STEP and Positive Discipline Series

Democratic, Respectful and Practical Parenting

Alfred Adler,was a psychologist who was an advocate of equality among people of all races including children. Rudolf Dreikurs, was a colleague of Adler's and continued to develop his work after his death in 1937. He is the author of Children the Challenge from which many books were written to help parents and teachers improve their relationship with children at home and in the classroom. Adler's non-punitive concepts of democratic and respectful parenting are truly amazing in the important job of raising happy, responsible children.

Basic Adlerian Concepts
Children are social beings
A child's behavior is goal oriented
A child's primary goal is to belong and feel significant
A misbehaving child is a discouraged child
Social interest or responsibility, a desire to contribute
A child is equal in value to adults
Mistakes are opportunities to learn
Make sure the message of love gets through

There are two approaches to using Adlerian techniques in parenting children effectively. The STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting) book series written by Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Gary D. McKay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr., and the Positive Discipline series by Jane Nelson, Ed.D.

We use the Positive Discipline books for several reasons.
Positive Discipline
author, Jane Nelson, Ed.D, the mother of 7 children and grandmother to 20 (as of this writing)! continues to write, lecture and present workshops. She has authored and co-authored over a dozen books.

Positive Discipline books continue to be updated and revised
Positive Discipline uses examples that are current with today's culture and problems
Positive Discipline promotes discipline that focuses on solutions
Positive Discipline challenges the idea that children need to feel bad to do better
Positive Discipline redefines time-outs as positive rather than punitive
Positive Discipline emphasizes kind and firm discipline without being permissive
Positive Discipline is non-punitive, non-violent and ideal for parents with domestic violence issues
Positive Discipline emphasizes why adults are responsible for many behavior problems
Positive Discipline gives us resources to enhance our online classes with audio and video
(Note: Our Co-Parenting Divorce Class is based on Divorce Book for Parents by Vicki Lansky).

An Approach to Understanding Children
A Child's Temperament

Every child has his own unique way of being in the world. Some children are quiet and calm, others are outgoing and active. Some children prefer the library others the outdoors. Observing and accepting your child's inherent temperament can guide you on how to parent them in ways that fit their particular preferences.

Heredity and Environment
Nature or nurture? This has been debated for years and will likely continue. What has the most influence on children their heredity or the environment they are raised in? Many things are determined by heredity and cannot be changed but nevertheless make an impact on the child: how tall you are, the color of your eyes, the color of your skin. But the environment you provide for you children is flexible. The atmosphere you as parents create, your style of relating to each other, family values all contribute to the family environment.

Birth Order
A child's position in the family is also significant. Every child is born into a different family. For instance when the oldest child is born, parents may be struggling financially. When the second child arrives the family is more stable and experienced in child rearing. The youngest child has many people at her beck and call! There are generalized traits that oldest, middle and youngest children exhibit and being familiar with them can help parents understand their children's behavior.

Gender Roles
Society has ideas and standards for girls and boys, men and women. As good parents, it is important not to be caught up in stereotypes like boys don't cook, girls are emotional. These concepts can excuse bad behavior or discourage talents.

Child Development
Parents who educate themselves about child development are better equipped to understand their child's behavior. At certain ages or stages of development we can expect different abilities from children. Knowledge of those abilities can help guide parents in their expectations.

Why Children Misbehave
A Child's Desire to Belong

Children are social beings. Children strive to find their place first in their family and then society. From infancy a child's earliest attempts are in finding ways to belong and be significant. Their behavior is goal oriented. They continue behaviors that result in being included and abandon behaviors that exclude them.

Children as Observers
However, while children are very good observers they can easily misinterpret their observations, drawing the wrong conclusions. This misinterpretation underlies their mistaken ways (misbehavior) used to find their place in the family.

Three year old Sam watches intently as his mother is busy with his new baby brother. He correctly observes that the new baby takes much of mother's time and there is less attention for him. But he mistakenly interprets that to get mother's attention one must be helpless. Sam reverts back to soiling himself after having been toilet trained for 6 months.

Children do not know "why" they misbehave. They learn by trial and error. They see the results of what they do. If the desired result is produced by misbehavior it will continue. As parents begin to learn how to understand the child's goal of misbehavior, it gives them clues on how to guide children toward more positive behavior.

Four Goals of Misbehavior
Undue Attention - All children desire and need attention. But a child who needs attention all the time will resort to behavior to keep others busy with him or get special treatment. Parents will feel annoyed, irritated, worried and/or guilty. The parent responds by scolding or warnings and the child is temporarily satisfied but not for long.

Power - For some children their mistaken goal is to be in charge and be the "boss". By their misbehavior they are saying "I am in control" or "You can't make me". Parents feel provoked, challenged, angry, threatened and/or defeated and will meet the child in a power struggle. If the parent gives in the child "wins" and stops the behavior until the next power struggle arises.

Revenge - These children often feel they have been hurt or that they can never win in a power struggle. They feel the only way to belong is to get even. Parents feel hurt, disappointed, disbelieving, disgusted and rejected by this form of misbehavior.

Assumed Inadequacy - Often a child will just give up displaying helplessness. They want to be left alone so they have no expectations to live up to. Parents feel like giving up, doing for, over helping and helpless to do anything. For many children this form of misbehavior is displayed only in certain areas like homework or activities.

These four goals of misbehavior give parents the clues they need to redirect their children and help them find positive ways to achieve their need to belong. Understanding that children are not consciously plotting their misbehavior but it is based on a child's mistaken goal, goes a long way in promoting a respectful parenting style.

To identify the mistaken goal parents ask themselves 3 questions.
1. When your child misbehaves, how do YOU feel?
2. What do you as the parent most often do in response to the misbehavior?
3. What does your child do in response?


Beliefs and Feelings
You cannot change anyone else, only yourself. Improving your child's behavior comes from changing the way you respond. Your children have beliefs about how they belong and from these beliefs come emotions and actions. You also have feelings and beliefs. Becoming aware of your feelings and beliefs and making changes can make the difference in influencing your child's positive behavior.

Everyone wants and needs encouragement. The important distinction here is understanding the difference between praise and encouragement. Praise is often mistaken for encouragement. So children learn from praise that their actions must please others and that their worth is dependent on being able to perform. Encouragement on the other hand, is freely given for no other purpose than acknowledgment. It is given for participation not winning, for effort not results. Even parents need encouragement and in the classes I facilitate, I am there to encourage your efforts as you learn how to be a better parent.

Listening and talking
Learning how to really listen not only works with your children but with anyone. When someone is "heard" it can change how they feel and act. It is a skill that few people have. Often when someone is speaking to us, we are thinking about the grocery list or what we are going to say next. Listening skills build better relationships with your children and can help you discover what your child is feeling. Talking to your children about your feelings begins with speaking to them with respect. Using "you messages" is a blaming, judging communication style. Using "I-messages" shows that you own your feelings, and you are telling your children how you feel without blame or put downs.

Owning the problem
This is a great way to work on training your children to handle their own problems. You must first have a system to determine who the problem belongs to. That determines the course of action to take. It gives children freedom with responsibility and allows parents to take a back seat to issues that do not directly impact them.

Beware of natural and logical consequences focus on solutions
"Punishment should fit the crime." How often I heard parents say, "Johnny didn't do his homework so he can't ride his bike for 2 weeks". What does riding your bike have to do with homework? How much more would Johnny learn if his parents talked to him about finding out why Johnny isn't doing his homework and work together to find a solution. One of which might be to let him handle this with his teacher without mom and dad's intervention.

A better way to describe a natural consequence is to decide what you the parent will do in a situation to help a child learn responsibility. Not all situations lend themselves to natural consequences. Sometimes you the parent have to devise a logical consequence. However, it is important to follow some criteria to ensure that the logical consequence is not really punishment.

Family meetings
Putting family meetings on the agenda is one of the most supportive things you can do. Everyone meets at a predetermined time to discuss problems, concerns, and plans for fun...together. Everyone is heard. Choices are made in a democratic way. Many problems are solved this way by a group effort.

If you are actively searching for a better way parent your children that is respectful and democratic, our online parenting classes make it easy. Your children are naturally good, inherently curious and want to cooperate and experience a real sense of belonging in their families. When you understand and practice these principles, you will be amazed at the changes that will occur in your family.

The blend of parenting styles that work inside of this paradigm have been combined to form a practical, respectful, effective and result oriented parenting style that is applicable to children of all ages. Many of these principles are drawn from the work of other notable parent educators.

Children: the Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D. with Vicki Soltz, R.N. - The four goals of misbehavior:
Parent Effectiveness Training by Thomas Gordon - I -messages, problem ownership
Positive Discipline by Nelson,Lott, Glenn - "I noticed" statements
Raising a Responsible Child Revised by Dinkmeyer, McKay - schoolwork and logicalconsequences
STEP Systematic Training for Effective Parenting by Don Dinkmeyer, Sr., Gary D. McKay and Don Dinkmeyer, Jr.

Does your agency need a parenting class that provides ongoings upport, the ability to track the progress of participants,is based on natural and logical consequences not corporal punishment and is an excellent model for families with a history of domestic violence? If so contact us to see how we can customize classes for you.