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Jesper Juul: What parents can learn from wolves


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"Children need parents as lead wolves, so they can find their way in the thicket of life"

Parents are in a leadership crisis these days! This is the opinion of the Danish family therapist Jesper Juul. In his new guidebook, "Leading Wolves: Loving Family Leadership, " he encourages parents to follow animalistic role models in education - and the logic behind it seems plausible.

Children need clear leadership today. Only then are they prepared for the demands of today's society and can train a personality with a healthy self-esteem. An authoritarian patriarchal style is just as inappropriate as an excessive care in education.

But what about the theory that parents can learn from wild wolves how to raise their children? Basically, it's very simple: For the survival of pack animals is a reliable leader, which ensures the cohesion of the group, immensely important. If such an animal weakens or sends no clear signals, this causes unrest in the pack. In the next step, other members of the group will try to take the lead. Exactly the same thing happens when children start dancing around their parents in their everyday lives.

How parents assume the role of Leitwolf

Positioning as the leading wolf in the family is a strenuous undertaking for parents and involves a great deal of - sometimes painful - self-reflection. Juul's rationale is that parents should maintain a 'worthy' relationship with their children. This is not to be confused with 'equal rights', because children can never be due to lack of life experience. The basis of good leadership and a healthy, trusting relationship between parents and children are, according to Jesper Juul:

  • personal authority
  • personal responsibility
  • authenticity
  • Self-esteem
  • Willingness to learn from the children

Stay authentic

Many men and women play a role as soon as they have children, says the family therapist. Either this is expressed in excessive severity or in a whispering tone, which has many years in the communication with the child. Parents do not show their offspring the way they really are. Sooner or later, the child will see through this behavior and question the parents as role models. According to Jesper Juul, a respectful and trusting relationship is based on authenticity, which is displayed to love towards the child and oneself.

No sacrifice

Anyone who keeps putting his own needs back in relation to his child does not do him any good. Self-sacrifice is not a proof of love, but quickly leads to dissatisfaction, which has a negative effect on the network of relationships in the family. For a harmonious family life, it is important for parents to be able to recognize their own boundaries and to formulate them towards their child, rather than always limiting their children.

Occasional rejection

Many parents know this situation very well: every night there is a fight to go to bed. Mum and dad want time as a couple in the evening, but also do not want their child to feel rejected. In this situation, parents need to decide what is more important to them: sharing time with the child or as a couple as a couple. If the choice falls on the togetherness, a clear message must be made. This means that the "I want to" can also be replaced by a certain "I want".

Do not equate leadership with power

Juuls links his approaches to leadership in the family to a broad social context. Authoritarian family management is losing more and more importance due to new structures in politics and the world of work, but also because of the emancipation of women and the new self-image of fathers. In this context, parents find it difficult to find the right path between authoritarian and anti-authoritarian education. A key challenge is not to go into obsolete educational patterns, such as education through reward and punishment. Juuls sees this as the targeted manipulation of the child.

Spoiled sons and nice daughters

Even though we live in modern times, old role models are far from over. This is evident both in relationships and in the education of children. Especially mothers often spoil, serve and admire their sons too much and thus educate them to men they would never want for their daughters. Her daughters, in turn, should educate mothers to be self-confident women who do not use the "cute girl-by-next" motto.

The vision for a better society

Jesper Juul has a vision for society: as families establish a better leadership culture, living conditions for all can be improved. In his opinion, the same applies to parents as to managers and politicians: Leadership should never be confused with power!

Want to know more? Here you can buy the book "Leitwölfe sein - Liebevolle Führung in der Familie": www.beltz.de

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