DO NOT REBUKE AND DO NOT PRAISE


    YOUTH: Adler forbids reward and punishment. He advises not to rebuke and not to praise. Why did Adler espouse such nonsense? And did he realise how much of a gap there is between the ideal and the reality? That is what I want to know.
    PHILOSOPHER: I see. Just to make sure, you think of rebuking and praising as both being necessary?
    YOUTH: Yes, of course I do. Even if my students might not like me because of it, I still have to rebuke them. They’ve got to correct their mistakes. Yes, let’s start with whether rebuking is right or wrong.
    PHILOSOPHER: All right. Why must one not rebuke a person? It is probably best to look at this according to the situation. First, consider a boy who has done something bad. It could be something dangerous or that might harm another person, or something approaching a criminal act. Why on earth did the boy do such a thing? One thing that may be considered then, is the possibility that ‘he did not know it was a bad thing’.
    YOUTH: He didn’t know?
    PHILOSOPHER: Right. I’ll use my own story as an example. When I was a child, I had a magnifying glass with me wherever I went. I’d find insects and plants and look at them through it. I passed the time gazing to my heart’s content at worlds that were invisible to the naked eye. I’d spend all day absorbed in observing them, like a little entomologist.
    YOUTH: Yes, I had such a phase, too.
    PHILOSOPHER: A little while later, though, I learned of a completely different use for the magnifying glass. I’d focus the sunlight through it onto a piece of black paper and, lo and behold, smoke would rise from the paper until at last it would begin to burn. Witnessing this miracle of science that seemed like a magic trick, I felt the excitement course through me, and I couldn’t think of it as a magnifying glass anymore.
    YOUTH: It’s really something, isn’t it? I too found that more to my liking, rather than crawling around on the ground staring at bugs. A small magnifying glass may inspire one to contemplate the power of the sun and even contemplate the universe. It’s a boy’s first step into science. PHILOSOPHER: So, I was playing in this way one hot summer’s day, by burning paper. I’d placed a sheet of black paper on the ground, and I was focusing the light with my magnifying glass as I always did, when out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a solitary ant. It was a large and sturdy ant with a deep black exoskeleton. I was getting bored already with the black paper, so what did I do to the black ant with my magnifying glass? I don’t think I need to explain any further.
    YOUTH: I get it. Well, children can be cruel.
    PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Children often do exhibit this sort of brutality, of killing insects for fun. But are children really cruel? Do they walk around with some latent ‘aggressive behaviour’, as Freud calls it? I don’t think so. Children are not cruel—it’s just that they don’t know. They do not know what life is worth, or about other people’s pain. So, there is one thing that adults should do. If they do not know, teach them. And when we teach them, we do not need words of reprimand. Please do not forget this principle. Because it is not that they were engaging in bad behaviour, but simply that they did not know.
    YOUTH: You’re saying that it’s not aggression or brutality, but a crime arising from ignorance?
    PHILOSOPHER: A child playing on railroad tracks might not realise that it is a dangerous thing to do. A child shouting loudly in a public place might not know he is causing a disturbance. Whatever it may be, we all start from a point of not knowing. Wouldn’t you say that it is unreasonable to sternly reproach someone, if they do not know that what they are doing is wrong?
    YOUTH: Sure, if they really do not know.
    PHILOSOPHER: What is needed of us adults is not to reprimand, but to teach. With words of reason, and without getting emotional or raising our voices. You are not someone who cannot do this. YOUTH: If that were the only example, then it’d be just as you say. Because there’s no way you’re going to accept your own ant-killing brutality, right? But this isn’t a line of reasoning that I’ll ever swallow.
    It just feels like it’ll get stuck in the back of my throat, like some cloying malt syrup or something. Your understanding of people is too naïve.
    PHILOSOPHER: What is naïve about it?
    YOUTH: Kindergarteners are another matter, but when it comes to grammar schoolchildren, and even more so with middle-schoolers, they’re all fully aware of what they’re doing. They’ve known for a long time what’s prohibited and what’s considered immoral. You might say that these kids engage in problem behaviour as prisoners of conscience. They’ve got to be severely punished for their offences. So, I wish you would just dispense with this old man act of making them out to be a bunch of pure-hearted angels!
    PHILOSOPHER: To be sure, there are many children who get involved in problem behaviour knowing full well that it is wrong. And that may even be the case with the majority of problem behaviour. But haven’t you ever found it odd? They’re engaging in problem behaviour not only with the knowledge that it is wrong, but with the understanding that they will be rebuked by their parents and teachers for engaging in it. It’s quite irrational.
    YOUTH: It’s simplistic, that’s what it is. They would understand if they’d only calm down and think it over, but they’re incapable of that.
    PHILOSOPHER: But is that really the case? Can’t you see that there is another mentality operating deep inside them?
    YOUTH: So, they do it knowing that they’re going to be rebuked? Even the kids who cry when they’re rebuked?
    PHILOSOPHER: It would not be a waste of effort to consider that possibility, certainly. In contemporary Adlerian psychology, we think of human problem behaviour as having five stages, each of which has its own mental state operating in the background.
    YOUTH: Oh, you’re getting to the psychology stuff finally!
    PHILOSOPHER: Once you comprehend the five stages of problem behaviour, you should be able to see for yourself whether rebuking is right or wrong.
    YOUTH: Let’s hear it, then. And I’m going to see how much you really comprehend children and comprehend the actual educational setting! This philosopher’s reasoning makes no sense at all! The youth had become incensed. The classroom is a small democratic nation. And the sovereign of the classroom is the students. Fine up to that point. But why is reward and punishment unnecessary? If the classroom is a nation, aren’t laws needed there? And if there are people who break laws and commit crimes, aren’t punishments needed? The youth wrote the words ‘The five stages of problem behaviour’ in his notebook and smiled to himself. I am going to ascertain if Adlerian psychology is an area of study that actually holds water in the real world, or if it’s just a bunch of empty theories
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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