All parents fight every day

The rescuer asks his guest to come to the hotel room. Only then can Jesper Juul, the steadfast helper of desperate parents, smoke undisturbed. The Danish family therapist is currently on a trip to Germany to advertise his latest book "Eltern-Coaching - Gelassen Erzieh" (Verlag Beltz). In it, the 62-year-old documents counseling sessions with families who no longer know how to raise their children. Parents, educators and journalists have long been fighting for the man who - if he can indulge his tendency to nicotine - looks like a rock, both physically and mentally. In peace of mind, the "Pope of Serenity" explains the world of today's children and what gives them a good place in the world.

SZ: You tirelessly plead for more serenity in the heated discussion on upbringing. But don't you find children incredibly annoying sometimes?

Juul: But. No question. You don't have much attention left to yourself when you have children. I think that's the really tough thing. But many parents today also make it more exhausting than it has to be.

SZ: Where is the right measure?

Juul: If adults do not have enough time for themselves and parents not for themselves as a couple, then they are guaranteed to pay too much attention to the children. They're doing them no favors anyway. No child wants attention. It needs a relationship, it wants to participate in the life of its parents. Especially when children are in kindergarten or crèche, they urgently need time with adults who are living an adult life. In kindergarten, children learn a lot about being a child. They sing, they dance. But they don't learn anything about adults. We are already seeing the first episodes. Many young people have no life skills. They get depressed because they don't know how to deal with disappointment.

SZ: Don't the children learn that in the crèche? There is a lot of disappointment, frustration and competition.

Juul: Since they learn to be frustrated be. But they don't learn how to deal with it. For this, the children need their parents. It's exactly the same with stress. They have to learn to deal with that too. Children today have a stressful life. By the time they are 15 years old, they spend up to 25,000 hours in educational institutions. This is work.

SZ: Because it's exhausting?

Juul: Because there are a lot of children and adults who cannot be chosen. And because there are many suggestions. The children get addicted to it. You already complain when you pick it up: What do we do now? It is important that the parents also say: Now you have to play alone. I want to cook now or be to myself for half an hour. This is how children learn how to live a life as an adult. Children can take a lot more stress than we can, much, much more ...

SZ: ... the impression young mothers have every day ...

Juul(laughs): But they also have to learn how to come down. You can tell your children: I'm so stressed today. Can you help me? Then you take the child's hand and lay it on your stomach and just breathe for a few minutes. Later you can do it the other way around. Do you want a hand And then the child learned something very valuable.

SZ: Upbringing is often stressful for parents.

Juul: You are not stressed by the upbringing, but by the pressure to succeed. My children haven't fallen asleep for three days. Am i a bad mother What makes us so strenuous is this obligation to educate. I can also plan to simply enjoy my children in the coming weeks. Then I learn that my attitude matters. What children really need is that they just be there and their parents are happy about them.

SZ:Anyone who wants to educate has the impression that one ear is in and the other is out again.

Juul: In fact, most of what we mean by education hardly educates. How our children behave as 20-year-olds is not the result of their upbringing, but of our coexistence in the family. We are role models, good and bad, 24 hours a day.

SZ: We'd rather be good role models.

Juul: It's such a romantic idea, but it's impossible. We are simply role models, period. There is no right or wrong.

Children do not have problems with mistakes as long as we take responsibility for them and stand by our confusion and limitations. If parents don't do this, the children feel guilty.

Most of what we do well today, we have learned from bad role models, from whom we say: I don't want to be like that.

SZ: You say you yourself were a terrible father in the beginning. Why?

Juul: I was always frustrated. For example, I didn't know how to play with a child and I always felt uncomfortable. But through my training as a family therapist, I realized: I can learn all of this from my son. I just asked him: I don't know how to do it. Show it to me? And he was happy.

SZ: Of course he was happy. Children like to order you around.

Juul: And that's important. This is how we get into conversation with them. The decisive factor in my relationship with my son is not what I did right or wrong. But that I learned to be a father with him. This mutual learning process makes relationships very good. If I am the teacher and he is the student, we are not in a relationship, then we play roles. Now that doesn't mean that the children should have authority. It just means: take your child's feedback seriously!

SZ: What kind of feedback do you think? "I don't want to go to bed" ..?

Juul: That too. If I try in vain for weeks to get my child to bed at a decent time, I can ask them, even if they can't talk yet: Tell me, now we fight here for hours every evening. I don't want to be that kind of father. But I don't know what to do And you can cry a little too. Such a conversation is incredibly constructive.

SZ: It creates contact instead of distance.

Juul: Yes, and often the child turns and sleeps. In the past we would have punished the child.

But imagine a man listening to music loudly. Then his wife comes and scolds: How many times have I told you that I don't like loud music? As a punishment, you are not allowed to watch a sports show tonight.

SZ:Are you saying that the relationship between adults is the same as that between parent and child?

Juul: The basic elements are the same. It's about being present, talking to the other, accepting the other.

SZ: But the parents are the ones who decide. Isn't that a contradiction?

Juul: No, children need guidance. They are equal, but not equal. They need parents who more or less know what they want. It's not important, What you want to. However, the limits should not result from conventions. It should be personal boundaries. It's okay to say, I don't want to read a story because I want to read the newspaper. Or: I had this long interview with this Dane. Now I am tired. We are not always happy. Above all, we should be honest with one another.

SZ: And what do you think of a reward instead of a punishment?

Juul: Reward is the postmodern version of punishment. Imagine if a woman gave her man a reward every time he did something right. It's not a closeness relationship. It's a relationship like that between boss and employee.

SZ: The "tiger mother" Amy Chua, who advocates compulsory upbringing, is very honest with her daughters: she says clearly what she expects from them.

Juul: That can go well for a while - as long as the children work. And that is what they do first. Because children cooperate. Always. They want nothing more than to make their parents happy. But if the tiger mother's children suffer a stroke of fate, they don't know how to deal with it. You will probably collapse.

We want our children to become mentally and psychosocially healthy adults. In that sense, the tiger mother concept is not at all successful.

SZ: But is talking successful?

Juul: Yes, talk and be authentic. For example, if you want to prevent drug or media addiction, you have to establish a relationship in the first ten years of your life. It's over at twelve. If my child takes drugs or watches too much TV during puberty, I have no control over them. But when we have a relationship and mutual respect and a common language, we can talk about my worries and my resistance.

SZ: Talking can be more difficult with defiant three-year-olds.

Juul: In the autonomy phase, children begin to build self-confidence. If you keep saying no, that means nothing other than: I am autonomous. Isn't that wonderful? If you take it that way, nothing happens. But when you take it personally, it becomes difficult. Then the fight begins.

SZ: Sometimes parents have to achieve something, for example getting to work on time.

Juul: That doesn't always suit children. For parents, of course, it's frustrating. But it is the same between adults. I don't know a man who doesn't know what it's like to wait for his wife for those 20 damn minutes. If you're frustrated enough, you can say: Look, I don't like that.

SZ: Does that help?

Juul: My brother is a good example. When he had a second son, the older one was very jealous. At some point my brother read my books. First he said, what you recommend does not work that way. But later it worked. Then he burst into tears. He was really authentic when he said: That makes dad sad. Since that day his big son has never beaten the little one again. To be authentic is the solution.

SZ: So if I want my child to get dressed, I say you have five minutes now, then let's go. And should I mean that?

Juul: Yes, exactly, and in these minutes I have to let the child go and stop talking to him. If children have no way of saying no, they can't say yes. Then at most they can say yes. But they know: I'm nothing like that, I'm just a soldier. It is vital that parents talk about themselves: I have failed to convince you that you are voluntarily dressing.

SZ: And what shouldn't you say?

Juul: You are impossible, is such a sentence. That is derogatory. Children are vulnerable, they are open. Why are we afraid as adults? Because our parents always hurt us like this.

SZ: You can cry, scream, romp?

Juul: Yes everything. You just can't hurt or offend the child. Neo-romantics believe their feelings harm the child. But the absence of feelings is harmful to the child.