Many years ago, research was carried out to discover why some children become ‘successful’ in the broader sense, and others don’t. The findings were very clear regarding those differences: children who succeed have close relationships with others, particularly their immediate family, feel valued in their communities & have a sense of control over some aspects of their lives. While children who are in trouble feel isolated, useless to society and powerless.
The children in trouble are missing four important necessities to manage life’s challenges.
- They are missing feeling connected to others, whether that is their family or the community.
- They are missing feeling capable to take care of themselves.
- They are missing feeling valuable, that they count and that they matter & they make a difference.
- They are missing courage.
These four fundamentals are needed for children to feel that they can meet and manage the challenges of life.
What the Crucial ‘C’s Give Children.
Feeling that we connect, that we are capable, that we count and that we have courage will go a long way to enhance a positive attitude about life and give it meaning & purpose. By embracing these very simple principles you will transform your parenting & become better at understanding the goals behind your child’s behaviour & their needs because these simple principles will empower you with better ways to raise a happy, confident, resilient child with strong self-esteem & good mental health.
Dr. Betty Lou Bettner and Amy Lew took the very basics of the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler as interpreted by Rudolph Dreikurs and simplified them into the CRUCIAL C’s so that we, as parents, could remember and live by these simply guidelines.
If we ensure that our children feel connected, capable, courageous and that they count as valuable human beings, they will take life on and make it work for them. They will develop a ‘Can Do Kid’ mindset & they will have the ability to handle whatever life throws at them. They will have a positive mental attitude and good mental health.
Kids who are brought up with the four Crucial ‘C’s become
We are social beings, and have to band together, as our ability to survive both physically and psychologically depends on our ability to connect to others. We move from being helpless babies totally dependent on others, to interdependence with others. This process of moving from total dependence takes a considerable time compared to other animals who walk and take care of themselves far sooner than human beings do. But as infants grow they develop their capabilities away from total dependence towards becoming more independent.
As children grow into toddlers they experiment, make mistakes and learn through trial and error, and the more capable they are allowed to feel, the more self-confident they become.
A teenager who is confident & secure in their belief about belonging to others in their family feels connected so they are able to co-operate because they don’t feel afraid that they’ll be rejected or isolated. They are more resilient to peer pressure and being drawn to gangs and the wrong crowd to feel connected.
A child who connects in a constructive, healthy way feels secure, can reach out to others, can make friends and can co-operate easily.
A child who doesn’t feel connected in a constructive way feels insecure, isolated & will seek attention and believe that any attention is better than none, and may be more susceptible to peer pressure
This need for connection was based on research based on studying 12,000 teenagers by the ‘Journal of The American Medical Association’ that found young people who felt connected were less likely to take drugs, smoke, drink alcohol, become violent, or get pregnant. In short, they had better mental health.
Feeling Competent and Capable.
Toddlers who began life as helpless babies learn to hold their heads up, roll over, stand up & walk. This need to become independent is innate. A toddler doesn’t fall over the first time and decide that walking isn’t for them! They get back up time and time again – needing remarkable tenacity but their need to feel competent and capable is within and driving them forward to succeed.
Children develop their competence and capabilities through being allowed to explore, experiment and make mistakes & they must be given the opportunity to be given real jobs and activities that are meaningful. We live in a busy, hectic, frenetic world and parents are often in such a hurry that they rob their children of the opportunity to ‘struggle’ a little in finding their lunchbox, putting on their shoes or of doing up the zip on their coat.
It’s often easier, and certainly quicker to do it for them, but this mistaken way of helping children may have serious consequences long term.
Children may interpret your failing to trust them to do these things as a sign that you don’t think they can do them. You rob your child of the experience of feeling competent and capable. Unconsciously the message they have received is ‘You don’t think I can do things for myself.’ Basically, you’ve given them the message of ‘No Confidence.’ Added to this their observation of older siblings or grown-ups being more far more competent than they are, your child may unconsciously decide that they won’t even bother to try. That keeps them stuck in dependence. Over time they may learn to resent you or certainly feel inadequate or may even decide to become a Verruca Salt – a spoilt and pampered child who needs ‘staff’ to take care of their every need!
An over protected child may become overly dependent on others and may be afraid to be alone later in life, make decisions independently or may become so confused that they may ‘boss’ people around to get their needs met!
Teenagers who are encouraged to feel competent and capable develop self-control and become self-reliant. They are able to take on responsibility & have equal, healthy & respectful relationships with others. Whereas teens who are discouraged from feeling competent become risk takers. They are unsure of their own capabilities & they may resist your attempts to guide them – feeling the need to ‘prove themselves.’
While other disempowered teens take a different approach, and resist responsibly – not getting up in the morning unless you wake them, not doing their homework unless you nag them, expecting you to pick up, wash up and basically do everything for them! It’s worth remembering that your exasperation with them is because of your love for them , you have unconsciously disempowered them to take responsibility for themselves. It’s not helpful to beat yourself up if you discover that you have pampered them over the years but it may be time to let them face the consequences of their actions by getting a detention for undone homework or late arrival at school.
A child who sees themselves as capable feels competent, has self-control and self-discipline assumes responsibility and is self-reliant.
A child who feels incapable feels inadequate & they try to control others, seek power & often become defiant and they may become too dependent.
Children who are offered the opportunity to feel competent and capable believe they can do things for themselves and they feel happier.
Feeling Significant – ‘I Count’
We all like to feel that we matter. We count. We make a difference and children are no different.
Toddlers are self-centred as they are not yet mature enough to differentiate themselves from others, but if parents respond to their needs and care for them they feel secure and safe. They can trust the world. They learn that they can count on others.
A baby will soon learn that they are important. That they matter. That they are significant and that they count.
Whereas a baby whose needs are not met may learn that they can’t trust the world and that the world isn’t a safe place and they may not be able to move beyond that self-centred experience.
Children who are encouraged & appreciated learn that they count, that they matter, that they are important and they feel significant and valued for who they are. Whereas children who are not made to feel significant look for a way to feel valued in more destructive ways. Attention seeking, being unkind to siblings, provoking others and seeking revenge to get their need for significance met.
Teenagers who feel valued become more involved in school or community activities and are conscious that they make a difference and can affect the world for the better. They are less likely to break the rules or avoid responsibility. They behave constructively. Whereas a teen who doesn’t feel that they count, behaves in more destructive ways, becoming sexually active, getting involved in vandalism, gangs or stealing thinking that what they do doesn’t matter.
A child who believes that they count feels valued & believes that they can impact on the world positively.
A child who believes that they don’t matter feels hurt, insignificant and may try to hurt back, seek revenge or decide that making a negative impact is better than making no impact at all.
The Lion in The Wizard of Oz was looking for courage & no wonder as being a human being is tough – it takes courage to ride the ups and downs of life. It’s packed full of good and bad experiences, frustrations, disappointments and challenges. It’s a risky and precarious adventure so developing courage in your children is important.
This one attribute alone was enough for Rudolph Dreikurs, the renown psychiatrist and parent educator, to say that if we could give children only one quality to help them succeed and manage life it would be courage.
Toddlers are amazing as they show courage in everything that they do from learning to walk, to learning to talk, to learning to climb and to balance, to learning how to open doors & put on wellies, they show courage as they go from one mistake to another until they master that skill. That takes courage.
Think back on your life – it took courage to go to playgroup, start school, go to secondary school, to leave home, start a new job or get married. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway as the Susan Jeffers book encourages. Babies, infants and toddlers experience frustration, disappointment, hurt, anger and fear just like we do and I admire them so much for their tenacity to keep going. But that courage stands them in good stead for the whole of their lives.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt is quoted as saying, ‘Courage isn’t the absence of fear but the ability to overcome it.’
Children without courage focus on what they can’t do. They give up and avoid situations. They miss out on life’s wonderful experiences through fear.
A child with a ‘Can Do’ attitude who shows courage feels hopeful & optimistic and is willing to try and have a go. They develop tenacity and resiliency. They embrace life and all its opportunities.
Becoming a teenager is a challenging time – it a time of confusion & uncertainty as your teen feels precariously posed between childhood and adulthood. That’s why it’s a constant feeling of three steps forward and five steps back at times.
There’s the struggle for independence, peer pressure, understanding their sexuality, being surrounded by so many dilemmas from recreational drug taking to gaming to online porn to the desire to fit in and not stand out and be different. It’s a tough time and they need courage to navigate the choppy waters of the teenage years – hence the title to my CD.
Teens who don’t have courage blend into the background in school, afraid to put their hand up in class, join the Netball Club, take up Taekwondo, learn to play basketball or tap dance. They’ll find it hard to resist the pressure to drink alcohol, take drugs, or join in with unhealthy choices as they won’t be brave enough to say ‘No.’
A child who is encouraged to be courageous feels the fear and does it anyway, they feel equal, confident, hopeful and brave to try. They face challenges and become resilient and they can stand alone if they have to. They believe that they can handle whatever life throws at them.
Whereas a child who lacks courage can’t get over their fear, it controls them and they feel defeated, hopeless, discouraged and inferior. They want to blend in and may not resist the crowd.
In my next article, I’ll be showing you ‘The Importance of Communication, Self-Discipline, Responsibility, Good Judgement and Wise Decisions.’
The Crucial Cs and Rudolf Dreikurs’ Short-Range Goals of Misbehaviour
Amy Lew Ph.D and Betty Lou Bettner Ph.D
|Child’s negative goal||
|Child’s response to correction|
|I only count when I’m being noticed||
|My strength is in showing you that you can’t make me and you can’t stop me.||
Dependent Others are
I insist that you do as I say.
|I knew you were against me. No one really likes me. I’ll show you how it feels.||
Hurt or Wants to Punish
How could you do this to me? us? them? I’ll teach you a lesson.
Wants to get even,
makes self disliked.
|I can’t do anything right so I won’t try. If I don’t try, my failures won’t be so obvious.||
Display of Inadequacy
I give up.
It’s no use.
Remember: Misbehaviour is a symptom of the child’s discouragement at not having the Crucial Cs. Use encouragement and training through natural and logical consequences. Consider and agree on choices together.