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Great and grounded

How not to raise brash, bratty, and Bieber-like kids in these post-and-propagate, become-instantly-popular, internet-driven times

The list of his shenanigans is getting a mile-long. At his major concerts in Oslo, Justin Bieber walked out of the stage after singing only one song. His Norwegian teenage fans were reportedly left stunned and in tears, but such behavior from the Internet-born, social media-babied pop star isn’t surprising at all, considering his many past transgressions and brushes with the law. Sure, he’s talented, but the 21-year-old is more likely to be remembered for offenses like driving and drag racing while drunk, spitting on fans, illegally spray-painting walls abroad, egging a neighbor’s house, being thrown out of nightclubs, and fighting and hitting the paparazzi, than for his platinum records.

Of course, no well-meaning parents want their children to turn out like Bieber, even with the millions he has earned from his records and endorsements and his celebrity status (Bieber fever!) The world as it is has already too much violence and negativity, and certainly doesn’t need another messed-up, misbehaving youngster to sow notoriety and arrogance and sell them as normal or, worse, hip.

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What then should today’s moms and dads do to bring up good, respectable children? The kind who would not be blinded by fame and fortune? Ones who would remain simple, humble, and generous in the face of success and multiple achievements? How to not raise another Bieber, or Lindsay Lohan, or Macaulay Culkin?

“The best and ideal way is to expose children to the less glamorous facets of real life such as the poverty in the streets,” says Aina Arcilla-Lacson, M.A., who describes herself as a teacher, mother, educational consultant, and toymaker. Aina and husband Basti make their teenage daughter work during the summer season. “Since we owned a restaurant, our daughter had to report for work three times a week as a ‘bus girl.’ She would clear out tables after customers leave, put used plates and cutlery away, wipe up, and set the tables for the next batch of diners.  Like the rest of the crew, she is given 15-minute breaks and ‘times-in-and-out’ like everyone else,” shares mother of two.

NOT JUST VIRTUAL Real-life contact with people is important as it allows children to experience firsthand the consequences of their actions.

NOT JUST VIRTUAL Real-life contact with people is important as it allows children to experience firsthand the consequences of their actions.

Aina, who has worked and taught in four different continents, believes that having her daughter work at the restaurant, where she is supposed to be COO (Child of the Owners), makes it clear to her child that she is no different from everyone else. “Service” is a humbling experience. “The value of hard work is introduced,” explains Aina. “And mostly, my daughter is exposed to persons and situations she would normally not encounter because of her being ‘sheltered’ and living within a small circle of ‘virtual friends.’ She is exposed to real people through face-to-face encounters and to real situations where, when they become difficult, she has to extricate herself from, on her own.”

Teaching children values is important as well. For Aina, love of country (knowing where they belong and what they stand for), good work ethics (punctuality, sincerity, and honesty), and people skills are must-haves for young boys and girls. “Sadly, people skills disappear when youngsters are always in front of a static screen, and a push button is conveniently available to disconnect themselves. The ability to relate to other human beings is still paramount. No one is an island,” she points out.

Religion also helps to a certain extent like in distinguishing right from wrong and endorsing respect for human life, but contact with real people is crucial for kids to really understand what is proper and what is not, what is right and what is wrong and for them to experience firsthand the consequences of their actions. Screen time or “virtual friends” do not offer human touch and, thus, do not stir that inner gut feel for what is correct.

Ever practical and progressive, Aina has accepted that gadgets are here to stay. Still, she makes sure her children know the pros and cons of using them, as well as their inherent influences and dangers. “Gadgets will always be part of our children’s lives, well until they come into adulthood,” she says. “It will be used in learning and working and keeping friendships and relationships constant. With that being a fact, it is quite easy for the younger generation to think that ‘being published’ or ‘being on the net’ is what matters in life. How others see them, how they are valued, and how popular they are become vital. It is as if they are important only if someone ‘likes’ what they posted.”

She says having a 15-year-old has made her more conscious of how media is used. “Multimedia accessibility has been almost uncontrolled and, being teenagers, these kids use their phones and gadgets as their fuel for daily life,” says Aina. “They rarely look to the future. They are concerned mostly with ‘today’—their outfits, lunch, activity… rarely about tomorrow.”

Aina uses a bit of “fear” tactics to make sure her daughter does not fall prey to the lure of popularity. She told her daughter one day, for instance, about how her posts online can haunt her later in life when she tries to find a job. “I reminded her that the ‘Internet’ is no longer as private as she thinks and that her history can always be found and researched. The prospective employer can simply ‘google’ her and look into her past: what items she posts, what she does, who her friends are, and what sort of activities fascinate her. That background check will give him the information he needs to decide whether she is worthy to be hired or not.  I give her a grim picture of the future, based on what she will be posting today.  Fear is always a good strategy, especially for carefree, still-egocentric teens and                          young adults.”

Aina reiterates the significance and worth of human connections in our technology and gadget-dominated world, and how all kids, regardless of age, should have them.  “Although teenagers have completely different ‘priorities’ in life (self-image, approval from others, recognition of skills, and outward looks) compared to preschoolers, the two age-groups are practically the same when it comes to basic needs. Their common denominator is the importance of human contact and human touch.  Bonding. The gadgets and ‘likes’ only constitute a shallow and short-term component of growing up. What children will eventually need is the human touch, voice, and care that come with being around real people.”