Current Concerns
P.O. box 223
CH-8044 Zurich
+41-44-350 65 50

July 22, 2014
The monthly journal for independent thought, ethical standards and moral responsibility The international journal for independent thought, ethical standards, moral responsibility,
and for the promotion and respect of public international law, human rights and humanitarian law
Current Concerns  >  2012  >  No 15, 10 April 2012  >  What matters in raising children [printversion]

What matters in raising children

Dealing with the children’s needs

by Dr Anita Schächter

Which parental concern is greater than the concern for the child to find his way in life?

Parents find fulfilment in watching their child making friends, enjoying school, being able to empathize with others, being helpful, and being able to handle both his feelings and defeat. Briefly – to be emotionally competent.

How can I introduce my child into life so that he fulfils his tasks in life?

Therefore the child must develop a feeling for being meaningful as a fellow human being. He must also learn to empathize with his counterpart. Finally, parents would do well to keep an eye on the big line.

Social nature

Seeing the child means recognizing him or her in his social nature, to realize that he is capable of a feeling of empathy. That his personality will grow, if he experiences a sense of importance for other people.

If cooperation and helpfulness of the child develops from the feeling for his own value, then they are embodied in the child’s mind. The child has a feeling for his own importance and knows: “My contribution is important. I am wanted.”

“It depends on me!” – Becoming a fellow human being

An example: The 5-year-old, who was asked by his mother to help her in cutting the carrots, is happy to give his mother a hand. He wants to see that his contribution is important for the successful outcome. The genuine appreciation of the mother – not an exuberant one – provides the child with the feeling of being perceived in his actions and being appreciated.

The desire to help is tied to the social nature of human beings. Human beings are related to others due to their senses and the ability to acquire language.

Human beings are not capable of surviving alone in their first years of life.

Human beings could not survive without the care and selfless help of others.

The ability to love is inherent in human nature. It unfolds through the experience of empathy, which is not subject to any conditions.

Selfless pleasure in shared actions unfolds where human beings experience mutual care and concern. Anyone who does something for a fellow human being and experiences a gesture of gratitude knows that it was good to help. He proceeds with his day knowing that “it was right to do so”. Man feels this certainty in small or large inter-personal processes.

Learn to see with your heart – the development of empathy

The second component, which is of importance for developing humanity or a sense of responsibility, is the ability to reflect on another human beings’ feelings, to see him as he is and to realize what he needs: What are the needs of my playmate, my mother, my father, my brother and sister, what do the sick, the needy require? Again, discussions with the child are necessary, but also among ourselves, to enable us to understand the situation and the motives of others. Again and again, it is about seeing with the others’ eyes, listening with the others’ ears and feeling with the other’s heart. Alfred Adler, the founder of the Individual Psychology, thus expresses it vividly and comprehensibly. It is what he described as empathy, a sense of community. The training of empathy must even be kept alive in adults, so that this ability does not become stunted.

On the contrary, it is to take a more mature form in the course of life. Young people gladly turn for advice or assistance to mature personalities with a lot of experience in life.

Love is not enough – How to help

Experiencing love – how fundamental and valuable it may be – is not enough to develop empathy. It needs active guidance to develop empathy and understanding: The point is to identify the child’s approaches and to admit them, so that humanity, charity and helpfulness can base on solid ground.

All this increases when parents involve their children in the household work, gardening, cleaning, and tidying up. It is crucial that parents allow the child to make the experience that his contribution is helpful. The child needs no great praise, but a genuine sense of joy or gratitude for its help given. “So good that you have already set the table. Now we can sit down and eat at once.” The adult has to recognize the positive nucleus, the right approach. The child is mirrored the importance of help by the adult’s inner sympathy. This gives the child the opportunity to see himself as a helpful person and to integrate this capability into his self-concept and strengthen it. Later in life, the child will contribute with this impulse to take part, to endorse, to be responsible.

Transferring responsibility

Parents must also transfer responsibility onto the child, and ask him or her to behave in such a way that he or she does something good for someone else (“Ask daddy whether he’d like a cup of coffee.”)

Diana Baumrind found out that children, who had to take over tasks and duties in the household were friendlier and more sociable than children who did not have to take over any duties. The same was true for children who were responsible for a pet. The more a child contributes help within the family (especially shown by cross-cultural comparative studies), the more caring he developed. Children who had to guard the cattle or to provide for siblings developed more compassion than children who had no chance of growing up having some responsibility. This was the case when the only duty of children was to tidy up their room. Cleaning up his room cannot awaken the feeling of contributing to the welfare of the family. And this is exactly what counts so that the feeling of importance and responsibility can increase.

Dealing with the needs of children

In the current generation of parents we realize a “downturn”, a pattern that is detrimental to the interests of the child: Parents place the needs of the child too much in the center of their effort and make it their duty to maneuver the child’s mood in the positive range, to seek agreement and to mirror the child’s mental state.

It is noticeable that parents are very attentive to the needs, the sensitivities of their children. They declare upon request that it is important for the development and welfare of the children to go into this. It sounds like a firm knowledge that this is a proper educational guidance. With this motif, the parents get caught in a whirl that makes any orientation on supporting educational actions impossible.

Responding to the child does not mean to meet his needs; it does not mean to serve his current emotional state. Who in our society does create and satisfy needs? Children’s needs have long since been controlled by advertizing and consumer pressure via their peer groups.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of political science, is considered to be the mastermind among US American global strategists. He propagates the so-called “American way of life” to be the export product for all mankind: A lifestyle, which has been associated with freedom and prosperity in people’s minds. In reality, however, this “way of life” serves the interests of less than 5% of humanity, the richest of the rich, who live at the expense of the majority of the population, exploiting these and keeping them in ignorance. In his book entitled “The Grand Chessboard”, Brzezinski outlines a global and one-sided dominance of the United States trying to push through the implementation of American interests in the central Asian region. In his book “Between two ages” he explains how the US American way of life is to be implanted in the minds and hearts of the people: among other things, by drawing on Kurt Lewin he argues in favor of the satisfaction of needs, the orientation to needs in education.

Today’s parental generation has become one with the idea that parents have to take their children’s needs seriously. They have no disagreement on the validity of this guideline. And so they act from a sense of rightness about the fulfillment of desires, but also in terms of responsiveness to children’s emotions. In this way we will have no younger generation that is able to empathize with their fellow citizen, i.e. who will not be capable of democracy.

One mother tells that she does not know how she could help her daughter to get rid of her fear. In the course of six months the fear of the six-year-old has expanded so much that she cannot be persuaded to leave the house when the sky is cloudy. The mother ascribes Jara’s fear to an experience when on a summer trip all of a sudden a thunderstorm was approaching and all had finally found shelter in a car parked in a parking lot. She assumes that this had thrown Jara out of balance so deeply that if she now saw a cloud in the sky she would be flooded by anxiety so heavily that she refused to leave the house. She wants her daughter not to be exposed to a supposedly incorrect response. And so she is responsive to all emotions, feelings and needs of Jara. The mother is surprised by the idea of having given a false signal to Jara by showing her understanding which, however, has just led to increased fears. This idea is very important: parents need to provide the relationship to their child with a certain emphasis and orientation. In dealing with feelings, it is the certainty that a fear has got a starting point as well as an end; we are the ones who learn to deal with our emotions and to control them. It requires the parents’ quasi-osmotic certainty that life goes on and that they turn to other tasks together with their child.

Where does this mother’s idea that feelings and needs of the child must always be given priority originate?

Satisfying the child’s needs means to strengthen the guideline in children which seeks for enforcement without consideration. If a child pays first and foremost attention to his own needs, he or she will easily become the plaything of other forces like the media and the entertainment industry. On the contrary, children need a large portion of critical consciousness in order to be in harmony with themselves and their lives and not be remotely controlled by directed interests but live in a responsible relationship to their neighbors and humankind.

In 1995, on the occasion of an invitation to Fairmont, Brzezinski, addressing 500 leading politicians, business leaders and scientists, representatives of media groups from all continents, is said to have paved the way into the next century. Two concepts were discussed here: the “20:80-society” and “tittytainment”. The prognosis is that in future only 20 percent of the population will be required in the working process. The remaining 80 percent of the world’s population – then unemployed – would be kept in a good mood by a modern form of bread and games. “Tittytainment” means numbing entertainment for the frustrated 80% of the world population, to pacify the people excluded from wealth and labor.

Leaving our children to the media will have the effect that they should be prepared for the passive acquiescence of political grievances.

Parents are in need of their own stance on issues concerning the entire society so that they can protect their children and enable them to enter into a self-reliant life. Otherwise, our youth will run the risk of getting roped into fantasy literature, violent movies, computer games, in the world of sex as a form of egocentric satisfaction of needs and accept them all as their purpose in life. The young generation’s disappearing into parallel worlds will be preprogrammed. It is vital to pursue a different path in dealing with children. As soon as a child has become the plaything of his or her own needs, he will become controllable. If children learn to handle their emotions, they will make their way into an independent life. Learning to weight his feelings, the child feels independent and satisfied. The child begins to set goals and pursue them and will thus become the designer of his own life. •