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Principles for Parenting
• Mutual respect: Teach your child to respect himself and others by showing him respect, while winning his respect back.
• Encouragement: Shows your faith in and respect for your child as she is. A child misbehaves usually when she is discouraged and believes she cannot succeed by useful means.
• Feelings of "security": Real security cannot be found from the outside; it is only possible to achieve it through experience and overcoming difficulties.
• Never do for your child what he can do for himself: A dependent child is a demanding child. Children become irresponsible only when they aren’t giving them opportunities to take on responsibility.
• Overprotection pushes a child down: Parents may feel they are being loving when they take over for a child, but actually they are taking away the child's opportunity to learn and develop. If you believe your child can handle life’s challenges, he will believe it too.
• Over-responsible parents often produce irresponsible children: By reminding your child or doing things for her, she does not need to take that responsibility herself, instead, relying on you. Allow your child to learn from the consequences of her own behavior.
• Take time for training: Teach your child how to do things and how to behave. The parent who "does not have time" will have to spend more time dealing with problem behaviors later. Be patient and don't try to train a child when you’re angry or in front of company.
• Natural and logical consequences: Techniques that allow the child to experience the result of his own behavior.
Natural consequences: Usually effective and the direct result of the child's behavior (example: Josh refuses to do his homework, so his teacher gives him a poor grade).
Logical consequences: Established by the parents, and are a direct and logical--not randomly chosen -- consequence of the negative behavior (example: Rachael throws her toys when angry, so mom puts them out of reach for the rest of the day). Caution: they can only be applied if the parent does not engage in a power struggle with the child; otherwise they can become a form of punishment.
• Reward and punishment are outdated. A child soon considers a reward his right and demands a reward for everything. He considers that punishment gives him the right to punish in return. Children often retaliate by not eating, fighting, neglecting schoolwork, or otherwise misbehaving in ways that are the most disturbing to parents.
• Consider using encouragement instead of rewards, and consequences instead of punishment.
• Acting instead of talking: Talking can lead to arguments. Taking action is more effective during a conflict. If you can maintain a calm, patient attitude, you can, through quiet action, accomplish positive results.
• Withdrawal or use of ignoring: Withdrawal (leaving the child and walking into another room) is most effective when the child demands excessive attention or tries to involve you in a power struggle. Doing nothing can, at times, be the best thing to do.
Withdraw from the negative behavior, NOT from the child. Give attention and recognition when children behave well, but not when they demand it with disturbing behavior. The less attention your child gets when he disturbs, the more he needs when he is cooperative. You may feel that anger helps get rid of your own tensions, but it does not teach the child what you think he should learn.
• Don't interfere in children's fights: By allowing children to resolve their own conflicts they learn to get along better. Many fights are actually a way for children to get the parent involved. By separating the children or acting as judge you may actually encourage them to fight more.
• Distinguish between positive and negative attention: Children will naturally look for attention, and if they don’t get it, they would rather get negative attention than none at all (example: John’s mother tells him she’s too busy when he shows her his picture, but yells at him for hitting his brother, which behavior do you think he’ll do more of?)
• Understand the child's goal: Every action of a child has a purpose. The main purpose is to feel that he belongs and has value. A well-adjusted child has found social acceptance by cooperating with and making a contribution to the group. The misbehaving child is still trying, in a mistaken way, to feel important in his own world. For examples a young child who has never been allowed to dress himself (because "the parent is in a hurry"), who has not been allowed to help in the house ("you're not big enough to set the table"), may lack the feeling that he is a useful, contributing member of the family, and might feel important only when he can get mom and dad angry and annoyed with misbehavior.
The four goals of misbehavior: The child is usually unaware of his goals. His behavior, though illogical to others, is consistent with his own understanding of his place in the family.
• Attention-getting: She wants attention. You may respond by feeling annoyed and reminding and nagging her.
• Power: He wants to be the boss. You may respond by feeling provoked and get into a power struggle with him--"you can't get away with this!"
• Revenge: She wants to hurt you. You may respond by feeling deeply hurt“I'll get even!"
• Display of inadequacy: He wants to be left alone, with no demands made upon him. You respond by feeling despair--I don't know what to do!"
If your first impulse is to react in one of these four ways, you can be fairly sure you have discovered the goal of the child's misbehavior.
• A child who wants to be powerful generally has a parent who also seeks power. One person cannot fight alone; when you learn to do nothing (by withdrawing, for example) during a power struggle, you drop your end of the rope and the tug of war can no longer continue. Then you can begin a healthier relationship with him. The use of power teaches children only that strong people get what they want.
• No habit is maintained if it loses its purpose, its benefits. Children tend to develop "bad" habits when they derive the benefit of negative attention.
• Minimize mistakes. Making mistakes is human. Have the courage to be imperfect. Your child is also imperfect. Don't make too much fuss and don't worry about his mistakes. Build on the positive, not on the negative.
• Set up a family council: So that every member of the family a chance to express himself freely in all matters of both difficulty and pleasure pertaining to the family. The emphasis should be on "What we can do about the situation." Meet regularly at the same time each week. Rotate the leader. Keep minutes. Have an equal vote for each member. Require an agreement, not a majority vote on each decision.
Caution: Don’t use this time as a chance to finger point or gang up. Instead, focus on the problem and how to solve it. For example “I’m having a problem with the mess in the kitchen, any ideas of what we can do to keep it clean?”
• Have fun together: Develop a relationship based on enjoyment, mutual respect, love and affection, mutual confidence and trust, and a feeling of belonging. Instead of nagging, scolding, preaching, and correcting, try talking to keep a friendly relationship. Speak to your child with the same respect and consideration that you would use with a good friend.
Footnote: modified and copied with permission from Adlerian Child Guidance Principles, Alfred Adler Institute of San Francisco. http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepage/hstein/guid.htm.