Contribution concerning education issues

by Dr phil Elisabeth Nussbaumer, psychologist and Sonja van Biezen, dipl psychologist FH

It had become quiet around the questions of child education, so Dieter Sprock in Current Concerns of 8 November 2016. The author continues that many parents turned the natural order upside down and let themselves be directed by their children how things had to be in life and which needs they wanted to have satisfied. It was extremely important for parents and educators to deal with the questions of education, especially in today’s complex world in which our children grew up and where they were exposed to most diverse influences. It is certain that every growing child needs parents for his or her personal development, who can provide it with emotional support and orientation for the adolescence within the human community. Theories according to which the children should discover what is important to them and good in life on their own, easily lead to an inner instability and emptiness.
In the following, some examples from everyday life shall illustrate what the introductory lines mean.

Children tell the adults what they have to do

Example 1
We are on an evening walk. On the pavement a girl of approximately 5 years approaches us. She is coming towards us quite fast on a small bike. We are still wondering who presumably is to make way now. Right in front of us, she abruptly stops and defiantly looks at us. My companion asks: “What now?” Brooding she says, “You may pass!” With her finger she points us how we are to go (onto the road and) around her. Not a second she reflects that she could let us – the adult – past. Her mother who is carrying along the little sibling on her bicycle, is watching the event from a distance.

It is obvious, that no one taught this child how to behave. When this important lesson for life is lacking, we must assume that the child also lacks the experience and the certainty that the parents will give him guidance and support to solve the small and serious problems in life. The experience that the adult precedes and tells how to master a certain situation is indispensable for the healthy mental development of children and adolescents. Only this way they are able to make their own useful experiences on their way into life and thereby experience to be backed by their related persons. It is highly likely that the child described in the example has already learned through many experiences to produce its own solutions with its childish ignorance and not to rely on the adults. We must also assume that this kind of “self-reliance” has developed in relation to parents or one parent, who themselves are victims of a widespread error about the child’s development. Many parents think it is right to leave decisions or guidance in certain events to the child. Because, as already stated, all children and young people are dependent on the orientation and guidance through adults, such parents would be advised to meet their children as natural authorities because they have a lot of life experience, which a child cannot yet have.
Demand an appropriate focus directed to you as parents and teachers from your children. Do not hesitate to show your children how jointly to cope with the everyday, small and big problems.

Example 2
Shopping in the supermarket. A mother with a boy of approximately three years cannot be overlooked. He is screaming his head off. He kicks and hits the mother. The boy is beside himself and screams for about half an hour. The mother talks insistently and nervously to the boy, offering him a yoghurt, a glace and a chocolate as appeasement. Nothing works. The boy continues screaming. Passing her shopping cart she rather helplessly tells me: “He’s tired.”

Many mothers experience such situations daily. They are often afraid of such events and the fact that they are not in a position to soothe their child. Sometimes there is a sense of shame, which results in a distance in relationship to the child. However, the child might as well have already learned something wrong. For example, that it gets its will, if it only cries long enough or acts “dumb”. Every child’s behaviour is learned from the earliest childhood days. In the first few days and weeks, the crying of a baby can affect the mother strongly mentally and bring her into turmoil. Mothers hear false theories already in the puerperium, such as that all the needs of the baby must always be satisfied. These wrong theories lead to the fact that parents assume there ought to be always harmony between the needs of the children and the parents’ demands. This attitude of the parents can promote behaviour of screaming or even refusing, when a child experiences that his protest is successful and thus he is always in a position to bind the attention of the mother and the father. It would be very helpful if the parents could interpret this crying correctly in order to give the cause a turnround. The parents have to take the lead in the relationship to the child so that it gets support and orientation. In our example, it is important that the child does not experience the “power of screaming”. In such an educational situation, some parents think about taking advantage of psychological counselling.

Children have learned to resolve a conflict without argument

Example 3
Five boys play lively together at a streamlet and with much pleasure in Halloween masks. They are approximately ten years old. Four of the five boys wear black capes and a cardboard mask. The mood among them is really friendly. When pedestrians pass, they take off their ugly masks in order not to frighten them. The fifth boy does not play along. On the contrary, he disrupts the happy hustle and bustle by spitting at the playing children from the bridge above. He takes care that no one can see him. Quietly, I asked him why he did this. He does not reply. Suddenly, one of the boys comes up from the river, positions himself in front of the spitting boy, and says quietly to him that he should simply stop spitting. The troublemaker shows no reaction. After that, the other boy repeats his demand very determined and seriously: “Stop the spitting!” He does not say it again, and turns his back on the addressed. Then he continues playing with his three comrades. The boy on the bridge who had not played along stopped spitting. Apparently, he takes serious what was said. He runs away and lets the others play peacefully.

Why did we put down this example? Well, it has impressed and pleased us. We often hear and read much of the violent interactions among children and adolescents. That there are indeed buoyant and serious young people who have experienced and internalised something else, is a pleasing fact. In his dealings with the mistake of the other boy, the described boy has been so serious and steady, which made us as psychologists thoughtful. Wherefrom might he have this quiet and mature determination? It is to be assumed that he has learned and experienced in the family how conflicts can be resolved calmly and without violence. It is of great importance that especially in our times, where violence and bullying often influence children‘s everyday life on playgrounds and at school, children receive orientation and guidance in non-violent behaviour in their parents’ homes and at school.    •