Now it’s enough! Sometimes children definitely go overboard. Educational consultant Ulrich Gerth explains how you can then set up clear rules and, above all, enforce them
Nobody likes to fight. But everyone does – because every family has situations in which different interests collide. Eat five ice creams in a row? Sure, it tastes delicious. But firstly it is expensive, secondly Karius and Baktus are happy, and thirdly the little one later eats the healthy vegetable patties one hundred percent. So parents say no after the first ice cream. There is not one more.
But what if the dear little refuses to follow the parental instructions? Also: who gives parents the right to restrict children’s freedom? We asked the educational expert Ulrich Gerth. He is head of the St. Nikolaus counseling and youth welfare center in Mainz.
What do you really think about the issue of consistency in education??
I am a big friend of it. It means that agreements and rules are binding in a family. Everyone has to stick to it, big and small. Consequence does not mean that children have to follow arbitrary instructions from their parents. On the contrary, it should be based on mutual respect: respect for the dignity of the child – but also for that of the adults. They often make the mistake of deferring their own needs in favor of the children until it crashes.
How to implement consistency?
By first explaining the rules in such a way that children can understand them. This does not mean that the little ones love the rules. But at least you have to understand them. Many parents believe that if they talk long enough, the children can be softened to find the whole thing good. But that doesn’t work. Getting just one ice cream is just stupid. But some things are just not there. And then you have to stay tuned as parents. However, sometimes you have to renegotiate rules, for example when children get older or a rule turns out to be meaningless – or when children have better arguments.
What are irrefutable rules?
Of course, that depends on the family. But I think: walking across the street, when a car comes, is not possible. Brushing teeth in the evening is also not negotiable for smaller children. There are also irrefutable rules for parents: no violence and no degrading measures! When a child breaks the rules, you make it clear what happens when that happens again. Then the child must walk across the street by the hand. It is only important that the consequence has an inner logic, that is, it has to do with where the child has crossed the border.
It sounds good in theory, but it often doesn’t work in practice. Why?
Because many parents misunderstand their educational mandate. We don’t have to be our children’s best friends – we are responsible for them. And with that we are ultimately the bosses. You don’t always get applause with a clear attitude, but you do you have to endure as an adult. Most parents are afraid to implement unpopular measures. They are afraid of clashes and losing the children’s affection. But the children’s love is very stable. That is why it is important that everything we do is done out of respect for the dignity and uniqueness of a child.
The art of love
1. Love: Responding sensitively to the needs of the little one increases the bond between parents and child and is therefore the most important pillar for later development. Research knows that the more genuine care children experience, the more positive they develop.
That hurts: too little love and protection – or too much: love can be overprotective, then it can the small slow down in their development.
2. Attention: Accepting the child as it is, allowing him to have preferences and trusting him or her in his own way ensures that children will grow strong later.
That hurts: To humiliate, insult children, even physically abuse them – but also to constantly put their own adult needs on the back burner.
3. Cooperation: children need an environment – at home, in the daycare center, with friends – in which they can learn the social rules of living together without the constant support of an adult.
That hurts: The child is controlled too much and cannot try enough himself. There is little scope for self-expression and is often checked.
4. Structure: Reasonable rules, clear agreements, rituals that structure the day give children enormous security. And they help to avoid quarrels.
That hurts: Chaos and boundlessness particularly unsettle very small children.
5. Funding: Every child wants to learn, wants to experience something new: parents must therefore create an environment in which the curiosity of the little ones is satisfied, and they must also be able to play as much as possible outside and with others.
That hurts: Excessive funding stresses children – and busy schedules prevent them from taking important development steps themselves.
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