After fast food and fast fashion, the current generation of 20- and 30-somethings is also looking for fast instructions on how to live properly or how to raise children. This opens the door to unprofessional preachers of simple truths. As psychologists point out, it is dangerous to provide them – neither life nor raising children is easy. A gambling lobbyist or a trained engineer are currently presented in the Czech Republic as recognized experts on children’s souls in some media. Real experts call them the Grandmothers of Czech psychology.
An initial excursion into the opinions of both mentioned gentlemen: “I consider three sources to be essential for my work. The first is other people’s experiences. I either talk to them directly, go to their seminars and lectures, or read their books. The second source is my own work and experience, my intuition. The third source is scientific research and studies. But I work with this third source very carefully and distrustfully,” says Marek Herman.
“Our closest relative, the monkey, has been with the young for five years. She doesn’t have a career, she has a child,” Sláva Černý, another self-proclaimed expert on child psychology and education, as well as on the role of mothers, summarizes his views.
The Martian and Gambling
Marek Herman is not new to the media, at first as a spokesperson for the Association of Odds Betting Operators, which is more or less an organization that tries to lobby for the interests of its members at state institutions, he spoke mainly about gambling. But then he changed his field. In 2008, he published a book Find your Martian, a readable guide on how to raise a child, and gradually began to appear in lifestyle magazines for women. From those it was just a step into more serious media such as Radiožurnál.
In the media, he gradually became a psychologist from a self-knowledge lecturer, even though Herman does not have a psychological education. He studied physical and civic education at the Faculty of Education of Masaryk University. But his education does not concern the psychology of young children. Nevertheless, they are often talked about in the media.
For example, in 2018, he spoke out in the Senate against the admission of two-year-old children to kindergartens and, by organizing a petition, contributed to the pressure that led to the repeal of the amendment to the law on the admission of children of this age to preschools. Herman has been claiming for a long time that two-year-old children do not belong in kindergarten and should be at home with their mother. However, experts do not agree with this.
“It is true that early in development a child needs a secure relationship with both primary caregivers, which is the father and the mother. However, if the relationship between the parents is good and solid, there is no reason why a child should not go to daycare at the age of two, at a reasonable time, of course,” explains to CzechCrunch Radek Ptáček, professor of medical psychology, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist and forensic expert who works at Charles University and at the Psychiatric Clinic of the 1st Faculty of Medicine of Charles University and the General University Hospital in Prague. And he points out that Herman’s views can be dangerous.
Own opinion instead of facts
Herman admits to CzechCrunch that letting the media call him a “psychologist” was a big mistake. He claims that he is now paying attention to it and possibly correcting the journalist that he is a teacher or lecturer.
“As for my professional education, in addition to the Faculty of Education, which will give you a basic picture in the field of pedagogy, I have completed other seminars and trainings focused on parenting education,” Herman replied to the editor’s question about his educational background. He subsequently actually listed a number of seminars and attached a professional internship in Washington. “It was a program aimed at educating children under the age of six,” he added.
Herman also says that after returning from the USA he was in charge of twelve model kindergartens as part of the Start Together program and that he is supplementing his education in Montessori courses. “Of course I read professional literature. And what is most important: every year I conduct approximately forty to fifty seminars where I work with parents, I get a large part of the information and knowledge directly from them. supplies.
If he says factual nonsense, for example that ninety percent of a child’s personality is formed by the age of six, then these are not statements based on facts.
Psychologists Petr Doležal, who also deals with psychotherapy for families and is a member of the Czech Association for Psychotherapy, and Albert Kšiňan, who received a doctorate in psychology with a specialization in family sciences at the University of Kentucky, but say that in Herman’s case it is not so much what courses and seminars he has taken, as well as the fact that instead of scientific facts, he relies more on his own opinions or beliefs in his lectures.
“If he says factual nonsense, for example that ninety percent of a child’s personality is formed before the age of six, or he presents his personal beliefs, for example about the traditional family position, as the only correct one for healthy child development, without any evidence for this, then in our opinion they are not statements based on facts. These are first of all Mark Herman’s views on the world, to which he is of course entitled, but it is necessary to perceive it that way.” say Doležal and Kšiňan, who also publish together.
Engineer of children’s souls
But Marek Herman is not the only “Jiří Babica of Czech psychology”, as Petr Doležal and Albert Kšiňan call him. Grandma, because, like the former TV star, he chooses from psychology the things that suit him and pays them together with banal truisms and calls for a conservative order.
Sláva Černý also gave a similar interview for Ona Dnes magazine this October. He graduated from a mechanical engineering school. During his studies at CTU, he met the psychologist Milan Studnička, together they founded the Dovychovat project. As part of the project, he works as a course lecturer, but he has no psychological education and, like Marek Herman, he also gives interviews to lifestyle magazines, such as Maminka.cz or the already mentioned Ona Dnes magazine, about raising young children and family relationships.
Similar to Herman, the editors contacted Černý for the purposes of this article, but he did not respond to the e-mail sent by the deadline.
A common feature of the interviews of Sláva Černý and Mark Herman for the media are the ideas that the mother, and only the mother, should be at home with the child. And if he doesn’t, he will harm the child. Sláva Černý argues that this is how it works in nature after all: “Our closest relative, the monkey, has been with the young for five years. She doesn’t have a career, she has a child.’
Read alsoThree reasons why mothers stay at home with their children even when they want to workThree reasons why mothers stay at home with their children even if they want to work
However, according to psychology professor Radek Ptáček, this is nonsense. “Preschool age is a period when children learn to establish peer relationships, follow rules or respect authority… These theses about the harmfulness of nurseries and kindergartens are just scaremongering that does no one any good.”
Psychologist Doležal adds that the combined length of maternity and parental leave in the Czech Republic is the longest in the world on average, and that Czech children are in no way more emotionally balanced or more mature than children from other countries.
A large part of what both Herman and Černý convey in their interviews calls for the old order, when mothers were at home and fathers were the breadwinners of the family. For Maminka magazine, for example, Herman said: “Although I am not sending anyone to the apron, I am definitely a supporter of the classic division of roles. Because mom is mom and dad is dad. And mom is irreplaceable by anyone and anything.”
The little bird considers these cries to be silly gender stereotypes. “They are probably based on the fact that the only literature the gentlemen read were Czech fairy tales, where such stereotypes can be found.” He adds that we live in the 21st century, when men and women can develop and devote their lives to exactly the same work, without harming anyone in the family.
Theses about the harmfulness of nurseries and kindergartens are just scaremongering that does no one any good.
Psychologist Albert Kšiňan says that the problem is not with classically divided roles if everyone in the family is in harmony with it. At the same time, he thinks that Herman’s and Černý’s approach is one of the approaches to how the family should function, but certainly not the only correct one.
“Nuclear parenting has a much shorter history than the various creeds of traditional values and pseudo-evolutionary explanations present it, and as humans we are very fortunate that children are able to tolerate various family constellations and parenting errors without having to negatively affect their development,” supplies.
So it is possible that there are mothers who will be perfectly fine with being at home with their children. And that there are fathers who would not be able to cope with their children on parental leave. Both are fine, but neither can be made the only acceptable guide to life. Other parenting models are just as fine. Today’s parents will most likely eventually find out that life – and especially raising children – has countless variants and possibilities. And that neither yourself nor your offspring can be stuffed into the limits set by the parenting manual.