Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washngton


Toward a Better Understanding of
Parent-Teacher-Child Relationships

By Theodore E. Grubbe,
District Psychologist,
Castro Valley Elementary School District
September 1963



Much has been written and much has been said about the uniqueness and special considerations of the Kindergarten. The material is generally good, and often gives the Kindergarten teacher ideas, clues, and specifics in which she may improve the program. Concepts relating to giving the teacher an understanding of the Kindergartners' behavior often leave much to be desired, or are so complicated and complex that real understanding is difficult. Behavior is complex, and no one is absolutely certain of anything in spite of the many scholarly researches that are being continually carried on and reported in professional literature. Progress is being made, but the ultimate and absolute answer is yet to come. It is interesting to note that the more recent researches and theories advanced relating to the dynamics of human behavior tend to favor more of a social approach in developing an understanding in the "why" of behavior.

The writer, having sampled and having been involved in the smorgasbord of behavior and learning theories with their many contradictory and contra-contradictory recipes, has chosen an approach which was first introduced in the early 1900's and is finally receiving recognition from many independent and isolated sources. Early in his career as a psychologist, Alfred Adler, M.D. (1870-1937) rejected the idea that behavior was pre-determined, and politely informed his colleague, Dr. Sigmund Freud, of his new ideas. Dr. Freud did not appreciate Dr. Adler's ideas, and according to people who were around at the time Dr. Freud firmly suggested that Dr. Adler not bother the Vienna Psychoanalytic Association with such far fetched concepts. Freud continued with his work, as did Adler. There are similarities between the two, but perhaps the major difference is that Adler felt that behavior was purposive and goal-directed, while Freud postulated that people could not help what they did because of the unconscious which was dictating and making the individual act the way he did. Both agreed that early training had its effect upon the individual, and that the relation of the child to his parents was important, but they parted company at this point.

The concepts presented in this paper are based upon the concept that behavior is purposive and goal-directed. To those not sophisticated in psychology, the ideas appear to be more of common sense than anything else. To those who have read and studied psychology, the concepts may be contradictory to the beliefs held. It is hoped that at the least the Kindergarten teachers and others may gain some understanding of the challenges that the 5-year old faces.

The first portion of the paper describes some behavior characteristics of the 5-year old, based upon research. The purpose is to distinguish between behavior that might be considered normal for that behavior which takes on a purpose other than usefully contributing to the group. For example, the attention span of the 5-year old is not too long and to expect him to stay at a task too long could create problems based upon his physical endurance rather than an adjustment problem. Most Kindergarten teachers are well aware of the characteristics of the 5-year old; however, perhaps the parents who read this paper may not be.

The second part of the paper deals with the psychological dynamics that occur with the Kindergarten child. They are by no means complete but hopefully give a basis for understanding. The bibliography is included for those who are interested in going into more detail about the dynamics of purposive behavior.


Significant Characteristics
Which Affect the
Content and Materials Selection

  • Physical Characteristics:
    • Incessant physical activity
    • Predominant use of large muscles
    • Inept with small muscles
    • Rapid growth of heart; pulse rapid
    • Little immunity to communicable disease
  • Social Development:
    • Cooperates with limited number of children
    • Inept in social relations
    • Racial and group consciousness evident
    • Spontaneous imitative play
    • Egocentric, selfish, competitive
  • Interests:
    • Predominance of short, specific transitory interests
    • Interests selfish, egocentric
  • Mental Development:
    • Use of materials largely manipulative and experimental
    • Inderstanding developed through active participation and firsthand experience
    • Difficulty in differentiating between fantasy and reality
    • Time-space concept slow to develop
    • Meaning of words limited to child's own experiences
    • Use of language to meet social situations

    (From Unit Teaching in the Elementary School, pp. 38-43, by Hanna, Potter, and Hagman.)


The Psychological Challenge of the Kindergarten Student

The child, upon entering school, meets with one of his earliest and severest tests. The school is a new situation for the child; it will, therefore, reveal how well the child has been prepared to face new situations and particularly how well he has been prepared to meet new persons.

This paper is not concerned so much with the beginning student who has developed a feeling of worthwhileness and is able to effectively cope with new challenges, as it is with the discouraged student who makes his appearance at school. When the child has begun to lose faith in himself, discouragement has made its appearance. The discouraged child will quickly make himself known by his behavior. He will tend to avoid useful roads and normal tasks. He will continually be searching for another outlet, a road to freedom, and early success. He chooses the path that is always attractive to the discouraged individual--the path of quickest psychological success. On the first day of school, such indications can be noticed as crying, reluctance to leave the mother, temper displays, over-reacting to stimuli, stubbornness, fighting, bullying other students, and so on. All of the above types of behavior, and others not mentioned, demonstrate the discouraged child taking the path of easy success. The success takes the form of gaining attention of some sort from either the mother or the teacher, manipulating the adults to become involved with him, either through pleading, coaxing, displaying anger or sorrow, or some type of involving behavior. This is in contrast to the courageous student who will rely upon himself and accept responsibility.

Neither the Kindergarten teacher nor anyone else can change what has happened in the past; however, if the Kindergarten teacher has developed an awareness and a sophistication of the understanding of children's behavior, she will be in a position to help the child develop a better feeling of social usefulness. Ideally, the Kindergarten should serve as a mediator between the home and wide world of reality. It should not be a place merely for academic learning, but a place where the knowledge and art of living should be taught. Through an understanding of the dynamics of behavior in children, the Kindergarten teacher can redirect the discouraging misbehavior of children to that of something more useful. In actuality, the Kindergarten teacher is in a position to do more than any other person within the entire school makeup. This, in effect, places a grave responsibility on the teacher and her importance cannot be minimized. Conversely, the Kindergarten teacher with a lack of understanding can further increase the discouragement of the child to a point where the problem could possibly continue throughout the child's school and adult life. It is well to point out that occasionally there are children for whom little can be done to help because of impossible home situations; however, the vast majority of children with intense feelings of inferiority and inadequacy can be helped to function more positively.

The following implications are pointed out to give the Kindergarten teacher a basic premise for developing an understanding of children's behavior. The more competent and experienced teacher may find that the concepts are merely a reinforcement of her own ideas, while the newer teacher may find them helpful in providing her with a basic framework from which to work. To some, the psychological basis for the ideas may seem foreign as they do differ to some extent from the more commonly taught theories of psychological behavior in many of the universities and colleges.


Every action of the child has a purpose. His basic purpose is to find his place in the group. The child who has developed a feeling of worthwhileness and equality; who has been prepared to meet the challenges of life; who has learned to accept responsibility, will find his place in the group, will meet with the requirements of the group, and will make his own useful contribution to the group. The discouraged or misbehaving child is trying in his own mistaken way to feel important. This may be the child who has never been allowed to take care of himself to any extent because his mother thought he was too little, or his mother found it easier to do things for the child which normally he should have done for himself. The child may lack the feeling that he can contribute usefully to the family and the school, with the result that he may feel important ONLY when he is getting the authority angry, annoyed, or involved with his misbehavior.


Although by five years the general personality pattern of the individual is fairly well established, it is possible and often simple to redirect misbehavior into constructive behavior. To effect changes, however, the authority must be aware of the purpose or goal of the misbehavior and also have the maturity to remain reasonably objective in an emotional crisis, but still maintain a friendly interest in the child. By five years of age, the Kindergarten child has developed a sense of sophistication in terms of his awareness of adult reactions to his misbehavior. He is usually not consciously aware of the purpose of his misbehavior, but in a general way he is aware that what he does creates a type of reaction from the adult authority. For example, the child who is noted for "taking back" or "sassing the authority" is well aware that he may get his mouth washed out with soap, get a spanking, or something else as equally uncomfortable physically; however, more importantly, he is successfully able to provoke the authority and in reality control and manipulate their emotions. The young child probably knows the vulnerable and weak points of his parents far better than the parents know them themselves. By the time the child reaches Kindergarten, he has developed many tools and techniques in which he finds a short cut to recognition and a negative type of status. In the process, the Kindergarten teacher becomes his next "victim." However, if the Kindergarten teacher possesses wisdom, maturity, and skill, the process can be slowed down, altered, and in the vast majority of instances, the child's ambition to misbehave can be generally redirected to an ambition to contribute usefully to the group or class and society. If no effective changes result from the Kindergarten program, the first grade teacher has a more difficult job in effecting positive changes because the child has gained more strength in learning the success from his misbehavior, the misbehavior will continue to persist and develop in intensity as time goes by.

The purpose or goal of the misbehavior can often be discovered by the authorities (parent or teacher) by their own reaction to the behavior. If, for example, the Kindergarten teacher finds herself becoming continually impatient and annoyed at the child who persists in being the last one out of the room, slow to put his coat on, can never find the right thing at the right time, the teacher can be reasonably certain that the goal of the child is just that--to make the teacher impatient and annoyed. If the teacher (or the parent) reacts in the way she feels, the success of the misbehavior is strengthened. It is not unusual to find teachers continually reminding children to "hurry up" or express impatience at their slowness. If the teacher took time to discuss the matter with the parents, the chances are very probable that at home the same type of behavior is evident. So what then, is the role of the teacher and the parent?

When the child is misbehaving, DO NOT REACT to your first impulse or act upon it. By reacting, the authority tends to intensify the behavior problem rather than correct it. When the authority does so, he is acting in accordance with the child's expectations. The child will expect you to get mad and if you do, the child has won. He may not like the reprimand he gets; however, he has manipulated you into it. A simplified rule of the thumb is to do nothing or to react the opposite from the way you feel. This will negate the effect of the success of the misbehavior and place the authority in a better position to effectively arrange with the child what to do about the situation.

* NATURAL CONSEQUENCES is a method which allows the child to realistically experience the result of his own behavior.

For example, the child who dawdles in the classroom in putting away his materials may find that the class has gone on to some other activity and he is left out; or the child who plays around and forgets to come to dinner after being called will discover no food is left. The usual first impulse of the parent or the teacher is to hurry the child, and use personal authority to get the child to come. If the first impulse is followed, the responsibility of the child's actions becomes that of the authority rather than of the child where it truly belongs. Continued involvement by the authority will only tend to make the child more dependent and less able to assume the responsibility of his own behavior. If real danger is implied in the child's misbehavior, it may be necessary to protect the child from the situation--BUT ONLY WHEN REAL DANGER IS SUGGESTED.

The Kindergarten teacher usually is the child's first consistent outside authority. Often the teacher may wish the children to obtain some item from home to assist in the program. Perhaps one of the father's old shirts is necessary for protection from easel paints. The pattern of dependency can be either increased or redirected to helping the child assume responsibility for his behavior at this stage. If, for example, the mother or father persists in checking up and seeing to it that the child has all the necessary items, the child will normally lose the incentive to be positively ambitious. If, however, it becomes the child's responsibility to ask the parents for the shirt or some such item, and the child forgets (and even though the mother is well aware of the need for the item) the natural consequence of his forgetting is that he cannot participate in the activity in which the item is required.

The Kindergarten is the beginning. If the parents do not let the child assume responsibilities which are his (and which he is able to assume), the pattern could continue in the first grade with parents checking up on homework and other things which essentially are the child's problems. In the upper grades, where homework and other outside requirements are a necessary part of the curriculum, it is not uncommon to find students whose primary manner of getting their work done is through coercion from the parental authorities. Sometimes these students are described as reluctant learners. Aside from not doing homework they may have problems in reading and other academic areas. Although this is by no means the only cause of learning problems, it does occur enough so that it can be considered highly important.

* TIME MUST BE TAKEN TO TRAIN THE CHILD. The child must be taught essential habits and skills. Manners are learned and must be taught. The Kindergarten teacher must take time to teach the children the rules and regulations that are a part of the group. Training should be at regular and at calm times until the particular skill or lesson is learned. It should not be done during times of conflict or stress. For example, the Kindergarten should have regular lessons on how the children line up for recess, playtime, or fire drill, etc. Once the teacher is convinced the children know what is expected of them, natural or logical consequences can be used. The children may be lining up for a play activity outside when general chaos breaks loose. Perhaps the teacher's first impulse is to strongly reprimand the children, give them a long lecture on the rules, and generally set down the law. This action on the teacher's part may calm down the children and they may line up at the time properly-but what have they learned? Rather, it is suggested that the teacher not act upon her first impulse, but firmly and quickly, with little emotion as possible, get the children back to their seats and go on with another entirely unrelated activity. The result--the children were not able to manipulate the teacher's emotions or make their purposive behavior successful and lost out on an activity which presumably they would have enjoyed.

* AUTHORITY DEAFNESS. The child who is used to lectures, constantly being reminded about things, being told over and over to do things, and ultimately made to do something, often will develop a symptom of deafness which has no medical basis. The child may be "mother deaf" at home and very easily could become "teacher deaf" at school, if the teacher responds to the child's behavior in a way in which the child expects and has learned that authorities do. Whenever possible, SAY THINGS ONLY ONCE. If the child does not pay attention to the statement that only those with clean desks may use the play equipment, the consequence is that he does not use the play equipment. Often the child will suddenly become aware of what he is missing; then, perhaps he may use another tool, such as tearful sobbing, "the teacher hates me and is mean," etc. to gain what he wants. The teacher's reaction should be that of firmness with perhaps a mild interest in the child's situation, pointing out to the child that she is sorry, but that is the way it is.

In moments of real conflict, action is far more effective than talking. Arguments can develop from talking and the child can defeat the authority if this occurs. Never explain to a child what he already knows. If a knock-down, drag-out fight occurs in the class and it is necessary that it be stopped (school rules), firm and quick action should be taken but not emotional, uncontrollable anger at the children's behavior.

* THE DIGNITY OF THE CHILD. If the Kindergarten teacher as well as the parent treats the child as an equal, but with different responsibilities, the opportunity for growth is increased. Equality, in this sense, does not mean that the authorities are equal to the child in terms of skills, maturity, knowledge, experience, or responsibilities; rather, it implies that each individual is worthy of respect and worth in his own right. As an example, if the building principal of a school is convinced that he is a better person because of his position and training, the effectiveness of his leadership is minimized. Ideally, the building principal would feel equal to the teachers as a person; however, his role and responsibilities are different. He must, as a part of his position, evaluate the teaching staff and the teaching. He must make administrative decisions and on occasion provide didactic leadership. He makes judgments as to whether teachers are effective in their work, etc. All of this does not make the principal a better or superior person. The medical doctor presumably knows considerably more about medicine than does his patient, but this, again, does not make him a superior person--his KNOWLEDGE is superior. The Kindergarten teacher has the responsibility of the children in the class. She must teach skills and arts. She must evaluate and discipline. She must see that rules and regulations are followed; but if she treats her student as inferiors, learning is impeded.

* ACCEPT THE CHILD AS HE IS. The child who discovers that his misbehaving ways are not getting him what he desires will need attention and affection in other ways. Doing things together for fun or enjoyment is extremely important. Children need affection, attention, and love as a plant needs water. Children need encouragement. Through encouragement, the child can develop the courage to grow and to mature-to become a useful, contributing member of the group. He will have the courage to try new things.

* MOTIVATION. The human infant is the only being on the face of the earth whose mind develops faster than his body. He becomes aware that others can do things that he cannot do. This awareness of his own inferiority becomes the basis for motivation. The child becomes aware that his older siblings walk about and do things. The child becomes motivated to do the same, and eventually accomplishes this goal. He finds that communication is essential, so thusly, the desire to talk. This is true of the child who, through love, affection, and acceptance, has developed courage to meet new challenges. An example of a child who lacks courage perhaps is a child who does not learn to talk, although mentally and physically he should be able to. An examination of the dynamics operating might reveal parents who have thwarted normal growth through pampering and over-indulgence. Perhaps they have done things for him that he should have done for himself. Perhaps they have never let the child learn to speak for himself, but anticipated his needs and wants and never let him have the thrill of attempting a new endeavor.

The child with self-assurance in the Kindergarten will basically want to learn new things. He wants to know how to use scissors and to learn how to cut. He will want to know how to use the various equipment. He may make mistakes, but if he has courage, his basic motivation is that of continual improvement and progress. The motivation to learn to read is inherent in the child with courage and a feeling of worthwhileness.

The one dynamic force behind motivation is that of inferiority. Man, because of his inferiority in communication, has developed such devices as radio and television. The same force is behind the desire to reach outer space. The Kindergarten student has the same force behind him, creating the motivation to achieve new heights, so to speak.

General and Specific Consideration

We have explored some concepts that offer a framework of understanding and helping the Kindergarten student grow. Although the emphasis has been on the misbehaving child, the same general principles apply to all children. It is well to point out that in this short paper only the highlights of this approach have been touched. The bibliography suggests readings which will fill in many of the missing areas and perhaps clarify points or concepts which may appear hazy because of oversimplification.

The following are specific examples of misbehavior that are not too uncommon to the Kindergarten student. The examples are followed by a suggested action or actions, based upon the previously discussed concepts.


Most Kindergarten teachers have experienced this situation. Usually, the child is hanging on to the mother, sobbing quite profusely, while the mother is looking embarrassed and pointing out to the child how nice school is, etc. The teacher is also attempting perhaps to give reassurance to the child, pointing out how wonderful the class is, etc.


It is obvious from the expressed symptoms that the child has involved one, or perhaps both adults in manipulative behavior. The more the mother coaxes and pleads, the more resistive the child will become. Depending upon the intensity of the mother's involvement with the child, it would be well not to respond to the child's tears or any of his behavior, but rather to take the child by the hand firmly, and unemotionally bring him to the class. Talking, pleading, etc., will do little or no good for this is what the child wants. If the intensity of involvement is such that a scene or open warfare would develop from the above suggested action, then it would be best to calmly but firmly send the mother (or father) home with the child and arrange to discuss the problem with the parents at a later time. At the conference, the main concern would be that of discussing the purpose of the child's behavior and perhaps give the parents some encouragement in letting the child develop more courage.

The important thing to remember in situations as described above is for the teacher to keep her mind on the major problem--that of getting the child into school or the classroom. Side issues of crying, rudeness, sassiness, etc., have little meaning to the real issue other than that the child is running through a repertoire; techniques to get what he wants by resisting what the authority wants. It is quite possible that if the teacher can convey to the parents of the child who is sent home that they should say nothing more about the incident--not plead or talk--or discuss the situation in any form at all at home--the child may want to come on his own the following day.


He refuses to dress; strongly resists attempts on the parent's part to go to school; uses many reasons for not going, such as he hates school, the teacher is unfair, he doesn't like school, the teacher is unfair, he doesn't like school, hates to learn, and so on.


The child's expressed reasons for not wanting to go to school will coincide fairly well with the parent's conscious and verbalized reasons why the child should go to school--or clues that may not be so overtly expressed but still picked up by the child. A good point to remember is that the child is probably more aware of the parent's vulnerable areas than is the parent himself. The school teacher's child might use the excuse or reason that he does not want to learn and that education is unimportant (in his own terminology), as might the doctor's child find that school has certain undesirable germs that would necessitate avoidance of the situation. If the parent or the teacher responds to the "trap" that is set up, they have lost.

The child is not too interested in the long-range goals of education; rather, he is more concerned with the immediate response of the authority. If he can control the authority into a bargaining situation, he "has the world by the tail." A new toy might bring cooperation for a day or so, but very shortly the new toy (or bribe) might approach the national debt on a family level. Suppose the parents couldn't care less whether the child went back to school or not? In other words, suppose the problem were given back to THE CHILD? If he didn't go to school, he must stay at home--for this is the rule. The natural consequence of the situation is that he misses out on what is going on--but more importantly, he has lost control or power over the adult authority. The purpose of not wanting to go to school is not that of resisting school attendance, but rather that of demonstrating his power over the authorities. The easy way to gain success is that of creating a problem in which the child holds the power. Unless the child is truly disturbed, or his need to control the situation is so great that it overshadows his basic social responsibility, he will be back in school very quickly--providing he does not meet with success with his manipulative behavior.

Because of the power the child potentially has in such situations, the unsure parent or educator can become an easy mark for the child. It is not uncommon for the parent to give in readily because the parent feels that if the child goes not go to school it certainly demonstrates how poor a parent she is. The teacher who is vulnerable can quickly come to the conclusion that she must demonstrate how desirable it is for the child to be in her class. It is obviously possible to force the child to come to school. The mother can "drag" and "pull"; the teacher can "hold" and "force"; and Daddy can issue didactic ultimatums....Who wins?



A child with this symptom lacks courage to actively participate in socially acceptable activities. The purpose of this symptom may be a way to avoid a possible failure. If he says something, he might be wrong; but if he says nothing, he can't be wrong. Making the child talk or applying pressure to get a response can only increase the child's mistaken goal. However, to make his lack of talking fruitless or meaningless to the group situation may possibly produce a positive aggressiveness. Such a child needs much encouragement but he does not need a reinforcement of his social behavior. If he does not want to talk, this is HIS problem, and through encouragement it can become his problem and possibly the strength can develop in him to do something about the problem. The strength will never develop when the child succeeds in gaining reinforcement for his lack of courage through parental and teacher authority attempting to get him to talk and expressing a feeling of sorrow about the "poor" child. Realistically, the Kindergarten teacher can accept the child for what he is at the time. If he doesn't want to talk,... "tough"; however, the teacher provides many opportunities with no qualifications for the child to speak if he so desires. Encouraging opportunities, but not pressing opportunities. His not speaking means very little to those involved-the consequences or authority involvement are nil if he says noting; but on the other hand, he has everything to gain if he does speak. The teacher might ask, "Would you like red or green paper?" No response means no paper--a response would mean the paper in the color of his choice. Such a program is not accomplished overnight; however, progress is most rewarding and evident if the teacher is able to consistently bear in mind not to act upon or reinforce the purpose of the particular symptom.



Stubbornness or resistiveness is often the child's way of showing off his power. It is well to remember never to fight with children, for in reality, they are stronger.

The young child engaged in a power struggle does not assume the responsibility for the consequences. he will use any tool at his disposal. Obviously, the authority through greater physical strength can temporarily make the child yield to his will, but even in this situation the child has won and the next situation involving the child and the authority will be more difficult to handle. In the classroom situation, if the child refuses to mind, a consequence can be arranged which places insofar as possible, the responsibility of the child's misbehavior upon the child himself. Power-mad children are immediately evident by their misbehavior. Their goal is to gain and to maintain control over their environment. In school, it is perhaps to keep the teacher continually after him--keep the teacher upset--take the teacher's time for his own personal gains, and so on. If the teacher can arrange for the child to be quickly removed from the classroom when the child's misbehavior is obviously detrimental to the teaching situation, the child is not getting what he wants. This is especially true when there is as little emotion as possible used. The basic concept in this type of situation is NOT to become involved in the power struggle. Perhaps the child refuses to clean up a mess he has made--defiantly demands that the teacher "make him." It would be best to ignore the situation in terms of authority involvement but the consequence is that the child cannot participate in any other activity until his job is done.



Normally, the purpose of such behavior is that of gaining attention. If he gets attention for his misbehavior, he is temporarily satisfied, but will want more until it reaches the point that the only time he is getting attention is when he is misbehaving. Generally, reversing the situation can help the child. He receives little or no attention when he misbehaves but does get his share of positive attention when he is following the rules.


Some situations of children's misbehavior have been discussed in terms of their purpose. It would be impossible to list every possible type as the number would exceed that of infinity. The type of behavior is not as important as the purpose behind it, and in a broad sense, the purpose behind all behavior is that of the individual trying to find ways to overcome his feelings of inferiority. The child with a real feeling of adequacy and self-confidence will meet the challenge in socially useful and contributing ways. He will overcome his inferiority in reading by learning to read. The discouraged child will find the quickest and easiest way out. He might attempt to prove his superiority by not learning to read and defeat all attempts on the part of authority to make him read.

The Kindergarten teacher should be aware and accepting of the fact that she did not create the discouragement in the child. Rather, this has occurred during the first four or five years of the child's life. However, the teacher can either increase the intensity of the discouragement by becoming a part of it, or can be very instrumental in helping the child gain a better feeling about himself through redirecting his goals to a more positive direction. The child can change if he understands the errors of his misbehavior and has the courage to try new and more socially acceptable ways. One of the most important factors is to give children the materials to develop courage. If the child loses hope, he will never want to try new challenges. He will retain his old ways and never want to give them up-whether it be withdrawing and avoidance, whether it be a need to overpower his environment, or whatever-he will never change if he has given up hope. There are many difficult situations that the child must meet as he grows up, but he must never give up or lose hope.

In a program of redirecting the child's misbehavior, the home situation cannot be separated from the school. What has happened and is happening at home is reflected in the child's actions at school. If the parents are using considerable force, either physical or emotional, to make the child mind and conform, the Kindergarten teacher will be confronted with a student who expects and demands the same at school. Therefore, it is of prime importance that the parents also be helped in understanding the purpose of their child's behavior. The same concepts previously discussed apply equally to the home situation. Children are not, themselves, consciously aware of the purpose of their misbehavior. If an awareness can be obtained, the purpose loses its impetus. For example, at school the teacher might casually ask the child if it is possible that he is acting the way he is to get attention from the teacher. At home, the mother might suggest to the child that his misbehavior could possibly be a way to get her annoyed, especially if she is feeling annoyed at what the child is doing. Never accuse or state bluntly your interpretation of the child's misbehavior, for undoubtedly he will deny it or become defensive. At best, it is a matter of curiosity on the part of the authority.

The family constellation can be a factor in the child's discouragement. He may, for example, be an only child; or he may be the oldest child dethroned by younger siblings. He may be a middle child competing to overcome his older sibling with a younger sibling pushing behind him. He may be the youngest and possibly has given up trying to compete with his older siblings; or he may be a boy with all-girl siblings; or a girl with all-boy siblings. Knowing the family constellation, the teacher is in a better position to understand the child and effectively help him.

Other factors which could contribute to the child's discouragement are such things as being a very beautiful child whose beauty has been exploited to such an extent that the child feels that the only contribution she has to make to society is her beauty. Physical problems, whether real or imagined, can also be factors. Because of some handicap, the parents may hamper and hinder the child's development by feeling sorry and becoming over-protective.

When the authorities (parents and teacher) have decided to take a plan of action relative to re-directing the child's goals, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that the child will feel reluctant to give up something familiar to him. (This does not mean that he does not want to basically, unless he has become so discouraged that he has given up all hope of succeeding in more useful ways. If this is the case, it is advised that outside professional help be obtained.) If, for example, the child becomes aware (and he may immediately) that his behavior is not gaining for him what he wants-such as sassing does not get the parents upset-he will intensify his misbehavior in an attempt to regain control. The child who has been pampered and over-protected becomes concerned when his mother will no longer dress him in the morning to go to school and he will undoubtedly become more dependent in an effort to keep the old ways going. The child may even develop symptoms of tiredness and show extreme unsureness at doing things he had previously done to some extent in the past. It is during the period that the authorities must demonstrate great strength on their part and keep their minds on the specific thing they are trying to do. The child in his clever way will do almost anything to retain the familiar. The more discouraged the child is, the more reluctant he will be to give up his way of living. Normally, at the Kindergarten age it is not uncommon to see rather dramatic changes within a day or so. Most changes occur within a week.

The Kindergarten teacher may on occasion be confronted with a child who is so discouraged that he would be considered emotionally disturbed. In such cases, there would be very little, if any, communication between the child and the authority. The child may be so withdrawn that no stimuli has any effect; or the child may be so "power-mad" that very little the authority attempts has an effect. In such cases, it is advisable to seek out professional help. A referral to the school psychologist would certainly be a necessity.

To develop courage, the child needs love, warmth, and affection. He needs to feel accepted for what he is now, not for what he could be. He needs to be trusted and in turn he learns to trust. He needs guidance and training. To follow the rules, he must be made aware of them. He must develop the courage to be imperfect so that he can learn and profit from his mistakes. Creativity is inherent in young children and this must not be stifled by MAKING a child fit a mod. Children basically and inherently want to behave, to learn, and to contribute.

As can be seen, the Kindergarten teacher plays perhaps one of the most important roles in the child's school life. Not only is it important for the Kindergarten teacher to know the methods and techniques of presenting materials and activities to her students, it is more important for the teacher to UNDERSTAND children.



The following bibliography is by no means exhaustive nor complete. They are writings upon which much of the material on this paper was based. They are recommended as follow-up reading in which additional information may be obtained relating to goal-directed psychology.

Adler, Alfred, THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN (First published in 1930, reprinted in 1935, 1947, and 1957) Bradford and Dickens, London, 1957.

An excellent book for both the professional and lay person. It is well written and thought-provoking.

Adler, Alfred, THE PROBLEM CHILD (The Life Style of Difficult child as Analyzed in Specific Cases), Translated from the French by Guy Daniels. Capricorn Books, New York, 1963.

Adler's concepts come to life in his spontaneous dealings with children who were brought to him. "Problems arising out of the family constellation, of spoiling by father or mother, of feeble-mindness, bed-wetting, etc.," are made comprehensible in a near artistic way.

Adler, Alfred

All of his other writings are also highly recommended, such as WHAT LIFE COULD MEAN TO YOU, UNDERSTANDING HUMAN NATURE, THE PATTERN OF LIFE, etc.

Dreikurs, Rudolf, THE CHALLENGE OF PARENTHOOD, New York, Duell, Sloan and Peirce, 1958.

This book, written by a contemporary Adlerian Psychologist, is highly recommended to parents. Dreikurs categories the child's goals into four and dynamically relates them to behavior of children. Professionals also can profit from this highly provocative book.


This excellent book is primarily designed for teachers. It demonstrates, discusses, and puts into practice in an educational setting the four goals of misbehavior.

(Newer titles added by editor.)

Dreikurs, Rudolf and Soltz, Vicki, CHILDREN THE CHALLENGE

A child guidance classic.


An excellent follow-up to CHILDREN THE CHALLENGE


A well-illustrated, practical guide for teachers.

Back to More Principles
Back to Home Page: