By Nur Ashabiena Mohd Ashraf
DAS Educational Advisor

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Michael Ungar suggests that there are three identities (three survival strategies) which help to describe young people’s patterns of coping and surviving. These three identities include the panda, the chameleon and the leopard.

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Firstly, youths with the panda identity will stick with one identity no matter where they are or whom they are with. Such youths prefer to stay with the same peer group both at school and at home. Such youths do not prefer to take any opportunities to change and they do not seem to be able to see the wrong in any of their behaviours. Instead, they seem to impress others by their strong level of confidence, self-esteem and creativity. They tend to get involved in the same behaviour and this often explains the reasons why they often repeat the same mistakes; hence, explains the reasons why they may become repeat offenders in the future. As someone who works with youths, we may experience interacting with youths who are good in manipulating others, have no respect towards any authoritative figure as they want to be given the freedom to do whatever they want. This is usually due to the fact that such youths do not want their identity to be challenged by anyone.

Secondly, youths with a chameleon identity will blend in to survive. Such youths will try to frequently change their identities in order to be accepted by others. Such youths will do whatever they are told to do in order to be accepted by the group. This is the group of youths that will not stand up for themselves for fear of losing face. Such youths may suffer emotional wounds of rejection and even be suicidal and self-destructive when they no longer get the attention of others.

Finally, youths with the leopard identity will insist others look at them in the way that they control. These youths will often try to sneak around, do things behind their teachers’ back, frighten their teachers with their forthrightness and tend to be fierce and unreasonable defenders of others whom they think are being mistreated in their school.

Therefore, it is important for us as educators to be able to identify students who are likely to adopt such identities and help them to develop healthy identities. Educators may do so by listening to the reasons why they are behaving in a certain way, helping them to critically evaluate their behaviours, provide the opportunities which allow the youths to feel that their needs are being met, as well as, helping them to acknowledge their strengths as opposed to pointing out their weaknesses. Secondly, youths with a chameleon identity will blend in to survive. Such youths will try to frequently change their identities in order to be accepted by others. Such youths will do whatever they are told to do in order to be accepted by the group. This is the group of youths that will not stand up for themselves for fear of losing face. Such youths may suffer emotional wounds of rejection and even be suicidal and self-destructive when they no longer get the attention of others. Finally, youths with the leopard identity will insist others look at them in the way that they control. These youths will often try to sneak around, do things behind their teachers’ back, frighten their teachers with their forthrightness and end to be fierce and unreasonable defenders of others whom they think are being mistreated in their school.  

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This article was published in FACETS Vol 1. 2019 read it here!