Raising children: Letting the little ones argue, a squabbler

Already in the sandpit there is bickering about bucket and shovel. As a parent, however, you should not intervene immediately. The renowned child psychologist Dr. Peter Pohl is, among other things, co-founder and head of the Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology Section of the Professional Association of German Psychologists. For meanwhile 40 years it concerns itself with the behaviors and the feeling world of children and young people. Dr. Pohl is convinced that above all the behaviour of the parents is important for a positive child education and development. As an expert he knows why the correct handling of arguments is an important part of child education and how arguments between children differ from those between adults.

Streitlotse: Dr. Pohl, why is fighting in childhood important?

Dr. Peter Pohl: Fighting is an important part of child development and child rearing. The personality develops with early childhood friendships in the sandbox. In conflict with their peers, they learn to express their wishes and needs, but also to assert themselves against others. Children quickly notice that they do not always get their way. When children learn at an early age that they sometimes have to put back and find compromises, they can deal better with defeat in adulthood.

Controvertee: Should parents interfere when children argue?

Dr. Peter Pohl: Even if it is difficult: No! To allow quarrelling should be part of raising children. Adults often perceive quarrelling as something bad and want to settle it. However, children often find a solution to their problem themselves very quickly. If children are not taught how to deal properly with conflicts in child rearing, this can have consequences for the development of the children and their social position in a group. They must learn to assert themselves and integrate themselves. If a dispute degenerates and there is no end to it, adults may naturally intervene as arbitrators. It is important that they remain calm. A conversation with the squabblers, in which everyone has their say and at the end of which there is a solution, forms the basis.

Streitlotse: To what extent does dispute have something to do with raising children?

Dr. Peter Pohl: It is not the dispute itself, but the right way of dealing with it that is an essential part of raising children. If the child grows up with siblings, it learns relatively quickly that its own needs are not always paramount to the parents. In the direct confrontation with brother or sister, he learns that he has to wait until he receives the desired attention. Finding compromises and solutions is one of them. In a family in which there is a lot of controversy, the child looks at the behaviour of the parents and imitates it – this is also a form of child rearing, because the parents are the role models. If a certain behaviour is punished, although the parents behave in the same way, there is an imbalance in the children’s arguments. They do not understand why their actions were wrong, even though they are also being led by others.

Streitlotse: How does dispute between children differ from dispute between adults?

Dr. Peter Pohl: If one compares the arguments of adults and children, it is more playful for children. They don’t take arguments as seriously as adults and forget more quickly what it’s all about. Children don’t like to argue, which is why they can come to an agreement more quickly. Although adults don’t like lengthy arguments either, their life experience tells them whether a discussion is worthwhile and when it is necessary to stand up for their convictions.

Controversial pilot: Can rules be laid down for a dispute?

Dr. Peter Pohl: Depending on the problem, certain rules should be laid down for a dispute. For example, a lamp that reacts to volume helps. If the noise level rises during a dispute, the participants often don’t even notice. The flashing light reminds the disputants that they should lower their voices. In principle, however, the same rules apply to disputes between children as to disputes between adults. Everyone can have their say and describe their view of things. This also means that the opponent of the dispute may finish speaking and is not interrupted. Insults and physical interventions are also not permitted. And also the alliance with others, in order to annoy the individual, is a No-Go and should be actively prevented by the adults.

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Christina Cherry
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