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Social Interest and Healthy Families

 

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17 August, 2010

Simply put, we are a culture preoccupied with our own Self Interest which, unfortunately is reinforced on a daily basis.

Two prevailing attitudes which emerge with regularity are:

  • What’s in it for me? OR What will I get?
  • What will people think of me?

Here are a number of questions children ask themselves every day which can be influenced by the What’s in it for me/What will I get attitude.

What will I get, if I…

  • Use the potty?
  • Sleep in my own bed?
  • Sit still for a hair cut?
  • Let the doctor give me a check up?
  • Say I am sorry?
  • Help with daily contributions?
  • Stop fighting with my siblings?
  • Apply myself at school?
  • Agree to come home on time?
  • Stop calling my family names?
  • Drop the attitude?

Scary, isn’t it? You begin to get a sense of how that attitude might affect your kids as employees, spouses and parents.

The second attitude – What will people think of me is more commonly seen in adults. It sounds something like.

What will people think of me, if…

  • My kids aren’t properly clothed, fed, washed, groomed?
  • My kids are disrespectful, rude, display bad manners, are sassy to me?
  • My kids do poorly in school or are not star athletes?
  • I can’t afford to have my kids do all the things their friends do and have what their friends have?
  • I can’t control my kids?

This attitude is disastrous for parents and children alike. As parents, it is difficult enough to make responsible and respectful decisions regarding our children. To compound the problem by adding the – What will people think of me, significantly limits our ability to parent from our best. The decisions we make about and for our children can no longer be influenced by what others will think of us.

Tips for Success

If you, as the parent, ever wonder about HOW you are making decisions, take a few seconds and answer this one question:

The needs of the situation require that I do what?

Here is what Adler had to say on the subject of Social Interest:

    “A healthy person is concerned for other people and has a sincere desire to contribute to society. So, Never do anything for a child that a child can do for herself.”

    “The first step in teaching social interest is to teach self-reliance.
    So, Never rob your children of opportunities to feel capable.”

Here are 3 examples that illustrate the power of Social Interest:

1. Imagine your child arrives at school properly trained in Social Interest. He may look around the room and say, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Choose a place to sit.
  • Have a pencil to write with and all the other supplies I will need for the day.
  • Raise my hand when I have a question.
  • Do my homework as is expected of me.
  • Allow other children to speak.
  • Follow through with the agreements I make with the teacher.

Imagine a school room with students who are ALL asking themselves this same set of questions. Powerful stuff.

2. Now imagine your children at home and asking themselves internally, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Help my brother out with homework because he is struggling and math is easy for me.
  • Say no to friends who ask me out and I know they will be drinking.
  • Practice my instrument, because I made an agreement with my parents and music teacher.
  • Miss my soccer game so I can go to an important family function.
  • Do my contributions, even though I was up late, because everyone else is expected to do theirs.

Yes, I know it seems too good to be true, but consider this for a minute, we are always in the process of choosing. That includes how we interpret situations. So either our kids are asking themselves, what will I get out of this, or they are asking themselves the needs of the situation require that I do what. Why is it so hard for parents to believe, that children, when given a chance, will act from the position of the highest social interest?

Okay, lastly –

3. Imagine yourself, as a parent who asks on a regular basis, “The needs of the situation require that I…”

  • Allow my children to experience frustration, so they can learn more about themselves.
  • Stay cool and put this on the agenda for Family Meeting.
  • Apologize when I make a mistake.
  • Remain flexible as my children learn to navigate their way around an ever changing world.
  • Model empathy, compassion and forgiveness if I expect my children to develop these attributes.
  • Avoid comparing my children with anyone else – ever.
  • Allow my child to make a choice, even though I know it may end poorly.
  • Respect the natural consequence my child is going to experience with faith and confidence.
  • Explain to the teacher why my child is coming to school with no lunch and no homework.
  • Refrain from telling stories about my child in social situations where everyone else is complaining.

Again, you see the power this one question has in influencing every decision we make. So this week, anchor the power of developing Social Interest in yourself, your children and your family.

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