As a child, how wild you were

Upbringing in the kindergarten teacher-child relationship

From: Fabienne Becker-Stoll, Martin R. Textor (Ed.): The educator-child relationship. Center of education and upbringing. Berlin, Düsseldorf, Mannheim: Cornelsen Verlag Scriptor 2007, pp. 58-73

Ingeborg Becker-Textor

Raising children sets a lot in motion in us, leads to questions that we cannot fully answer either from practice or from science. As in a mirror we see (if we are open to it) what education moves, achieves, does, and can destroy. We formulate educational goals without being clear about how educational processes work. It is all too easy to forget that education always happens when we don’t give it a thought.

Our "educational behavior" is imprinted on the child, like branding. Much of what was experienced in early childhood (how one was brought up) can never be "erased" in the course of life, at most only to be put into perspective, to be worked through with head and understanding. Whenever emotions break through, we fall back on what primarily shaped us.

Influenced by the guidelines with which we ourselves grew up, we believe we know what is good for the child and what is not, what it should learn and what it should focus its attention on. In this way we disregard the needs of the child and easily become the "determiner", depriving the child of the chance of self-determined development.

Conclusion: The upbringing in the educator-child relationship must be given completely different and new attention if upbringing, support and education are to succeed. The child must never come into the situation that he "sacrifices" his needs in order to receive love in the relationship with the educator and to experience a positive bond.

The emergence of upbringing in the educator-child relationship

A secure bond creates resources that lead to a feeling of being taken care of in this world. A child with a secure bond will therefore feel completely at ease because they have trustworthy and supportive caregivers around them. The attachment system that develops in the first year of life remains active throughout life. It offers the child security for exploring his environment, establishing contacts and communicating with other people, the basis for raising children in the educator-child relationship. In day-care centers, securely attached children show more balanced and prosocial behavior than insecure playmates, argue less, and are not aggressive in conflict situations. It is also much easier for these children to empathize with other people's emotions and thoughts.

For many children, entering kindergarten still means the first long-term detachment from familiar caregivers in the family environment and their parenting strategies or habits. You now have to build up or develop a relationship with the educators in an extra-family setting. This is not always easy, because it is necessary to overcome the fears and worries of the mothers. It is not uncommon for mothers to fear that their child could attach itself far too strongly to the educators - strangers - and that this could lead to a distancing between themselves and the child. Parents also first have to learn to deal with the sometimes different educational goals in the day-care center and compare them with their own. Therefore, recommendations are often made for educators not to get emotionally involved with the children. It is astonishing that the different qualities of the bond and their effect on the upbringing in the relationship mother-child and educator-child have hardly been taken into account and so far only little researched.

Upbringing can only be organized on the basis of secure ties, which also allow the child enough freedom for autonomy. So we have to give the child living conditions that correspond to his or her inner developmental needs. Children show us anew every day that they know what they need. Education takes place in this area of ​​tension between the bond with the primary caregiver and the new relationship to the educator. Parents and educators are not always aware of their important task or role.

The child acts in the area of ​​tension between the instinct to imitate and the need for free experimentation. If it is not possible to balance the field of tension, so-called "misconduct" occurs in the child, which is almost always exclusively blamed on him. Once again the adult puts himself above the child and does not recognize his responsibility for bringing up the child.

The best educational requirements are then given,

  • if a child feels comfortable and is active,
  • if he has sufficient self-esteem and feels that he is accepted with all his skills and knowledge,
  • if his basic needs for physical and psychological security are sufficiently satisfied,
  • if it receives enough attention and is socially accepted and integrated,
  • if it can acquire skills and behavior according to development (cf. "Fit-Konzept"; Largo 1999).

Education can begin now.

The model effect of the educator

The role model effect of the educator (and generally of the adults) in day-care centers is usually overstated or vastly underestimated. If the educators would always behave ideally, i.e. only be optimal behavior models, then all children in their vicinity would have to make a great guess. Conversely, children with negative role models should not develop positive behavior. Neither is the case in day-care center practice.

As part of their training, kindergarten teachers have heard a lot about model learning and have often tried it out as a "method". But in which direction should it go? "We are standing here at a crossroads and have to decide whether we will systematically draw the child up to the standard we have achieved so far - our way of thinking and feeling, and our way of dealing with things and people - or whether we will make our way through living together with the child Let yourself be touched in our own life as if we were starting all over again.When we open ourselves to this risk, it can happen that we use our own senses again and learn to feel situations as if they were brand new, that we develop a new understanding that not only knows how to deal with learned categories but also with living processes "(Wild 1998, p. 34).

Raising children, building relationships is a new beginning and a new experience every day. There is no method and no offer that works for every child and every educator on a daily basis. Therefore, rigid funding programs should be viewed with great caution. They often prevent the desire to learn and the development of learning skills. Who dares to determine in advance in which situation and with which material a child will learn something or whether he or she may not gain more learning experience in what we consider to be a chaotic environment with "worthless" material?

The following practical example may illustrate how much more powerful a model is: I visited an exhibition on the subject of pantomime and purchased an exhibition catalog and a poster. A few days later the catalog and the poster are apparently quite by chance on a table in the group room. Something special? Some children ask if they could look at the book. Of course I agree to this request. I watch the children suddenly start making faces and then look back in the book to see what the faces look like there. It's interesting. They exchange ideas with one another in conversation, and get small pocket mirrors from the shelf.

Then Karla asks me: "Did you bring the book with you? Where did you get it? It's great. There you can find ideas for guessing grimaces or guessing figures". It takes a while before I can answer the children's questions: "I was in an interesting exhibition in the foyer of the theater. And that's where I bought the book". Petra: "And why don't we go there?" She looks around the children and they nod eagerly. "Yes, we want to go to the exhibition too. Do you think that only you can go to such an exhibition?"

We visited the exhibition several times together. Mime became the theme in kindergarten for several weeks. And, we went to many exhibitions and were even invited to a vernissage by a painter.

Conclusion: Children learn from the model: "What adults can do, I can do that too". Anyone who does not go to exhibitions, read books, attend concerts, etc. as a child will find it difficult to access such cultural offers at a later age.

According to Bandura (1979), children not only adopt the behavior, but also the thoughts and feelings of their models. My enthusiasm for the exhibition has almost passed on to the children. My relationship with the children has contributed to the fact that my educational goals, such as here, for example, the introduction to art, have really come to fruition. Bandura (1979) had investigated children in the age group four to six - that is, of kindergarten age - their imitation of models. After a while the model left the room and the children were observed through a disposable window. They mimicked models who had received a reward or praise, were powerful or generous, such as adults who handed out candy or toys. What was frightening, however, was that most of all aggressive models were imitated. So we should pay attention to the educational effect and check our model behavior!

The effect of the child on the educator

When parenting is spoken of, it usually means that the adult or educator has an influence on the child. In a balanced educator-child relationship, there must also be space and openness for the child to raise (or learn) the educator. If we only let this happen, we could learn so much from the children! To do this, however, there must be a willingness to put oneself on the same level as the child and to be open to accept it.

A key word in this context is observation. We quickly come to the realization that some of our parenting styles and methods are completely superfluous, the child is already far beyond where we want to bring it with our upbringing. So more restraint and a greater expenditure of time are necessary for the analysis of the child's behavior, the observation of his learning steps and his activities. Children act on their own and do not wait for them to respond to an impulse from an adult.

In the parenting situation - with mutual acceptance and acceptance - the relationship between the child and the educator becomes even more intense. The child has clear expectations and (unspoken) demands of the educator. The educator can also (destroy) a positive situation.

An example: Karin is a girl with spinabifida. She developed splendidly in kindergarten. She can coordinate her movements better every day and is becoming more and more confident while walking in the hand. One thread is enough for her to be safe. According to the attending physiotherapist, she is able to walk on her own. On her birthday, the kindergarten teacher holds her - noticeably for Karin - on the apron ribbon. Karin has her hands free and can distribute biscuits to the children. The teacher promises not to let go of the apron ribbon. But she does it anyway. The group of children is as quiet as a mouse. After a short time Peter can no longer stand it and starts screaming: "Karin, you can walk all by yourself!" Karin collapses. She looks to the teacher: "You let go of me. You promised not to let go of me, and you did it anyway!"

It took months before a normal conversation was possible again between Karin and the teacher. She didn't trust her that completely for the rest of the time she was in kindergarten. Karin put it this way: "You can't tell whether you're telling the truth, whether that's true and whether you're really doing what you say". In this case, a positive teacher-child relationship was only possible to a limited extent.

Setting educational goals as a process

Following on from the previous example: In the case of "Karin", goals were discussed together with the child: "We want to try that you can walk properly again soon. In order for this to work, we have to practice daily. The exercises should gradually become a little more difficult ".

It took a relatively long time for Karin to consent to this process. Upbringing takes time. It is illusory to assume that educational goals can be achieved within a very short time. A parenting situation is always complex and, above all, tied to the present. The educator has to decide how to deal with the complex situation within the possible educational framework.

The child's development demands upbringing. The educator must tailor her educational goals individually to the child's level of development or needs. An experienced educator can then control and influence the parenting situation - and thus the child's development.

In the case of the educator, this not only requires a lot of knowledge, but also great sensitivity. Educational goals without child-relatedness irrevocably lead to tensions in the educator-child relationship. The child easily becomes an instrument for the educator; she needs it to achieve her goals. We find a similar situation when any support programs are used with children without individual adaptation.

Educational goals should not only be based on close observation of the child and its individual level of development, but also on a harmonious, partnership-based educator-child relationship. Why in partnership? Mutual recognition, acceptance, understanding and freedom of action must be evident. Partnership in no way leads to a loss of authority, rather a healthy authority can develop - without fear or power games.

The educator must always be aware that she is standing next to the child and in no way above the child, and should step back if necessary. She has to "make herself small" - not childish - and descend to the level of the child, listen and wait for the children to find their solutions. "The same difficulty arises when I sit with a child who works laboriously and slowly with a material that does not make use of the possibilities for acceleration and laboriously builds up its own logic and its own speed. How often my hand twitches at something point out, or the tongue to dictate the fastest way. And again and again the decision to set limits for myself "(Wild 1998, p. 107).

Conclusion: As an educator, I can control the educational situation and influence it through my behavior and the design of the environment. If only it wasn't so difficult! I have to convey to the child indirectly and directly: "I can watch what you are doing attentively but with benevolence. But I am always there when you need me, but do not interfere unnecessarily". This is entirely in line with Maria Montessori and the child's demand "Help me do it myself".

In our western world, a whole series of educational goals are practically the basic norm. Unfortunately, the fact that the achievement of these goals is a process that takes place in the day-care center between the educator and the child has not yet been sufficiently taken into account. Such goals are:

  • Sense of responsibility for nature, the environment, the environment,
  • Respect for the dignity of each individual,
  • Self-control, withdrawal, but also spontaneity,
  • Sense of responsibility and willingness to take responsibility,
  • Helpfulness,
  • Open-mindedness for everything beautiful
  • Awe and respect for all living things,
  • Respect for the opinion and conviction of the other,
  • Tolerance,
  • Charity and openness,
  • Sense of justice,
  • moral and political sense of responsibility,
  • social action,
  • liberal-democratic attitude,
  • Self-determination and self-decision,
  • Judgment,
  • Ability to formulate one's own point of view,
  • Critical ability and readiness for constructive criticism,
  • etc.

An example could readily be given of each of these points. What does it mean for the educator-child relationship when the child, when dealing with the educator, has to experience again and again how the educator behaves unfairly towards some children, often loses self-control, does not accept the opinion of the employees or the children, has no confidence in their professional skills and always gives up? How does she then intend to achieve the relevant educational goals? What does this experience mean for the child's development and relationship building?

Social integration - behavior - living together in the day-care center

A child's stay in the day-care center means living together for a certain period of time, with children of the same age and with the educational staff. This means that everyone involved their Contribution to a successful coexistence, play and learning have to contribute. Again, the teacher-child relationship comes into play here.

Women are ascribed a higher level of social competence, as well as a greater sensitivity to the needs of children. But this must by no means be interpreted in such a way that women are the better educators. Women and men just have very different approaches to upbringing and deal with upbringing processes differently.

Juul (1999) draws attention to the conflict between integrity and cooperation: "For generations, all upbringing, education and treatment are based on a certain understanding of this conflict. It says that children are potentially unwilling to cooperate, they are anti-social or egocentric. The task So the adult made sense: you should see to it that you teach the child how to cooperate, adapt, and be considerate ... In fact, when children come into conflict between integrity and cooperation - and they do Nine times out of ten, just like adults, choose to collaborate a dozen times a day. Children don't need adults to teach them how to adapt or how to work together, but they have an urgent need for adults who they teach how to take care of oneself when interacting with others "(pp. 43-45).

Should we mean social integration by that? That would be too one-sided. In order to be really involved in the social environment of the kindergarten, the child needs a high level of social competence, but so does the teacher. Adults usually only pay attention to the child's behavior if they do not cooperate. Then he is immediately assigned a lack of social competence. It is not possible to reduce social competence to just emotional intelligence, because it goes far beyond feelings.

Only in the last few years has the importance of social competence for coping with life been increasingly recognized and it has also been given a place in relation to intellectual performance. With the current boom in support programs for day-care centers, however, one has to fear that this fact will be reversed again. With all individuality and differentiation, with the aim of promoting the uniqueness of every child, social integration must not be neglected, "... the connection with other people, with thoughts and structures beyond the self" (Csikszentmihalyi 1998, p. 63).

Social integration is successful when flow has been achieved. Flow is a mental state in moments when the consciousness is harmoniously ordered and the child does something for the sake of the thing itself. In this way, play can trigger flow and make the child happy. This affects his behavior in the children's group as well as his relationship with the educator.

It is important for the professional that they manage to create a pleasant relationship with the children and parents. In this way, it creates a basis on which an educational partnership (an educational community) between children, parents and educator can be built. All those involved only learn if they act freely and for the sake of the cause and not for low motives, for example to achieve more power, to be better than others in any case, etc.

Love - trust - consequence - rules

Laissez-faire and authoritarian (power) rigor describe stark contrasts in upbringing: While one educator believes that she can simply give the children freedom, another believes that she can give the child the best possible upbringing through rigor and authority. However, upbringing in the educator-child relationship is supported by or is based on love, trust, consistency and rules. How do these seemingly contradicting aspects fit together? These opposites do not exist for children!

Practical example: An educator asked several former kindergarten children, now young adults, about memories from their time in kindergarten or what was particularly important to them. Frank: "You were totally strict, but always loving, listened, hugged us". Thea: "You had to go through everything, there was no turning back. That had many advantages - if I compare it today with my mother's behavior in retrospect. With you, you always knew what your turn would be, you could always rely on you "You were in no moods". Peter (now a father himself): "I thought it was good that you gave us responsibility and that each of us children had certain duties to fulfill. There was no mercy. You could neither pinch nor escape. But it was also wonderful when you were was able to fulfill his tasks completely independently. You helped us when we wanted to. But your love was there. And you always knew what you could trust us ". Nikolaus, a young man with Down syndrome: "Always tidy up first, then have a nice story and sit very close to you. Now I don't complain anymore. Tidy is better". Claudia: "You could always be asked anything. You never said that I wouldn't understand. You explained everything to me and the others patiently and lovingly. There are still things today that I stick to just as I did then. Certain rules and consistency give security ".

Do these statements by young people not make it clear how their upbringing was embedded in the relationship with their teacher? If there is a trusting relationship, there is a feeling of mutual recognition and love, then educational processes take effect, then educational goals are implemented more easily, as if achieved by themselves - without pressure, threat or exercise of power. It is important for the educator to create such an atmosphere in the day-care center. Everyday life will then be easier.

Unfortunately, rules and consistency are all too often classified as outdated educational methods. If a child feels in the affection of the educator - without dependency - in a bond that also allows him freedom of choice and self-realization, and with limits that give orientation, then educational goals are achieved that one does not dare to plan would have. It is therefore essential to observe in which situations what was achieved in education and to consider why in these situations in particular. It is important to recognize that freedom also needs limits. Children keep asking for it. But also the educator has to set limits for herself: "I never let the child come that close". It cannot and should not permit a bond that is too close or too tight. She also has to protect her privacy from the children.

Often parents develop real jealousy for no reason. They are afraid that their child could become too attached to the teacher. This is not least due to the fact that, at the insistence of their parents, children hardly tell anything about the facility. They only report when and what they want. In addition, they let the parents clearly feel that they have a different relationship than this with the educator, talk to her about other things and prefer to discuss certain questions with the educator.

Eva: "No mom, you mustn't say Elisabeth. You have to say Mrs. Fischer". At the same time, Eva hugs the teacher and says: "Because she's my friend". Eva has started to separate herself from her mother in her bonds and relationships and to "build her own life". It is all the more important that she can rely on the teacher. The mother must know that too. She does not "lose" her child to the teacher, but experiences her child in the new situation in which it builds up a circle of reference. Perhaps the child also appreciates the consistency it experiences from the teacher, while the mother is quite fickle and capricious.

In the day-care center, the children get used to the rules very quickly. They are also clearly explained to the children by the educator and can thus be accepted by the child out of conviction. Perhaps the topic of rules and consistency in upbringing could also be discussed and discussed in a parenting group. Parents could then learn to better understand their children's behavior.

Brazelton and Greenspan (2002) give in their book "The Seven Basic Needs of Children" interesting information on boundaries, rules and consistency: "By combining boundaries and expectations with careful care, we challenge our children in a loving way. This all-important connection is made possible allow them to grow into productive, creative members of our society ... Expectations must be embedded in relationships. Children must experience that the adults around them also meet the demands they make. Children do not learn through observation alone but by experiencing themselves as part of relationships ... "(p. 266).

It is ideal when parents and teachers form a real team. Educational goals can be defined together and boundaries drawn, which are then consistently adhered to by everyone. In this way, the child learns to respect rules on the model, and this makes it easier for him to learn self-discipline. If the relationship between the child (and parents) and the educator is right, then upbringing becomes a constructive process that "survives storms" and enables solutions to be found in problematic situations.

In the current discussion about early education and its (almost school) differentiation into a support canon, relationship and attachment aspects are unfortunately hardly taken into account. This harbors the risk that the kindergarten will "degenerate" into a mere place of imparting knowledge and that cognitive learning will be classified as isolated from emotional references.

In a series of practical examples, it should now be made clear once again how upbringing is structured in the educator-child relationship:

First example: a teacher rejects a child. Ms. K. has a great dislike for a boy who has a badly disfigured face after an accident. She openly admits that she cannot look at this child and that she would be disgusted to touch it. But it is precisely this child, Sven, who seems to love Ms. K. especially. He seeks her closeness and keeps finding out that he is not accepted. Ms. K. excludes him from some activities. This leads to Sven withdrawing or even disturbing him. He wants attention and affection. He's fighting for it. Due to the disturbed teacher-child relationship, there is no rapprochement and all attempts at raising children fail. Fortunately, the leader decides that the child should move to a different group. It takes a long time for Sven to find his way back to "normality" and to build a trusting relationship and emotional bond with the new teacher.

Second example: The children love Ms. B. and the way she treats them, takes them seriously. Suddenly Ms. B. changes. The children notice it and are irritated. Ms. B.'s father is in the hospital and is in crisis. She believes that she has her actions under control and yet she notices how more and more often she treats a child unfairly and reacts in an authoritarian manner. A child, Karola, takes courage and asks: "What's wrong with you? You are so different and suddenly so unjust". Ms. B. is frightened and cries. Then she pulls herself together and explains to Karola: "My papa is in the hospital. Maybe he has to die". Karola takes Ms. B. in her arms, caresses her. A little later, Mrs. B. observes how Karola explains to the other children: "You have to be very nice to Mrs. B., her papa is in the hospital, maybe he has to die. Mrs. B. is sad". Weeks later, the situation was taken up again. Together in the group it was discussed what feelings are, how feelings develop and express, how one can react to feelings. This conversation was open and pleasant due to the good atmosphere in the group.

Third example: Susanne is the fourth child in a very strict home. She would have loved to go to kindergarten seven days a week. Again and again she wants to know how it is with the other children at home and how the teacher lives. Ms. W. invites a child over to her for tea every now and then. So does Susanne. She is particularly happy and looks around very carefully. She is particularly interested in Mrs. W's bathroom. And there she likes the many small perfume bottles. On another visit, Susanne spends a particularly long time in the bathroom. Ms. W. sees her fat pockets when she comes out, but doesn't ask anything. Before she brings Susanne back to her parents, she only notices that Susanne would have to go to the bathroom again. Unsure, Susanne looks at Ms. W. and leaves. She comes back with empty pockets. Ms. W. takes her in her arms: "Then we can go now!" Here, too, the relationship between the teacher and the child comes into play.

Children's conference - support and understanding in the group

The importance of the educator-child relationship is also evident in the children's conference: There is the possibility here that the educator can "disengage" from the educational process by introducing a "person", for example in the form of a hand puppet, and her the moderation transmits. She can then "take" the side of the child or the child and ask the questions that the child may not dare to or cannot articulate.

In the children's conference you can talk about anything: about feelings, positive and negative, questions can be asked, wishes expressed, projects proposed, etc. - without one of the partners wanting to "impose" on the other (Martin Buber). The children's conference offers a safe framework for every child. It is not alone, but protected and embedded in the atmosphere and in the relationships within the group. The educator can influence the dialogue and also make suggestions as to how educational goals can be implemented in practice. By objectively proposing solutions to the children, each child can choose for themselves to what extent they accept them and want to accept them for themselves. Educational action becomes an exciting process.

Closing word

Upbringing in the educator-child relationship can succeed if there is clarity about the understanding of upbringing, the educational goals and methods and the educator succeeds in using the opportunities that she has the opportunity to "prepare the environment" - in the sense of Maria Montessori - opened. Of course, a good relationship is always a difficult balancing act. But the price is low if you get a good result with it. A lot of thought is given to disturbances in upbringing and therapies are even developed to help. Instead, let's deal more intensively with the teacher-child relationship! If this relationship is on stable footing and is harmoniously balanced, then upbringing will succeed and disruptive factors outside of kindergarten will also be much easier to cope with.


Bandura, A .: Social-cognitive learning theory. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta 1979

Brazelton, T.B./Greenspan, S.I .: The seven basic needs of children. Weinheim: Beltz 2002

Csikszentmihalyi, M .: Flow. Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 6th edition 1998

Juul, J .: The competent child. Reinbek near Hamburg: Rowohlt, 3rd edition 1999

Largo, R.H .: Childhood. Munich: Piper, 4th edition 1999

Wild, R .: Children know what they need. Freiburg: Herder 1998


Ingeborg Becker-Textor is a kindergarten teacher and after-school care worker. She studied social pedagogy at the University of Applied Sciences in Würzburg and a degree in pedagogy at the University of Würzburg and has acquired several additional qualifications, such as the qualification as a specialist teacher for works and the Montessori diploma.
Ms. Becker-Textor worked as a kindergarten director in Würzburg, as a government advisor for day-care centers in Lower Franconia, as a part-time lecturer in training for childcare workers and educators, in advanced training for educators and specialists in youth welfare and for more than 20 years as head of department at Bayer. Ministry of Social Affairs (successively in the areas of youth welfare, child day care and public relations). In the ministry she was also responsible for numerous research projects at state and federal level. From 2006 to 2018 she and her husband headed the Institute for Education and Future Research (IPZF) in Würzburg.
Ingeborg Becker-Textor is the author and editor of more than 20 books and over 40 media packages. She has published around 140 specialist articles in magazines, edited volumes and on the Internet.