PHILOSOPHER: Why do children get involved in problem behaviour? Adlerian psychology focuses on the ‘goals’ that lie hidden in that behaviour. That is to say, we think of the problem behaviour that children (and not only children) engage in, with all manner of goals, as having five stages.
    YOUTH: Does having five stages mean it is something that gradually escalates?
    PHILOSOPHER: Yes. And these stages cover all forms of human problem behaviour. As much as possible, steps must be taken at an early stage before the behaviour escalates.
    YOUTH: All right. So, please begin with the first stage.
    PHILOSOPHER: The first stage of problem behaviour is the ‘demand for admiration’.
    YOUTH: Demand for admiration? In other words, it’s as if they’re saying, ‘Praise me’?
    PHILOSOPHER: Yes. Students play the role of the ‘good child’ to their parents and teachers and to other people. A person working in an organisation strives to demonstrate his drive and obedience to his boss and senior colleagues. By doing so, he hopes to gain their praise. This is where it all starts.
    YOUTH: But isn’t that a desirable thing? They’re being productive and not making trouble for anyone. They can make themselves useful to other people. I can’t find any reason to regard this as problematic.
    PHILOSOPHER: Certainly, if each of their actions is treated as separate, they may appear to be good children or honour students who have no problems whatsoever. And with children who make great efforts in their schoolwork and athletics and such, or with company employees who devote themselves to their work, they are applying themselves, so one wants to praise them. There is a great pitfall here, however. Their goal will always be to receive praise and, moreover, to gain a privileged position within the community. YOUTH: Aha. So, since their motives aren’t pure, it’s unacceptable? What a simpleminded philosopher you are. Even if their goal is to receive praise, they’re still students pursuing their studies, aren’t they? I don’t see any problem here.
    PHILOSOPHER: Then, what do you think happens when their efforts garner no praise at all from their parents and teachers, or their bosses and coworkers? YOUTH: I suppose they become dissatisfied and maybe even resentful. PHILOSOPHER: Right. Look, they are not doing good things. They are just being praised. And there is no point in making so much effort if they are not going to be praised by anyone or treated in a special way by anyone. So, they lose motivation right away.
    They adopt a lifestyle, or worldview, in which they are essentially saying, ‘I won’t engage in proper behaviour unless there is someone who will praise me,’ and ‘I’ll engage in improper behaviour unless there is someone who will punish me.’
    YOUTH: Well, I guess that’s true, but . . .
    PHILOSOPHER: Furthermore, another characteristic of this stage is that, on account of trying to be the ‘good child’ who is full of promise, they begin to engage in cheating, deceptive tactics and other wrongdoing. Educators and leaders must ascertain the children’s goals instead of focusing only on their actions. YOUTH: But if you don’t praise them at that point, they’ll lose their drive and turn into children who don’t do anything at all. And in some cases, they’ll start engaging in improper behaviour, won’t they?
    PHILOSOPHER: No. You teach them continually that they have worth, even if they are not special. By showing them respect.
    YOUTH: Concretely speaking, how do you do that?
    PHILOSOPHER: Instead of focusing on whenever a child does some ‘good’ thing, turn your attention to the smaller everyday details of the words and actions of the person. And then, focus on and feel sympathy for that person’s concerns. That’s all.
    YOUTH: Ah, so we’re back to that. Well, I guess I still don’t feel comfortable with what qualifies as problem behaviour. But let’s move on. What about the second stage?
    PHILOSOPHER: The second stage of problem behaviour is ‘attention drawing’. YOUTH: Attention drawing? PHILOSOPHER: The child isn’t being praised, even though he has done a ‘good’ thing. He is unable to gain a privileged position within the classroom. Or he doesn’t have enough courage or tenacity to do things that will lead to praise in the first place. At such times, the person thinks, ‘It’s okay not to be praised, so I’ll just make myself stand out.’ YOUTH: So, he will do something bad? Something he will get rebuked for? PHILOSOPHER: That’s right. At this stage, they don’t even think about being praised anymore. They just want to stand out. One aspect I would like you to bear in mind here is that the principle of the behaviour of children at this stage is standing out, not being bad. YOUTH: What will they accomplish by standing out? PHILOSOPHER: They want to gain a privileged position within the classroom. They want a definite ‘place to be’ within the community to which they belong. That is their true goal. YOUTH: In other words, since orthodox methods such as doing their schoolwork haven’t worked out, the student tries to become a ‘special me’ by other means. Instead of becoming special as a ‘good child’, he tries to do so as a ‘bad child’. In this way, he secures his own place to be.
    PHILOSOPHER: That’s exactly right. YOUTH: Well, I’d say that at around that age, if you’re a bit of a ‘bad child’, you’re more likely to be viewed as superior. So, concretely speaking, in what way do they make themselves stand out? PHILOSOPHER: Assertive children will probably try to get attention by mischief, that is to say, by breaking the lesser rules of society and school. Being noisy in class, ridiculing the teacher, inundating the teacher with endless questions—that kind of thing. But they never go so far as to incur the wrath of the adults, and they are often loved by their teachers and friends alike as a kind of popular class clown. Passive children will probably try to get attention by exhibiting a dramatic drop in scholastic achievement, by repeatedly forgetting things or by crying. They get attention by acting like an incompetent child and try to gain a special position. YOUTH: But if they do things like disrupting class or repeatedly forgetting things, they’ll probably be rebuked quite severely. Are they okay with being rebuked? PHILOSOPHER: If their presence is likely to be otherwise ignored, they would much rather be rebuked. They want their presence recognised and they want to be put in a special position, even if it takes the form of rebuke. That is their wish. YOUTH: Oh my, that’s harsh! What a complicated frame of mind. PHILOSOPHER: No, actually, children up to this second stage are living according to a simple principle, and dealing with them is not so difficult. Because through respect, we can convey that there  is no need to be special and that they have sufficient worth just as they are. It is from the third stage onward that things get difficult. YOUTH: Hmm. Why is that, I wonder?
    Wadifa Club
    writer and blogger, founder of Dog food planet .

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