What should I not do for the family

Constantly fighting with the children - what to do?

With the thoughts elsewhere

"You can't put it that way. Children live at the moment, and taking off your shoes or hanging up your jacket is simply a nuisance," says graduate psychologist Birgit Kollmeyer, who was parents at the family institute of the University of Friborg (Switzerland) and now in her practice in Bern advises. Often their minds are simply somewhere else. The little girl with her dirty rubber boots may have been looking forward all the way home to finally being able to play with her new car. And the boy just wants to get to his desk quickly to finish making a present for grandma, who comes to visit later.

Conflicts build up

There are true classics that lead to a bad mood in families every day. Controversial topic number one with the little ones: their reluctance to tidy clothes or the room. "As soon as children go to school, the topic of homework becomes virulent," explains Birgit Kollmeyer. With pubescent young people, the topics of punctuality and going out ensure constant discussions. The fatal thing about constantly recurring conflicts: They become independent in everyday family life. "Parents react more and more irritably to their children, even in situations that have nothing to do with the conflict," explains the psychologist. And that is not good for the family or the partnership.

First step: make rules

It is not that difficult to finally resolve the ongoing dispute. The first step: make rules. "In many families, the same things ignite conflicts over and over again because parents have not basically explained to their little ones what to expect from them," says the psychologist. Agreements can be made with three-year-olds. From preschool age, parents should include their children in the regular discussion. Because if you have a say, you are more motivated to keep the agreements later. But what to do with crawling children who have just discovered that the buttons on the stereo system can be turned so nicely? "They too understand when mom or dad consistently respond with a 'no'", explains Kollmeyer.

Second step: be consistent

Unfortunately, the mere fact that a family makes rules does not mean that the little ones stick to them. But, according to the expert, they learn that if a violation of the rules is followed by a consequence. "A consequence that happens immediately in the situation and that is above all logical, so it has something to do with the matter directly." The girl who dropped her jacket on the floor is not allowed to play with her car right away. For example, it first accompanies mom or dad who are just taking the rubbish outside. Threatening the child to be banned from watching TV later would be exaggerated. "By the evening it also forgot why it was not allowed to watch TV," said Kollmeyer.

Before the consequences, children need the chance to still be able to fulfill the rule. Therefore, parents should remind their little ones of the rule. If the child picks up their jacket, the parents should register this. And with real praise that expresses their joy. "Refrain from letting criticism flow into the praise, such as 'Now you've finally hung up your jacket'", advises expert Birgit Kollmeyer. If the child does not react to it, there should be a consequence. Otherwise everyone will quickly get into the endless loop of admonitions and excuses that lead to nothing but a bad mood. "Children register immediately: Nothing happens before the fifth warning anyway. I can wait and see," explains the psychologist. So you can save yourself discussions.

Last measure: time out

And what to do if even consequences do not lead to success? Then maybe it helps to give the child some time out. An example: if a three-year-old paints on the wall instead of on paper, the parents should first remind him that he is only allowed to paint on paper. If he doesn't, the logical next step would be to take the pens away and give them back to him after about three minutes. Now he has the chance to do the right thing. "If he still paints on the wall, take the child out of the situation and sit him next to you on a pillow for a few minutes," explains the psychologist. Important: Discuss with your children beforehand what the time-out means, otherwise it will come to nothing.

Changing one's behavior is difficult. Birgit Kollmeyer therefore recommends motivating children with rewards. For example, with the prospect of baking a cake together or taking a detour to the playground after shopping. Points cards, on which smileys are collected for exemplary behavior, have proven themselves in the event of permanent conflicts. "Determine together how many points you need to get the reward," says Kollmeyer. The goal shouldn't be too high, especially with toddlers, otherwise they'll lose the fun.

Help for stressed parents

Do you have a question about a parenting problem? Here you can find help free of charge and anonymously:

www.bke-elternberatung.de: The online advice service of the Federal Conference for Educational Advice, the professional association for educational, family and youth advice, responds to your request by email. You can also exchange ideas with experts and other parents in forums. Even if you are looking for an advice center near your place of residence, you have come to the right place: simply enter the postcode in the search mask and you will be given the names of various institutions.

0800/1110550: The "number against grief". You can reach the nationwide parents' telephone, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth, Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Call from your mobile phone for free.