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Family puts kids in charge for a month

The Local · 24 Apr 2012, 15:27

Published: 24 Apr 2012 15:27 GMT+02:00

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They turned out to be four long, humiliating, hungry and educational weeks for Jochen Metzger and his wife Helga, who vowed to treat their two children, Lara, 13, and Jonny, 10, as the undisputed bosses. He wrote about the role-reversal experiment in a book: "The Kids Are In Charge."

"For one month we parents unquestioningly took orders from our children. We gave them absolute control of the family budget."

The result was a long humiliation – asking for pocket money, begging to stay up longer in the evenings, and accepting a "No" without question.

"Even if they grow up with loving, generous parents, children have to do whatever they're told, day in, day out," wrote Metzger, explaining the experiment.

"Of course, we're the big ones, they're the little ones. It's our job to protect and feed them, and to show them how things work. But very often we do all that with words and with an attitude that contradicts all the rules of respectful co-habiting."

Metzger claims the psychological experiment did not come out of any radical pedagogical beliefs - "Me and Helga are not hippies" – but out of a spontaneous decision to allow his son Jonny to train him in table-tennis.

"Afterwards, he gave me a big hug and told me, 'Dad, no adult has ever talked to me as politely as you did then. That felt really good.' "

But the feel-good family bonding soon dissipated when it came to the hard realities of family finances. Bank cards were given to the neighbours for safekeeping, and the children received the family's monthly budget after tax and bills in cash: €700.

Jochen and Helga were given €40 each in pocket money, and though there was initial talk of buying a Nintendo Wii, 13-year-old Lara – who took control of the financing - turned out to have the instincts of a seasoned finance minister.

According to an article he wrote in Die Welt, Metzger said his daughter devised a tough, month-long austerity plan, with a view to blowing the saved up riches on a last-day shopping orgy.

This meant that Jochen found himself cadging his lunch from colleagues at work, and coming home to find the fridge bare. Ten-year-old Jonny, meanwhile, failed to pack anything to eat for a table-tennis competition he went to with his father; and the pair were forced to drink water in the gent's toilets.

This, according to Metzger, is in keeping with professional child psychology opinion – children only begin to develop long-term planning skills at the age of 12.

Story continues below…

While Jonny enjoyed his days of extended computer games and TV – and once gave his mother a one-day TV ban for "cheeky behaviour" - Lara discovered that the combined pressure of school work and budget planning was not as much fun as it first appeared. It soon became clear that the shopping spree was not going to happen.

When Metzger asked his daughter why they hadn't spent all the money on the first day, she answered, "I can only spend your money. I always get a bad conscience when it's mine."

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

15:56 April 24, 2012 by canadianinberlin
I just wasted 5 minutes reading this "news". tsk.
17:04 April 24, 2012 by raandy
OK what ever floats your boat.
17:34 April 24, 2012 by AsianGerman
interesting experiment, and interesting results. I guess, the kids will listen more to their parents after this.
18:17 April 24, 2012 by Englishted

If you think that then I can assume you are not a parent yet :-)
07:17 April 25, 2012 by MeinSchwanz
'handing over the family power to their two children for a month. The biggest challenge? Managing the budget.'

Sounds like the rest of the EU, actually.
10:57 April 25, 2012 by asteriks
I am totally agreed that children are not respected than their dependance from older is misused by older. Nobody likes orders and even worst without explanation. People learn to be parents and many are not so good parents even they love their children, but in which way? Older are often busy and frustrated because of job and they just give limitations to children and children don't feel good because of that.
18:48 April 26, 2012 by Whipmanager
asteriks: If you read the article on Funniest Mistakes Germans Make in English, you would understand why being an english language speaker causes me to smile, and maybe laugh a little. You are right though. People in power frget that those under their power have feelings and need nurturing. I do nto mean to say being babied, and do everything for them, and never yell or spank, I am saying that respect and understanding is of primary importance. If we give them that, most children will turn out to be someone we, as parents, can be proud of. My 8 year old son, as of yesterday, is a great pleasure to me, and I am so proud of how others react to him. You can really tell who your kid is when you look out how others react to them and what they say about them.
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