This interview took place over 30 years ago–and its still relevant today.

“Sanity in our schools”
By Sandra Peeman
Chicago Daily News, February 3, 1972

Modern parents and teachers, in their efforts to put democracy in the schools, have only created anarchy.
That’s the thesis of psychiatrist Rudolf Dreikurs, who also thinks:
….. Report cards have no value.
….. Teachers who send “love notes” home about a child’s misbehavior are just trying to get him in trouble rather than getting to the root of the problem.
….. Mothers talk too much and say too little in a conflict situation.

Dreikurs has set forth his views in a new book and expanded on them in an interview in his apartment over looking Lincoln Park.

Dreikurs, Vienna-born professor emeritus of psychiatry at Chicago Medical School and director of emeritus of Alfred Adler Institute of Chicago, is getting a bit hazy about certain things as a approaches his 76th birthday February 8.

When the doorbell rang, his wife hastened to answer it and fluttered apologetically about the room.

“The doctor forgot you were coming! He has made another arrangement for the same time!” she whispered, her dignity shaken.

Then Dr. Dreikurs – wearing a proper silk smoking jacket – entered and took command.

“It’s no matter. My other visitor will sit and listen to us,” he announced.

Perhaps he has always been this way about unimportant things like putting appointments on the calendar. But his mind is razor sharp when it comes to business – which in this case is a democratic movement dedicated to creating harmonious human relationships.

Dreikurs contended that new methods of influencing children are necessary in a democratic society, that discouragement is the greatest obstacle to growth, and that creativity requires belief in one’s ability and a feeling of belonging.

These Adlerian views stress that humiliation or pampering creates a feeling of inadequacy in children, and that pressure from without, instead of stimulation from within, creates intense competition so that youngsters who fall switch to defiance and rebellion to gain status.

All of these attitudes are explained in his new book, “Maintaining Sanity in the Classroom: Illustrated Teaching Techniques,” which he wrote with his associates, Bernice Bronia Grunwald and Floy C. Pepper.

Report cards, the book declares, “are usually very damaging. If the child is doing good work, there’s no reason to report it. If he’s not doing well, reporting the fact, without teaching parents what to do about it, will discourage both the children and their parents.”

About teachers’ “love letters” to parents, he asked, “What makes the teacher think that parents who have lost control of the child at home will be able to help improve his behavior in the classroom?”

Dreikurs contended that teachers write such letters only because they feel so defeated by the child, they want to make trouble for him at home – and they usually do.

“Parents spank the child, yell at him and threaten him when they receive such a letter. Instead of that, both parents and teachers should stop fighting and learn a constructive approach to stimulate that child.”

According to the Adler principles, a child misbehaves for one or more of four reasons:
….. To get special attention.
….. To show his power.
….. To get even.
….. Because he is so discouraged he wants to be left alone.

Most parents and teachers aren’t aware of these goals, Dreikurs said, they make matters worse when they try to correct the behavior.

“The majority of American families begin every morning with a fight before school, simply because parents put themselves in a power conflict with the youngsters – and lose,” Dreikurs remarked.

There was a time when all schools and families were autocratic—orders were given by adults and followed without question by youngsters. But times have changed, and the result has been chaotic.

“There was never before a living being on this Earth that didn’t know what to do with its young!” he lamented.

Rearing children has always been based upon tradition, which one generation learned from the last. Now our traditions are no longer functioning, he said, and new methods such as those explained in his books, are too little known.

Wide use of drugs and sexual freedom are expected results of such decadence, Dreikurs continued.

Factors that contribute to these problems:
….. A general tendency on the part of the young to look for pleasure and excitement.
….. Their misunderstood interpretation of freedom.
….. Their desire to defeat adults.
….. A disregard for the demands and responsibilities of life.

“We need a new tradition in raising children, based on social equity between parents and children and teachers, which embodies mutual respect,” the book explains. It points out that in bygone times children could be forced to do what they were supposed to do, but today parents must know how to stimulate the child’s co-operation, respect for order, and willingness to share responsibility for all members of the family.

“One of the greatest drawbacks for parent education is the difficulty entailed in stopping parents, particularly mothers, from talking incessantly,” the book states. “As a rule, children do not listen, since a good deal of this talk is not used for communication, but as ammunition.

“Why is it so difficult for a mother to stop talking? Because she does not know what else to do with a conflict situation!”

Take a look at Maintaining Sanity in The Classroom, Harper and Row, 1971.

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