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Kiwi Kids Acting Out Because Our Values System Is Eroding

The Education Review Office report that New Zealand presents some of the most challenging school behaviours in the OECD is hardly surprising because we have empowered our children as individuals but removed the structures that channel that 'power', such as values, spirituality, and self-awareness.

Simone-Ellen Keller, a personal transformation strategist and founder of Genius You, says we've given the kids the car keys without teaching them how to drive.

She identifies a lack of structured values and self-awareness as key reasons behind worsening school behaviours.

"Empowering our children as individuals is crucial, but the erosion of traditional structures and values has left young minds unanchored in a turbulent developmental phase.

"While removing old constraints has benefits, it has also left a void. Our children lack the tools to navigate their emotions and actions positively," she says.

Keller says the crisis in behaviour stems from an educational and social system that fosters self-expression without corresponding disciplines. As a result, children struggle to align their behaviours with positive outcomes, often misinterpreting their emotions as identity-defining.

"When you have unharnessed minds, boundaries get blurred. As parents and teachers, we recall the things we didn't like about our childhood—discipline, church, 'children should be seen and not heard' and other tropes—and we want to change that for our children.

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“This is all good and well, but when you have freedom without boundaries, you get all this raw emotion that is difficult to manage—emotions take control."

She says parents are responsible in many ways because how we raise children is largely influenced by our emotional responses. We avoid hard things like 'grounding' a child because it makes us feel bad.

Understanding our own mental processes is crucial so that we can respond better to challenging situations. Teachers and parents frequently lack the necessary skills to effectively manage this empowerment.

Keller offers three critical strategies for addressing these issues:

Reintroduction of Structured Values: Families and educators should collaborate to establish and reinforce core values, creating a consistent behavioural framework for children.

Enhanced Self-Awareness Education: Schools must incorporate curricula focusing on self-discovery, emotional intelligence, and the constructive expression of feelings.

Creation of New Rituals: With the erosion of traditional religious rituals, new, meaningful practices that can offer guidance and stability to children are needed.

"To be free and empowered, you need to understand how to get the best out of yourself. Understand what you stand for," Keller says.

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