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Adlerian-based responses for the mental health counselor to the challenging behaviors of teens.

The Adlerian concept of all behavior being purposeful pur·pose·ful  
1. Having a purpose; intentional: a purposeful musician.

2. Having or manifesting purpose; determined: entered the room with a purposeful look.
 and socially embedded Inserted into. See embedded system.  offers a contextual backdrop for understanding the actions of teens. Dreikurs' explanation of the four mistaken goals of discouraged children, expanded by Walton to include the misbehavior of teens, offers the mental health counselor A mental health counselor is a professional who provides counseling to individuals, couples, families, groups, or larger systems. A mental health counselor may also have training in educational and vocational counseling (MacCluskie & Ingersoll 2001).  a starting point Noun 1. starting point - earliest limiting point
terminus a quo

commencement, get-go, offset, outset, showtime, starting time, beginning, start, kickoff, first - the time at which something is supposed to begin; "they got an early start"; "she knew from the
 from which to speculate about problematic teen behavior. This article offers an overview of the Dreikurs scheme, its applicability to understanding teen behavior, and, through a case study, the method to be used by mental health counselors to speculate about the goal and purpose that undergird the teenager's undesirable actions.


Parents have said that the teen years can be bewildering be·wil·der  
tr.v. be·wil·dered, be·wil·der·ing, be·wil·ders
1. To confuse or befuddle, especially with numerous conflicting situations, objects, or statements. See Synonyms at puzzle.

. Parents use expressions such as "The hormones are flowing" and "What's gotten into my child?" both humorously and sincerely. Physiologically, psychologically, and socially, the "teen years" can be a dramatic and volatile bridge into adulthood.

On the one hand, newspaper and television shows frequently report the many and varied successes of teens (Grunwald & McAbee, 1999). Obviously, parents, teachers, and civic leaders celebrate the numerous and wonderful teen accomplishments as these young people move through high school and, for many, the college years. These teenagers are the citizens and leaders of the future, and their productivity in all areas of life benefits us all.

In contrast, police logs and school records also reveal the turbulence turbulence, state of violent or agitated behavior in a fluid. Turbulent behavior is characteristic of systems of large numbers of particles, and its unpredictability and randomness has long thwarted attempts to fully understand it, even with such powerful tools as  experienced during the teenage years when teens' attitudes and behaviors can seem counterproductive coun·ter·pro·duc·tive  
Tending to hinder rather than serve one's purpose: "Violation of the court order would be counterproductive" Philip H. Lee.
, unsettling un·set·tle  
v. un·set·tled, un·set·tling, un·set·tles
1. To displace from a settled condition; disrupt.

2. To make uneasy; disturb.

, at times even frightening. Some teens "turn the corner" and get themselves on track for useful and productive lives, while others fall into a life style of deviance Conspicuous dissimilarity with, or variation from, customarily acceptable behavior.

Deviance implies a lack of compliance to societal norms, such as by engaging in activities that are frowned upon by society and frequently have legal sanctions as well, for example, the
 and discord Discord
See also Confusion.


demon of discord. [Occultism: Jobes, 93]

discord, apple of

caused conflict among goddesses; Trojan War ultimate result. [Gk. Myth.
. How can such teen misbehavior be explained? What can be done to help these teens be productive rather than perturbed per·turb  
tr.v. per·turbed, per·turb·ing, per·turbs
1. To disturb greatly; make uneasy or anxious.

2. To throw into great confusion.


This article provides mental health counselors with a window of understanding into teen behavior and offers a slate of possible responses. Based on the work of Alfred Adler Alfred Adler (February 7 1870 – May 28 1937) was an Austrian medical doctor and psychologist, founder of the school of individual psychology. Adler co-founded psychoanalysis with Sigmund Freud and a small group of Freud's colleagues. , Rudolph Dreikurs, and Frank Walton Frank Joseph Walton (born December 25, 1911 in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania) was an American football guard in the NFL for the Boston/Washington Redskins. He played college football for the University of Pittsburgh. , this article promotes a positive approach to helping teens behave in ways that are life enhancing. Strategies presented here can afford the exasperated mental health counselor a method to explain teen behavior and a way to work to improve teen life. As stated by Dreikurs (1992):
   The experiences by which a child develops his or her life plan are infinite
   in their variety. We cannot hope to recognize them all, but we can
   understand the conclusions which the child draws from his or her premises.
   Comprehension of the child's interpretation of himself or herself is the
   only basis for proper guidance and assistance in correcting a maladjustment
   or in improving a noticeable deficiency in the child. (p. 49)


A Viennese contemporary of Sigmund Freud's, Alfred Adler introduced his theory of Individual psychology in the early 1900s (Manaster & Corsini, 1982), known today as Adlerian psychology.

Reacting to Freud's deterministic 1. (probability) deterministic - Describes a system whose time evolution can be predicted exactly.

Contrast probabilistic.
2. (algorithm) deterministic - Describes an algorithm in which the correct next step depends only on the current state.
 "drive theory" to explain human behavior, Adler viewed persons holistically, as people who are socially embedded, goal-directed, and able to move forward through constant deployment of their own living energy. In this connection, people pursue goals they created by their cognitive schema or "private logic." Goals, generally constructed around themes related to love, work, and friendship are what give people aspiration aspiration /as·pi·ra·tion/ (as?pi-ra´shun)
1. the drawing of a foreign substance, such as the gastric contents, into the respiratory tract during inhalation.

, conviction, hope, and inspiration. Movement in all human life is arranged around people's explicit and implicit pursuit of their goals for life. People create meaning in life as they pursue life's goals (Mosak & Maniacci, 1999).

Adler mentored Rudolf Dreikurs Rudolf Dreikurs (February 8 1897, Vienna - May 25 1972, Chicago) was an American psychiatrist and educator who developed psychologist Alfred Adler's system of individual psychology into a pragmatic method for understanding the purposes of reprehensible behaviour in children and for  when they were associated at the medical school of the University of Vienna History
The University was founded on March 12, 1365 by Duke Rudolph IV and his brothers Albert III and Leopold III, hence the additional name "Alma Mater Rudolphina". After the Charles University in Prague, the University of Vienna is the second oldest university in Central
. Dreikurs introduced Adlerian psychology to the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area.  in the mid-1930s when he moved to Chicago and established a series of child guidance centers, taught at local universities, and established a global reputation for helping parents raise children using methods that were constructive, logical, and positive (Turner & Pew PEW. A seat in a church separated from all others, with a convenient space to stand therein.
     2. It is an incorporeal interest in the real property. And, although a man has the exclusive right to it, yet, it seems, he cannot maintain trespass against a person
, 1978).

Dreikurs advanced his method in his book, Children the Challenge (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). He not only promoted child-rearing principles such as natural and logical consequences, the value of encouragement, and the place of the new ideal of the "democratic family," but also he gave parents and educators an easily understood mechanism for understanding children's misbehavior (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). Dreikurs believed that parents were obligated ob·li·gate  
tr.v. ob·li·gat·ed, ob·li·gat·ing, ob·li·gates
1. To bind, compel, or constrain by a social, legal, or moral tie. See Synonyms at force.

2. To cause to be grateful or indebted; oblige.
 to determine when children were off-course in pursuing a "mistaken goal" so that they could then intervene and teach children how to make appropriate corrections.

According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 both Adler and Dreikurs, the most compelling and common goal for children is that they be recognized, that they find a place where they belong (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). By fitting in, they can find their station in the world, the position from which they can begin to move forward in life. In belonging, they establish a social connection. The nuclear family is the first social system of children, and it is their most solid foundation for pursuing the goal of "belonging."

Children reared in democratic families receive appropriate acknowledgment acknowledgment, in law, formal declaration or admission by a person who executed an instrument (e.g., a will or a deed) that the instrument is his. The acknowledgment is made before a court, a notary public, or any other authorized person.  and encouragement from parents and siblings siblings npl (formal) → frères et sœurs mpl (de mêmes parents)  to move beyond the initial goal of recognition to the goal of negotiating life's challenges in love, work, and friendship. Children raised in a nondemocratic family may not experience proper recognition and encouragement and therefore may stall developmentally and become exclusively focused on their basic needs for attention and control. Dreikurs (1992) proposed that such children frequently become discouraged and may exhibit one or more of four "mistaken goals" as they search for their place in the scheme of life: (a) excessive desire for attention, (b) inappropriate need for power, (c) pursuit of revenge, and finally, (d) assumption of a position of inadequacy.

Frank Walton (1996) expanded upon Dreikurs' schema by suggesting that children's "mistaken goals" might be the foundation for later troubled behaviors that could unfold unfold - inline  when they become young adults. Like Dreikurs, Walton is a global consultant and lecturer on teen behavior.


Walton (1996) expanded both Adler and Dreikurs' ideas related to teen misbehavior, and he advanced their views on the importance of parents, teachers, and counselors reexamining their speculations and conclusions about teens' behavior, because "things can always be different" than they seem.

Walton's suggestions for extending Dreikurs' schema for working with children to one that would work with teens are summarized in the Table. According to Dreikurs, children ages 2 to 11 display the mistaken goals in overt and easily recognizable ways. However, as children advance through their teens to young adulthood, their thoughts and behaviors become more complex and their mistaken goals are less obvious to adults (Manaster & Corsini, 1982). Consequently, mental health counselors must keep in mind that because teen behaviors are more complex, multifaceted mul·ti·fac·et·ed  
Having many facets or aspects. See Synonyms at versatile.

Adj. 1. multifaceted - having many aspects; "a many-sided subject"; "a multifaceted undertaking"; "multifarious interests"; "the multifarious
, and less obvious, they must look beyond the surface and probe carefully in order to accurately interpret both the mistaken beliefs and goals of teen behavior.

Unique to Dreikurs' scheme, parents, teachers, and counselors are encouraged to examine first their own specific emotional reactions to the teen misbehavior. By asking How does your child's perceived misbehavior make you feel?, Dreikurs attempted to elicit e·lic·it  
tr.v. e·lic·it·ed, e·lic·it·ing, e·lic·its
a. To bring or draw out (something latent); educe.

b. To arrive at (a truth, for example) by logic.

 the first clue to children or teen's goal in misbehaving (Grunwald & McAbee, 1999). Emotional responses of counselors, parents, or teachers provide a powerful clue about where we can start speculating about the goal of young people's misbehavior.

Further developing Dreikurs' work, Walton expanded the understanding of the four mistaken goals for teens--attention, power, revenge, and inadequacy (Walton, 1996). A fifth goal, excitement, is less developed and affirmed af·firm  
v. af·firmed, af·firm·ing, af·firms
1. To declare positively or firmly; maintain to be true.

2. To support or uphold the validity of; confirm.

 in the literature, and so it is not displayed in the Table. While confident teens forcefully force·ful  
Characterized by or full of force; effective: was persuaded by the forceful speaker to register to vote; enacted forceful measures to reduce drug abuse.
 strive to make a place for themselves in the world, discouraged teens may pursue one or more of these four mistaken goals. Discouraged or socially deviant deviant /de·vi·ant/ (de´ve-int)
1. varying from a determinable standard.

2. a person with characteristics varying from what is considered standard or normal.

 teens sometimes convince themselves that it is better to be "the best at being bad" than to fail at trying to be good. Discouraged teens prefer social failure to anonymity and oblivion o·bliv·i·on  
1. The condition or quality of being completely forgotten: "He knows that everything he writes is consigned to posterity (oblivion's other, seemingly more benign, face)" 
 (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). For some teens, pursuing a goal of social delinquency delinquency

Criminal behaviour carried out by a juvenile. Young males make up the bulk of the delinquent population (about 80% in the U.S.) in all countries in which the behaviour is reported.
 can be seen as better than pursuing no goal whatsoever because at least they will gain recognition.

In examining the Table, we see that misbehaving teens usually, but not always, proceed through the steps in linear fashion (Walton, 1996). If behavior is not corrected, teens can display a mistaken goal at any level, especially when important adults in their lives overlooked or were unaware when teen actions were directed at lower-level goals. For example, teens who feel unsatisfied in their need for attention may attempt to control an event or impose dominance through power tactics.


Manaster and Corsini (1982) stated that the developmental years of 13-19 are, in essence, a time when teens establish a place in the world. In this critical period, the personality lowers its roots to secure its hold:
   It is through a combination of personally, individually feeling that one
   belongs, with accurate perceptions that one does in fact belong, which is
   the thrust of adolescent development. And it would be remiss not to add the
   thrust of development throughout the remainder of the life cycle. (p. 93)

Consistent with Adlerian concepts that all life is both movement and goal-directed is the concept that teens "must find their place." They are compelled to secure a foothold foot·hold  
1. A place providing support for the foot in climbing or standing.

2. A firm or secure position that provides a base for further advancement.


. Most teens move forward on the useful side of life, set appropriate and reachable goals for themselves, and mature into adulthood with a sense of who they are and what they can contribute to society.

Some teens, however, cannot find a useful place in life because they see few constructive opportunities and so, discouraged, they turn instead to the useless side of life. Adopting the notion that pursuing any goal--even if it is delinquent delinquent 1) adj. not paid in full amount or on time. 2) n. short for an underage violator of the law as in juvenile delinquent.

DELINQUENT, civil law. He who has been guilty of some crime, offence or failure of duty.
, illegal, and troublesome--is preferable to no goal at all, they can at least gain recognition from adults and peers. These teens are pursuing "mistaken goals." Such pursuit leads teens into the mental health counselor's offices, either by parent decree or by court mandate. Walton (1996) gives us this summary:
   While the power struggle easily accounts for the bulk of the disturbed
   relationships between adults and teenagers, the behavior of adolescents may
   be directed toward other goals that are mistaken. The word mistaken is used
   to indicate that the teenager operates on the mistaken notion that he or
   she must reach these goals to have some significance. The four goals that
   psychiatrist Rudolf Dreikurs proposed as mistaken goals of behavior in
   young children can be seen along with other goals in teenagers. (p. 19)

The four common goals of children's behaviors are the cornerstones of change. If parents, teachers, or counselors working with teens help them understand their behavior within the context of one or more of these goals, then the first step toward positive change can occur.


Dreikurs (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990) stated, "The desire for undue attention is the first mistaken goal used by discouraged children as a means for feeling that they belong" (p.58). Teens put great effort into being noticed or recognized in order to find a place of belonging when they feel insecure in·se·cure
1. Lacking emotional stability; not well-adjusted.

2. Lacking self-confidence; plagued by anxiety.

 or when then need to affirm their presence in relation to others. For recognition, teens will use a number of strategies related to dress, manner, and behavior. Teens, more than children, are strident in getting attention from their contemporaries and are more interested in getting attention from their contemporaries than from adults, in contrast to children. Constructive responses to attention-needy teens are strategies to help them find useful ways to gain recognition so that in addition to drawing attention to themselves, they are contributing to the work and play of society (Walton, 1996).


Typically, discouraged children or teens who do not gain appropriate attention will move to the second stage of mistaken goal-directed behavior; they will seek power. Note that young people become discouraged when they do not get attention because without attention they fail to find a secure place in their group. If they cannot obtain security, status, and a sense of belonging in the group, they will seek to secure status within the group through their use power (Grunwald & McAbee, 1999).

Deviant behavior For the scholarly journal, see .

“Deviant” redirects here. For other uses, see Deviant (disambiguation).
Deviant behavior is behavior that is a recognized violation of social norms. Formal and informal social controls attempt to prevent or minimize deviance.
, or "acting out," may be the way discouraged teens tell us that they are trying to get attention and demonstrate power. Commonly, teen's struggle for power is characterized by behaviors that challenge their family or society's expectations in order to demonstrate that they shall not be constrained con·strain  
tr.v. con·strained, con·strain·ing, con·strains
1. To compel by physical, moral, or circumstantial force; oblige: felt constrained to object. See Synonyms at force.

 by their community's standards. The goal is to grant to themselves the power to seek their place when it is not granted by others. Manaster and Corsini (1982) stated that after attention,
   the next demand, according to Dreikurs, is power. Children become
   competitive relative to their ability to have personal power, to achieve
   and accomplish and to dominate the social environment. They get into power
   contests, tussles, arguments, screaming matches, and other fights. (p. 89)


Some teens become vengeful when they are frustrated frus·trate  
tr.v. frus·trat·ed, frus·trat·ing, frus·trates
a. To prevent from accomplishing a purpose or fulfilling a desire; thwart:
 in their efforts to garner adequate attention or wield wield  
tr.v. wield·ed, wield·ing, wields
1. To handle (a weapon or tool, for example) with skill and ease.

2. To exercise (authority or influence, for example) effectively. See Synonyms at handle.
 sufficient power. Vengeful teens develop mistaken beliefs that lead them to a strategy of "hitting back" against those whom they believe thwart their ideas about what they need. Revenge-oriented adolescents feel hurt by life, and so their behavior is designed to strike back, resulting in teens whose parents no longer like them (Walton, 1996).

Teens who act with revenge retaliate against both themselves and others. Social deviance can result and can lead to actions that require legal remedies A legal remedy is the means by which a court of law, usually in the exercise of civil law jurisdiction, enforces a right, imposes a penalty, or makes some other court order to impose its will. In Commonwealth common law jurisdictions and related jurisdictions (e.g. . Teens who are discouraged have difficulty finding positive ways to find their place in society and to feel like they belong. In their deprivation, they distress adults by associating with peers in ways that are risky and self-defeating such as harassing teachers, avoiding school, using drugs and alcohol, and engaging in irresponsible ir·re·spon·si·ble  
1. Marked by a lack of responsibility: irresponsible accusations.

2. Lacking a sense of responsibility; unreliable or untrustworthy.

 sexual activity Christensen (1993).

Assumed Inadequacy

Dreikurs identified a fourth mistaken goal: inadequacy. Feeling inadequate means feeling helpless. Teens give up when they have tried and failed to gain the attention and power that they feel they need and deserve. When the world does not respond to them as they desire, teens can assume a posture of helplessness and inadequacy. Manaster and Corsini (1982) summarized:
   The fourth goal of children who misbehave is the worst of all: inadequacy.
   This is a difficult goal for some people to understand. Such children in
   effect state through their behavior that they cannot succeed in life, that
   they are helpless. Their goal is to display inadequacy, not even bothering
   to try to operate in a useful way. Such a child gains whatever scraps of
   attention are granted to the inadequate. If you do not try, you cannot
   fail. (p. 76)

A key characteristic in teens who display inadequacy as a general attitude toward life is that "they are highly concerned about falling short" (Walton, 1996, p. 20). In order to relieve themselves of responsibilities, these teens decrease their involvement in school, avoid spending time "Spending Time" is the first single released by Christian artist Stellar Kart.

The lyrics describe the band members desire to spend "more time with God". "Sometimes it’s a real struggle to spend time with God.
 in their homes, and associate with other teens who have taken a similar position about life. Teens who feel inadequate can be found slumping in front of the television, hanging on street corners, or engaging in obvious self-destructive behaviors. In the worst situations, the ultimate goal of inadequacy can lead finally to teen depression, psychosis psychosis (sīkō`sĭs), in psychiatry, a broad category of mental disorder encompassing the most serious emotional disturbances, often rendering the individual incapable of staying in contact with reality. , or even schizophrenia schizophrenia (skĭt'səfrē`nēə), group of severe mental disorders characterized by reality distortions resulting in unusual thought patterns and behaviors.  when they give up completely, creating for themselves a kind of emotional suicide (Manaster & Corsini, 1982).

In summary, teens want to feel important, to belong, to matter. Most teens learn to be productive contributors in society, but some teens become defeated and can go astray a·stray  
1. Away from the correct path or direction. See Synonyms at amiss.

2. Away from the right or good, as in thought or behavior; straying to or into wrong or evil ways.
. Mostly, teens raised in a democratic atmosphere at home and at school learn to feel encouraged and optimistic op·ti·mist  
1. One who usually expects a favorable outcome.

2. A believer in philosophical optimism.

, because they know how to gain appropriate recognition and control over their lives. Most teens move toward socially useful behaviors and contribute to the common good. Most teens demonstrate courage, self-restraint, and a keen desire to move forward in life in useful and positive ways. These are the teens which society embraces and holds up as model citizens for our future.

In contract, there are teens who do not learn to contribute, who instead become discouraged, either because of unfortunate life situations or despite the quality of their upbringing up·bring·ing  
The rearing and training received during childhood.


the education of a person during his or her formative years

Noun 1.
. Some teens become demoralized de·mor·al·ize  
tr.v. de·mor·al·ized, de·mor·al·iz·ing, de·mor·al·iz·es
1. To undermine the confidence or morale of; dishearten: an inconsistent policy that demoralized the staff.
 in their attempt to find their place in life and decide instead to pursue mistaken goals. They misguidedly pursue recognition and power, but they fail to achieve constructive results, and so they participate instead on the useless side of life. Teens who are not redeemed by parents, teachers, and counselors can become both self-destructive and socially deviant. Corrective measures can be taken only when we identify and understand teens' mistaken goals.


Concerned about her son's behavior, mom brings Ron to you, a mental health counselor.

Ron is a junior in high school, the middle of three children, and lives with his father and mother in a middle-class, suburban neighborhood. Increasingly sullen sul·len  
adj. sul·len·er, sul·len·est
1. Showing a brooding ill humor or silent resentment; morose or sulky.

2. Gloomy or somber in tone, color, or portent: sullen, gray skies.
, moody, and combative com·bat·ive  
Eager or disposed to fight; belligerent. See Synonyms at argumentative.

com·bative·ly adv.
 around the house, Ron frequently ignores requests by his parents and fails to complete his household chores. Recently, Mom overheard Ron say on the phone to one of his friends, "I won't do what my parents want, no matter what they say or do to me."

After a recent family meal, Ron's parents restated the list of chores for which each of their children were responsible and requested that they all do a better job of completing their tasks. In this way, they were making it clear that everyone in the family shares responsibility for their home. As the discussion progressed, Ron stood up, left the dinner table, and walked away saying, "This feels so childish child·ish  
1. Of, relating to, or suitable for a child or childhood: a high, childish voice; childish nightmares.

. If I don't want to obey all these rules, who is going to make me?" Thoroughly provoked, Ron's mother chased after him and shouted for him to come back to the table. Instead, Ron locked himself in his room.

In addition to not wanting to complete his household tasks, Ron has become increasingly belligerent with his younger brother Wiki is aware of the following uses of "'Younger Brother":
  • Younger Brother (music group)
  • Younger Brother (Trinity House) - a title within the British organisation, Trinity House
, who shares his room. In a recent argument, Ron almost came to blows with his sibling sibling /sib·ling/ (sib´ling) any of two or more offspring of the same parents; a brother or sister.

 after he complained about Ron's messy mess·y  
adj. mess·i·er, mess·i·est
1. Disorderly and dirty: a messy bedroom.

2. Exhibiting or demonstrating carelessness: messy reasoning.
 life-style and the disorder in their room. Because they share responsibility for the room's cleanliness Cleanliness
See also Orderliness.

Cleverness (See CUNNING.)


unkempt herself, demands cleanliness from others, especially children. [Ger. Folklore: Leach, 137]


continually “washes” itself.
, the brother felt discouraged that it was always messy and confronted Ron about the problem. Ron yelled yell  
v. yelled, yell·ing, yells

To cry out loudly, as in pain, fright, surprise, or enthusiasm.
To utter or express with a loud cry. See Synonyms at shout.

, "Damn it DAMN IT

acronym for a clinical investigation plan, based on probable pathophysiologic causes of the disease present. It consists of Degenerative, developmental; Allergic, autoimmune; Metabolic, mechanical; Nutritional, neoplastic; I
, this is my room, too, and no one is going to get in my way about the way I live!"

Ron's mother is angry and bewildered about Ron's increasingly sour mood. She thinks that her other children feel threatened by him and stay out of his way. She believes that Ron is a growing threat to the stability of the family. She feels powerless, does not know what to do, and asks you for help in dealing with Ron's increasingly challenging behavior.


This case study is familiar to mental health counselors. Teens often change the home environment by their surly and volatile behavior. Family equilibrium and harmony are upset. Siblings appear to be in greater conflict. One or both parents, feeling concerned and responsible, turn to a mental health counselor for assistance. Predictably, the parent or parents want some type of immediate response to aid them in dealing with their challenging teen.

In responding to this case study, be reminded of Adler's premise that Ron's underlying goal must be understood before any change can be expected. Because Ron's behavior is purposeful and goal-directed, and because he is pursuing something of high value even though he knows that his actions disturb the family, he is not likely to be easily persuaded to stop misbehaving. Ron is behaving in contrary ways with reason and purpose. Mental health counselors will recognize that the first step in offering assistance to Ron's mother is to help her understand the possible unconscious goal or goals behind Ron's behavior. When the goal is uncovered, a meaningful response can lead to more appropriate ways for Ron to behave (Grunwald & McAbee, 1999).

For a starting point for understanding the goal or goals underlying Ron's behavior in the home, see Table. Mental health counselors would establish rapport The former name of device management software from Wyse Technology, San Jose, CA ( that is designed to centrally control up to 100,000+ devices, including Wyse thin clients (see Winterm), Palm, PocketPC and other mobile devices.  with Ron's mother and gain a clear understanding of her description of the problem, then they would show her that his behavior is goal-directed, that Ron is likely using his behavior to "say something" to his parents.

Mental health counselors have several ways to identify teens' goals for misbehavior, one of the most powerful of which is to look at what parents do when their children misbehave mis·be·have  
v. mis·be·haved, mis·be·hav·ing, mis·be·haves

To behave badly.
, paying specific attention to how parents emotionally respond (Dreikurs, 1992). It is vital that we steer parents away from any response that could result in a combat of wills or that could escalate es·ca·late  
v. es·ca·lat·ed, es·ca·lat·ing, es·ca·lates
To increase, enlarge, or intensify: escalated the hostilities in the Persian Gulf.

 to violence. Parents' emotional reactions to teen misbehavior reveal important clues to teen intent and message. By monitoring parents' emotional reactions, mental health counselors can instruct in·struct  
v. in·struct·ed, in·struct·ing, in·structs
1. To provide with knowledge, especially in a methodical way. See Synonyms at teach.

2. To give orders to; direct.

 parents and teachers to identify the "hidden reasons" for the misbehavior and can help them to develop appropriate responses accordingly (Grunwald & McAbee, 1999).

Mental health counselors who investigate Ron's parent's emotional reactions to his behavior would see that they have arrived at their "boiling point boiling point, temperature at which a substance changes its state from liquid to gas. A stricter definition of boiling point is the temperature at which the liquid and vapor (gas) phases of a substance can exist in equilibrium. " and, at times, feel like "slapping him up side the head." Parents in general, and Ron's parents in particular, believe they are out of options and can rely only upon serious punishment. Investigations into parent reactions to teen misbehavior clearly reveal that a power struggle is enacted between parents and teens. This information is the mental health counselor's first clue. In frustration, the family is fighting. Arguments at the dinner table can precipitate precipitate /pre·cip·i·tate/ (-sip´i-tat)
1. to cause settling in solid particles of substance in solution.

2. a deposit of solid particles settled out of a solution.

3. occurring with undue rapidity.
 a physical altercation in an effort to control the misbehaving teen.

Further inquiry reveals Ron's mother's emotional response to his behavior. She reports that feelings of anger and fear are intensifying in·ten·si·fy  
v. in·ten·si·fied, in·ten·si·fy·ing, in·ten·si·fies
1. To make intense or more intense:
 in herself, her husband, and her children in relation to Ron's behaviors. Each episode with Ron seems to inch his defiance Defiance, city (1990 pop. 16,768), seat of Defiance co., NW Ohio, at the confluence of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers, in a farm area; settled 1790, inc. 1836. Its manufactures include machinery and food, fabricated-metal, and glass products. Gen.  in the family a level higher. This family has never experienced such a challenge to its unity with the other children, and Ron's mother worries that this problem may be unsolvable.

Two clues are now exposed. First, Ron's behavior and his parents' response indicate that they appear to be locked in a power struggle. Second, the fact that they might be in a power struggle is confirmed by the emotional responses of the family in general to Ron's specific behaviors. When we examine the Table, we see that Ron appears to be chasing a mistaken goal of power. As a high school junior, Ron no longer wants to be "bossed" by his parents or anyone else, and instead wants to be the boss of his own life. Ron seeks to obtain greater ownership over his own affairs and to enjoy more autonomy in his lifestyle. This does not come as a surprise. A desire for autonomy and independence is a natural progression, and the stage for the challenge is usually the home where conflict generally pertains to daily routines rather than key value issues (Ambert, 2001).

Mental health counselors can help parents such as Ron's mother speculate about the possible goal of the behavior, using the Table to help glean glean  
v. gleaned, glean·ing, gleans

To gather grain left behind by reapers.
1. To gather (grain) left behind by reapers.

 more appropriate strategies to deal with misbehaviors when they occur. Certainly, power struggles between teens and their parents must avoid shouting and violence of any form and can be handled courteously cour·te·ous  
Characterized by gracious consideration toward others. See Synonyms at polite.

[Middle English corteis, courtly, from Old French, from cort, court; see
 and respectfully re·spect·ful  
Showing or marked by proper respect.

re·spectful·ly adv.
. Parents must first model positive behaviors to reduce conflict so that teens can learn the same. Firm, calm, clear, and kind guidance will best serve the struggling teen to learn appropriate ways to gain power and respect. In a respectful re·spect·ful  
Showing or marked by proper respect.

re·spectful·ly adv.
 environment, teens like Ron can learn new roles with all family members. In return for fewer imposed parental rules, the idea of responsibilities toward each other can emerge, with attendant consequences when family members do not honor their obligations. In addition to Ron, the other children could benefit from family meetings where they can learn their current and future roles as members of their family. Family meetings are essential if families are to be sanctuaries of calmness, order, and respect (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990). Family meetings were also encouraged by Manaster and Corsini (1982), when they wrote:
   the anger and violence that are a natural concomitant of an undemocratic
   family, the sneaking about and lying so common in many families, the
   distrust and bad feelings that are inherent in many families and, above
   all, the constant bickering found in every undemocratic family can be
   replaced by order, good humor and good relationships simply by using the
   family council properly (p. 232).


Dreikurs' (Dreikurs & Soltz, 1990) explanation of the four mistaken goals of discouraged children, expanded by Walton (1996) to focus on teens, offers mental health counselors a useful vantage point for speculation about the motivations of teen behavior. Parents seek help to correct their teens' disturbing behavior, and Dreikurs and Walton explain these motivations and provide clues to help improve teen life and the relationships between the generations. Using the content in the Table, mental health counselors can find clues to help parents answer questions such as: What is the problem? What can family members do when teens misbehave? How do parents and other family members feel in response to the teen's behavior? Answers to these questions can reveal the teen goals. Understanding these goals is the first step in developing an appropriate response.

Mental health counselors who work with teens and their families must keep a watchful watch·ful  
1. Closely observant or alert; vigilant: kept a watchful eye on the clock. See Synonyms at aware, careful.

2. Archaic Not sleeping; awake.
 eye to the fact that some of what parents label "disturbing behavior" by their teenage sons or daughters is actually the young person's cry for greater interdependence in·ter·de·pen·dent  
Mutually dependent: "Today, the mission of one institution can be accomplished only by recognizing that it lives in an interdependent world with conflicts and overlapping interests" 
 and responsibility. Most teens want success not only for themselves and their peers, but for their family members as well. When teens are stifled sti·fle 1  
v. sti·fled, sti·fling, sti·fles
1. To interrupt or cut off (the voice, for example).

, discouragement can set in, and they can rebel. Mental health counselors can minimize some confrontations between teens and their parents by assuming the position of coach to parents to help them learn to offer increased teen responsibility in the service of greater interdependence in the family. Better communication and increased support for teen autonomy and responsibility can result in more positive goals and more useful behaviors by teens. Walton (1996) offers us the guidance that we need in such matters:
   To encourage another human being is to convey to him or her that you have
   faith in him or her as he or she is. The teenager watches closely for signs
   that he or she has what it takes to bridge the gap from childhood to
   adulthood. It is highly encouraging for him or her to feel the quiet
   confidence of his or her mother and father that conveys the message,
   "Knowing you, you will find a way to handle the problem that faces you."
   (p. 17)
Table 1. Alderian-Based Responses to Teen Behavior

In response to the     And tends to       And if the teen's
teen's behavior, if     react by:         response is:
the counselor,
parent, or teacher

Annoyed              Stopping to pay      Stops temporarily.
Irritated            attention            but later resumes
Worried              Allowing             same or another
Guilty               interruptions        disturbing
                     Spending undue       behavior.
                     time with the teen
                     Seeking to avoid
                     the teen

Angry                Arguing.             Intensifies
Provoked             Fighting. Giving     behavior. Defiant
Challenged           in. Thinking: "You   compliance.
Threatened           can't get away       Passive power.
Defeated             with that." I'll     Feels he or she
                     make you."           has won when
                     Wanting to be        parents and/or
                     right.               other family
                                          members are

Hurt                 Retaliating.         Retaliation
Disappointed         Getting even.        intensifies.
Disbelieving         Thinking "How        Escalates the
Disgusted            could you do this    same behavior or
                     to me?"              chooses another.

Despair              Giving up.           Retreats further.
Hopeless             Doing things for     Passive. No
Helpless             resident. Over-      improvement. No
                     helping.             response.

The teen's goal is   The belief behind      The parent,
likely:              the teen's             teacher, or
                     behavior is            counselor's
                     possibly:              alternatives

Undue attention      "I count (belong)      "I care about you
(to keep others      only when I'm          and will spend
busy or to get       being noticed or       time with you
special service).    getting special        later." Give
                     service. I'm only      positive attention
                     important when         at other times.
                     I'm keeping you        Avoid special
                     busy with me."         service. Say it
                                            only once, then
                                            move on.
                                            Encourage. Plan
                                            special times.
                                            Ignore, if
                                            necessary. Set-up
                                            nonverbal signals.

Power (to be         "I belong only         Don't fight and
boss)                when I'm boss or       don't give in.
                     in control, or         Leave and calm
                     proving that no        down. Withdraw
                     one can boss me.       from the conflict.
                     You can't make         Do the
                     me."                   unexpected. Be
                                            firm and kind.
                                            Act, but don't talk
                                            at length, Take
                                            time to decide
                                            what to do. Let
                                            policies and
                                            routines be the
                                            boss. Develop
                                            mutual respect.
                                            Give limited
                                            choices. Set
                                            reasonable and
                                            few limits.
                                            Practice follow-
                                            Redirect to
                                            positive power.
                                            Include teen in
                                            the change

Revenge (to get      "I don't think I       Deal with hurt
even).               belong, so I'll hurt   feelings. Avoid
                     others as I feel       feeling hurt. Find
                     hurt. I can't be       out what is
                     liked or loved."       bothering the
                                            teen. Help teen
                                            feel safe. Avoid
                                            punishment and
                                            retaliation. Build
                                            trust. Use
                                            listening. Share
                                            your feelings.
                                            Make amends.
                                            Show you care.
                                            Act. but don't talk
                                            at length.
                                            of strengths.

Inadequacy (give     "I can't belong        Show faith.
up and want to       because I'm not        Encourage small
be left alone).      perfect, so I'll       steps. Stop all
                     convince others        criticism.
                     not to expect          Encourage any
                     anything of me. I      positive attempt,
                     am helpless and        no matter how
                     unable. It's no        small. Focus on
                     use trying             assets. Don't give
                     because I won't        up. Help find
                     do it right."          avenues for
                                            success. Don't
                                            get drawn into
                                            excessive care
                                            taking and over-


Ambert, A. (2001). Families in the new millennium. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Christensen, O. (1993). Adlerian family counseling. Minneapolis: Educational Media Corporation.

Dreikurs, R. (1992). The challenge of parenthood. New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of
: Penguin Group.

Dreikurs, R., & Soltz, V. (1990). Children the challenge. New York: Penguin Group.

Grunwald, B., & McAbee, H. (1999). Guiding the family: Practical counseling techniques (2nd ed.). Philadelphia: Accelerated Development.

Manaster, G., & Corsini, R. (1982). Individual psychology: Theory and practice. Chicago: Adler School of Professional Psychology Adler School of Professional Psychology is a graduate school of psychology located in Chicago, Illinois. Founded in 1952 and named for Alfred Adler, the school offers a doctorate in clinical psychology (Psy.D.) and several masters programs. .

Mosak, H., & Maniacci, M. (1999). A primer prim·er
A segment of DNA or RNA that is complementary to a given DNA sequence and that is needed to initiate replication by DNA polymerase.
 of Adlerian psychology: The analytic-behavioral-cognitive psychology of Alfred Adler. Philadelphia: Brunner/Mazel.

Turner, J., & Pew, W. (1978). The courage to be imperfect imperfect: see tense. : The life and works of Rudolf Dreikurs. New York: Hawthorn hawthorn, any species of the genus Crataegus of the family Rosaceae (rose family), shrubs and trees widely distributed in north temperate climates and especially common in E North America.  Books.

Walton, F. (1996). Winning teenagers over in home and school: A manual for parents, teachers, counselors and principals. Columbia, SC: Adlerian Child Care Books.

Roger A. Ballou, Ph.D., is dean of students and apart-time instructor in the University Honors Program at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls Nicknamed the Falcons, the University has eighteen varsity sports for men and women competing in Division III of the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Kansas City Chiefs also use many of the university's athletic facilities during their annual summer training camp. . He is also a marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email:
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Title Annotation:Counseling Adolescents
Author:Ballou, Roger A.
Publication:Journal of Mental Health Counseling
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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