The Child - Its Mental Development
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
IF you could look into the human skull, you would see that it is divided into two hemispheres, a right and a left lobe. All development is determined by the development of one of these two hemispheres, while the other lies, as it were, dormant, ready for emergencies, if anything happens to any portion of the other. Right-handed persons develop the left lobe; left-handed persons develop the right lobe; and this extends through the entire development of all the senses. There is a visual area, there is an aural area, and so on. Now this development, as it goes on, develops tiny fibres with each repetition, so that the various areas connect with each other and help each other. Therefore, all mental development is in a sense a multiple development, eye, ear, and lips cooperating to fix the place in the brain and make for cooperation in the normal child.
Thus, for example, you do not call a person who has but one eye blind; you do not call a person who is deaf in one ear deaf; but this means that one portion of the organism by which these senses are developed is unfit, and usually it means that the other is more intensely acute. Blind people hear more acutely than those who see ; deaf people are more observing than those who can hear, and so on. Where one sense is inhibited for any reason, the other senses rush to its aid by a higher development and a more intensive functioning.
The great aim in watching the mental development lies in that by this means we discover in time for their remedying, defects which if taken in time can be altered. Many children develop jealousy, or sulkiness, or other qualities, through careless mental development, and many children are called backward who are merely under-developed.
Almost all the usual defects in children are ascribed sooner or later to nervousness. Now there is such a thing, of course. But generally speaking, such nervousness merely means unusual emphasis in one direction, to the exclusion of others, and when the mental operations are regularly distributed, and the powers evenly exercised, these nervous symptoms often disappear. What are called nervous children are usually children who have been unevenly developed, just as eye strain may upset the entire nervous organization—not nervousness, but an eye trouble. We must be careful to distinguish these things.
The same may be said of some of the commonest afflictions of Raising Children, like night terrors and the like. Parents often are fearful of what they call "crowding" their Raising Children, imagining that it is this pressure which is causing the trouble. It may merely be a matter of diet ; but, in any case, it arises from some form of over-emphasis and needs usually merely a corresponding emphasis in other directions to neutralize the over-emphasis in the particular one which is causing the trouble. There are, of course, certain standards by which children may be classified ; but the great rule is that every child is a new creation by itself and must be permitted to live by its own rule, rather than by some supposed standard, valuable as such standards are. Here the question arises as to what the factors of mental development actually are.