Discipline Without Tears

displine without-tears book

Rudolf Dreikurs


I first encountered the work of Rudolf Dreikurs about ten years ago, specifically his concept of the ‘goals of children’s misbehaviour.  My encounter was in the context of a programme for fosters carers.  Since then I have trained in and read widely on attachment theory.  I find now that Dreikurs’ work is relevant in an attachment theory context.

He presents a case for classifying certain characteristic childhood behaviour as misdirected attempts to gain significance.  He lists four such goals

  • Seeking Power
  • Seeking Revenge
  • Seeking Attention
  • To Display Inadequacy

I reacted against these – to some degree – to me they seem to limited – too simplistic – too generalised.  I confess now, that I did not adequately understanding Dreikurs underpinning theory.  He based his ‘miss-directed goals’ proposition on five principles drawn from Adlerian psychology.

People are social beings and their main desire is to belong.

  1. All behaviour is purposive.
  2. People are decision makers
  3. Each person is a whole being and cannot be understood by some partial characteristics
  4. We do not see reality as it is, but as we perceive it, and this perception may be mistaken or biased

These fit with my world view; formed by systems and ecological thinking; by attachment theory; by core ideas from psychodynamic theory; by modern day neuroscience and mentalisation.

Although he does not mention attachment, his entire framework now makes sense when viewed through that lens.  The behaviours he lists are, in my opinion, attachment behaviours and are anxiety based.

Dreikurs focusses (in part) on changing the child’s behaviour by making the child conscious of their goals.  I think that what Dreikurs misses is that the goals of misbehaviour, when considered from an attachment paradigm are misdirected attempts from the child’s perspective as they strive to have attachment needs met.  Where I differ from Derikurs is in the way to change the child’s behaviour.   Developing consciousness is part of it.  Consciousness is a large part of emotional self-regulation.   But for me, the beginning point is to meet unmet need.

Having said thus – I find myself now more comfortable with Dreikeurs propositions.

His book he worth reading – but – as I’ve suggested here, needs an additional interpretative perspective.  Attachment theory does it for me.

The Triple-A Model of Therapeutic Care that features on this web site is a needs led programme.






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