Title: Children: The Challenge
Author: Rudolf Dreikurs
Publication Year: 1991
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Review: I bought this book, published in 1964, at a used book fair for 25 cents. After the first couple chapters, I thought it was going to be so outdated and awful (making references the atom bomb, desegregation, and women’s equality), that I mostly planned on reading it to amuse myself. However, once I got into the core of the book, I was astonished by how much sense many of the suggestions make. While many parenting books speak in generalities about what a parent should do in certain situations, this book is really just tons of examples, back to back, tied together in each chapter by a different theme or piece of parenting advice. Don’t get me wrong, this book is extremely outdated in certain respects (for example, “Going to school is the child’s function in life, just as going to work is Daddy’s and homemaking is Mother’s function (pg.118)”) and I completely disagree with about 10% of the advice presented (for example, “If Ellen has the right to slap or kick or bite, Mother has the same right…Mother slaps Ellen – and doesn’t pull her punch. (pg. 104)”). I also don’t agree with most of the advice for babies under a year old, as the author believes than even a newborn can manipulate. However, most of the advice for toddlers and older (the author seems to focus on 12 and under), seem truly helpful.
The author starts by discussing the main reasons children misbehave which are 1) a desire to get undue attention, 2) to demonstrate their power over the parent, 3) retaliation and revenge, and 4) a sense of helplessness. He believes in encouraging children, not punishing and criticizing them, and in treating them democratically and with equality. Many of the lessons are common sense, such as using logical consequences instead of punishment, but seeing them applied to various examples is useful for understanding how one might not be using the idea very effectively. Other lessons I feel are truly novel, such as never telling your child what they should do, but only stating what you, the parent, will do, so as not to elicit a power struggle. For the truly discouraged and frequently misbehaving child, his suggestion is to respond to every act of naughtiness including fighting, with a hug. Yes, it sounds crazy, but when the examples are presented, one gets the sense that what the author suggests really could work. Overall, the central advice to the parent appears to be to stay calm and respond to all children’s wild and crazy behaviors with a casual and friendly attitude. Easier said than done, but in my opinion, definitely worth trying. (Personal Rating: 9/10)