The Self-Assertive Child
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"HE will not seem nearly as bad when he is a man," is what is constantly said of the Self-Assertive Child. This goes to show that assertiveness is abnormal in childhood. Shrinking timidity seems far more fitting in a little newcomer into the world. We admit that he will probably make his way, but we dislike to think of him shouldering that way through life, like Dickens' Mr. Stryver.
We can give up at once in despair, saying that the Self-Assertive Child has no sense of delicacy and that no amount of training will change a coarse-grained nature to one that is fine. This is where we make our fundamental mistake. The Self-Assertive Child is not necessarily without sensibility. It may be that the interest in the thing to be done makes him push ahead, forgetful of self. Now, self-forgetfulness is admirable, but it is also true that this interest in the thing to be done may also lead to something not so admirable — forgetfulness of others. The Self-Assertive Child is not indolent, and is willing to work hard for anything he wants, but in so doing he often rides roughshod over other people's feelings. Our task is to. cultivate a regard for others.
One day his mother steals a march upon him and says, "Come, let us make bean bags as a surprise for the child who has just moved next door. I'll make the bags and leave a hole for you to drop in the beans."
She says this because a new child in the neighborhood often brings out unpleasant behavior in her child. It works beautifully, for the bean bag surprise uses up the energy that might have gone into something of questionable delight to the new arrival.
The teacher of the Self-Assertive Child finds him eager to ask and answer questions, to tell the story, to use the blackboard, to choose songs.
He makes a very poor listener, and his teacher sees a picture of him as a man waiting with ill-concealed impatience for the conclusion of some-body's story, so that he can tell his. This teacher finds that she cannot always suppress the Self-Assertive Child, nor does she believe that suppression is beneficial. She finds that giving him a shy child to look out for or a younger child to help is a far better solution, She lets him lead such a child to the pictures and wait for her to pick out the one that is asked for. She asks him to hold the box of crayons which the smaller children may choose for blackboard drawing.
She takes him into a sort of partnership with her to make sure that every child has his chance. "Has little Mary had her chance to tell the story?" she will ask, when the Self-Assertive Child starts in on a recital. "What child do you see who hasn't had a chance to draw?" she says. Little by little she delights in seeing the Self-Assertive Child's interest in the responses of others grow.
We smile at advertisements of quack "cure-alls," but there is a character cure-all. It was discovered by the Master of character, the Lord Jesus, and is interest in others and service for them. Happy are you, O Self-Assertive Child, if those accountable for you are giving it to you!