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Conversation etiquette for Generation Alpha

While it is difficult to let go, allowing your child to fail and fall before you is important to facilitate the development of children’s cognitive abilities. Building cognitive memories helps them associate feelings and experiences with past or familiar experiences.
Last Updated : 08 July 2024, 22:33 IST

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Why has teenage been difficult historically? It is the age when children shift their role models and agents of approval. From looking up to their family for approval and appreciation, a child seeks confirmation approval and appreciation from peers.  Though it has been a natural progression, it catches all parents off guard and endows them with the enormous guilt of failed parenting. 

While it is difficult to let go, allowing your child to fail and fall before you is important to facilitate the development of children’s cognitive abilities.  Building cognitive memories helps them associate feelings and experiences with past or familiar experiences. The diversity of such experiences enriches individuals and makes them “street-smart”. It further improves a child’s resilience and enhances one’s ability to handle emotions. 

A common bias that overshadows teenagers is anchoring bias—the tendency of an individual to rely on the first information to make decisions. Many taboo topics are discussed at home and spoken, if at all, in hushed tones. How does this affect our children?

The young, impressionable mind considers the information or reasoning they gather from peers as their anchor or point of reference. All further information, deliberations, and research involve spinning hypotheses around the initial anchor. It is difficult, if not impossible, to displace the anchor. 

The pressure to be accepted compels teenagers to comply with popular thoughts and opinions. Having a herd mentality is not a crime; not everyone must rebel against every opinion. Etiquette lies in the ability to disagree or draw the line politely. Every parent is familiar with situations where fear of peer rejection forces one to “play along.” But how far is too far? 

Peer pressure has shifted from evident changes in dressing sense, speech, or behaviour to social media presence. Ideological differences can be expressed on public platforms with further reach and repercussions. 

Making them resilient

How can parents inculcate a behaviour that helps improve the resilience of teenagers? 

Have conversations on diverse topics at home. No topic should be considered taboo for discussion. Parents can present situations to their children, like it happened to them or their colleagues/ friends, and seek advice on how best to react in such situations. This is a good conversation starter since it internalizes the situation before suggesting it. The emotional investment serves as the best substitute for an experience.

Establish the etiquette of dialogue. Allow for contradicting opinions to be put forth without weighing one over the other. But ensure that neither party is disrespected or attacked at a personal level when a defeat is imminent.

Each party should understand the other person’s point completely, clarify if needed, and paraphrase it before presenting their point of view. This is a very constructive method since each party is content that their point of view is well understood; this reduces their anxiety and helps them listen to the other’s point of view patiently without agitation.

Discuss the repercussions of each solution suggested by your child. It helps establish a field of vision that is not short-sighted.

Every discussion need not have a winner. Accepting that each is entitled to their opinions as long as the other party understands and respects them is sufficient. This fosters a culture of tolerance and the ability to not always seek a winner during an argument or debate.

Nudge the topic to be repeated after a few days. Let children see that the same topic has a different perspective when one sleeps over it. A bit of research and contemplation, along with the enrichment from the previous discussion, helps them appreciate the importance of patience. There is no mandate to conclude at the end of every discussion.

One should also note that one should not overdo such discussions; a few well-spaced discussions enrich one’s thoughts and prevent emotional drain. 

Discussions in such controlled environments are a good precursor to expected societal behaviours. Thus, any incorrect initial information serving as your child’s anchor can be gently repositioned by such discussions at home.

Had there been any established mechanisms earlier? When our parents were growing up, what seemed like societal gossip served as an emotionally vested situational simulation that guided our thoughts, words, and subsequent actions. 

With digital media’s stronghold making human interaction sparse for teenagers, it becomes a parental responsibility to help one’s children by nudging the right behaviour and overcoming any cognitive bias. 

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Published 08 July 2024, 22:33 IST

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