Book review: 不教養的勇氣 by Kishimi Ichiro

Title: 不教養的勇氣 (Meaning: The courage to not teach)
Author: 岸見一郎著、李依蒔譯
Edition: 天下文化(2016)
Period: 23-28 Aug 2018


The Japanese author Kishimi Ichiro is an Adlerian psychologist and philosopher. This is his first book on parenting, and is yet to be translated in English. His delivery is clear and crisp, repeating themes throughout the book with different examples. The abundance of real life stories easily allows the reader to feel relatable, consequently empowering one to adapt the author’s (or Adler’s) strategies.

Alfred Adler is known to purport a democratic family for the child, one where he is viewed as an equal. The goal of parenting, which is shared with Maria Montessori, is to foster independence. The path to independence is to be achieved by:

1. Understanding the objective of a child’s behaviour

The author argues that a child’s misbehaviour is utilised as a tool to attract attention, even if it is negative attention — a child doesn’t really care. It is also important to know whose attention the child is after. If the adult is agitated, it is where power struggle begins.

2. “Grace and Courtesy”

This Montessori term means teaching the child how to appropriately express or respond in a social setting, either ahead of time or at a neutral moment.

3. To be responsible for one’s mistakes, decisions and behaviour (discipline)

When the child makes a mistake (such as a mess), focus on the solution — how to fix the situation. The caregiver does not scold nor does he/she pick up after the child. The same goes for decision-making in an older child. The adult should not assist or advise the child unless his/her help is sought for. Any imposition impedes the child to acquiring and learning responsibility.

4. No praises, no scolding, no rewards, no punishments

The child shall not be motivated by external factors. The child needs to act according to his intrinsic motivation and internal thinking. We want to raise children who will do the things they see right, not to be swayed by opinions, peer pressure, or the hedonistic.

5. Give courage

Empower the child by focusing on how he contributes. This includes how he is at the present moment. The child shall not be laboured by expectations of achieving more or less, but rather embracing himself as being his best at this very moment.

6. Social belonging

Another facet of courage — the courage to belong, to relate with society. Adler sees relationship with society as a key factor of mental health. This includes an equal, fair relationship with caregivers and adults.

7. Have faith

Caregivers should have faith in the child, that he is able to make decisions for himself, to set his own objectives, and to act accordingly.

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Short chapters and abundant subtitles make this book an easy and focused read. It is highly recommended for all parents who want to see and treat their child differently — with more peace, more confidence and more individuality. Adler’s approach would be what is considered ‘respectful’ by many, although this’ a big word I hesitate to use, as well as Mr Ichiro. I also see this way of parenting as a prerequisite for implementing Montessori.

Ever since completing the book, I have seen my children in new light. I understand my 2-yo’s tantrums as deliberate actions to attract scolding (negative attention), and so I deliberately not scold, not speak, and just ignore (wait). The effect is magical — she stops crying, picks up herself, wipes her own tears and proceeds onto fixing the situation (such as spilt food and drinks), without any external help. It is as if her mind has moved on to thinking “what is the right thing to do?” I thank her for her contribution; how appreciative I am of her at present. Life is easier without passing judgments on people. Let us all be ourselves.