What's the worst mess your kid has made

Don't take it on your lap!

Is the girl sitting too close? Does the educator look too intensely at the boy? In everyday daycare, even the smallest signals are enough to make parents suspicious.

For example Daniel from Hamburg. He says he had a lovely childhood, he wanted to pass something on. He was 21 and thought that educating was the ideal job for him. Three years of training, badly paid, anyway, something was important to him. It was less than four weeks before a mother spoke to him: To be honest, it was not right for her if he took her two-year-old daughter on his lap. She just doesn't feel comfortable with the thought, he, as a man, with her child. No offense. Today, two years later, Daniel says, “That was a shock. It took me a long time to recover from it. "

For example Florian from Mannheim. A good-humored guy, just turned 28, whom the children love. It wasn't long ago that the day after the parents' evening he came to the daycare where he works, and his boss, a sensitive, cautious woman, explained to him that from now on he would no longer be allowed to diaper the children. Parents wish. Because: too much closeness. Because: too much nudity. Florian's colleagues shrugged their shoulders helplessly. Florian smiles uncertainly and says: “I took it that way. But I immediately asked myself what bans were going to come next. "

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For example Sascha from Potsdam. 31 years old, very gentle, he was the first male educator in his kindergarten. "When I spoke to parents, I was initially ignored; they preferred to talk to my colleagues," he says. “And when a mother heard, 'Sascha moved your child today' - then I earned icy looks.” The colleagues were happy to have him: finally someone who really fought with the boys, someone who himself had great fun romping around. "But after all, a mother said to my boss that the man is getting too close to my children, that's scary to me, stop it."

None of the three men would like to share their experiences under their full names. Because even if no one has explicitly stated it in these examples - in each individual case it is about the worst possible accusation: the suspicion of child abuse. When parents tell male educators, please keep your distance, that means: Basically, we expect you to attack our children.

The problem is new. Because male educators are new. Basically, they are still considered exotic. Although equality has been discussed as a two-way principle since the turbulent 1970s: Just as women work in traditional male professions, men try it in traditional female professions too. In addition, entire shelves full of educational specialist literature show how important it is that early childhood education is taken over by both women and men (see interview on page 3).

So kindergartens and day-care centers are urgently looking for male employees. The Ministry of Family Affairs has been launching funding programs for years; they are called "New Paths for Boys" (since 2005) or "Boys' Day" (since 2011) and, according to the ministry, should "expand the career choice orientation of young men". In addition, four years ago the Ministry set up the "Men in Daycare Center" at the Catholic University of Social Sciences in Berlin, which is to promote a project entitled "MORE Men in Daycare Centers" in 16 cities with information events, brochures and advertising.

In 2013, a total of 19,055 male specialists, interns, volunteers and ABM workers were working in day-care centers in Germany (excluding day-care centers). That is much more than a few years ago - but it corresponds to a relative male share of just four percent. It is not easy to get guys into the job. He is dramatically underpaid, nannies earn between 1,500 and 2,100 euros gross per month. Apart from the prospect of a day-care center manager, the job offers hardly any opportunities for advancement. They even admit to the family ministry that the job of educator has to become more attractive. Quotation from a brochure of the ministry: »Three to five years of unpaid training for the job is anything but attractive. This is another reason why men in particular decide against this profession. In view of the enormous importance of this training for society, improvements must be made here. "

Anyone who chooses this job has to be an idealist. This is all the more true for men, the exotic ones. But if a man takes the plunge, there is a good chance that his professional life will be made hell in no time. The parents' concern is always the same: Could the young man who is so kindly looking after my child have sinister intentions? Could it be that he is doing the job because he is far too interested in children? The Berlin coordination office has commissioned an investigation, according to which forty percent of all parents think of the risk of possible abuse in the case of male educators, and even more than fifty percent of the institutions responsible for the facilities, i.e. managers and board members.

Every second person has concerns. That means: men in education professions are exposed to a general suspicion in Germany. Anyone who works with children, it seems, could essentially be a sex offender. Anyone who wrestles with children could touch them immorally. Anyone who changes diapers comes suspiciously close to their genitals. Jens Krabel from the Berlin coordination office says: “It can be enough if a single mother suspects men as educators or a specific man to suddenly turn the topic of sexual abuse into a huge issue in the daycare center and the employees and others To unsettle parents. "

A spiral of anger in which there are no more questions or nuances.

But it's not just about unsettled colleagues in everyday work. Ultimately, it's about a whole society that has a problem. A society that can no longer cope with situations that just give rise to the thought of abuse. No other topic is so charged, so shaped by fears and prejudices. Anyone who is suspected for no reason is practically ruined. Two years ago that was the much-acclaimed Danish film The hunt shown: A girl claims on a whim that the kindergarten teacher showed him naked - all dams break immediately, nobody asks the kindergarten teacher what he has to say about it, parents lock the door as soon as he can be seen, the man is threatened , finally brutally attacked. A spiral of anger in which there are no more questions or nuances.

Comparable: the Edathy case. No question about it, it's disgusting that the SPD MP bought naked photos of little boys. And if the man had other, even worse photos on his computer, then it is a case for German criminal law in all consequence (in the meantime the State Criminal Police Office has presented relevant evidence). Nevertheless, the presumption of innocence should have applied to Edathy as well, as long as nothing had been clarified. But there was no time for that. Even the few level-headed comments, including in the Süddeutsche Zeitungdo not change anything. The public judgment - in the tabloid media, on talk shows - of Edathy was passed long before any evidence was taken. Edathy is a very dubious figure, but it is still alarming when a society falls into hysteria so quickly.

And now of all people who are supposed to look after our children professionally are all latently exposed to this worst of all suspicions. How should someone work properly there? Jens Krabel from the Berlin coordination office says: »Again and again, educators give up their job because of mistrust. The constant tendency towards suspicion is not easy to bear. «He and his colleagues have just published a guideline, title: Gain security. How daycare centers can protect male specialists from blanket suspicions and children from sexual violence.

There are still no statistics that prove how many educators actually give up their profession because of general suspicion. But if you speak to educators all over Germany, you will immediately notice: Almost every one of them has received a weird comment, many have already thought about changing jobs in order not to continue to be seen as almost pedophiles.

There are cases like the one of the Berlin daycare intern who was in the process of changing a toddler when a group of parents came to visit the daycare. The intern closed the door of the next room because the child was lying naked in front of him and he wanted to maintain discretion. However, this reaction aroused so much suspicion among the parents that discussions with the day-care center management led to long-term discussions - and from one day to the next they finally put the intern out of the door.

There is anticipatory obedience, as in the Freising Kindergarten, where the changing table, which used to be in a quiet corner, was set up in the middle of the largest group room after a long period of back and forth - to, as the boss says, “to show the parents that we are we all control each other here «.

It becomes difficult for educators in all the confusion not only with their parents, but also with their colleagues. Jens Krabel reports on kindergarten teachers who are now fundamentally against the cooperation of men. Not because they are suspicious themselves, but for purely practical considerations: everyday team work simply becomes too complicated when everyone has to constantly take the special role of male colleagues into account. He is not allowed to change diapers, he is not allowed to take a child on his lap, he has to keep his distance - how are we supposed to use this guy here?

Experts warn against only observing the men critically. Educators also make mistakes, and educators also cross borders. It's only human. Cornelia Heider-Winter from the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, which coordinates many daycare centers in Hamburg, recommends changing perspectives from time to time: »Women are not assumed to have sexual intentions because statistically this almost never happens. But we have to consider: If a kindergarten teacher gives a child a kiss on the cheek, although the child does not want it, that is of course also an assault. "

But in the public perception these are at best nuances. With every instance of child abuse that pops up in the news, distrust of educators grows again. Because the perpetrators are almost always men. There are cases like the Odenwald School that make life difficult for idealists again. At the notorious Hessian school, of all places, where numerous cases of abuse have occurred in recent decades, a teacher has just been convicted of possession of child porn, and now angry parents are calling for the school to be closed.

Tobias, 23, an educator from Munich, says: »I experience it like waves. After every message like this, the parents are nervous. Then they calm down again, everything runs smoothly - until the next message. "At least Tobias (he doesn't want to appear here under his full name either) has the courage to tackle the issue himself:" I have resolved to deal with the parents to approach. I explain to them what is part of my job and how close I have to be. It's tricky, but that's exactly why I have to address my role as a man. «The problem is: Sensitive people tend to take up the job - but shyness is particularly dangerous. "If an educator just meekly huddles in the corner as soon as parents come by," says Tobias, "he'll make himself really suspicious!"

In the conversation Cornelia Heider-Winter finally uses a formulation with which the whole problem - one could even say: the emotional state of an entire country - can be summed up. She says that despite everything, daycare centers are desperately looking for men who are good with children. Then she is silent for a moment. And you may have to leave this formulation in the room for a moment to understand how difficult everything is:
Men who are good with children.
Sounds awkward, doesn't it?

Interview with Jesper Juul

The Dane Jesper Juul, 66, is considered one of the most successful educators in Europe. He has published numerous betsellers, including The Competent Family: New Paths in Upbringing and Who Do Our Children Belong to?

SZ-Magazin: Mr. Juul, couldn't you just do without men in kindergartens?
Jesper Juul:
No, they are very important! Especially when they live their masculinity without hesitation and have the courage to approach things differently than their female colleagues. It's like being in a family: it's good to have a mother and a father. Children experience the maximum amount of healthy social and emotional stimulation when dealing with both women and men.

Why do so many parents find it difficult to trust male educators?

That is the price today's young men pay for the inheritance of their ancestors. For centuries, men were barely involved in everyday dealings with their children. And very often men actually abused children. Incidentally, this does not only apply to fathers, but also to pastors, choirmasters, scouts and club coaches.

The problem continues endlessly: Parents do not trust educators, so the educators tense up, so children develop a strange role model. How do we get out of this as a society?
In any case, not through overregulation! Bans are of no use to anyone; at best they are a moral alibi for those responsible who are afraid of their responsibility. We all just have a long way to go, we have to learn to deal with children without breaking boundaries. This applies to both men and women.

Can we somehow speed up this path?
I'm afraid not. It will take at least a generation or two before enough children who have had good experiences with male educators become parents themselves. Then the commitment of men will be a matter of course. In the meantime we can only ask the mothers and teachers for patience. Remember, you're not naturally better at being around children - you just have a lot more practice. Give the men a chance.

Photos: Marek Vogel