Championing the child

When Alfred Adler was a young man in Vienna, he wasn't doing so well in math. The situation got so bad that Adler's teacher suggested to his father that he get him a job as an apprentice cobbler, because he'd never be a scholar. His father dismissed the idea and told his son what a fool the teacher was, and Adler, buoyed by his father's confidence, soon was tops in his class in the subject. Perhaps it was that confidence his father showed in him that planted the seed for Adler's sincere belief in the importance of properly encouraging children when he laid down his child guidance principles years later. At 28, he wrote his first book, on the health condition of tailors, first referring to the need to see man as a whole, functioning entity, rather than a mix of instincts, drives and other psychological manifestations. Adler joined Sigmund Freud's weekly circle on innovations in psychopathology in 1902, but a disagreement over Freud's belief that man's mental ailments were seated exclusively in sexual trauma and his methods of dream interpretation saw them part company in 1911, with Adler and eight colleagues forming their own school. After his army service, he founded several child guidance clinics in Vienna, drawing visitors from abroad and sparking the creation of similar clinics overseas. One of his main beliefs was that all people need a sense of belonging and significance to feel healthy in mind and body, and for communities to be peaceful and productive. At his 32 child guidance centers in Vienna, he helped parents and teachers build this sense of belonging in their own homes. The Nazis, however, shut the clinics down, with Adler eventually resuming his teaching in the US. Family meetings are a major component of Adlerian parenting, as is training children to feel like an equal part of the family. Adler also warned against corporal punishment, and to avoid spoiling or neglecting youngsters, and his followers are strong proponents of parenting classes. Below are a few of Adler's Child Guidance Principles, that form the basis for the Adler Institute parenting classes in Israel. • Mutual respect. Parents who show respect for the child - while winning his respect for them - teach the child to respect himself and others. • Withdrawal as an effective counteraction. Withdrawal (leaving the child and walking into another room) is most effective when the child demands undue attention or tries to involve you in a power contest. Often doing nothing effects wonderful results. • Don't interfere in children's fights. By allowing children to resolve their own conflicts, they learn to get along better. Many fights are provoked to get the parent involved, and by separating the children or acting as judge we fall for their provocation, thereby stimulating them to fight more. • Never do for a child what he can do for himself. A dependent child is a demanding child. Children become irresponsible only when we fail to give them opportunities to take on responsibility. • Minimize mistakes. Making mistakes is human. We must have the courage to be imperfect. The 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. • Have fun together and thereby help to develop a relationship based on enjoyment, mutual respect, love and affection, mutual confidence and trust, and a feeling of belonging. Instead of talking to nag, scold, preach and correct, utilize talking to maintain a friendly relationship. Speak to your child with the same respect and consideration that you would express to a good friend. - A.D.C. and Alfred Adler Institutes of San Francisco and Northern Washington