Parenting & The Four C’s

Alfred Adler, the founder of Individual Psychology, said, “Children of all ages want four things: Control, Courage, To Contribute, and To Count.” These became known in the counseling world as “The Four C’s.” 

More and more parents are flocking to our center wanting to be more effective with their children. As a mother myself, I know parenting can be challenging, exhausting, and yet very rewarding. 

Most of us come into the role with little instruction finding ourselves overwhelmed and confused about how best to raise these little people into productive, happy human beings. 

From the constant demands of a crying infant, to a young child who hates school, to a teenager who announces they know everything and wants to make their own rules, every stage of parenting can feel daunting.

Remaining calm and confident as a parent is very important. In my early years of parenting, I told a good friend (and more seasoned parent) I wasn’t sure what to do about something. 

She said, “Whenever you are not sure, act like you know what you are doing, and your children will believe you.” In other words, move forward with confidence and the kids will adopt the same confidence and trust in you.

I thought this was brilliant. I also constantly keep in mind that all behavior is goal-oriented. When a child of any age does something, they are looking for a result.

Ask yourself, “What does Johnny want right now? What does Jane really need?” Chances are they are looking for your undivided attention (To Count). You demonstrate to your children they count by spending quality time with them. 

This does not include dragging them around town to finish your errands. (I know we have to do that sometimes ~ I did it all the time with mine.) However, that is not their idea of having your attention. 

Sit down with them and ask them what they would like to do, play, or talk about. Make sure you have one on one time with each child. Go on dates or simple adventures like a walk in the park. 

When they have something to say, listen to them. Stop what you are doing and look at them. When my children were younger, I remember often feeling they were talking to my back as I was always moving fast a few steps ahead of them.

If they have an idea, give it a try. Help them work to make it a reality as long as it is safe for everyone. This builds their courage and gives them some sense of control.

Let them make any decisions possible, even as young children. Don’t worry if the clothes don’t match. Give them choices for dinner. As they grow older, move from controlling their lives to helping them manage their own lives more and more.

Provide opportunities for your children to be contributing members of your family and their community. 

Include them in family decisions and projects around the house whenever appropriate. Even the smallest of children can aid in daily life chores and activities. 

As they continue to grow, help them discover what they are passionate about and then find opportunities for them to volunteer for a related charitable cause.

By incorporating all these strategies, you are less likely to encounter behavior problems. But when you do, remember this:  Feed what you want to see more of, and starve what you want to see less of.

In other words, reward all positive behavior or anything you want to increase. Ignore or respectfully discipline the rest to minimize it. 

Giving your children the respect you want is a terrific start to a healthy relationship. 

By your life example and calm approach, you will teach them to build courage, take positive control of themselves, and contribute to family and community life. 

Then they will know without a doubt they count. You can count on it.

© - Cindy D. Whitmer (June 19, 2010)