Mums and dads know that: In weak moments, "if, then" sentences are quickly said - even if they are not meant that way anyway. Education expert Sandra Teml-Jetter knows how this shapes our offspring.
If you squint, your eyes will freeze. If you go swimming after dinner, you go under. I'm counting to three now and if by then you don't … - everyone heard it as a child, right? Nasty threats from our parents when they didn't know what to do next. Said it quickly, maybe regretted it later - and what are the real consequences for the little ones? Sandra Teml-Jetter is a psychological consultant, individual and couple coach and parenting consultant at Wertschaetzungzone.at. In the interview, she explains what mothers and fathers don't say and what they should do instead. She also gives valuable tips that will help you not to lose your nerve in tricky situations.
"In the end, the alternative is always: clarity, self-disclosure, self-confrontation."
WOMAN: When you watch TV so much, you get square eyes. What do these old wives' tales do to a child?
Teml-Jetter: My counter-question is: What do parents want to achieve with it and why do they want to achieve it through fairy tales instead of giving clear guidance? Threats like this and the like create images in the child and scare them. Now, as a parent, you can ask yourself whether you want to bring up this way, or whether you want to look for alternatives to some, in order to finally switch from the paradigm of obedience to a paradigm of equality and responsibility.
In a moment of desperation, a threat is quickly pronounced - the feeling afterwards is rather poor. Right?
Teml-Jetter: If, as a parent, I feel bad after an action, then I have mostly not acted according to my own values but (under stress) conjured up an old automatism. I am in favor of declarations instead of threats. Why threaten and use my power against the child? Our children trust us! If we can stand up for something ("I want you to digest a little more after eating and only then go into the water.") - Why should our children question us? The more clearly we know what we think is right and the more we trust our children and gradually hand over responsibility for their lives to them, the more children want to work with us. When I've recognized my mistake and its impact on my child and want to feel better, I can still apologize - and set off for adult alternatives.
Which would that be?
Teml-Jetter: pause in tense situations, collect yourself and be ready to correct the course, to admit mistakes. This is where I come into play as a coach because I help parents expand their horizons and play with new ideas and thoughts. I ask them new questions, what they really want, how they want to be, talk to them about integrity, about growing up themselves. In the end, the alternative is always: clarity, self-disclosure, self-confrontation.
In theory that sounds clearly good, but then it usually fails in everyday life … Do you have specific tips on how to stay calm?
Teml-Jetter: This requires (d) a decision to correct the course: If I feel bad after a (emergency) lie or threat, or the result is not what I want (my child then does what I want - we have but an extremely bad relationship) then hopefully I won't want to repeat that again. I can think: what could I have done instead? And then what would the result or the reaction have been? What also helps is to ask the following question: How does it get to the point where I have to threaten? If you say: "If you haven't cleared your plate at 3, there will be no ice cream!", It is clearly a threat. Do I really want to talk to him from above? Why doesn't it work if I put it differently? For example, "Please put your plate away when you get up!"
What if the child doesn't respond to my request and doesn't put the plate away?
Then I'll put it away! And if it happens ten times, then I have to sit down and talk to the child - instead of threatening. That's why I advocate climate change in families - then I'll be unemployed, but everyone will be better.
Which white lies are okay?
Teml-Jetter: I mean that most people don't have lying in their catalog of values. Nobody wants to be lied to. In difficult situations I therefore often advise a courageous "I don't know!" than to a white lie. But there are (emergency) lies that have a good effect: For example, if you know about a surprise party or a present and don't say anything or just "lie" about it. But that's prosocial lying for a good cause. These lies feel very different too.
"It's nothing more than blackmail: if you don't do this and that, then I'll hurt you because I take or not give you something that is dear to you."
"I now count to 3 …" - a sentence that almost every parent has probably already uttered. Why is this saying problematic?
Teml-Jetter: Many parents already know what happens after 3 - nothing nice! What exactly it is may not be clear. But it is something that harms the child. That "reads" the child in the parent. It's nothing more than blackmail: if you don't do this and that, then I'll hurt you because I take or don't give you something that is dear to you. Welcome to obedience!
What are the possible consequences if I lie to my child a lot?
If I tell my child that the Christ Child exists and at some point they find out that it is not so, do I as a parent really have to fear that my child will no longer trust me?
Teml-Jetter: I am often asked this question. No, because here, too, the intention behind the lie is a prosocial one: we want to maintain a magic (also for us parents). Children soon find out that something is wrong here - but they recognize the positive intention behind the behavior. They may then be disappointed, but they are not infinitely angry with their parents. Many children willingly continue to participate in this wonderful Christmas spectacle.
What do children not forgive?
Teml-Jetter: If parents do not deal with their mistakes, repeat them again and again and do not want to admit what what they do triggers in their children - even though they point it out. Once parents are capable of real repentance, it can be good.
And where can they withstand more than we might think?
Teml-Jetter: Sooner or later, secrets always come to light. We humans can tolerate the truth, we have a right to it - so that we can deal with it. Children need support and explanation when they have questions. But I think it's questionable to literally leave someone in the dark.