Amazing articles on just about every subject...


Appeal Should Be Positive, Not Negative

( Originally Published 1923 )

Appeal Should be Positive, not Negative.—The child learns to do things by doing them. Since the aims of our educational efforts are to promote the development of the child to the fullest use of his capacities, in ways that will insure the greatest amount of satisfaction compatible with his living harmoniously' with other people, we must guard first of all against laying the emphasis upon what he must not do, as suggested on pages 36-37. Such emphasis tends to inhibit action, to repress or misdirect the emotions, and to bring about a negative character—one, that is, whose chief claim to social approval is the fact that he never does anything wrong. It is obviously more important both for the child and for society that he acquire habits of doing what is acceptable and satisfying, rather than habits of merely avoiding what is wrong and thus avoiding the pains and penalties of wrong-doing. Moreover, the exclusive or excessive use of repressive measures may transform a potentially valuable citizen of exceptional power into a chronic rebel against all leadership and guidance, against all authority, against every social claim upon his service and responsibility.Appeal Should be Positive, not Negative.—The child learns to do things by doing them. Since the aims of our educational efforts are to promote the development of the child to the fullest use of his capacities, in ways that will insure the greatest amount of satisfaction compatible with his living harmoniously' with other people, we must guard first of all against laying the emphasis upon what he must not do, as suggested on pages 36-37. Such emphasis tends to inhibit action, to repress or misdirect the emotions, and to bring about a negative character—one, that is, whose chief claim to social approval is the fact that he never does anything wrong. It is obviously more important both for the child and for society that he acquire habits of doing what is acceptable and satisfying, rather than habits of merely avoiding what is wrong and thus avoiding the pains and penalties of wrong-doing. Moreover, the exclusive or excessive use of repressive measures may transform a potentially valuable citizen of exceptional power into a chronic rebel against all leadership and guidance, against all authority, against every social claim upon his service and responsibility.

The practical application of this principle lies in permitting the child to act, to express himself, to inquire, to experiment, to try, and then guiding his impulses and desires into acceptable modes of satisfaction and expression. To give the young child complete freedom will, of course, lead to disaster in many cases. We must protect him for a long time from the dangers that beset him. He will be tempted to walk out of an open window, to seize a sharp knife, to grasp the hot stove. It is not necessary to let him sustain serious injury as the price of learning that some objects and some acts are better avoided. But while we remove from him the temptations to injure himself, we must still leave him with enough to do. Instead of insisting, for example, that he avoid the open window merely, we may make it more agreeable for him to play in another part of the room; and we may close the window or rail it off. Instead of saying to him merely that he must not touch the knife or the stove, we may find ways of keeping him happily occupied with the things that he may safely handle. And yet complete protection of the child from he natural penalties of the unwise choices cheats him f an essential part of his education. He needs to know that some objects, some actions, bring pain in the very nature of things; and he needs to know that the cautions or advices of the parents rest on something more substantial than prejudices and preferences or arbitrary whims.

It is by constantly finding outlets for his impulses that the child's character grows. It is by positive experiences with people and things that he acquires control of his muscles and of his feelings. It is by means of the satisfactions which come out of his everyday activities that he acquires tastes and ideals and principles of conduct, and so builds a strong character. By means of suffering he may learn to avoid further troubles, he may learn perhaps to endure privation, and even to resist temptations; but the greater gain will always come from his 'positive achievements.

Much of the early education, although carried on in this positive and constructive way, will serve as adequate protection even in the negative sense of prevention. For example, the child who is openly and sympathetically informed concerning reproduction and sex will be protected against the evil counsel and degrading suggestions to which he will almost inevitably be exposed later. The child whose tastes are cultivated in the early years will not be easily tempted by low-grade personalities of the same or the opposite sex later in life.

Moreover, early repressions and inhibitions are undesirable since they will in many cases obstruct the further development of the sex nature, leaving the child with an infantile understanding and appreciation of sex, on levels of desire and satisfaction that are not in keeping with adult character and conduct. In many cases, too, the arrest of development upon a lower level will involve various perversions of sex. From all points of view, therefore, it is better to use chiefly the positive, the encouraging, even the stimulating attitudes in our dealing with the child.

This means candid dealing at every point. There should be no secrets, no mysteries. We should never be shocked by anything the child does or says, but accept rather the view that everything which happens is normal. Many of the child's acts will, of course, be objectionable for various reasons. We need not accept his acts as satisfactory, or as models for later conduct, but we must start out with the assumption that they are, nevertheless, normal for the child as conditioned at the moment. In this way we can more easily guide him to what we consider a better way, instead of driving him into secrecy or concealment or shame.

Parents often express the fear that a free answering of questions, or a perfectly frank and open relation between the sexes in the home, might lead the child to speak freely of sex matters outside the home, or even lead him to excessive preoccupation with the subject. Both of these fears are unwarranted. As to the latter, the child may for several days come back to the new information he has received concerning the source of the baby; but this is only while the novelty lasts, and is no different from what happens with respect to other matters that interest him. It is better for him to ask and be answered than to repress his curiosity only to have it satisfied from some low source, or have it nag and worry him indefinitely. As to discussing outside the home

What interests him, with the same frankness which he experiences at home, this is not a danger. In the first place, the child soon senses the attitude of strangers and will not raise objectionable topics; and in the next place, where there is sympathy and understanding, there is no harm in his frankness. On the other hand, the child's protection against too much freedom with those who do not understand will come not from habitual reticence on these topics in the home, but from the seriousness, or reverence, if you please, with which intimate family matters are treated. At any rate, the danger that the child will indiscriminately converse with strangers about the family affairs and facts of reproduction is a minor one compared to the danger of accumulating an incubus of fear and worry, or of secret smut.



Home | More Articles | Email: info@oldandsold.com