( Originally Published 1923 )
Educational Effort Must be Graded to the Child's Stages of Development and his Individuality.-Sex education, like all character education, is peculiarly an individual matter. Long before it is possible to deal with a group of children, before they have acquired a common language and before they can identify themselves with a group of other children, many influences have been at work to determine the later career of the individual. The sources of these influences, although related to pleasure and affection, need not be directly related to sex; and the outcome of these influences, although affecting the character and even the sex life, may be without any direct relation to the sex area. It is therefore essential that the surroundings of the child be from the very first wholesome and up-building. Whatever we do must be adjusted to the child's peculiarities, to his intelligence, to his apparent likes and dislikes, his special weaknesses or sensitive spots, as well as to his strong points.
Sex education, like all character education, is a continuous process. It is not something that can be completed once and for all time by a single lesson or experience. It is the result of a progressive and cumulative series of experiences. What we do must therefore be graded to the development already attained, to what has been already learned, to the tastes and prejudices and preferences that have been already acquired. We must take into account the physiological stage and emotional needs as well as the degree of sophistication which the child has reached. There seem to be fairly definite stages in the development of the child's emotions and interests ; these have to be considered, but no two children develop in precisely the same way, and the individual must be considered as well as his age in years or his mental age.
The amount and the precise content of information must be similarly adapted to the child. In the early years this element will, of course, be at a minimum; it is not so much what we tell the child, but what he sees going on about him and what he is made to feel, that counts. Simple stories will have to be repeated, and at each retelling they will have a new or a deeper meaning. The value of the information given at any one time will depend on previous experience, the stage of development reached, the child's own habits of thinking and feeling, and his native disposition. It is, therefore, impossible to prescribe a standard story that will serve equally for all children.
While the motives based on instincts are in general te strongest, and while the instincts are all present to me degree from the first, we shall find that in the case of a given child the appeal is more easy to some instincts than to others. And that later on conditions ill have changed so that new interests make it possible a use appeals that were apparently ineffective before.
With the very young child the pleasure or displeasure ifested by the parents is a very strong motive. Later appeal may be made to his pride in his strength or prowess. In boys the desire to excel, in a competitive sense, is apparently stronger than it is in girls. While il normal children have a strong desire to get the approval of others, there are probably differences between boys and girls as to the methods they will follow and he efforts they will make to gain this approval. With young girls it is easier to appeal to the desire to care or the weak or helpless, the desire to "mother" those that can be served. But in every case we must find out what does make the strongest appeal, and attach to these motives the attitudes which we seek to establish.