNDERSTANDING WHAT CHILDREN NEED AND LIKE
The key distinction between adults and children is that, unlike children, we need to consider what benefits children. Children typically focus on what they like. For instance, a 3, 4, or 5-year-old child enjoys playing, eating ice cream, or watching TV for extended periods. However, our role as parents is to consider what benefits them.
It is beneficial for children to adhere to certain rules that aid them in adapting to the world around them. Thus, we establish rules.
“First, do your homework, and then you can use the computer for only 2 hours.”
“First, clean your room, and then you have the right to go to a certain place.”
These rules are essential since they teach children valuable skills that will be relevant in various areas of life, regardless of their future career choices. By instilling these rules, we prepare our children to adapt to the world of adulthood, which is ultimately more valuable than their temporary affection.
In summary, it is crucial to have children who are well-prepared for the challenges of adulthood, even if it means they may not love us as fervently. This is more desirable than having them adore us but be ill-prepared for the realities of adult life.”