What would Adler think?

Hi Friends!!!
I recently had to write a paper to qualify for some advanced training in Positive Discipline highlighting my understanding and application of Adlerian theory in my everyday life.  Alfred Adler is the father of Adlerian theory, which is the philosophy that Positive Discipline is based on. This is also "my story" and the journey that has brought me to where I am now.   I wanted to share with you all what I wrote.  Enjoy!

(What Would Alder Think?)
Casey O’Roarty, M.Ed., PDTC

            I grew up as the oldest of five children. My parents took the behaviorist approach to raising my siblings and me.  We were motivated to be “good” and do “well” through various rewards (sticker charts when we were young, money and a car to drive when we got older), while undesirable behavior was met with punishment (sitting alone in the bathroom, extended periods of being “grounded”).  This extrinsic motivation kept me in line while under my parents’ roof, but once as I got older, it was clear that my intrinsic motivation was lacking…  I learned my lessons the hard way, through unhealthy relationships and unhealthy choices, and vowed to be a different type of parent to my own children.
I had embraced the constructivist approach to teaching and learning when I went through teacher education.  My program focused on the benefits of a cooperative learning environment and personal relationship to motivate children to do their best.  I taught kids for five years and felt as though I had a solid understanding of what children needed to thrive when our first child was born in the winter of 2003. 
My daughter, Rowan, was an easy baby who only wanted to be held, and I was an obliging mom.  She spent much of her first year in a sling as I explored the wonders of attachment parenting.  She was a cautious child, harboring more of her dad’s temperament than mine, and I saw her as easy and sweet.  Things stayed that way until I had my second child in the fall of 2005.  I had read that it was common for mothers to push away their older children after the birth of a new baby but I couldn’t believe I would ever have those kinds of feelings towards my daughter.  Oh, how wrong I was.
When I look back to this time today, I wonder, “What would Alder think?”  This was before I had been exposed to Adlerian Theory and was just trying to figure out how to survive with two small children.  This was the first time that I felt really overwhelmed by the demands of parenting.  This was when I began to understand why my parents parented me the way they did.  Emotions ran high and were the basis of my parenting decisions.  Blame and shame were my reactive impulses, followed quickly by my own shame for falling short of who I wanted to be as a mom…  Had Alfred Adler been there he would have seen that my daughter wasn’t misbehaving, she was looking for belonging in an environment that was new and different to her.  This would have been great news for me, because I really believed that it was my daughter, sweet little three year old that she was, who was on a mission to drive me crazy – and that I was clearly a failure as a mother.
In the fall of 2007 I was no longer an elementary school teacher, but instead was focused on parent education. I was looking for more information to add to both my parent and parent educator tool bag when I came across Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way.  The very first night took place in an elementary school gym, and was lead by Jody McVittie and Stacy Lappin.  I, along with 50 other parents, participated in a Parent Night like no other.  This is when I first learned of the work of Alfred Adler.  It was like coming home!  Finally, I saw the blueprint of not only the parent that I wanted to be, but also who I wanted to help others be – social interest at it’s best!  Well, it turns out the teaching was the easy part, which I am sure Adler would agree with.  It’s the parenting of my own two children, now 6 and 9, that challenge me on a daily basis.  I believe I do a good job; it’s just not that easy, even with the tools.        
What would Alder see if he could come and observe our family for a day?  I think he would notice that we have created an environment where we are encouraging our children to be socially useful.  There is evidence of agreements made on the refrigerator, a cup with family work sticks in it, on the counter, and our family meeting agenda book on the shelf in the kitchen.  He would watch my kids making their own school lunches, using a list of acceptable items that they helped to create.  He would probably laugh as he saw me try and not be bothered by my children’s messy rooms, because I am working on letting them know what I will do, rather than telling them what they should do.  Adler may even notice me suppressing a smile when my 6 year old son came bounding out of his room dressed as a ninja, and asking me to call him “Cobra”, which I kindly and firmly respond to with, “Sure Cobra, and I’ll bet a ninja as fast as you can pick up those logos in the living room in under 3 minutes.”
I’m sure that Adler and I could have some long discussions about my relationship with my daughter.  She and I are both oldest children, with mothers who meet stress with controlling tendencies.  Those controlling tendencies leave us with a feeling of not being in charge of our own life.  Adler would probably point this out to me, and recognize that much of the conflict that occurs between my daughter and myself is rooted in her need to make decisions and feel as though her voice is being heard. 
“Yes Alfred,” I would say, “but I am constantly allowing her to have control and it’s never enough!”
Adler would then gently remind me of what I teach the parent who come into my PD class.  It is our own personal interpretations that create our private logic.  Our private logic is then seen as truth, and it takes a connected parent, with a strong, loving relationship, to help a child move out of their private logic.  It is the relationship that parents have with their children that ultimately determines whether or not their parenting tools will be effective. 
“Of course!”  I would tell him, “I know that!  That is why when things become really tense with my daughter I look for ways to connect with her…”  He would be impressed, I’m sure.
My son, on the other hand, would be a shining validation to Adler of his work with the inferiority complex.  When my boy feels as though he has no worth, struggles at something new, or experiences an injustice, he falls apart.  As he goes down, he often tries to take whoever is closest with him.  When this sense of worthlessness (inferiority) is met with punishment (too firm a tone, threats) he goes deeper into his negative feelings, and his negative behavior continues.  Ian, my son, doesn’t do better when he feels worse.  He does better when he feels better.  Adler would notice the tools we have recently made together to help my son self-sooth, and handle those disappointments.  He would probably tell me to remember that Ian has some private logic going on as well, and to continue to have conversations about how to handle emotional situations.
Finally, I think Adler would see the work that I am doing for myself, as a mom, to better my own understanding of why I do the things I do.  He would sit across from me in a chair and listen to how I am trying to change my story, and quiet the voice inside that tells me I’m not good enough.  He would nod his head as I spoke of emotions turning into irrational thoughts and beliefs.  His kind encouragement would be exactly what I would need to hear to change my own private logic and nurture my own self worth…  In the end, I think Alfred Adler would tell me that I am doing all right.