And then there was a bang. Susanne Matthis* will never forget the look at her son, her shame when he ran to the door with a red cheek. "I'm never coming back!" he yelled as she tried to catch up. When the 49-year-old dental technician from a small town in northern Germany talks about the family celebration a year ago, her eyes still tear.
Oskar, then eleven, had been misbehaving all day. First he reluctantly shook hands with the hostess, then he played demonstratively with his smartphone during a speech. Again and again his mother asked him in a friendly whisper to at least turn off the sound. Instead, Oskar shouted “uhh Brussels sprouts!” when the main course was served. Then she vented her anger, her anger at her son, whose moods she had long been unable to bear. She knows it wasn't right to strike. "I should have pulled the brakes much earlier," she says today.
Matthis felt like many other mothers and fathers who are at the end of their tether, who lose their nerve, react disproportionately. Your children no longer know any borders, and you as parents don't know how to catch the rampaging offspring again. Family counseling centers can hardly save themselves from inquiries. If you search Amazon under the keyword "education", you will get almost 82,000 book suggestions. Parents are torn between the countless ideas of how they should educate, unsure how to keep the balance between encouraging and overburdening, between looking after and overprotecting.
Children who play alone in the street or go for walks through the forest - in the USA that hardly exists anymore. Parents constantly monitor their children out of fear. This has dramatic consequences.
Source: The World
Teachers also complain that it is becoming more difficult to find the right way to deal with the students. A survey of 500 teachers recently carried out by the Forsa Institute on behalf of the DAK came to the conclusion that the physical and mental problems of German primary school children have increased significantly. In addition to motor weaknesses, delays in language development and being overweight, the teachers mentioned difficulties concentrating and socially conspicuous behavior.
Why is that? Are the children too stubborn or the adults too weak? In the meantime, the voices accusing the parents of failure are increasing. In times of demanding careers, complicated patchwork structures and liberal life ideals, there was a lack of strength and courage for an education with clear statements. Especially those who only wanted harmony at home get the reward – in the form of a whining, raving child who can no longer be reached with kind words.
The Viennese youth psychologist Martina Leibovici-Mühlberger makes a gloomy prognosis in her new book "When the tyrant children grow up". She experiences a dramatic increase in behavioral disorders, listlessness and refusal to perform. A generation of narcissists is growing up, beyond discipline and order and far from being able to solve the problems of the future. She prophesied that we cannot count on today's youth.
In addition to discussions with teachers and parents, the psychologist processes experiences from her practice. A gallery of extreme cases: They range from the spoiled youngster who causes immense damage to property with his parents' Range Rover when he is drunk, but feels innocent, to a nine-year-old who still has to be breastfed before going to bed.
The examples are dramatic, but in their view the causes are clear: parents no longer fulfill their educational mandate. On the one hand, they give in to every desire for consumer goods, shower children with expensive toys, raise them to be materialists and neglect what really matters: values such as sharing, consideration, and respect. On the other hand, they set far too few limits.
"The educational contract," says Leibovici-Mühlberger, "has changed significantly in the last two and a half decades." The modern family is a cosmos revolving around the child. Children should be able to develop uninhibitedly, is today considered an ideal. You don't have to learn to limit yourself, to adapt to the needs of others. And they could rely on adults to always be by their side. The much-described “helicopter parents” are followed by the “tyrant children”.
Their mothers and fathers want to do things differently than the generations of parents before them. They are understanding, democratic. The generation barometer that the Allensbach Institute created for the forum “Make the family strong” makes this clear. Almost 90 percent of the parents surveyed with children under the age of 16 named self-confidence and self-confidence as important educational goals. 70 percent say their children should learn not to give up easily.
Fitting into a certain order is only an educational goal for 38 percent of those surveyed. It is hardly surprising that children are becoming more and more self-confident, that teachers and educators encounter strong personalities and that parents are finding it increasingly difficult to assert themselves. The idea that children hardly have to learn anything more important than self-confidence and assertiveness also has its downside. It fuels the fear of harm by setting limits. And that's why many parents don't even try.
Sometimes it is excessive concern that makes parenting difficult. Especially for parents who have had a child late. Susanne Matthis was 37 when she finally got pregnant. She and her husband Torsten, who is three years older, had waited so long. But even during pregnancy, the fear that something could go wrong was greater than the joy. And that's how it stayed.
"It was always crampy," says Susanne, who went to family counseling after she freaked out at the party. There was so much that she and her husband suspected: that it wasn't helpful if they cleared every obstacle out of their child's way, that they panicked when Oskar wanted to climb a tree at the age of five or as a ten-year-old with them friends at the pool.
"We knew that something had gone wrong," says the mother, "but it was the therapist who really opened our eyes." For the helplessness that they trained on him. And for his bullying being the answer to her idea of a happy childhood.
Oscar was spoiled. They were happy when he was delighted with the tiger-duck patterned bike, they relented when the four-year-old wanted a remote-controlled car just days later. It wasn't long before he started making life hell for his parents when he didn't get what he wanted.
He screamed and cried - until at some point they got so annoyed that they bought him the chocolate he asked for or allowed him to watch TV longer. They could have saved themselves the promises they had to make in return – “But there won’t be anything sweet tomorrow!”. Oskar had learned that he only had to terrorize her long enough for what he wanted to happen. "Our therapist put it in a nutshell," says Matthis. "She called Oskar a victim of our misunderstood love."
Ever since that realization, she and her husband have worked to say no more often. It's not easy for them, but the experience that Oskar calms down after a while and that he actually becomes more sociable helps them to remain consistent.
For the Danish family therapist and best-selling author of numerous parenting books, Jesper Juul, saying no is a labor of love. Parents who almost never said no, or first no and then yes, deprived the child of the opportunity to develop empathy and to accept the limits of the other person.
When parents say yes when they mean no, it leaves the child feeling lied to. Being predictable is more important than being satisfied. How else is it supposed to prepare for the many nos it will hear in its lifetime? From children who don't want to play with him, from teachers who are not satisfied with his performance, from the first love who doesn't return his feelings?
Juul demands a contemporary authority. "Parents must be alpha wolves," he writes in his new guide to "loving leadership in the family." He observes that parents are less and less daring to take this lead because they are afraid of making themselves unpopular – or because they are too lazy. Juul warns against taking the path of least resistance. That unsettles the children. The clearer the structures and rules are in the morning, for example, when it comes to getting ready for the way to kindergarten, the lower the risk of conflicts arising. A lack of leadership promotes frustration as well as tyrannical behavior.
How much children long for rules themselves is shown by the study by the Rheingold Institute in Cologne, which last year asked girls and boys between the ages of eight and 15 about their living environment on behalf of “Stern”. Accordingly, children and adolescents want their parents to be more clear and less chummy. Fixed times, binding announcements, values that you can use as a basis. Not least because they often find their parents, tired from work, moody, oscillating between being too strict and too soft.
How can it work in everyday life to enforce rules without falling into old authoritarian patterns? "Parents shouldn't just take on the role of decision-maker," says Berlin family therapist Mathias Thimm from the "Family Workshop familylab," which offers seminars across the country. A common question parents come to him with is, "My child is so angry. What can I do?” Thimm then asks what function anger could have. “Some children know that all they have to do is shout and they will get whatever they want. But there can also be frustration in anger. For example, if I am constantly being overlooked, that can express itself as anger.”
In order to find out, parents would have to talk more consciously with their children. If, for example, the son repeatedly fails to do his homework, most tend to reproach: "Not again! You're always so unreliable!” In this case, says Thimm, it's to be expected that he'll get angry. But you could also calmly ask, "What's the problem? How do you imagine it will be at school tomorrow? Do you need support?” Then he will probably not react aggressively because he feels that he is being taken seriously.
"Children always do best when I'm authentic," says Eva Hentschel, family therapist from Kleinmachnow near Berlin. The most important prerequisite for healthy leadership is that parents first take care of themselves. Only then would they have the strength for a level-headed upbringing. “It is important how you talk about problems. Not manipulatively, along the lines of: 'Then mommy will be better', but quite clearly: 'I want it this way and that. I can see you don't want this, I can understand your anger. And yet I make the decision now.'"
For Juul, too, taking on more responsibility means, above all, making decisions for the children who do not yet have the overview to choose between different options and are not able to think ahead. Adults would first have to set an example for them in these skills.
In the meantime, Susanne Matthis has also learned that when dealing with children it has to be much more about listening to yourself and your intuition, making yourself independent of feelings of guilt and the pressure of being perfect parents. She and her husband decided to take a step that they believe would be good for the whole family and registered Oskar with the youth fire brigade. He's been there for half a year now. He has not become a role model. But he's much more balanced.
When Matthis went to an exercise to see what they were doing, she was amazed at the harsh tone in which an older man gave the little ones commands. She asked her son afterwards whether he wasn't being a bit harsh on them. "Nope," Oskar said and laughed, "I think it's cool."
* Name changed by editors