The 4C approach isn’t about looking “perfect” or “getting it right” so you fit a certain mold. And, these ideas aren’t based on trends or fads. It is a deeply rooted theory based on four key principles, The Four Crucial Cs*. They are building blocks, like Legos, and you can build on these core principles in many ways. Ultimately, it is about raising citizens who can work together to build a more inclusive, respectful, and strong civilization. There are so many ways you can build on it every day, including:

Connect: one discovers, “I belong.”

  • Treat everyone with dignity and respect.
  • Be curious about the things that interest another and the things you don’t understand.
  • Acknowledge wishes (yours and theirs).
  • Mirror feelings, wishes, and needs in a kind way while holding limits firmly, kindly, courageously.
  • Notice what works. See another’s strengths and hold onto them when they are temporarily forgotten.
  • Give appreciation.

Capable: One discovers, “I can do it. I can be competent.”

  • Provide multiple opportunities for choice and empowerment, within the needs of the situation.
  • Train in life skills. 
  • Step aside and let another try, even when you can do it faster or better.
  • Share your own mistakes. 
  • Set clear boundaries.
  • Hold yourself accountable.

Count: One discovers, “I matter here.”

  • Model how to have hard conversations: what it means to listen before you speak. Then, own your own part of the mess when you don’t get it right.
  • Learn how to identify the needs of the situation. It isn’t simply about me getting my way or you getting your way, rather: What needs to happen here and what might we do together to meet the current situation? 
  • Preview: share the limits and expectations for an upcoming event or situation and invite everyone to brainstorm how to work within the needs of the situation.
  • Come to shared agreements and then hold up your side of the agreement without rescuing, shaming, blaming, or punishment.

Courage: One discovers, “I can handle hard things.”

  • Express confidence that they have what it takes when something is hard, and resist the temptation to fix it or make it even a little easier. 
  • Encourage community engagement and community concern (social interest).
  • Let them know through your actions as well as words that to be lovable, they don’t have to be perfect.
  • Grow your own internal garden and encourage your children to have their own gardens – and honor the boundaries, not needing to be invited into theirs. 

Principles that work…and are an investment in the future

This structure includes strategies that are practical in the moment and provide a game plan to build a better world tomorrow. It is a structure that will support you and the whole family to grow and enjoy the journey together along the way. 

Because these core needs are essential, if we don’t believe we have them, we must seek them and if we don’t find them in our community, we’ll continue looking for them on the useless side of life. For example, joining a gang provides the core needs, in a tenuous way:

  1. A person finds belonging within the group, except that belonging is dependent on their willingness to do things and behave in ways that are not good for others.
  2. One feels more capable and powerful, except at the expense of making someone else feel weaker, smaller.
  3. One has the experience that they count and have significance, as long as they can hurt others and stay on top.
  4. One may experience fleeting courage, however, there is fear in the background, one knows they can’t leave the gang safely.

We will look for these core needs because we deeply need them. As the adults, we need to provide and encourage, and pass them to the next generation of world citizens.


This theory is based on Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology and the thoughtful writing, teaching and work of many Adlerians who applied his ideas including: Lydia Sicher, Hanz and Rowena Ansbacher, Rudolf Dreikurs, John Platt, Barbara Fairfield, Karen John, Linda Jessup, Lynn Lott, Jody McVittie, and many others.

 *Betty Lou Bettner and Amy Lew identified the Four Crucial Cs based on Alfred Adler’s essential needs: belonging, improvement, significance, and encouragement.