By Carol Dores
I recently spent ten days learning more about the basis of Positive Discipline, which is rooted in the work of Alfred Adler and Rudolf Dreikurs. There is a German word, gemeinschaftsgefuhl, that is an important core of Positive Discipline.
“Gemeinschaftsgefuhl is a German word meaning “community feeling” or “social interest”. This term is used by Adlerian psychologists to describe the state of social connectedness and interest in the well-being of others that characterizes psychological health.” (from Wiktionary) The greater the social interest, the stronger the mental health. It is in our best interest as a society to encourage the growth of gemeinschaftsgefuhl. Wanting to contribute needs to be stimulated and trained, just like learning math, reading or any other skill.
How can we help children develop more gemeinschaftsgefuhl? Here are a few ideas.
- When children have jobs at home and in the classroom increases social interest, especially when we explain the connection. “We need everyone to pitch in to help in make the house/class run smoothly. Your help is important to everyone else.”
- Eating family meals together encourages a sense of community. This time can create even more of a sense of social interest if every family member helps with things like setting the table, preparing the meal, and cleaning up after.
- Having students help each other in class builds social interest. Once they are used to doing this, teachers can talk to them about what they can do to help their parents at home.
- Being involved in giving back to an even larger community can also help. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, playing music at a senior center, or collecting food for the food pantry are all examples of how a family can contribute to the greater good.
By becoming a responsible member of a family or classroom community, children can learn that they have equal rights and equal responsibilities. They develop a sense that they are capable, productive, useful and adequate. This helps strengthen their mental health and well being.