Parenting Tips learned from Children the Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs
By Laura Bruce, Marriage and Family Therapy Intern at Prepare to Change
Children the Challenge is an easy to follow reference guide for parents who seek to build trust and love in their families. It teaches parents how to cope with common childhood problems that occur from toddler through preteen years.
One of the things I love about this book is the concept that children need our encouragment in their daily lives. They need to know from us, their parents, that we think they are capable and that we believe in them. As a mother of a toddler, I sometimes fall into the trap that my child is so small and little to do things for herself. Yes, she cannot get milk out of the fridge yet or put herself in the carseat. At the same time, I can find small ways to recognize and encourage what she IS able to do on a daily basis. Not only does this give her confidence, it also promotes respect and mutuality in our relationship.
Dreikurs goes as far as to say that the lack of encouragement in children can be considered the basic cause of misbehavior. Since encouragement helps gives a child a place in the family, it promotes a sense of belonging and thus reduces much of the need to get attention from bad behavior. One main action step is, “do nothing for my children that they are able to do for themselves.” For some parents this might sound like a harsh boundary or uncaring but when thinking of the confidence, self-respect, responsibility, and ownership the concept produces, we might think twice about the ways that we (1) encourage our kids, and (2) play into the power struggles.
This book includes a tried and true notion of winning cooperation with children. As adults, many of us either consciously or unconsciously think we have all the solutions to problems that come up between us and our children; but how many of us are willing to ask our children, “what shall WE do about this problem?” If kids are at a place where they can communicate well and come up with solutions, what would that promote if we listened to their opinions, took in their suggestions when appropriate, and allowed them to be a part of resolution process. Self-respect, respect for others, encouragement, confidence, and future problem solving skills with peers come to my mind. Dreikurs is not saying that we always choose the child’s solution or give up certain rules or order for the family. He advocates that this is another gift of encouragement we can give to our kids—to teach them that they have value, are worth hearing from, and have our respect.
There is a lot more to Children the Challenge to gain in terms of parenting tips and tools—and while everyone may not agree with everything Dreikurs offers, it can stir up some intentional thought to help with parenting. Written in 1964, some of the stories may seem far removed from today’s relevance in parenting, but the principles can still be applied to the challenges facing today’s parents.