Why are students immature

Parents make children mentally immature!

Many children and young people remain at a level of development that corresponds to that of small children. Secondary schools are increasingly populated by little tyrants who try to lead a life purely according to the pleasure principle. According to the youth psychiatrist Michael Winterhoff, the parents are to blame for this: They do not treat their offspring in a child-friendly manner.

The article and interview can be found in “Psychologie Heute” / July 2008. When I read the article during the big vacation, I just thought, wow, that's exactly how I perceive many students, but this psychological approach is new to me.
Since I teach at a secondary school, I am amazed but also perplexed by the pupil indifference to future opportunities, irresponsibility of tasks and challenges and greed for fun and the present. In addition, there is an unreliability in clear agreements where school lessons fail, projects go down the drain and interpersonal relationships break. In addition, an aggressiveness, if the teacher does not feel in the interests of the students and pushes through demands demanding. My world of motivation, ambition, fulfillment of duty and that of my students for fun, disco, halligalli no longer have an overlap, as well as, because children who are narcissistically fixated in early childhood (10th - 16th month of life !!) do not react at all or very aggressively to pedagogical concepts. Basically, children make an effort, but only if they are addressed at the level of development on which they are currently moving, but I am not trained in pedagogy for young children!
Second aspect: the parents. Around 5 - 10 years ago I often heard the complaint from primary school teachers: It is not the children that are the problem, but the parents! My teacher-parent world was still okay at that point. The 5 - 10 years are now up, now the respective parents are sitting in my office hours. Again I am amazed: How can parents be so blind to the school blindness of their children? Criticism of the children immediately turns into parental criticism, as if I were grading parental performance in class work, homework and presentations, which should be the case in some cases. Parents and children appear as a conspiratorial community in the fight against school and teacher. I also find the answer to this observation at Winterhoff: In our materially saturated society, the child is increasingly seen as a partner, no longer as a child. According to Winterhoff, I would have to receive the students on the school consultation day in order to address the parents' problems.

In the following summary I will quote the central aspects of the article (in italics) and try to do this as clearly as possible, so that Winterhoff's approach is greatly abbreviated but clearly presented. The emphasis is on me, I change the questions in the interview to small headings.


1. Winterhoff approach:

Parents have to see their children much more clearly again for what they are, namely children. And children should neither be equal partners nor a source of recognition for their parents.


2. Problems of today's children and adolescents

  • They have difficulty concentrating, refuse to do homework, do not want to study and often perform well below their intellectual abilities. Many have social difficulties, they disrupt lessons, appear disrespectful, are verbally or physically aggressive towards other children and persons of authority.
  • Further problems: Headaches and abdominal pain, sleep disorders and eating disorders.

3. Social class of the patients of Dr. Winterhoff:

  • The children live in rather bourgeois, orderly circumstances, belonging to the middle class.
  • Most of the time I deal with committed, hard-working and educating parents.

4. General surveys:

  • While two to four children per class were suspicious 15 years ago, today we speak of 30 to 50 percent of abnormal children. And in 2004, 20 percent of all 18-year-olds were unable to work.

5. Causes:

  • The sometimes extreme prosperity and major changes in social structures, also due to technical progress, seem to be overwhelming for adults.
  • All this together with the widespread fast pace of life leads to stressful Deficits in the form of a lack of orientation, recognition and security.

6. Effects in families:

  • In this situation, adults can use their own child as an ideal projection.
  • In our materially saturated society, the child is increasingly seen as a partner, no longer as a child. It is intended to compensate for the social deficits of adults, such as a lack of orientation and security.
  • The adults try to satisfy their need for love through the child, get the recognition denied by society from the child. This is emotional abuse and it makes the adult dependent on the child. This ultimately leads to a serious relationship disorder, namely the symbiosis of adults and children.

7. Consequences for the children:

  • The adult's behavior slows down the child's normal development. He is no longer there for the child, but the child for the adult, according to the motto: "I get what I need from my child."
  • As a result, I observe a lack of psychological maturation in many children.
  • It is alarming that physical age often no longer coincides with psychological age. Fourteen-year-olds stop at the psychological age of two and perceive their surroundings accordingly. And of course they behave according to this worldview. They become little tyrants.
  • Due to the symbiosis with the adult, in my opinion, no child-friendly psychological development is possible.
  • The children appear age-appropriate, but remain at the lowest level of development, namely early childhood narcissism. This corresponds to a psychological development age between 10 and 16 months of life.
  • The children affected have a worldview that reads: "I can control and determine everything and everyone, I am autonomous." Because of this, even though they are older, they behave like typical children of this age, namely disrespectfully.
  • These children did not miss any developmental steps, but could not develop in the first place because their relationship with the caregivers is disturbed.

8. Temporal comparison of upbringing:

  • From my point of view we experienced a very successful development of children and adolescents in the years 1965 to 1990 ... All in all, the parents at that time still lived in a structured, future-oriented, developing society ... It was all relatively manageable and manageable. Due to the demarcation of the adult and the clear view of the child as a child, decisive prerequisites for a maturation of the child's psyche were given. That has changed a lot.

9. Opportunities for teachers and educators:

  • Children with a narcissistic fixation in early childhood do not react at all or very aggressively to pedagogical concepts. Basically, children make an effort, but only if they are addressed at the level of development on which they are currently moving.

10. Social problems of the future:

  • I fear that these young adults, who experience a purely partnership-based relationship with their parents, will lack important psychological functions.
  • Young people who persist in early childhood narcissism will not be capable of training later. You will not let someone else steer you; they will not be willing to perform, as they tend to think in a pleasure-oriented manner as a child.
  • From my point of view, we will therefore have an ever larger group of young adolescents who are neither capable of work nor of relationships. You will be satisfied in a room with 24-hour internet access, a television and a full refrigerator. However, as soon as you challenge them or deprive them of their lust objects, there is a risk that they will react aggressively.

Michael Winterhoff has been working in his own practice since 1988 as a specialist in child and adolescent psychiatry.

Bibliography: Psychology Today / July 2008, pp. 60 - 63
Michael Winterhoff presents a detailed version of his analysis in his current book: The abolition of childhood. Why our children become tyrants. Gütersloh publishing house 2008.


Personal counter-position:

  • Since my clientele is not (yet) like that of a youth psychiatrist, my point of view and experience is partly different, but I tend to agree with Winterhoff in the perception of student behavior, but not in the cause analysis and thus in the consequences.
  • First of all, of course, the above does not apply to all students or all parents, but only to a (growing) minority.
  • Pleasure-oriented exuberance also affects students whose parents do perceive their child as a child, which does not protect them from slipping temporarily.
  • What is completely omitted in Winterhoff's approach is the influence of modern media, missing or wrong role models, problems on the job market that make some young people resign after their 50th application and thus offer little incentive to commit themselves.
  • If Winterhoff is really right, it would be crucial not only to name the reasons for the immaturity of young people, but also to make clear suggestions for a "child-friendly upbringing" that parents can implement. An identified problem is the first step to be followed by a second!
  • Based on my experience, I reject the following passage from the interview:
    • PH: Do you conclude from your observations that in future all education will be doomed to failure as long as the basic problem of psychological maturity is not resolved?
    • Winterhoff: Yes
  • When observing the development of young people, I was often amazed to see what became of infantile high school students for committed students when they are consistently challenged, which the school sometimes does not. School losers became university ambitious in a positive sense, who will probably also go their way in life.
  • My everyday school life and that of my colleagues are almost never motivated by praise, thanks and appreciation, but it is often surprising what stuck with school chaos, which a chance conversation after years shows.
  • Even without pedagogy for young children, a commitment to young people based on the personality of the teacher leaves mostly invisible traces, from which a transforming force emanates, beyond the perceived presence of the student, beyond his sometimes negative prerequisites, beyond all teacher prognoses. And that's exactly what gives me hope, not that Basic problem of mental maturity to focus on, but to trust the effect of the commitment and the self-strength of young people. Even adverse circumstances today do not determine anyone for failure tomorrow.


If you are interested in my educational publications: www.KlausSchenck.de
There: Home → Publications → Pedagogy

2007-December: Encouragement to teachers
2006-June: Letter of protest from a teacher: Youth - I'm sick of it
2005-March: Teacher whining, student moans, parents' criticism results in: PISA- Actionism

Items: Klaus Schenck

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