How important is honesty to you in particular
Answer from Jesper Juul
This is a wonderful example of how children inspire adults and question their norms and social rules. In a nutshell: As a parent, you can go two ways: Either go the educating and moralizing way or the questioning and relationship building way. We all know the first way. When we go through these, the children feel “wrong” - regardless of how nicely and how pedagogically the message is conveyed - and the adults feel “right”. End of the story!
I recommend the other, relationship-building way. In practice, this means that a few hours later you say to your daughter, for example: “Do you remember the conversation you had with your friends today? It was about who is invited to the party and who is not. While I think honesty is important, I was a bit shocked to see how honest you guys were with each other. I wonder if you hurt each other. I dont know. I just know that it would have hurt me. How was it for you?"
"Children rarely need judges"
These questions can lead to an exciting dialogue between mother and daughter in which both get to know each other better. The dialogue is also sure to cause your daughter to start philosophizing about her relationship with her friends. Perhaps the friend's statement hurt your daughter too - or she feels that the friends hurt each other. This conversation gives you the opportunity to share your experience and values with your daughter. Children and young people always need the inspiration of adults in order to be able to think about and reflect on their own behavior and their own opinions. You very seldom need judges. Criticism and prohibitions paralyze, conversely, equally worthy dialogues activate and develop the brain.
A verbal message can only really be understood if we also know the tone of voice and the body language for it. The three girls at home seem to have been so “cool” with each other that they could confront facts without any anger or shame. I would like to take this opportunity to compliment the parents of these three girls for their success in enabling their children to develop their own personal language.
"Children learn best when they observe adults among themselves."
Jesper Juul on social language
As a result, we learn more and more the social language. This can perhaps be described as superficial, but it helps us protect our own boundaries and those of others. It is very valuable to have the social language in addition to the personal language. Children learn it best and fastest when they observe adults among themselves. Adults often feel the need to teach children how to talk "nicely" to one another. This seldom promotes the children's learning process. The most important reason for this is probably that instruction and criticism from adults are simply not "nice", and it is precisely this behavior that makes them unbelievable.
Feeling excluded, or even just being afraid of it, runs deep within many of us. That is why we also want to protect our children from it. It's a nice thought, but it only happens on a superficial and social level - that is, in relationships with people who are not particularly important to us. In friendships and romantic relationships it doesn't work to always be "nice". Sooner or later we have to learn to show ourselves and to say no even in small things if we don't want the relationship to break up or lead to total self-denial.
"Children should learn to talk about their own thoughts, feelings, experiences and values instead of those of other people."
Honesty as my authentic statement about myself is always constructive for my personal relationships. Honesty, on the other hand, as my opinion of you, is almost never honest. If from time to time we need to be honest about our feelings and opinions about other people, honesty should always go hand in hand with love.
This is where children need inspiration and guidance from adults. Children should learn to talk about their own thoughts, feelings, experiences and values instead of those of other people.
This learning begins, for example, when the neighbor's daughter rings the bell and asks your daughter if she would like to play with her. If you find that your daughter says yes but means no, she needs your help in figuring out how best to meet her own needs and limits without offending or hurting the other.
"We adults often choose the simplest solution."
It's an art that few of us adults have mastered. That is why we often choose the simplest solution: We teach children to lie in a "nice" way (that is, untouchable). That hurts the other one too, but we have an alibi for it, and after many years of practice the bitter aftertaste almost disappears!
Family therapist Jesper Juul writes a column for every issue of the parents' magazine Fritz + Fränzi. Do you want to read them regularly?Then subscribe to our magazine now.
About the author:
Jesper Juul is a family therapist and author of numerous international bestsellers on the subject of parenting and families. Born in Denmark in 1948, he went to sea after graduating from school and later worked as a concrete worker, dishwasher and bartender. After training as a teacher, he worked as a home educator and social worker and trained as a family therapist in the Netherlands and the USA with Walter Kempler. Juul has been suffering from an inflammation of the spinal fluid since 2012 and is in a wheelchair. Jesper Juul has an adult son from his first marriage and is divorced in his second marriage.
Jesper Juul's columns are created in collaboration with familylab.ch
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