It is important to note that the central issue is Hurried Child, which detrimentally impacts the Australian classroom context. It is the result of excessive pressure and stress imposed on children without essential support systems and inclusive environments. The solutions can be found in the appraisal theory and the sociocultural constructivist theory. The former theoretical framework is relevant to understanding the key findings, whereas the latter is useful for the recommendations. Two theories together provide an effective and unique perspective on addressing the issue with a systematic approach to reorganizing the schools, where educators are the main drivers of positive change.
It should be noted that within the Australian educational system, the Hurried Child phenomena are common due to various classroom elements and the format of receiving education. Hurried Child refers to the misbalance in a child’s mental well-being and high rates of anxiety caused by the school-related aspects, such as homework, tests, or exams (Elkind, 2007). This issue is connected to the unhealthy parenting dynamics where parents place greater importance on the concept of education rather than on their child’s emotional needs. The key theoretical framework is the appraisal theory, where the emotional responses and feelings of children are determined by the cognitive appraisals and evaluative measures (Treffers et al., 2019). The ideas behind it are critical for the key findings and identification of potential contributing factors. The second theory is the sociocultural theory, where the constructivist theory serves as a basis for the policy recommendation in regards to the inclusive environment within an educational process. Both concepts blend together to create a comprehensive picture to properly and fully address the problem of stress among children.
In the case of the central issue, the privatized school system in Australia contributes to the higher rates of studying and seeds further bias of unhealthy studying dynamics. The underlying rationale is explaining the relevance of educators to understand these problems revolve around promoting inclusive environments in schools reflective of the communities. In other words, the teaching methods deployed by teachers and other relevant professionals must promote diversity of values, mutual respect, and access to knowledge as well as assistance to all students. Recognizing the vital impact of the sociocultural environment on children’s growth and providing healthy appraisal mechanisms are essential for their development. This way, a justified focus on the importance of education negatively affects the well-being of children in certain cases where it is presented detrimentally.
The general meaning behind the definition of a hurried child is the idea of imposing children on the surrounding factors that do not match their actual age because of higher pressure and responsibility rates. It is stated that “1 in 5 (20%) young people aged 11–17 had either high or very high levels of psychological distress (13% and 6.6%, respectively)” (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022, para. 1). In addition, “an estimated 245,000 young people aged 12–17 (14%) experienced a mental disorder, with males more commonly affected than females” (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2022, para. 1). Thus, such an environment is most damaging for a developing mind, and it makes a child think and behave not in a correlation with their respective age.
It means that they are expected to act like miniature adults, which puts significant pressure on them at an early age. For example, tiger mothers, such as Amy Chua’s case, show this pressure’s impact on a child (McDonnell, 2002). Essentially, children in this environment have to mentally grow up way faster than they are supposed to (Gross, 2013b). These are mostly unrealistic expectations and high pressure resulting in troubles related to expressing emotions, exaggerated feelings of guilt, and the developed sense of inferiority.
A harmful environment like this is created by exposing children to way too many things that they cannot manage all at once. It is mostly related to the academic pressure, high expectations from parental authority figures that have a fundamental influence on a child’s decisions, and the standards for a child’s independence that are almost impossible to reach at such an early age (Mannen et al., 2021). These elements of an unhealthy environment combine and collectively pressure children’s perception of self, challenge the ability to sanely evaluate the concept of responsibility, and impose the establishment of inaccurate and often completely false priorities.
The overall effect that mentioned factors have on children varies from the slightly exaggerated focus on the academic program to complete devotion to studying culture and unrealistic seeking for validation through the academic performance (Komlosi-Ferdinand, 2020). At the same time, the main damaging element of such an environment is the lack of inclusivity for children with different natural abilities and needs. While some children can adjust to harsh requirements and work beyond their capacities, other children cannot reach the plank of achievements that they are expected to gain. Corresponding failures under such a significant pressure majorly damage children’s mental health and lead to long-term consequences related to their self-esteem and performance evaluation.
Contributing Factors and Development
General aspects that majorly influence how children perceive education and school dynamics are divided into two categories: parents’ involvement and the consequences of pursuing a specific educational system. Involvement of parents in their child’s academic life is seen more as internal pressure, as children usually feel deeply connected to their parents and feel dependent on them. The consequences of educational system dynamics are a broader influence that indirectly results from local expectations of regular school life, the average academic performance of children, and the overall education format. Hence, the pressure on children constantly flows from various directions, and it deepens the harmful impact on their mental well-being.
Internal pressure plays a crucial role in developing a child’s sense of responsibility and self-evaluation within the framework of the appraisal theory. As mentioned before, the way parents view the importance of academic performance and the extent to which they focus on the educational part of a child’s life generally determines the extent of a child’s attention to it. Even though children are often different from their parents and desire to pursue other goals, subconsciously, they rely on the point of view of their parents more than on their own. Parents are viewed as figures of great importance and authority, and children easily believe their words and trust their opinions primarily because family is perceived as a source of care and support (National Association of Independent Schools, 2012). It is especially prominent at a young age when children’s general perception of the world is actively forming (The Exchange, 2014). This way, when parents constantly express how important their children’s academic journey is for them, children learn that they have to perform well academically to meet their parents’ expectations.
The potential effects of Hurried Child phenomenon can be explained through the appraisal theory, where the lack of proper feedback and evaluation can impair a child’s learning and development. It can be expressed both in the forms of verbal aggression and emotional manipulation. In the first case, the inability of children to reach a plank of academic expectations imposed by their parents results in disapproval and active negative emotions from parents. Verbal aggression is proven to have a derogatory impact on children’s mental health and therefore affects their well-being in the context of education (Aloia, 2022). At the same time, in the case of emotional manipulation, the child notices that certain actions are related to their education (ABC, 2012). These include not completing homework in time or returning home with a bad score, which negatively affects their parents.
The stated expressions can take place through actively displayed disappointment, sadness, or any other non-aggressive negative emotions from the parents’ side that acts as situational emotional information which triggers expected reaction in accordance with the appraisal theory (Treffers et al., 2019). Hence, in both cases, a child learns that not meeting their parents’ expectations related to academics leads to their negative reaction. For a child’s developing mind, it is often subconsciously seen as an indirect punishment (Gross, 2013a) for their “wrong” actions (Kehily, 2010). Thus, they understand that gaining any academic performance that does not meet their parents’ expectations is a wrong act.
It often reaches an extreme responsibility extent of prevention dynamics. Since a child is aware of the possible consequences of verbal and emotional punishment that come with bad academic scores, they try to prevent it by setting an expectation plank even higher than the one of their family. It is an example of the feeling of inferiority and self-deprecation, which became more common among little children due to the increased amount of expectations towards them (Hao et al., 2021). For instance, in Australia, the educational system is majorly characterized by being privatized (Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership, 2011). Since the late 1990s, the government has been actively investing in the format of private schools, which resulted in stricter expectations of children’s performance (Chesters, 2018). A major consequence is children’s exaggerated focus on general time spent on assignments.
Generally, students in public schools spend less time doing their homework than those in private schools (Ali, 2021). As in Australia, the number of private schools is high, and the average time spent on completing the assignments, which is locally considered normal, is higher too (Gurr, 2020). However, Australian teachers noticed that emotional imbalance and unhealthy perception of the academic process within children majorly impact their performance in a negative way (Pirskanen et al., 2019). Thus, both types of stress released on the developing minds cause significant mental harm and are not always productive in the context of academic performance.
Conclusion and Recommendations
It is recommended to adhere to inclusive policies to ensure proper child development in accordance with the constructivist theory. These include making schools reflective of their communities and surrounding sociocultural environments (Pirskanen et al., 2019). Students need to be able to access and be able to participate in the learning process alongside their peers within a support network. In other words, major and reasonable adjustments need to be made with respective teaching strategies, which imbed the school life in culture and daily practices. The inclusive environment is established by all techniques and measures to meet the essential individual needs of each student, and thus, flexibility and adaptability of the teaching environment are critical.
It is important to avoid confusing inclusive policies with integration, segregation, or exclusion since these are opposite of the recommended approaches. Inclusive policies manifest themselves in collaboration with communities, families, and students. The system-wide framework is necessary to ensure that diversity factors, such as values, are respected. Learning environments must be accessible for all children with support from skills, experienced, and competent workforce. In addition, the latter must constantly monitor and evaluate the progression and development of children with opportunities for effective transitions.
Constant academic pressure is widely seen as something common and unsurprising. It is nearly impossible to minimize the levels of academic expectations that constantly come from different directions since they have been affecting children for generations. This way, it caused a further pass down of unrealistic studying standards that significantly impact the levels of self-deprecation among children (Duchesne & Larose, 2018). Thus, when dealing with this issue in the classroom, it is more important to focus on a child’s well-being rather than on the details related to the academic system. While it is important to share knowledge and set certain expectations to encourage children to learn more, it is equally significant to respect their mental abilities and working limits.
The most impactful teaching strategy that helps prevent excessive focus on academic performance is the gradual help with discovering priorities and individually balancing them (Walker, 2005). Hence, it is necessary to display the importance of fun and studying on the same level (TEDx Talks, 2014). Additionally, a helpful measure could be encouraging participation in extracurricular activities, as it would help the kids to realize that life is not solely focused on their studies (Simoncini & Caltabiono, 2012). In the end, the main responsibility of a teacher beyond the general education program is to educate children on how to learn effectively and healthily.
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