Dokončuje se dokumentární film Svobodné děti o dětech a rodičích, kteří zvolili sebeřízené vzdělávání. Více informací zde.



Od 9. do 13. 11. proběhne první online konference pro rodiče a učitele MŠ. Každý den se otevřou další rozhovory s lektorkami (je mezi nimi i dr. Nováčková). Registrace byla zahájena, více na Růst společně.


Rozhovor B. Kartouse a A. Sbouli s J. Nováčkovou o špatných základech školského systému, ale také o přepracovaném vydání knihy Respektovat a být respektován. 







Jana Nováčková

This book addresses the risks associated with raising children using a model grounded in unequal, power-based relationships between adults and children. In addition, the book illustrates the advantages of parenting from a “partnership perspective”, which is based on equality and maintaining respect for a child's dignity. 


“Take a look, kids, at how nicely Anna has done her homework! Great job Anna, you get an A!”

“If I have to repeat it one more time, you're not coming with us on the trip!”

“Hurry up! Stop dawdling! It's impossible with you, I can't take you anywhere.”

“You have to realize that you can’t behave like this to each other! You can't do things to others that you don't want done to you! Go and apologize to Milan! And you will buy him a new compass to replace the one you broke!”

Many people consider the above sentences to be harmless, necessary, or even effective ways to teach children how to be well-behaved, hard-working, responsible and have good values. In the book, Respektovat a být respektován (Respect is a Two-Way Street), my colleagues Pavel Kopřiva, Dobromila Nevolová, Tatjana Kopřivová, and I disagree, offering an alternate perspective.

This book addresses the risks associated with raising children using a model grounded in unequal, power-based relationships between adults and children. In addition, the book illustrates the advantages of parenting from a “partnership perspective”, which is based on equality and maintaining respect for a child's dignity. 

These two basic models of relationships are represented throughout the book with simple illustrations. A pair of equally-sized stick figures represents a respectful relationship; a second pair consists of one large and one small stick figure to symbolize the authoritarian, power-based relationship.

Everything covered in Respektovat a být respektován (Respect is a Two-Way Street), from general perspectives and approaches to specific wording of sentences, such as those listed above, directly relates back to these two basic concepts of how to build relationships.

Here is a brief synopsis of the 15 chapters.


I. Setting Boundaries is Necessary - The Question is how we Create Them: A Partnership Approach vs. a Power-Based Approach to Raising Children and Building Relationships

We are convinced that it is not enough to simply love a child, but that valuing respect and creating a sense of “partnership” between adult and child are fundamental to a healthy upbringing. The term “partnership approach” has recently become a vague buzzword. In this chapter, we describe our understanding of this concept and how it contrasts with what adults often say  to children who aren't on their best behaviour. Even adults who are trying to use a partnership approach often struggle in these challenging situations, unconsciously reverting back to power-based or authoritarian approaches.

We are clear about the absolute necessity of setting boundaries. The difference between democratic, partnership-based and authoritarian parenting approaches isn’t that everything is permitted in the first and tightly controlled in the second. The difference lies in the way in which the rules and boundaries are established. In terms of communication and behaviour, we have not found any good reason to justify treating children differently than how we expect to be treated as adults and how we treat adults whom we care about.

The environment in which children grow up is formative in how they view the world and how they will create relationships with the people in their lives. If a child grows up within in a power-based model, he is then predisposed to react to situations either by fighting for this power and control (through defiance, disobedience) or, alternatively, by continuing to take on the role of the “smaller stick figure” and remain passively obedient. Defiant and disobedient children are a large cause for worry for most parents. However, most adults would not see the risk in raising an obedient child. We examine how this should be equally worrisome and discuss this topic in more depth in Chapter XIII.


II.  Talking, Talking, Talking... But Somehow it's not Working:

Disrespectful Ways of Communication

Having defined the basic premise and terminology of the book, in Chapter II we go on to discuss some of the most commonly used, disrespectful ways of communicating with children.

1.  You always....!  You never...! If you would just ...! (using guilt and blame)

2.  You've got to understand that ... (lecturing, repeatedly explaining, moralizing)

3.  What is this?! You've done it all wrong.  (criticism, focusing on errors)

4.   I went to all this trouble and you ... (emotional blackmail)

5.  Don't...you're going to fall...(warnings, improvised rules)

6.  Just what kind of adult will you grow up to be?! ... (negative scenarios and predictions)

7.  He's just...shy...so lazy…. (labelling)

8.  Tie your shoes, put on your jacket, don't forget your lunch... (“everyday instructions”/“nagging”)

9.  Go and do it NOW ...! (orders/commands)

10.  Stop it... or else ...! So help me, if ...! (threats)

11. Shouting (a non-verbal expression of anger or helplessness often accompanying threats and commands)

12. Take a look at how so-and-so has...., Your brother always ... See how nicely so-and-so .... (comparisons, using others as examples)

13. Don't you want to...? Why …? (rhetorical questions)

14. You're such a... (insults, humiliation)

15. Oh, our little Einstein!  (irony, belittling, sarcasm)

We believe that all of the examples above, without exception, are expressions of disrespectful, power-based attitudes towards children. All of us are familiar with at least some of these phrases or even remember how an adult spoke to us in this way when we were young. To understand why they are ineffective, we must look at how the human brain works.

When we feel threatened, our energy becomes focused on survival. This is simply the age-old “Flight or Fight” response exhibited by all animals. The types of communication listed above pose real threats to our sense of self-worth and our dignity. In these moments “under attack”, it is impossible to focus attention on what was wrong and what should be done to fix it. This is true for both children and adults. Since these forms of communication prevent us, as humans, from dealing with the situation rationally, we find them highly ineffective in addressing problematic situations.


III. Accepting the Child as a Good Person and

Looking at Isolated Behaviours Which Need Improvement:

Respectful Communication Skills and How to Start Using Them

1.   I see (hear, notice) that ... (description, statement)

2.  It's ...; To do this, we need to....; We can do it (like this, and like this) ...; It helps when ..., When ..., then ... (information and communicating it)

3.  I expect ... It would help me if ... (expressing your own expectations and needs)

4.  So, like this... or like this ...? You choose. (constructing choices and options)

5. George, dishes! George, the garbage! (Simplifying, using nouns instead of commands)

6. What can we do about it now? What do you think? (Making space for children's participation and contributions)

This chapter provides alternatives to the disrespectful, ineffective communication styles discussed in Chapter 2. Fewer positive approaches are listed here, as opposed to the negative forms noted in the previous chapter. However, each new communication skill is described in great detail and they can be combined in a variety of ways to be extremely versatile. We have included many practice exercises describing specific scenarios and ideal outcomes for readers to try out for themselves.


IV. We Need Others to be Understanding and Accept our Feelings When we are Feeling Upset: Dealing with Negative Emotions

Most adults have experienced a situation where a child has been sad, frustrated or angry and discovered that our attempt to calm him down has only had the opposite effect - the child became more emotional and upset! This chapter not only suggests what to do and what not to do when children are caught in an emotional state, but also what adults can do when emotionally overwhelmed. We explore how to communicate assertively while taking care not to exacerbate the argument. The key to good communication is an empathetic response and the use of “I - statements”. This chapter also offers exercises to help put these skills into practice.


V. + VI. “And as your punishment, you must...”

Risks Associated with Punishments and Alternatives to Punishments - An Overview of Parenting Approaches and Communication Skills

Unlike other parenting books which warn against extreme forms of punishment but nonetheless agree that some form of punishment is necessary and effective, we are strictly opposed to all forms of punishments. In the following chapter we explain the logic behind this argument and give reasons for our opposition to the use of punishments. Even for those already following a partnership approach, addressing extreme situations can be a great challenge. How are we supposed to manage those situations which can push us to feel like incompetent parents if we did not, as an exception, punish our children in that moment? The key is encouraging the child to take part in resolving the situation.


VII.  “If you're good, you'll get a reward.... Look at Mommy's big girl!”

The Risks of Praising and Rewarding Good Behaviour and Suggested Alternatives

Psychological studies [including, Pink’s and Kohn’s extensive work in this field] have shown that not only do rewards fail to increase genuine interest in an activity, but in fact contribute to diminishing it! Accepting this, we must then ask ourselves: Why are reward systems are so frequently used both at home and at school? Perhaps this is because rewards, like punishment, often function as a quick fix. The immediate effect of these “solutions”, however, often masks the long-term negative effects of using rewards to motivate.

A closer look at the inner workings of reward systems helps explain why so many first graders, who enter school as enthusiastic learners, quite quickly turn into “grade collectors” and become disinterested in learning material that will not be graded.

In addition to “rewards” it is important that we clarify our definitions of related terms, including “praise”, “appreciation” and “feedback” to ensure the basis for our following discussion is clear. We also examine ways to support a child's effort when he is succeeding, without encouraging an unhealthy attachment to adults' opinions. It is important to note that the risk attached to cultivating a dependence on adults' approval is two-fold. It can motivate children to do things solely to gain acceptance from authority figures. Alternatively, it can backfire, and allow children in an act of defiance to show that such praise is of no value to them.


VIII.  The Ol' Carrot and Stick Approach vs. Cultivating a Sense of Self-Motivation: Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic Motivation

We conclude our discussion on punishments and rewards with this chapter on motivation. Here we explain why dividing motivation into “positive” (rewards) and “negative” (punishments) forms does not help us understand how motivation actually works. It is more useful to identify intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivation and examine the influence they each have on human behaviour. Extrinsic forms are commonly used to “motivate” children to perform. However, they also serve to encourage the development of bad habits - including idleness, low-quality work, waiting complacently for directives and lack of initiative. From experience we all know these problems are not confined to children's behaviour, but too often extend into adulthood. In an attempt to prevent the “inevitability” of such behaviours developing, we examine four main pillars for cultivating intrinsic motivation. These include making work meaningful, encouraging cooperation whenever possible, providing the freedom to choose and creating systems for feedback. These four principles can also act as a backbone of a practical guide for teachers who are searching for ways to strengthen their lesson planning and foster a more enjoyable classroom dynamic overall.


IX. What Children Need:

Guidance, Education and Fulfilment of Basic Human Needs



X. Those Who Learn to Respect Themselves, Learn to Respect Others

A Sense of Self-Worth – The Core of our Personality

Being accepted, being respected and having a solid sense of self-worth are considered to be some of the most fundamental human needs. Leaving these needs insufficiently met during childhood can create serious obstacles to the full, healthy development of a child's personality. Self-worth can be regarded as the “personality's immune system”. A child who has a strong sense of self-worth will be far more “resistant” to what we collectively refer to as social pathological disorders (smoking, drug addiction etc.). Chapters IX. and X. argue the value of investing the time in mastering the practical skills presented in the previous chapters, and applying them both at home and at school.


XI. “An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure”:

Focusing on Proactive Approaches to Fostering Good Behaviour

Many problems in raising children occur because we have not put sufficient emphasis on developing good habits and practicing communication and social skills with our children. This chapter explores how to develop these habits and skills and describes how we can avoid conflicts by creating agreements and making rules together with children. We discuss the importance of identifying and clearly explaining reasons behind requests and provide advice for building nurturing relationships.


XII. School has a Bigger Potential Than What its Conventional Form Offers

We have dedicated an entire chapter to discussing school and the role of education. Building and maintaining respectful relationships with children is not only a family’s responsibility. We are convinced that educators must begin to incorporate respectful communication skills and approaches into the school day. However, modern teaching strategies can begin to be effective only after teachers change the way they view children. A fresh perspective needs to be brought to all aspects of the education planning process. When preparing school curricula and multidisciplinary projects, teachers must go beyond the content. In addition to the subject matter, it is now necessary to start thinking about how to encourage good relations amongst children, how to create a trusting environment, how to integrate cooperation into lesson plans and how to allow children to have a say in decisions that affect them.

In this chapter we outline specific techniques which teachers can use as tools in the process of creating the atmosphere and types of relationships we speak of. These tools include guidelines for facilitating “community circles”, methods for collectively creating classroom rules and alternative approaches to evaluating children's work.


XIII. Educating for Obedience is a Threat to Democracy

 The bold title of this chapter was chosen precisely for its boldness. We hope that readers have already begun to see that the risks connected with disrespectful, power-based, authoritarian behaviour are manifold. Not only does it impact the development of individual children, it affects all of us who enjoy living in a democratic society. Obedience may appear ideal when it means our children do as we say. Though what are the risks when they’re obedient to adults harbouring attitudes we ourselves don’t approve of? How would we feel about our children growing up to be “obedient” adults? Firstly, the absence of obedience is not synonymous with disobedience. Instead of obedience, which is defined as a willingness to obey, we recommend instilling in children a sense of accountability for their actions, words and decisions. Instead of being blindly submissive to authority we want children to devise their own strategies for evaluating right vs. wrong, tools they will also need when faced with many choices throughout adolescence, and as young adults. This topic brings us full circle: When we begin to use specific means of communication with our children, based in mutual respect, we are providing them with tools to solve their own difficult situations as they grow up. We teach our children these powerful skills by using them directly with them in our daily life together.


XIV. Putting Theory into Practice

During each seminar of the course, Respektovat a být respektován (Respect is a Two-Way Street), participants have the opportunity to report back on which approaches or skills they have tried and what results they have had. This next to last chapter has grown directly out of these personal accounts. We address how to go about learning these skills described here on paper, what to avoid and how to manage situations which are not directly discussed in this book.


XV. About the Book and its Authors

This book is the product of an intense collaboration between four people. It is not merely a compilation of individual chapters written and submitted by each author. While each took on specific chapters at the beginning of the writing process, each chapter developed with contributions from all of us. The final chapter describes this collaboration process and gives insight into the history of the courses now offered by our team.

We conclude this summary of Respektovat a být respektován (Respect is a Two-Way Street) with a few quotes from our course graduates.

  1       “Even if it doesn't always work out perfectly, I [now] feel I know how to go about things better.”

  2       “It fascinates me how children react as you have suggested.”

  3       “It helps me to imagine my child as if he were an adult.”

  4       “I made a motto for myself: “Don't speak. Let the children speak!”  This has helped me so much.”

  5       “My daughter and I have stopped fighting ever since I started offering her [a pair of appropriate] choices.”

  6       “Only after beginning to use this method of interacting and communicating with my children did I actually start taking into account what they were saying. Up to that point I had tended to resolve situations quickly, brushing them aside. Now that I'm listening to my children I also see how I am learning from them. This is something I had been robbing myself of before attending the course.”




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