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Friday, January 9, 2015


Rudolf Dreikurs was the founder and the medical director of the Community Child Guidance Center of Chicago. He spent much of his life as a consultant in public schools explaining how his theories could be translated into practice for classroom management and discipline. Dreikurs’s writings were influenced by social psychologist  Alfred Adler. Adler believed that the central motivation of all humans is to belong and be accepted by others. First of all humans are social beings. Thus, all behavior, including misbehavior:
·         is orderly,
·         purposeful and,
·         directed toward achieving social approval
Dreikurs suggested that a behavior is a result of individual’s purposes. We do not simply react to forces that confront us from the outside world. Our behavior is the result of our own biased interpretations of the world. We do not act according to the reality that surrounds us, but rather according to our own subjective assessment of it. Dreikurs suggested that a behavior is a result of individual’s purposes. We do not simply react to forces that confront us from the outside world. Our behavior is the result of our own biased interpretations of the world. We do not act according to the reality that surrounds us, but rather according to our own subjective assessment of it. Unfortunately, when situations are open to personal interpretations, individuals make unavoidable mistakes in perception. When we choose how to behave, we almost never have all the facts we need to make adequate choices. Therefore, our choices are subjective. Only a few people investigate the conditions present in particular situations. We make assumptions and believe that these assumptions are true. Human beings all have a need to belong and be accepted. When a student is unsuccessful in obtaining acceptance, a pattern of misbehavior begins. All misbehavior is the result of a child’s mistaken assumption about how to find a place and gain status.

4) Helplessness or inadequacy
How does a teacher understand the goal of the misbehaving child?
·          If the teacher feels annoyed, then the child’s goal is attention getting.
·          If the teacher feels beaten or intimidated, then the child’s goal is power.
·          If the teacher feels hurt, then the child’s goal is revenge.
·          If the teacher feels incapable, then the child’s goal is helplessness. Preventing discipline problems:
Dreikurs did not believe in the use of punishment, reinforcement or praise. Instead, he believes that natural/logical consequences and the process of encouragement are the most useful techniques for preventing discipline problems. Praise vs. Encouragement According to Dreikurs, encouragement is more important than any other aspect of child raising because a misbehaving child is a discouraged child. Encouragement corresponds so well to children’s goals. Children seek approval and encouragement is a legitimate way to do it. Encouragement focuses on effort rather than achievement, so it gives positive feedback to children who are trying hard but may be unsuccessful. Encouragement motivates them to continue trying. Praise is very different from encouragement. It focuses on the level of achievement.

1) Praise is a reward given for a completed achievement
2) Praise tells students they have satisfied the demands of others
3) Praise is patronizing. The person who praises has a superior position.
4) Praise stimulates competition
5) Praise stimulates selfishness

1) Encouragement is a acknowledgement of an effort
2) Encouragement helps students evaluate their own performance
3) Encouragement is a message between equals.
4) Encouragement stimulates cooperation
5) Encourag. stimulates helpfulness

  • If a student writes on the walls of the school,
    The teacher may keep her after school (punishment)
    The teacher may ask the student to clean the walls (logical consequence)
  •  If a student damages classroom materials,
    The teacher may send a note to the student’s parents (punishment)
    The teacher may prevent the student’s use of classroom materials until he chooses to use them properly  (logical consequence)
  • If a student is late for the class,
    The teacher may keep her after school (punishment)
    The teacher may ask the student to wait at the door until she receives a signal that her late arrival will no longer disturb the class (logical consequence)
Dreikurs made the following suggestions to teachers:
  •  Always speak in positive terms, never be negative
  •  Be democratic rather than autocratic or permissive in the classroom procedures and social interactions with  students
  •  Encourage students to strive for improvement, not perfection
  •  Emphasize student strengths while minimizing weaknesses.
  •  Help students learn from mistakes, which are valuable in learning
  • Encourage independence and the assumption of responsibility
  •  Show faith in students; offer them help in overcoming the obstacles.
  •  Encourage students to help each other
  •  Be optimistic and enthusiastic – a positive outlook is contagious.
  •  Use encouraging remarks such as, “you have improved”, can I help you?”

Dreikurs' Social Discipline model is based on the four basic premises of Adler's social theory. These premises are 
1. Humans are social beings and their basic motivation is to belong
2. All behavior has a purpose
3. Humans are decision-making organisms
4. Humans only perceive reality and this perception may be mistaken or biased
Dreikurs' educational philosophy is "based on the philosophy of democracy, with its implied principle of human equality, and on the socio-teleological approach of the psychology of Alfred Adler. In this frame of reference, man is recognized as a social being, his actions as purposive and directed toward a goal, his personality as a unique and indivisible entity" (Dreikurs, 1968, p. x). A socio-teleological approach implies the existence of God, a higher purpose, and a natural order of things. Dreikurs believed it was possible to understand children's misbehaviors by recognizing the four main purposes or goals of the child. The four goals of misbehavior are attention getting, the contest for power, seeking revenge, and displaying inadequacy. Dreikurs promoted the use of encouragement and logical (and natural) consequences rather than reward and punishment.
Essentially, every action of the child is grounded in the idea that he is seeking his place in the group. A well-adjusted child will conform to the requirements of the group by making valuable contributions. A child who misbehaves, on the other hand, will defy the needs of the group situation in order to maintain social status. Whichever of the aforementioned goals he chooses to employ, the child believes that this is the only way he can function within the group dynamic successfully. Dreikurs states that "his goal may occasionally vary with the circumstances: he may act to attract attention at one moment, and assert his power or seek revenge at another" (Dreikurs, 1968, p.27). Regardless if the child is well-adjusted or is misbehaving, his main purpose will be social acceptance.
The following are techniques that can be used to address the four goals of misbehavior:
A. Attention Getting
1.   Minimize the Attention - Ignore the behavior, stand close by, write a note
2.   Legitimize the Behavior - Create a lesson out of the behavior, have the class join in the behaviors
3.   Do the Unexpected - Turn out the lights, play a musical instrument, talk to the wall
4.   Distract the Student - Ask a question or a favor, change the activity
5.   Recognize Appropriate Behavior - Thanks students, give the a written note of congratulations
6.   Move the Student - Ask the student to sit at another seat, send the student to a "thinking chair"
B. Seeking Power and Control
1.   Make a Graceful Exit - Acknowledge student's power, remove audience, table matter for later discussion,
2.   Use a Time-Out
3.   Apply the Consequence
C. Seeking Revenge
1.   Same as for "Contest for Power"
D. Displaying Inadequacy
1.   Modify Instructional Methods
2.   Use Concrete Learning Materials and Computer-Enhanced Instruction
3.   Teach One Step at a Time (or break instruction into smaller parts)
4.   Provide Tutoring
5.   Teach Positive Self-Talk and Speech
6.   Teach that Mistakes are Okay
7.   Build Student's Confidence
8.   Focus on Past Successes
9.   Make Learning Tangible
10.  Recognize Achievement
We have summarized some actual case studies from Dreikurs' book entitled Psychology in the Classroom: A Manual for Teachers in hopes that these examples will be inspirational for use in your own classroom.
These studies provide methods and strategies for dealing with the four goals of misbehavior: 
Attention Getting, Revenge, Power and Control, and Helplessness and Inadequacy.
While each strategy may be modified for the secondary classroom, Dreikurs primary focus was behavior management at the elementary level. The authors have given examples for elementary, junior high or middle school, and high school levels. These case studies come from the school system of Gary, Indiana in the 1950's.
Elementary Case Study
Baby is repeating the fourth grade. Her learning rate is probably low. In math she will put anything down for an answer or she might put down no answer at all. She seems afraid to recite.
Dreikurs concludes that the child is functioning on a lower level than her ability allows. Baby's teacher has spoken with the class about the importance of being good listeners. It was decided and agreed upon that while one student was reading aloud other students would wait to raise their hands until the teacher asked for input. This would encourage students like Baby to recite without feeling nervous or interrupted. Dreikurs notes how this strategy was effective in inducing the whole class to give Bessie support and encouragement. The teacher also began giving Baby more time to finish her work.
By the next week, Bessie had improved a great deal. The teacher remarked that she was proud of Bessie, drew a smiling picture on her paper, and solicited encouragement from the principal as well. Bessie's teacher, by identifying Baby's fear of failure during recital and removing pressure, allowed Bessie to discover that she could solve the problems. After this realization, Bessie was soon able to work at a faster pace. Furthermore, by encouraging Bessie, the teacher nurtured Baby's pride in her accomplishments.
This case study focuses on the fourth goal of misbehavior, or Helplessness and Inadequacy.

Baby was refusing to try most educational demands because she was unaware of her capabilities and therefore refused to comply with classroom expectations. Bessie's problems are rooted in feeling discouraged. Strategies that assist helpless students include modifying instructional methods, teaching in a step-by-step fashion, allowing for mistakes, building confidence by recognizing achievement, and teaching positive self-talk. By modifying instruction based on Bessie's individual needs, her teacher was successful. It is important to note the significance of the teacher's responsibilities when considering Dreikur's behavior management techniques. These strategies require an openness and caring for the student in order to achieve success (Dreikurs, 1968).
Middle School Case Study
Chacko is fifteen years old and in the seventh grade. Although he is three years older than the other students, he is small and slight. He comes from a large family with many older married siblings. There is a new baby at home. His sister, one year younger than him, is also in the class. The teacher was assigned the class four months prior following a substitute. He found Chacko to be disruptive and uncooperative. Chacko would wander around the classroom and speak out of turn regularly. Although there were other disruptive students in the class, Chacko had a more malicious and arrogant demeanor.
Dreikurs theorized that Chacko sought power and control and was perhaps exhibiting elements of revenge. The teacher sought to diffuse the situation by being friendly and courteous, yet was at a loss for an effective strategy. A paddle was supplied by the administration, but the teacher declined this approach. Dreikurs felt that the paddle more than likely contributed to the disruptive situation in the classroom and appreciated the teacher's approach. The teacher found it difficult to maintain group discussions on discipline in the classroom due to disruptions.
He observed that Chacko migrated to the larger, more rugged boys in the class, often trading punches. Chacko once displayed a switchblade, which the teacher firmly asked him to leave at home. Dreikurs observed that the teacher did the right thing in not confiscating the knife because Chacko respected the teacher's instructions and did not display the knife again.
One day when the teacher observed Chacko out of his seat again, he asked Chacko why he was not seated. Chacko responded that he needed to find his book. It had been fifteen minutes since the assignment requiring the book had begun, so the teacher replied that perhaps Chacko better sit down before he lost his seat. This was greeted with laughter by the class. Driekurs explained the successful strategy of using humor to win the class over to his side. "Solitation of group pressure is by and large a powerful and effective method" (Dreikurs, 1968). Chacko no longer held power and as a result conformed to the classroom expectation of remaining seated.
This example illustrates the Power and Control and Revenge goals for motivating misbehavior.

Removing the ability to gain power is an effective strategy for dealing with these issues. Dreikurs suggests doing the unexpected, removing the audience, and using time-outs. Once again the emphasis is on logical consequences. Effectiveness is increased when these consequences are set in advance. Furthermore, this case study illustrated the goal of Attention Getting. Some suggestions Dreikurs gives are reducing attention in favor of distracting the student and emphasizing appropriate behavior (Dreikurs, 1968).
High School Case Study
Hal is the eldest of two children and a student in the teacher's eleventh grade English class. Paul's parents were divorced when he was eleven years old. His mother usually worked in the evenings leaving Paul and his brother on their own. Paul seldom did the assignments, rarely participated in class discussions, and was often absent. Paul and two classmates were caught robbing a home and had succeeded in robberies before. Paul was the ring-leader. All three were put on probation. When at school, Paul appeared nervous and assumed everyone was out to get him. For example, if the teacher happened to look his way, Hal would respond, "What are you watching me for?" Dreikurs explains that Paul defensive attitude is a result of being pushed around and that because Paul expects this treatment, he unintentionally provokes it. Paul is seeking revenge against a society in which he has no place (Dreikurs, 1968).
When studying drama, the teacher asked Paul to read for a part in a play. Paul did very well and was awarded a leading role on the condition that he keep up with classwork and attend all rehearsals. Dreikurs noted that Paul was ambitious and capable, as evidenced by his criminal activities (Dreikurs, 1968).

By incorporating Hal into the framework of productive society, Hal could now use his talents appropriately. By taking a chance on Paul, the teacher facilitated a situation in which Paul gained confidence and cooperated throughout the remainder of the school year. Dreikurs felt that it probably was not solely the play that was responsible for the changes in Paul. Dreikurs added the teacher must have employed a great deal of encouragement and understanding as well (Dreikurs, 1968).
This example of the Revenge goal illustrates how the strategy of acknowledging the student's power can be extremely effective. Paul status through his criminal activity. By achieving this recognition through more socially appropriate activities, such as starring in the school play, Hal's goals were met and the misbehavior was no longer necessary (Dreikurs, 1968).

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