Adler said that the healthiest human beings are those with the highest social interest. If we want to ensure that our children are emotionally healthy, we must raise them in a home where their parents demonstrate social interest as a way of life.
Social Interest is not the same as Social Action. Social Interest is defined as “Meeting the needs of the situation.”
Or, to quote this study from Portland State University,
“According to Adler, social interest protects individuals against feelings of inferiority and promotes better coping and a healthier attitude toward stressful situations.”
Here’s how a parent would demonstrate high Social Interest in daily life with kids.
Situation: Your toddler has been fighting you all morning and demanding that she goes to Day Care in her pajamas.
Self-Interest: What will the Day Care Providers think of me as a mother if I allowed my child to arrive in their PJ’s? With that thought you begin to muscle the child out of the PJ’s and into what you consider appropriate clothing for the occasion – whether she likes it or not.
Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I support my child’s budding independence and interest in making choices, that I am not overly concerned with what other people think of me as a mother, remember that I am raising a thinking child and at times it can be messy and that I believe that mistakes are opportunities to learn. I believe tomorrow I will offer two choices that are reasonable for the weather and see if we can’t work more cooperatively together.
Situation: Your 5th grader has left his science project till the last minute and he wants you to run out to buy supplies at 9:00 pm so he can finish up and turn it in on time.
Self-Interest: What will the teachers think of me as a mother if my son goes to school without his science project? With that thought you begin to lecture about time management and procrastination and being better organized. Eventually, you head to the store to pick up the supplies and then continue with the lecture while the child tries frantically to finish the project. In the morning you are still resentful and may throw in a few more lectures – but at least no one at school will judge you for sending your child to school unprepared.
Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I allow my child to learn a valuable lesson about time management, following through, the discipline it takes to turn off the television and get down to work and allow him to go to school unprepared and face the consequences. In doing so I am helping him build the courage to accept his mistakes, to learn from them and the ability to make another choice next time he is in a similar situation. I will talk with my son about how confident he feels in setting deadlines and managing his time and if he needs my support we will think of a solution together.
Situation: Your teenage daughter arrives home from school and begins picking on a sibling, refusing to answer your requests that she help with dinner, and then turns the music on to the point that no one can hear themselves think let alone carry on a conversation.
Self Interest I don’t have to put up with this nonsense. I am the adult, I am the parent and I will put an end to this and let my daughter know just who is in charge.
Social Interest: The needs of the situation require that I assess what is really going on with my daughter who is normally good-natured, polite and loving. It requires that I not take what is happening personally and remember that she is struggling with something and needs some encouragement. I will walk away until I am calm, and look for a moment to make a connection, and find out what is behind all this disruptive behavior.
When we teach ourselves so slow down and answer this one question – “What do I do based on the needs of this situation?” – we tend to make thoughtful, respectful and wise parenting decisions. Try it and see if life doesn’t improve for both you and your kids.