Mistaken Goals of the Discouraged Child
NOTE: Page numbers enclosed in parentheses are citations from The Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. (H. L. and R. R. Ansbacher, Eds.).© 1964. Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. Used by permission of Perseus Books Group.
Adler considered each individual as if he or she were in movement from an intolerable feeling of minus toward a desired feeling of plus, with a personally-created goal of success concretized in an image of status or condition that would conquer the inferiority feeling. Dreikurs saw that among children these goals could be seen as reflecting the desire to have a distinctive and recognized place of belonging amongst others. He also saw that discouraged children, who regard themselves as unable to accomplish such a goal on the socially useful side of life, through cooperation and contribution, do not surrender the struggle, but are more likely than the others to develop erroneous images of success, and to choose mistaken goals in pursuit of such images.
Dreikurs (1964) posited four such mistaken goals of the discouraged child in a schema which has proven to be of immense help to teachers, counselors, and others concerned with the education and welfare of children and their development. These mistaken goals are (a) attention ( annoying or disruptive behavior that says, "I may not be much, but I will not be ignored."); (b) power (angry, insistent, often in progression from the efforts of others to stop the attention-getting antics); ( c) revenge (bitter, hurtful words and actions, often in response to the harsh punishments of retaliatory power, and expressing the unhappy conviction of a child who believes he is not loved or is not lovable); ( d) the display of inadequacy (reflecting a despair of doing anything that will be successful or appreciated). Dreikurs also systematized techniques for recognizing a child's mistaken goal, precise methods for disclosing the mistaken goal to the child without punishing or shaming, opening the eyes of parents to recognize the meaning and desire for significance in the mistaken goals of misbehavior, and encouraging children to consider openings to useful participation and contribution. [See Adolescence.]
See Grunwald, B. B. & McAbee, H. V. (1999); Walton, F. X. & Powers, R. L. (1974).
© Griffith, J., & Powers, R. L. (2007). The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler (2nd ed.). Port Townsend, WA: Adlerian Psychology Associates (p. 69).
Definitions of concepts are used by permission of Jane Griffith. A comprehensive list of concepts and definitions can be found in The Lexicon of Adlerian Psychology: 106 Terms Associated with the Individual Psychology of Alfred Adler by Jane Griffith and Robert L. Powers, available for purchase on Amazon.com.
Dreikurs, R. (with Soltz, V.). (1964). Children: The Challenge. New York: Hawthorn.
Grunwald, B. B., & McAbee, H. V. (1999). Guiding the family: Practical counseling solutions
(2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Accelerated Development.
Walton, F. X., & Powers, R. L. (1974). Winning children over. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books.