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Upbringing: "The problem is not with the children, but with the parents," according to the psychiatrist


Upbringing: "The problem is not with the children, but with the parents," according to the psychiatrist Created: 09/27/2022Updated: 09/27/2022 14:32 By: Judith Brown In an interview, the psychiatrist Dr. Bastian Willenborg on how parents' own childhood can affect their children's upbringing. Raising children is not always a bed of roses. Many parents simply feel overwhelmed in some situations

Upbringing: "The problem is not with the children, but with the parents," according to the psychiatrist

Created: 09/27/2022Updated: 09/27/2022 14:32

By: Judith Brown

In an interview, the psychiatrist Dr.

Bastian Willenborg on how parents' own childhood can affect their children's upbringing.

Raising children is not always a bed of roses.

Many parents simply feel overwhelmed in some situations and sometimes reach their limits, for example when their offspring opposes them.

The consequences of this are arguments and quarrels that can arise from trivial causes.

However, it is not only due to the children that a dispute can sometimes escalate.

According to a psychiatrist, the cause is often to be found in the parents' own upbringing and childhood.


Bastian Willenborg is not only a specialist in psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy, but also a father of two children.

That is why he knows from his own experience and from talking to his patients that a good upbringing requires a certain inner maturity.

However, parents often do not have these because basic emotional needs were not met in their childhood.

In his book "Child, you're driving me crazy!: How our own patterns get in the way of our upbringing - recognizing, understanding and resolving trigger situations" (Heyne Verlag), the doctor gives parents exercises to help them they can detect their own inner lack.

He revealed an exercise from it in an interview with

, among other things .

Parents often pass on the mistakes of their own upbringing to their own children, explains Dr.

Bastian Willenborg in an interview with

© Imago/private (assembly) What are your approaches and how does your book differ from other educational guides?

At first glance, you focus more on the parents than on the children.

In particular, what was in their upbringing and childhood.


Bastian Willenborg: The motivation to write the book came from the psychotherapeutic work with my patients.

I am an adult psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

With the help of schema therapy, which I also practice, it becomes possible to experience which enduring patterns exist in the biography.

And my patients recognize which basic emotional needs were well and which were not well satisfied in their childhood.

The five basic needs are considered.

Is there enough security (bonding, editor's note) or autonomy?

Have I also been given clear boundaries?

Was I allowed to express myself (freedom, editor's note) but also to play (game, editor's note) if I wanted to?

When treating people with depression, addiction or anxiety disorders, it often turns out that those affected are missing something here.

And when my patients were also parents at the same time, I have often seen them continue the mistakes they made in their upbringing with their own children.

That there is this learning effect: the way I learned it, I pass it on.

And you don't really question that.

In the context of psychotherapy, there were moments when patients said: 'Oh man, I do exactly the same thing with my daughter or my son.'

Then I also talked to colleagues, to friends who are child therapists and psychotherapists, who often say that the problem is often not with the children, but with the parents.

Children tend to be symptom carriers.

So if you want to raise your children well, it is important to take a critical look at yourself, your biography and your own upbringing.

I'm not an educationalist and I'm not an educator either - I'm a psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

This approach, the critical examination of one's own biography in the context of raising children, was what I was missing on the market.

I have actually benefited from the self-awareness in the context of psychotherapy training in my own role as a father. 

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Which typical “upbringing mistakes” are often passed on to children by parents?

And where can parents perhaps catch themselves? 

There are points that many parents are well aware of.

One thing is worrying that the kids won't do anything "proper" out of fear.

The children have to do well in school, they have to graduate from high school, learn languages ​​and so on.

Before we moved from Berlin with the family, there were a lot of discussions among friends about which school is the right one and how much is learned there.

I can remember a parents' evening where they discussed how much homework needs to be done at the weekend.

I find it bizarre that there is such pressure at a young age.

This is also something that is present in the media.

Incidentally, I was clearly in the minority with the view that no homework should be planned on weekends.

However, this is quite often something learned from a fear of one's own parents.

I'm in my mid-40s now and have school-age children.

My mother is in her early to mid 70s and of course she grew up in a different time, in the post-war period.

The framework conditions were of course completely different back then and this generation often experienced suffering, which of course also shaped the upbringing.

And although the framework conditions have changed significantly, under certain circumstances you pass on the worry and fear that you may have experienced through your own parents to your own children.

This is a point where you can really say: is that necessary?

Is it really what my daughter or son needs now?

Or is it actually my concern, my fear 

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That's what people like to say about so-called helicopter parents or lawnmower parents.

That they only want the best for their children, which is why they overprotect them or remove any obstacles in their way.

Does fear also play a role here, why do many parents raise their children like this?

Fear often plays a major role here.

That's why it's so important to look at what my own worries, fears and needs are.

And what is another realistic concern for the child.

The other thing that happens relatively often is that you don't reflect well when you have several children and then raise the children the same way.

That there are the same rules for different children.

There are also siblings who have very different temperaments.

Maybe a child needs more support to focus on learning again.

Then it would be important to say: 'Man, now learn vocabulary for half an hour, that's part of it, that's not bad.'

Another child may need a little more motivation to establish contact with peers, then you could say: 'Go and ring the neighbor's child.

Maybe you want to play.'

or 'You can do it at the football club.' So maybe this kid needs some cheerleading along those lines.

It is important that as a parent you look at what each child needs individually and then adapt it.

Which can also mean that there are different rules for different children. 


Bastian Willenborg is a specialist in psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry and psychotherapy and has been medical director of the Oberberg specialist clinic in Berlin Brandenburg and the Oberberg day clinic in Kurfürstendamm for many years.

He is currently setting up a clinic and day clinic in the Bonn area for the Oberberg Group.

He lives near Bonn with his wife and two sons.

© private

Do you have any tips for parents for everyday life?

Or should every parent maybe even go to therapy?

Psychotherapy for everyone, I'm against that.

Psychotherapy is an effective remedy.

However, like medication, psychotherapy can also have side effects.

But what I advise parents to look at is: how was my upbringing, what was my childhood like?

So you can identify your blind spots and ask yourself: What did I learn and, because I learned it, why am I doing it this way now?

It's a bit like always driving the same way to school and at some point you get so used to it that you always do it the same way.

But then someone suddenly says that there is an abbreviation that is much shorter and nicer.

But you never looked at it.

It is therefore important that you learn to question yourself.

Little exercises are included in my book.

In the beginning I suggest that you do an exercise yourself, where you sit down with a picture of yourself as a little boy or girl and look again: How was I actually before, what did I need?

Have my basic emotional needs been well met or not?

So that you also know where I might have a defect.

How can I fix the deficiency I have?

How can I behave?

What can I do to make myself feel better?

And at the same time: How do I ensure that my children can also do these different areas well?

On the other hand, I advise parents not to question everything you do.

Then you can no longer get out of the questioning and then you are in a totally cerebral theoretical bubble,

Instead, you can consciously take a few minutes once or twice a week to see how things are going right now.

Maybe the older child needs to learn more?

And how can we, as parents, do this better?

But do I also make sure that the child is allowed to let off steam and that there is enough playtime?

Children need clear rules that also apply.

So that on the one hand the basic need for borders and on the other hand for autonomy is satisfied.

Everything should take place in a safe environment.

Children and people in general need that.

A secure basis that you simply know how the other person will behave.

That doesn't mean that you don't scold, for example.

Safety also means that the child knows if they messed up or made a mess, then I will be punished.

With the exercises in the book, you always look: does the current difficult situation in upbringing have anything to do with me, maybe with my partnership and my biography, or with the child?

No matter how old the children are, parents should critically question their own behavior from the start.

I think everyone who has children knows the situation where you come home too stressed because something didn't go well at work or you have difficulties in your partnership.

You may have just been flashed.

Sometimes that's why you come home tense and react unfairly.

Then suddenly the daughter comes running towards you and wants to show you a beautiful picture that she has painted.

You then snap at the child: “I don’t have time now” or “I can’t do that now.” It would be important if you noticed that – even if it’s a few hours later – to say again: “It hurts me suffering.

Sorry, it had nothing to do with you.” Here, too, parents can always take a critical look at each other and question themselves: Is what I did right?

That's what I think is really important in raising our children.

This became clear to me through the feedback from patients who said: "It's been running smoother since then." It's also important to take the pressure off, that you can't make any mistakes at all.

Instead, you should have the attitude that making mistakes is the rule rather than the exception.

You should then deal well with mistakes and be as transparent as possible to the children. 

So it's about parents considering how they were raised and what aspects they are passing on to their own children that might be harmful to them?

It's about looking: What are my predetermined breaking points and what's the issue with the children?

As a first step, one should recognize that, in addition to clear basic needs for clothing, food, etc., there are also very explicit basic emotional needs that are ubiquitously the same for everyone.

The design may be different depending on the temperament.

But that there are basic emotional needs, that everyone needs a certain security, that everyone also needs clear boundaries, that everyone also needs something like play, spontaneity and fun.

In my work as a psychotherapist and psychiatrist, I have had the experience that even patients who are perhaps more narcissistic or obsessive say: 'Oh no, I don't need that, I don't need to play at all.

I just need the work.'

Once you have understood that it is important and totally helpful both for yourself and in contact with the children.

This article only contains general information on the respective health topic and is therefore not intended for self-diagnosis, treatment or medication.

In no way does it replace a visit to the doctor.

Unfortunately, our editors are not allowed to answer individual questions about clinical pictures.

Source: merkur

All news articles on 2022-09-27

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