“Telling a child to stop screaming while shouting makes no sense”, underlines Caroline Goldman

“Telling a child to stop screaming while shouting makes no sense”, underlines Caroline Goldman
“Telling a child to stop screaming while shouting makes no sense”, underlines Caroline Goldman

Time out has animated a number of conversations in 2023. In this second part of an interview given to us by Caroline Goldman on her new book For what ? Short psychology lessons for children aged 8 to 11published this Wednesday by Dunod, the psychologist returns to this educational limit which creates divisions.

You were at the heart of a controversy over “time out”, the principle of punishing the child by putting him aside. How is it that education issues create such divisions?

There is a business of ideologues who earn their living by telling consensual nonsense. Benevolent French education makes money off the guilt inherent in parenthood. When you have a child, you think you’re going to love him so much that there will never be a power struggle. And then the child grows up, he begins to throw his little pots from the high chair, to defy parental instructions, to pull out the little neighbor’s hair… No matter how much we tell him that it’s forbidden, he starts again, laughing of our irritation. The parent feels guilty for feeling aggressive towards their child. These ideologues then arrive like cowboys, affirm that this feeling is very serious, and attribute to it the effects of mistreatment (speaking sharply to a child who has just transgressed or sending him to his room “would extinguish their joy” and “ would damage their brain”) and then suggest the purchase of coaching methods and books, in which we find a mixture of platitudes in child psychology and crude lies.

For example?

The solution would be to pour yourself a glass of water, breathe very heavily, kiss your partner in front of your child “with your tongue” to relieve their aggression… On the other side, there are real caregivers who have less time to parade on the sets and reap the devastating consequences of these individual delusions devoid of any scientific support but nevertheless claiming it. Which forces me to write books that could be described as “useless” to deliver these funny messages to parents: “Listen to your common sense. If a child does something stupid, don’t hug them.” By thinking about it for a moment, they understand that it makes no sense, neither for the child, nor for them, nor for the society that will welcome their child. Being a psychologist today is also that. With the media relaying crazy ideas from self-proclaimed specialist gurus, we are forced to write books to say: “Stop listening to these people, they talk nonsense, have never treated a single child and behind their good feelings displayed, are madly mocking the warning messages launched by child psychiatry for years on this subject of educational limits.”

Is there nothing to keep from positive education?

Positive education, initially, is threefold: love, explanations and educational limits. These “self-proclaimed specialists” have simply removed the entire third part.

What are educational boundaries? Is it time out?

Time out, another formula for “Go to your room!” ”, is the best method for setting limits in a lasting and non-violent way. It allows us not to hit, not to insult, not to repeat indefinitely, not to shout, not to brandish threats that we cannot keep. It helps maintain a healthy bond between parents and child, without resentment or animosity. And, at the same time, it is very effective in offering the child what he calls for through his transgression (“Dad, mom, I’m too little, help me to stop, I won’t know how to do it all alone “). Parents must honor this educational appointment and not interpret this transgression in a convoluted, twisted way. Isolation corresponds to the laws that govern social relations. When a child is transgressive, he is no longer invited to play in the playground by his friends, he is not invited to birthday parties, his teachers disengage from him… Responding to a crisis of capricious opposition with a hug does not help him. really won’t help at all in building oneself socially. We see the harm of these incongruities in educational scenarios every day in our offices.

Never raising your voice is this possible in reality?

We can raise our voices, but we must at all costs prevent hostility from taking hold. Telling a child to stop screaming while screaming makes no sense. We cannot ask the child to contain himself when the parent cannot. And, it excites the child. We must maintain a calm, overhanging giraffe posture to show the child a way out of managing his aggression. Otherwise, we are of no use. Time out has the incomparable virtue of short-circuiting the bond and its charge of excitement so that everyone can calmly recover in their own space (the child in their room, the parent in the common space).

What changes do you see in children compared to previous generations?

I would have a hard time drawing comparisons from just twenty years of practice, but I have the feeling that they are very excited and that this excitement has brought with it a wave of insecurity. Many teachers also mention this. Classes are no longer held. They have less space to teach because they are dedicated to educating children. This is undoubtedly partly due to these abuses of literature. A significant portion of our consultations today is devoted to reclaiming the question of educational limits. I cannot help but link this phenomenon to the apparent explosion of “attention deficit hyperactivity disorders” which sometimes hide this simple educational problem.

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