Monday, April 26, 2010

Children: The Challenge

  "I have no right to punish a person with status equal to mine, 
but I do have the obligation to guide and direct my child.  
I do not have the right to impose my will - 
but I do have the obligation not to give in to his undue demands." 
- Rudolf Dreikurs -

This book of all the parenting books I have read has really helped our family with our own parenting style.  Written in 1964 and yet it is as if it were written for parents today.  What I love about Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs' principles of child-raising is that they respect the child and the parents.  When our son turned 2 1/2 years old, the terrible 2s were not only terrible but terrifyingly terrible - to me anyway.  I had no idea how to deal with this "spoiled brat"  who was "in a constant fury because life [was] not amenable to his wishes."  I read book after book.  Tried one thing after the other and nothing seemed to work until I read this book.  Only 2 days of following the principles of Children: The Challenge and our son suddenly changed his terrible 2 ways and we all were and are much happier because of it.  

Here are what I consider the most important excerpts from the book.  As I type it out, I am really re-learning the principles, which I am grateful for.  And I wanted to add that my cousin who is a Montessori teacher works in a school which based their principles on this book - and they were voted one of the best schools in the Bay Area, CA! 


1. Our Present Dilemma

Adults are usually deeply disturbed at the notion that children are their social equals... Equality means that people, despite all their individual differences and abilities, have equal claims to dignity and respect.  Our conviction that we are superior to our children stems from our cultural heritage: that people are inferior or superior according to their birth, their money, their sex or color, or their age and wisdom.  No individual ability or trait can guarantee superiority or the right to dominate... In fact, our children are often much more capable than we are and tend to outsmart us on many occasions...

The popular practice of letting children have unrestricted freedom has made tyrants of children and slaves of the parents.  These children enjoy all the freedom while their parents assume all the responsibilities!...  Well-defined restrictions give a sense of security and a certainty of function within the social structure... Freedom implies order.  Without order, there can be no freedom...

To help our children, then, we must turn from the obsolete autocratic method of demanding submission to a new order based on the principles of freedom and responsibility.  Our children no longer can be forced into compliance; they must be stimulated and encouraged into voluntarily taking their part in the maintenance of order.

2. Understanding the Child

A child will try something: if it works and if it fits in with his goal, he retains it as a method of finding his personal identity.

3. Encouragement

Encouragement is more important than any other aspect of child-raising.  It is so important that the lack of it can be considered the basic cause for misbehavior.  A misbehaving child is a discouraged child...

The child's behavior gives the clue to his self-estimate.  The child who doubts his own ability and his own value will demonstrate it through his deficiencies.  He no longer seeks to belong through usefulness, participation, and contributions..  In his discouragement he turns to useles and provocative behavior... To be spanked is better than to be ignored...

Genuine happiness is not dependent upon the attention of other but arises from within oneself as a result of self-sufficiency... Children have immense native courage and eagerly try to do the things they see others doing...

... mother discourages by extreme overprotection... Children need to learn how to take pain in their stride.  A bruised knee will mend: bruised courage may last a lifetime... [What mother can do:] When she grants him the right to do wrong she places upon him the responsibility for his behavior and indicates that he has to bear the consequences.  When she suggests that they will come again when he is ready, she expresses her faith that he will reconsider and will feel better and will want to play...

Parental love is best demonstrated through constant encouragement toward independence.

4. The Child's Mistaken Goals

The desire for undue attention is the first mistaken goal used by discouraged children as a means for feeling that they belong.  Influenced by his mistaken assumption that he has significance only when he is the center of attention, the child develops great skill at attention-getting mechanisms.  He finds all manner of ways to keep others busy with him. He may be charming and witty, delightful and coy.  But as pleasant as he may be, his goal is to win attention rather than to participate...

When we realize that a child is demanding undue attention, we can avoid yielding to his demands.  What is the point of demanding attention of a mother who disappears?  When we find ourselves involved in a power contest, we can withdraw from the field of battle and not allow ourselves to become engaged in the contest.

5. The Fallacy of Punishment and Reward

Punishment, or the authoritative idea - "obey me, or else," needs to be replaced by a sense of mutual respect and co-operation.  Even though children are no longer in an inferior position, they are untrained and inexperienced.  They need our leadership.  A good leader inspires and stimulates... We can create an atmosphere of mutual self-respect and consideration and provide an opportunity for the child to learn how to live comfortably and happily with others.  We need to arrange learning situations without showing a lack of respect for the child or for ourselves...

Good behavior on the part of the child springs from his desire to belong, to contribute usefully, and to co-operate... A reward does not give a child a sense of belonging.

6. The Use of Natural and Logical Consequences

We do not have the right to assume the responsibilities of our children, nor do we have the right to take the consequences of their acts.  These belong to them...
When we use the term "logical consequences", parents so frequently misinterpret it as a new way to impose their demands upon children.  The children see this for what it is - disguised punishment.  The secret lies in the manner of application.  It comprises a judicial withdrawal on the part of the parent that allows room for the logical sequence of events to take place...

3 year old Kathy refused to stay out of the street when she played in the yard... Mother picks her up quietly and firmly carries her into the house.  "Since you do not feel like playing in the yard (indicates Kathy's right to her own feelings),  you may not be out.  When you are ready, you may try again."...To prevent this [problem] from becoming a power contest, after the 3rd successive time, Mother may keep Kathy in for a few days.  It is most important to constantly give children a chance to try again.  It allows them to feel that they still have a chance, and indicates Mother's faith in the child and his ability to learn...

Many of the things children do which annoy us are done for that very purpose, and to keep us busy with them...  The less a parent talks about "consequences," the less it will appear as punishment.

7. Be Firm Without Dominating

It is difficult at times to understand the difference between firmness and domination.  Children need firmness... Domination means that we try to impose our will upon the child.  We tell him what he should do...  Firmness, on the other hand, expresses our own action.  Mother can always decide what she will do and carry it out... Firmness without domination requires practice in mutual respect.  We must respect the child's right to decide what he intends to do.  Respect for ourselves is gained by our refusal to be placed at the mercy of the unruly child... We need to develop sensitivity to recognize the difference between his needs and his whims.

8. Show Respect for the Child

Only when we have confidence in a child and his ability can we show respect from him... Respect for the child means that we regard him as a human with the same rights to make decisions as we have.  But similar rights does not mean that the child may do what the adults do.  Everyone in the family has a different role to play - and each has the right to be respected in that role.

9. Induce Respect for Order

If [mother] finds things belonging to the girls out of place, she may pick them up and put them away - not for the girls, but for herself, because they are in her way... Since the girls didn't put their belongings away, how can they know where they are?  Mother remains firm about this, although friendly.  This is not punishment.  The logical result of not putting something away is that one doesn't know where it is.

10. Induce Respect for the Rights of Others

In a situation between equals, each one has the same rights.  If Ellen has the right to slap or kick or bite, Mother has the same right.  Mother is obligated to demonstrate this to Ellen.  The secret lies in the manner in which it is done.  When Ellen slaps, Mother can say cheerfully, "I see you want to play the slapping game."  Then Mother slaps Ellen - and doesn't pull her punch... Mother continues this game until Ellen quits.  It has been our experience that few children wish to play this game a second time!

11. Eliminate Criticism and Minimize Mistakes

When we pay constant attention to mistakes, we discourage our children.  We cannot build on weakness - only on strength... We are constantly correcting, constantly admonishing.  Such an approach shows lack of faith in our children; it is humiliating and discouraging.... Making a mistake is not nearly as important as what we do about it afterward...

If we want a child to overcome a fault, we must discover the purpose behind the behavior, then, without talking about it at all, act in such a way that the purpose is no longer fulfilled.  Most of the time this action on our part consists of not acting, of failing to respond, of avoiding our first impulse.
12. Maintain Routine

... social integration and self-sufficiency are the goals of parental guidance.
13. Take Time for Training

Constant corrections fail to "teach" because they are criticism and as such discourage and provoke the child... The discouraged child displays interest in doing things.  Alert parents recognize such attempts and encourage them.

It is also wise to provide children with training in and understanding about unpleasant contingencies.

Training should not be attempted when guests are present or the family is out in public... If a parent wishes a child to behave in public, he will have to train him at home.  If his behavior is out of keeping with the situation, the only practical solution is to remove him quietly.

14. Win Co-operation

Group pressure is effective, while adult pressure only stimulates rebellion.  This method of dealing with a problem usually takes the form of a Family Council.

... if a child is allowed - not requested! - to contribute from the very beginning, he enjoys it and has a sense of pride in his accomplishment.

Our tone of voice and manner of approach are important factors in winning co-operation.
15. Avoid Giving Undue Attention

The child who seeks constant attention is, of necessity, an unhappy child.  He feels that unless he gets attention he is worthless, has no place.

Whenever we stop responding to a child's undue demands for attention, we must be sure to notice him when he is co-operative; this will help the child to re-evaluate his methods...  Children need our attention.  But we must become aware of the difference between due and undue attention... when we feel annoyed or distressed, we can be assured that we are confronted with undue demands.
16. Sidestep the Struggle for Power

Mother does not need to be angry.  No power contest is involved if Mother remains cool and calm.

It requires constant self-reminders. "I really can't make my children do anything.  I cannot force them to do anything nor stop them.  I may try all the tricks in the book, but I cannot force my child into co-operative action.  It cannot be forced; it must be won.  Proper behavior must be stimulated, not demanded.  However, I can utilize my ingenuity, tact, and my sense of humor to promote willingness."
17. Withdraw from the Conflict

The disturbance is the result of a conflict between two people.  If one person withdraws the other cannot continue.  If the parent removes himself from the battlefield he leaves the child in a vacuum.
18. Action! Not Words

If Mother really wants to change the behavior of her children, she will have to act.  Words are futile.  Out of respect for the children she cannot decide what they will do.  But she can decide what she will do.  "I will not sit at the table with you when you have dirty hands."  Mother removes the plates and serves no food to people with dirty hands.  The second time that Mother finds dirty hands at the table she doesn't even have to say why she does not serve.
19. Don't Shoo Flies

Sometimes it is a matter of taking time to train a child.  Connie's mother can stop pushing the stroller whenever the child drags her foot.  No words necessary.  Connie will soon understand and keep her foot in place if she wants to ride.  Mother's quiet insistence will be much more effective as a training method than her continued "No, no"...
20. Use Care in Pleasing: Have the Courage to Say "No"

Feeling obligated to please a child as much as possible is a mistake, because it is a servile attitude that promotes self-centeredness in the child.
21. Avoid the First Impulse: Do the Unexpected

22. Refrain from Overprotection

An overprotective mother plays the high authority who decides when Johnny is warm and when he is cold... Mother provides services that are not necessary... She sees potential danger lurking everywhere.

We cannot protect our children from life.  Nor should we want to.  We are obligated to train our children in courage and strength to face life...  Under the pretext of concern for their welfare, we keep our children helpless and dependent so that we may appear big and powerful and protective... It places us in a superior dominant position and keeps our children submissive.
23. Stimulate Independence

Doing for a child what he can do for himself is extremely discouraging, since it deprives him of the opportunity to experience his own strength.  It shows our complete lack of faith in his ability, courage and adequacy, robs him of his sense of security, which is based on the realization of his own capacity to meet and solve problems, and denies him his right to develop self-sufficiency - all in order to keep our own image of our indispensability.

Wendy has no chance to develop independence as long as Mother is impatient, in a hurry, and takes the easy way out.

Without realizing what goes on, we so frequently allow ourselves to continue to help our children long after it is necessary because we are so used to doing so.
24. Stay Out of Fights!  We only have 1 child - so I skimmed this chapter.  Basically, let the children handle fights on their own.  This will allow children to develop their own negotiation skills and children will probably be closer to each other this way. Nurtureshock also discusses the latter - concluding that children fight so that they can get closer.
25. Be Unimpressed by Fears

If Mother and Daddy can be unimpressed by her screams, they eliminate the purpose of the fear.

No parent wants to see his child suffer.  However, there are times when pain is inevitable.  The child who is courageous actually suffers less.  Fear of pain magnifies it out of proportion.  It makes the sufferer tighten up in resistance and actually increases the pain. We must help our children to accept pain and distress. Only if we are impressed with the child's fear does he become timid and fearful.
26. Mind Your Own Business

Contacts with other people are part of the reality of life.  It is our business to help the child to develop proper attitudes and effective approaches to reality.

Traditionally many teachers still ask parents to see to it that the children do their home assignments.  However, if we approach the problem head-on, we invite a power contest... We can best help such a child by extricating ourselves from the contest... making it clear to the child that if he does not want to study, no one can make him do so.  "It is up to you.  You will make the choice as to whether or not you want to study and to learn."
27.  Don't Feel Sorry

... if we pity a child, he thinks he has the right to pity himself... instead of facing his predicament and doing what can be done, he relies more and more on the pity of others... he counts on what others will do for him.

Our respect for the child demands that we support his sense of dignity, now lower it by stimulating his self-pity.
28. Make Requests Reasonable and Sparse

We should never ask a child to do what we would not like to be asked to do... When we want to make a request of a child, we must be sensitive to the situation and to the capacities of the child... When we make our requests few and far between, and enlist the child's help rather than command his services or obedience, we promote friendliness and a satisfactory interrelationship.
29. Follow Through - Be Consistent

Consistency is really a part of order, and as such helps to establish boundaries and limitations that provide the child with a sense of security.
30. Put Them All in the Same Boat (look at 24)
31. Listen!
32. Watch Your Tone of Voice
33. Take It Easy

How much better it would be for all concerned if we would relax, have confidence in our children, and give them a chance to live for themselves.
34. Downgrade "Bad" Habits

The more fuss we make over "bad" habits, the worse they get... Once the child discovers that he has done something which bothers the parent even more than usual, he has at his disposal an even stronger weapon with which to hit his parents.
35. Have Fun Together
36. Meet the Challenge of TV

... we cannot protect our children from television nor from the impressions that they receive.  However, we can help the child to develop resistance against bad taste and poor judgment.  This cannot be done by preaching to him!... a discussion in which the parent asks questions and then listens can be very profitable.  The parent can watch the program with the children and then share their impressions in a gamelike atmosphere.
37. Use Religion Wisely
38. Talk with Them, Not to Them
39. The Family Council (establish one with rules that children help create)

1 comment:

  1. I took a coarse in this when my kids were in elementary school...It works! Thanks for all this wonderful information you share with others...blessings!