Why children behave worse when their mother is around

Naughty, loud, demanding: why children behave worse when their mother is around

Who doesn’t know: In kindergarten, the child behaves in an exemplary manner, is friendly, helpful and follows the rules. But as soon as the mother comes to pick her up, the child starts complaining, is wild, excited and doesn’t listen at all anymore. Educational expert Nicola Schmidt explains the reason for this.

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In her new book, “art fair through everyday life in the family life” (Kösel-Verlag), educational expert and bestselling author Nicola Schmidt tackles a large number of questions that parents have asked her at lectures over the past few years.

This extract from the book deals with the following question from a mother:

Why do so many things—falling asleep, eating vegetables, sharing—work better when I’m not there? For example, with other caregivers, with families of playmates or in kindergarten?

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“Species through everyday family life” by Nicola Schmidt

Nicola’s emergency aid

Take it as a compliment. You are the primary caregiver – your children do a lot of things that they don’t do anywhere else. At age five, my daughter put it better than any researcher ever could:

“Mom, I just feel more comfortable with you, I don’t want to complain about the others, I’m afraid, but you… you’re mom! And somewhere I have to complain!”

That’s all you need to know, right?

Okay, a little more: With the primary attachment figure, children “let out” much that they hold back elsewhere. They take longer for everything, they are wilder, more selfish, crankier, grumpier and so on. Some of you may know that we get along with people we are in a close or romantic relationship with more than with others. And so do the children. As an April Fool’s joke on the Internet, a study once claimed that it could be proven that children behave 800 times worse with their mother than with others – and I would have believed that immediately. Although the number is nonsense, the reality is of course very good.

It is not an educational achievement

There are two interesting aspects to this. Firstly, other carers have a different relationship with the child, different patterns, different problems than we do. In addition, many things are easier in a group. For example, small children eat more when other small children are nearby, and they often fall asleep more easily in the company of the daycare than at home.

Many fathers, on the other hand (or more precisely: fewer parents present, it’s not a gender issue) believe, for example, that they simply “get it” better than the mothers. They say, “Well, he’s not doing the theater for me! I made it clear from the start that things don’t work that way for me!” And they think it’s their parenting effort, but it’s not.

It is the internal and external effect: inside, in the closest circle of the primary attachment figure and the child, the children are themselves, they let themselves go, they do social experiments, they are much more “children”, they are much less powerful than on the outside. Outwardly, like the rest of us, they try to cooperate and are also a little unsure of what is possible here and what is not. That doesn’t mean they don’t love or trust other significant others. But almost every child has one or two closest people with whom they can be themselves.

Therefore, they are needy, pushy, picky, demanding, difficult, rude, loud, tired… and that’s a gift.

About the expert

Nicola Schmidt is a political scientist and science journalist and one of the most radical thinkers in the current debate on education. As an internationally sought-after lecturer, she also trains educational specialists. Nicola Schmidt consistently asks what is demonstrably “species-appropriate” for human offspring—from babies to toddlers to schoolchildren. With her bestseller “Educating without scolding”, published in 2019, she finally positioned herself in the media as Germany’s expert on educational issues at the interface between development psychology, sustainability and politics. With “Elternkompasset” she presents her first non-fiction book, which presents the scientific basis for her work.

The question behind the question

Have we failed when our children misbehave?

none On the contrary. A child psychotherapist once explained it to me like this: “Nicola, if your child behaves well outside and badly at home, you have done everything right. If it’s the other way around, then you should think again.’

So what to do?

Let’s be clear: a child who “misbehaves” with us is not a sign of failure, it is a gift. Because then we can be sure that it trusts us absolutely. So let’s continue to be loving, patient and clear and enjoy the nice feedback we get from others about our child.

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