I'm so excited . . .I'm going to my first NASAP (North American Society of Adlerian Psychology) conference on Friday! Now who here has ever heard of Alfred Adler? Wait, don't click closed, don't swipe me away. Adlerian Psychology is fun and exciting, relevant, useful and rich. Let me show you one of Adler's insights through a story I love to tell . . .
**Back in 1972, when kids wore polyester a lot and Moms ignored their children a lot, two boys, ages 8 (Tommy) & 10 (Stu) had just finished 2 weeks of camp about 15 miles from their house. They usually walked everywhere, but for this camp they got to ride a school bus with kids ranging from 5 - 17. Boy, did they learn A LOT from the older kids - a real fountain of information came from those big guys in the back of the bus. Tommy and Stu knew, from their piano teacher (see, those lessons are worth the money), if they wanted to retain what they learned they had better practice.
Stu looked and Tommy and said, "Hey, Tommy, ya wanna swear today?". Tommy thought for a second and could see no down side, "Sure Stu, why don't you say damn and I'll say hell today?" Stu agreed and they spit on their palms and shook on it to seal the deal. Down the boys went to the kitchen where Mom was having her second cup of coffee. She beamed at them as they came in, happy and content to have her boys to herself for a few days before they left for the beach.
She greeted them with a big smile and a warm hug and said, "Honey buns, what would you like for breakfast this morning?" Stu, ready to practice his lesson said, "I want some damn cereal!" WHAT? Mom couldn't believe it. Well, Stu got unceremoniously dragged into the hall, at the bottom of the stairs got a swift, firm swat on the rear (it's the 70's) and sent him to his room until his father got home. As Stu trudged up the stairs Mom took a deep breath, smoothed her apron and went back into the kitchen to start again. She looked at Tommy with a tired, but loving look and said, "Sweetums, now what would YOU like for breakfast?" Tommy was a keen observer and a quick learner, looked up at his Mom, defensive, bewildered and said, "I don't know, but it sure as hell isn't gonna be cereal!"
I crack up every time I tell this story. Tommy and Stu capture the Adlerian concept that children are keen observers and not always accurate interpreters. We assume our kids receive the message we intend to send, but do they? Do they misinterpret, translate improperly or just generally assume we mean one thing when really we meant another? I say yes, YES they do! I think people misinterpret people - all day, every day. What to do about it? Oh I don't know, let's just laugh together today and next week I'll share inspiration, stories, ideas and tips from NASAP!
** Based on a story told in "A Primer of Adlerian Psychology", Mosak & Maniacci.