Michaela Merz

Bringing up children

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I had never dared to give anyone advice on how to bring up children properly. In the past I have often worked with children. I’ve taught 4-year olds to ski, run summer camps, helped groups of pubescent teenagers with learning difficulties. Then I have my own children.

The lesson I have learned from the past decades is that I am very credible and emotionally very involved, if something is very important to me. That works.

For example, for me physical violence is absolutely not acceptable. I cannot conceive that I would strike someone, simply because he does not share my values or done something stupid. It was therefore for me extremely important that my children did not hit one another. Conflicts have to be resolved in another way. In the past, when they were still young, whenever there were any signs of such behaviour, I freaked out. It made me really angry and I didn’t have to consult any educational theory and didactics to convey to them that for me it is absolutely inacceptable. Therefore, I have never actually seen that my children had hit one another. Today they claim that now and again it came to fisticuffs but they were harmless and soon over.

My books were also important to me. I have ceiling-high bookshelves full of classical and modern literature, Non-fiction and also literary rubbish. For me damaging a book is like striking someone. For me a book has a soul. Only once did my eldest daughter, when she was still very young, decorate one of the lowest books with a painting. We discussed what had happened and I explained to her why I didn’t want this. Since then no measures in this respect have been necessary and none of our books, including children’s books, has been damaged.

Language is also important for me. I don’t use bad language and in the extremely rare cases, when it happens, it fulfils a deeper purpose. And that has also worked well with the children.

But what has not functioned, was the question of order. I can’t stand dirt, but disorder particularly with papers and books doesn’t disturb me. As soon as I cannot find something in a few seconds, it must be tidied up. For me there are more important things in life than a clean desk. And although I have preached order verbally, but in my heart of hearts accorded it no priority, my children have not absorbed and implemented it.

That is why I believe that one can only impart durably what one believes in oneself and what one finds important.

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