Parents are too soft these days

Educate consistently: "Better to stay soft"

Education experts advise parents to give children clear rules - but also room for maneuver.

“How does fear sound?” Is one of the questions that the German educator and therapist Udo Baer asks children. "Some children perceive it shrill, for others it sounds creeping, with some it is as if it were part of everyday noises," says Baer. Violence does not depend on the action, but on the effect. Because the limit to violence is where a child is physically or psychologically injured. On the one hand, the effect of constant punishment on children is that they lose their trust. But also in the fact that, constantly living in the knowledge that they are doing a lot wrong, they can ultimately come to the conclusion that they are "wrong" themselves.

Strive honestly. As a justification, a word is often brought into play that has now developed its own dynamic: the consequence. Because it is not uncommon for parents who invest a lot in raising their children and who make honest efforts to be good parents end up back in the punishment system as a result. The “if” is followed by a “then”, the “one” is followed by a “two and three”, and mothers and fathers find themselves in a situation in which they actually didn't want to be.

That is why education experts are increasingly recommending letting go of the leash once in a while - for yourself and for the children. “Parents should relax,” says family therapist and bestselling author Jesper Juul. It sounds similar with Udo Baer: “Parents should stay soft,” he says.

Of course there are things that cannot be discussed. A child shouldn't reach for the hot stove, shouldn't just stay away in the evenings up to a certain age at its own discretion. Apart from a few key points that mothers and fathers set, he also argues against the trend towards consistent upbringing. When parents ask him how they should react in individual situations or difficult phases, he asks back: "How would you have liked it yourself?" but also scope in other areas. Respect for one another is fundamental, but of course mistakes always happen. Parents are people, they make mistakes. And when one happens, sometimes an apology is needed.

("Die Presse", print edition, 07.12.2014)