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Rudolf Dreikurs on Why Children Misbehave

Rudolf Dreikurs was born on February 8, 1897 in Austria and died on May 25, 1972. He was living in Chicago at the time of his death. Dreikurs was very societal with his studies, findings, and contributions in psychology until the time of his death. While being educated in psychology, Dreikurs become close to fellow psychologist, Alfred Adler; in fact, after Adler’s death, Dreikurs continued Adler’s lecture tour in Scotland. Dreikurs used a lot of what he learned from Adler in his own works, as well as ideas and concepts that he and Adler came up with together as colleagues.

Principle Teachings

One of Dreikurs’ most renowned and important teachings was that of individual psychology and the method used to understand why children misbehave. He also came up with different methods of how to get these misbehaving child to behave without resorting to punishment or rewards. His understanding of why children misbehaved was because they did not feel any significance within their social group; by misbehaving, they would be able to get the attention that they strived for.

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Dreikurs took the aforementioned theory a few steps further by applying the same principles to humans in general.

Behavior was not something that was based on genetics or by someone being outside the control of outside forces, but by the need to feel significant in a social situation, whether it was with a group or within a personal relationship. He went on to state that people bring about what they expect in social settings and situations, saying, “Anticipation influences outcome [… ] Anyone who can alter the expectations of people can change their behavior (Dreikurs, 1964).

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” Dreikurs believed that encouragement and positive support are what encourages positive changes in the behavior of a person.

He felt that a person should not be punished or rewarded for how they behaved, as this would insinuate that they were acting in ways that could be considered good or bad. Rather, he concluded that all that was needed was support from others within the group, positive emotions that would allow the other person to not feel insignificant within the social setting. Contributions to the field of classroom management Due to his studies and teachings in regards to behavior in children, Dreikurs contributed a lot the classroom management.

The younger children are within a classroom, the more erratic their behavior can be. Many teachers resorted to punishing children when they showed “negative” behavior and praising them when they showed “positive” behavior (Cassel, 2004). Dreikurs, however, was able to show that punishment and reward would not suffice, as children would only display the behavior again later on; Dreikurs believed that by merely supporting and encouraging agreeable behavior, children would learn to rely solely on it.

With these concepts in mind, teachers would be able to help children feel less insignificant in their social groups. When they would get the encouragement for their behavior, they would display that behavior more. This would be opposed to being negatively or positively punished or rewarded, which would only influence more unwanted behavior from the child.


  1. Cassel, P. & Dreikurs, R. (2004). Discipline without tears. New York: Wiley, John & Sons, Incorporated.
  2. Dreikurs, R. (1964). Children: The Challenge. New York: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated.

Cite this page

Rudolf Dreikurs on Why Children Misbehave. (2016, Aug 04). Retrieved from

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