The Task and Challenges of Child Guidance
Adlerian-Dreikursian based parent education and child guidance focuses on helping parents and other care- providers to meet the task of child guidance, while contending with the challenges. The task of parenting or child-guidance is to raise children who will be able to function efficiently as adults, which includes being able to live agreeably with others in a civilized society. The challenges are dealing with tantrums, messes, laziness, hyperactivity, and other natural and common childhood behaviors. Well-functioning adulthood requires that one has matured beyond childish tendencies and that one be prepared to accept responsibilities, be able to cooperate with others and that one is respectful of self and others. Instilling these qualities is an important task of child-guidance. Fulfilling the task requires that care-providers are able to meet the recurrent challenges in ways that contribute to the task of preparing the next generation of adults. A child who learns to accept responsibilities is willing to postpone pleasures to meet the needs of a situation. These children develop self-discipline and feeling of worth and ability. The child who learns to get along with others becomes a contributor to the group’s efforts to overcome challenges, finds a place of belonging and is as to celebrate community. A child who learns to respect the self and others becomes an adult who will not allow the self to be exploited and who will not exploit others. When the task is being met and the challenges managed, caregivers are able to enjoy the process and rewards of parenting and child guidance.
The Adlerian-Dreikursian Foundations of Child-Guidance
The Adlerian-Dreikursian principles of parent education and child guidance are at the foundation of most contemporary models of parent education, including Positive Discipline, Active Parenting, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, and others. Most parent-education programs maintain similar themes. What is unique about the Adlerian-Dreikursian model is recognition of core aspects of the human condition, including the desire all humans have for a sense of worth and belonging among others, the power of encouragement, our aversion to harshness and the tendency to learn best when outcomes are logical rather than arbitrary. Listed below are the core ideas upon which these programs are based.
- Success as an adult requires that one has developed a sense of responsibility, an ability to cooperate with others, and a good sense of respect for self and for others. The foundation for these attributes is established in childhood.
- Children, from the very beginning, are beings who desire and seek safety, comfort, connection, and joy and who desire to belong and find a place of significance. Children naturally want to contribute in socially useful ways unless they are discouraged and inhibited by the ways parents and others interact with them. An individual’s orientation to life and to these desired outcomes and challenges originates in one’s early environment.
- Problems in life develop when one fails to develop the skills and courage to face and overcome life challenges and when one fails to control urges and impulses related to immediate attainments that compromise optimal functioning.
- Children, and adults, derive the courage to overcome challenges when encouraged. Encouragement validates feelings of belonging, worth, and security. To encourage is to instill courage in another, and the challenges of life require that courage. Encouragement fosters the acceptance of responsibility and the willingness to act cooperatively with others and promotes self-respect and respect for others. Simple praise does not by itself instill courage, and threat usually diminishes courage. Harshness instills anger and fear and is the opposite of encouragement.
- Conflicts are minimized when children learn to cooperate with others to meet the needs of the situation, which includes the needs of the family, and later the needs of the community. This relates to the foundation of what Adler referred to as social interest. Social interest, or community feeling, is essential for effective functioning in adulthood.
- Children, and adults, learn best from outcomes and consequences that are logically related to an action. When the outcome is not logically related to the action, learning is often misdirected and the consequence is typically more conflict (stress). What later is described as symptoms often reflects the individual’s faulty solutions to the challenges of life. Children, in their striving and goal seeking, learn best by way of logical consequences, consequences that relate directly to the misdeed and that do not require arbitrary embellishment by an authority. Reliance on logical consequences over arbitrary consequences instills confidence and self-discipline.
The Adler Child-Guidance Center offers many free of charge parent and care-giver education programs to targeted agencies, and offers a variety of workshops for parents, caregivers, teachers, child-care workers and others. Courses and workshops are held at the Adler School campus in downtown Chicago and in a variety of satellite venues throughout Chicagoland.