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C H I L D R E N ’S B U R E A U
U. S. D E P A R T M E N T O F L A B O R

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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

F rances P

e r k in s ,


CHILDREN’S BUREAU • Katharine F. Lenroot, Chief


D. A. TH O M , M . D.

B u r e a u Public atio n N um ber 143






W A S H IN G T O N : 1937

For sale by the Superintendent o f Documents, Washington, D. C.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




- Price 10 cents

Letter of transmittal....................................................
Introduction.................................................................................................... • • •
Mental attitudes in the approach to the problem ..........................................
T h e parents.............................. ..........................................- . . ......... ....................
T h e environment . . .......... .
; .......................................................................
T h e ch ild ............ ..................................................................................................
H ab its..................................................................................
Feeding ................................................................................. .............................. •
Sex instruction .................................
In d epen den ce.......... ...........................................................
Obedience ..........................................................................
Rewards and punishments....................
Stuttering.......................................................................................... . . . . .


Enuresis................................................................................... • • • ......................
Selfishness........ .......................................................... ...................................... • •
F e a r ..........................
A n g e r ..................
L y i n g ..........................................................................................
S te a lin g ......................................................................................................
T h e role of intelligence....................................................................................
T h e child during sickness and convalescence..............................................
T h e mentally defective child as a fam ily problem ........................................


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis




U nited States D epartment of L abor,
C hildren's Bureau ,

Washington, December n , 1936.
M a d am : Transmitted herewith is a revised and enlarged edition of

the bulletin Child Management, written for the Children’s Bureau by
Dr. D. A . Thom, director of the Habit Clinic for Child Guidance of
Boston and director of the Division of Mental Hygiene in the Depart­
ment of Mental Diseases of Massachusetts. This edition has been re­
vised by Dr. Thom to include some discussion of the psychological
background of child training and guidance, as well as additional
material on specific problems.
Respectfully submitted.
K atharine F. L enroot, Chief.
Hon. F rances P erkins,
Secretary of Labor.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

M anagement , written for the Children’s Bureau, has had
a large circulation and has been used by parents, teachers, nurses,
study groups, and parent-teacher associations. It is the desire of the
Children’s Bureau, as well as of the author, to keep it up to date, and
this second revision is therefore being issued.
Scarcely more than a decade has passed since we first began to talk
and write of the mental health of the child; yet during this time no
branch of medicine nor any aspect of psychology has received more
attention and study. Public interest has been widespread, and the
layman has traveled close upon the heels of the specialist in his effort
to keep informed of new knowledge and new attitudes in this field.
It has been necessary, therefore, from time to time to revise the mate­
rial that is being used rather generally throughout the country. In
doing so it has seemed necessary to present some discussion of the
psychological background in the light of which specific problems and
situations are interpreted. Some of this material may seem difficult,
but it is hoped that it will repay study by giving a clearer understanding
of child problems.


Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Child Management
is only after a period of years that we are beginning to get the
true perspective on the whole subject of child management. W e
started out with definite convictions regarding the necessity of over­
coming certain undesirable habits, such as lying, stealing, and truancy.
W e recognized that certain traits, such as shyness and jealousy, easily
become an unhealthy part of the child’s personality. W e found that
there were ofttimes rather well-defined and obvious situations in the
child’s environment that were in large measure to blame for these
undesirable traits and habits. Therefore, in handling instances of
conduct disorder, we looked into the child’s environment in the effort
to find a situation that would explain them. This was accomplished
with a fair degree of success, and the results were sufficiently satis­
factory to justify the efforts. Parents, teachers, nurses, and others
interested in children recognized that this new approach was leading
to a better understanding of the child and human relationships in
As time went on, however, and we studied more children more
intensively, we began to think of the child in a little different way.
W e realized that many of the difficulties which arise in the life of a
so-called “problem” child and cause parents annoyance, worry, and
humiliation are rather common in the lives of most normal, healthy
children. W e became convinced that docility, meekness, and per­
petual submissiveness in themselves serve no useful purpose in the life
of the child, and are of value only so far as they contribute to his com­
plete development and his social adjustment; that personality traits
and mental attitudes of the child toward life should not be developed
simply because they serve the convenience of the parents and others
responsible for his training.
It would be generally agreed that the objective in training children
is the development of a well-rounded personality, of which the phys­
ical, intellectual, and emotional aspects are in harmony. To this end
adjustments are necessary between the instinctive tendencies of the
child and the restraints of civilized society to reduce to a minimum
the friction that naturally exists between the child and his environ­
ment during the period in which he is being socialized.

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



In the process of growing up it is obviously essential for the child to
acquire certain habits of conduct in order that he may fit into the
social scheme of life and avoid conflict with his environment. It is
equally important, however, that he also develop certain mental atti­
tudes which are concerned with avoiding conflict within himself.
Parents and society are often more concerned with the conduct of the
child than with his feelings. But they err when they look upon good
habits of conduct as an end in themselves. Actually, habits are but
tools which the individual uses in his struggle for achievement.
The child who is outwardly very obedient and absolutely submissive
to all those in authority may have a mental attitude associated with
this submission which will lead to open, violent rebellion at a moment
when it is least expected; or lacking the courage to rebel, he may find
only in daydreams and fantasies an adequate outlet for the rebellion
within him. In another child the resentment may be relegated to the
unconscious; but it may appear later, not too well disguised, as the
resentment toward everyone in authority which accounts for many of
the misfits in adolescent life. The child who shows his resentment
toward life by a temper tantrum that annoys, disrupts, and humiliates
the family is much better off emotionally than the child who resorts to
fantasies in which revenge is obtained to its utmost limit in the land of
Experience has taught us that the child’s fundamental conflicts with
life are often less likely to find expression in conduct disorders than in
mental attitudes toward life itself, which, though perhaps not annoy­
ing to parents at the moment, are infinitely more important to the
development of the child’s personality and his general fitness to meet
life. For example, a child’s conflicts over his sense of security and
over his love relationship with his family are more likely to express
themselves in crippling emotional attitudes than in bad conduct. The
child’s feeling of security is almost entirely dependent upon the imme­
diate responses of those to whom he is emotionally attached. Yet we
tease, ridicule, humiliate, bully, frighten, and bore the child with such
indifference that we are hardly aware of our crudities, which are often
cruelties. The reaction of the child to this situation, in which his
sense of security is constantly in danger and his love relationship
threatened, is more likely to be a sense of inferiority, unusual likes and
dislikes, crippling infantile fixations (seep. 3), “ crushes”, faulty sex
adjustments, or other types of subjective maladjustment rather than
the more objective conduct disorders.
Again, in many instances, back of undesirable conduct on the part
of a child are crippling emotional attitudes in connection with impor­
tant relationships of life; and it is these rather than the conduct dis­
order in itself which are of basic importance for the development of
the child’s personality.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



T o illustrate this: There are many and varied problems of conduct
that have their foundations in the relationship of dependency which
exists between parent and child. It is generally recognized that there
are periods in the life of the child when he becomes reluctant to
grow up to assume the obligations and responsibilities that advancing
months and years impose. Then some motivating force must often
be introduced from without in order to induce the child to keep pace
with his chronological age. This may be done through encourage­
ment and approbation, allowing more freedom in thought and action,
and granting privileges that are in keeping with the new responsibili­
ties. Satisfactions of a more mature type are thus substituted for
infantile pleasures; and the child moves along toward adult stand­
ards, guided and directed but not crippled by parental solicitude.
If, however, the child’s parents for one or many reasons find it
necessary to get their own emotional satisfaction in the life of the
child, to the exclusion of everything else, there may be quite a dif­
ferent result. The child then no longer moves on toward his goal.
He remains fixed on one of the many infantile levels— usually the
lowest the parents will accept. He is denied the privilege of doing for
himself what he desires to do, to say nothing of what he is capable
of doing. He gets little of the satisfaction that comes from successful
attainment. For his self-esteem he is forced to depend entirely on his
early acquired and much exaggerated idea of his own importance.
Such a child not only may be considered in no way a problem, but
will invariably be the child who is commended and applauded for his
unselfishness, good manners, obedience, and all the other favorable
qualities. Nevertheless, he is an unadjusted child, because the envi­
ronment has always been adjusted to him rather than he to the
When school brings this child into contact with a new and untried
situation he lacks those habits which are needed to meet and cooperate
with others of his age on a plane of equality. In addition, his mental
attitude toward the situation is based upon a feeling of inadequacy.
He is intolerant of the other fellow’s point of view; he not only lacks
ability to meet the situation but he has neither interest nor insight as
to what he lacks and how it may be obtained; he is also without any
appreciation of its value. It is not any undesirable conduct in this
situation that need cause a parent or teacher concern but something far
more fundamental: a twisted and distorted point of view on one of
the important relationships in life, that of dependency.
It is obvious, therefore, that we must not be misled into thinking
that conduct disorders are the most important aspect of mental health,
nor should we be satisfied with simply directing our efforts to chang­
ing the conduct of the child to suit the parent. W e must remember
that mental attitudes are more fundamental and less easily altered once
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



they have become fixed than the undesirable habits which we are
trying to change.
Conduct disorders, however, like physical symptoms have real value
in diagnosis and treatment. How many inflamed appendixes would
be discovered if it were not for pain ? How many cases of pulmonary
tuberculosis would be diagnosed if it were not for a cough ? So it is
with mental conflicts. If they were permitted to pass unnoticed, they
might cause complete breaking down of the personality. Inefficiency
and unhappiness would be increased many times. Nature has wisely
provided that the individual’s conduct shall be our criterion, in part at
least, as to the health and stability of his mental content.
Only after evaluating the situation carefully should we think of the
child as a problem. It is well to keep in mind that all children have
problems to solve in relation to authority, dependency, and the general
environmental situation they have to meet. Ideal conduct may be
demanded at too high a price.
There seems to be a tendency on the part of parents, teachers, and
physicians to feel that a given problem must be solved immediately.
A n effort is made to straighten out conduct disorders in a week,
whereas in a month it could be done far more efficiently. In our haste
to correct undesirable habits we may substitute something worse. In
place of temper tantrums we may have grudges and hatred. For
masturbation we may substitute fear. For truancy we may introduce
a life of daydreaming. Homes may be changed to a child’s advantage
in many of the material things of life but at the cost of his sense of
security. Families may be broken up in a most scientific and socially
approved way, yet something quite fundamental has been lost when
certain love relationships have been dissolved. Obedience may be
obtained at the cost of the child’s freedom and initiative. Absolute
veracity may demand the toll of the child’s confidence. W e should
not minimize, of course, the value of obedience or veracity; nor should
we fail to recognize that temper tantrums, faulty sex habits, and
broken homes are liabilities which cannot serve any useful purpose in
the life of the child. The point to be made is that in our haste and
enthusiasm to alter undesirable conduct we may replace it by some­
thing fundamentally more destructive and incapacitating to the child.
In brief, the situation must be studied and diagnosed, and sufficient
time must be taken to carry out a treatment that will utilize most
intelligently the facilities at hand.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

T " \ T hen we consider parents from the social, cultural, intellectual,
moral, and economic points of view, the varied conditions and
experiences under which they are reared, and the innumerable kinds
of personality that result from the ever-changing admixtures of charac­
teristics due to heredity and to environment, it is not at all strange that
parents are infrequently similar and are never found identical.
So much for the parent as an individual. The variations brought
out through parental unions, considering father and mother as a unit,
are even more complicated and unstable, inasmuch as personality
traits of quite a different nature are brought out, depending upon the
type of individuals that are mated. When talking with parents sepa­
rately one may be very favorably impressed with the intellectual
equipment and emotional stability of the two parents as individuals.
They both seem to have well-defined ideas of their parental obliga­
tions. There is no evidence of personality twists that might warp
their judgment. They are both frank, honest, ambitious, and appar­
ently unselfish as individuals. But in some cases we find from further
investigations and longer acquaintance that as a team they are most
difficult. Each seems to bring out all the undesirable qualities in the
other. Kindly, considerate, and generous with others, they become
selfish, self-centered, thoughtless, and cold when together. They pit
themselves against each other to gain the child’s affections. Under
such conditions the child is buffeted about on a sea of emotionalism,
obviously to his disadvantage.
With the demand that is being made by youth for complete eman­
cipation from parental control at a much earlier age than ever before,
the whole problem of the child-parent relationship needs more
careful consideration.
Parental influence on an intellectual rather than an emotional plane
must become effective at a much earlier date. Children will have to
be taught to meet life considerably earlier, and the efficiency with
which they handle their freedom will depend upon the parental influ­
ence of the first decade. No longer can we rely upon the years be­
tween io and 20 to get acquainted with our children. Rightly or
wrongly, youth has taken on the responsibility of social independence
at 15 and 16 instead of at 20 and 21.
In spite of the fact that parents cannot be adequately classified into
groups, owing to the wide and marked personal deviations in human
beings, one can point out some of the more frequent and perhaps
harmful situations that arise in the child-parent relationship.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



Many parents of average or better intelligence, who are well edu­
cated and surprisingly well-informed about current events, fail to meet
fully the responsibilities or obligations of parenthood. They fail
to see the difference between important and unimportant. They
stress manners and forget morals. They struggle hopelessly to gain
some nonessential of discipline without realizing that in so doing they
are ignoring the most fundamental aspects of child training. Such
parents are stumbling over their own emotional conflicts and harming
the child during the period when his personality is in the making.
Though father and mother alike play important roles in the devel­
opment of the child, it is the mother who spends the greater part of
her time and energy in actual care and supervision. Interest and love
on her part, while of supreme importance, are not enough to assure
success in handling the innumerable problems that she meets. Her
very love for her child may be the stumbling block that prevents her
from fulfilling the obligations of her parenthood successfully. This
love is very frequently associated with excessive worry, anxiety, and, at
times, definite fear, which prevent the most intelligent approach to
many problems of childhood.
Oversolicitude on the part of the parent or parents may put the child
in an entirely new setting. Children may become self-centered and
develop innumerable imaginary complaints simply because illness is
looked for and any existing ill health is exaggerated. W e are all
familiar with the marked changes in behavior which often take place
in children who have met with an accident or undergone some illness.
Suppose the boy returns from the hospital or begins to convalesce at
home. Everything centers about the youngster, everybody is busy
meeting his demands. Under such conditions is he not apt to become
selfish and domineering ? His whole personality may so change as to
cause worry and anxiety to his parents, who erroneously and unfor­
tunately attribute the change to the illness rather than to the changed
attitudes in the home. The same situation is repeated in a lesser
degree but over a longer period of time by the unreasonable fears and
anxieties of the oversolicitous parent. Not infrequently children
exploit their illness to avoid an unpleasant duty or to gain extra
Some parents greatly fear that their children will get hurt (which,
by the way, is not an unreasonable fear in the modern city) or that
they will associate with children of undesirable neighbors and per­
haps pick up profane or obscene language. Even so, it may be better
to take a chance than to cripple a child’s life by allowing him no
opportunities to learn independence and develop initiative. The child
who is closely tied to mother’s apron strings is deprived of any chance
of really learning how to live with his neighbors. When the time
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comes to creak the home ties and enter school he is lacking in strength,
courage, and resourcefulness. This may handicap him through life!
There is no greater handicap with which a child has to contend
than that of having parents who refuse to allow him the privilege of
growing up and who deny him the opportunity of developing his
personality from the mental characteristics with which he has been
endowed. Mothers especially are so anxious to protect children from
the unpleasant things of life— whether it be a fall or a snub from
another child— that they sometimes keep them tied physically and
emotionally with fetters that prevent normal, healthy development.
Much of the fear that we find in adult life is brought about by inces­
sant warnings to the child of danger in every situation. Practically
all forms of activity in early life such as running, climbing, riding
bicycles, playing games, and going into the water carry with them the
possibility of slight physical damage. It is only the thrill of a new
experience that stimulates children to venture forth and try out that
which is strange and new, but the task is made much more difficult for
the child if he is constantly being warned of the danger.
Children, of course, need protection; but to have water associated
with drowning, running and climbing with broken legs and skulls, is
making the risks of the activities seem out of all proportion to what
they actually are.
Another cause for oversolicitude is that parents get so much pleasure
out of doing things for children as to forget that children learn only
by doing for themselves. Too many children are living on a mental
plane far below their capabilities just because parents get so much
personal satisfaction from making things easy for them, forgetting
entirely the millstone they are tying about their children’s necks in
years to come.
How many parents dominate the thoughts and actions of their chil­
dren because they glory in the fact that “My child cannot get along
without me!” During the first 6 years such a father and mother feed
their child, lie down with him at nap time, respond to his many calls
at night, wait on him at every turn. They walk to school with him
and back, sympathize with him when in conflict with the teacher,
fight his battles against other children, receive him with open arms and
oversolicitude when he meets fear and failure in the outside world.
If he has any companions, it is mother who does the selecting; they
must be well-mannered, clean, neither rough nor active. The intel­
lectual and cultural setting of the family background is never lost
sight of; the child’s companions must not be npisy nor belong to the
“dreadful gang” around the corner, which may be a healthy lot of
dirty-faced boys too busy with their own realities to get into either
the bathtub or any real trouble.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis



It is such a mother who later selects the college and the courses, and
also the companions, for the boy or girl is no longer thinking in terms
of what he would like but of what mother would approve. When
thrown upon his own resources such a boy or girl is filled with doubts
and indecisions. If his personality has not been entirely submerged
by those years of dependence, he will find himself in conflict much of
the time, i f is instinctive cravings and the demands of his particular
type of personality will always be meeting the ever-present problem
of “What will the family say?” “W ill mother approve?” “W ill
father object?
W ill friends applaud?” It may be selecting a dress,
deciding on a college or a club, choosing a husband, or what not.
Something has been left out of the training of such an individual;
and the result is a void where there should be self-reliance or confi­
dence, resulting in that most pathetic state of mind, a feeling of infe­
riority. Such is the price the child has to pay for gratifying the
desires of parents who have mistaken the child’s dependence for obe­
dience, their own selfishness for love and sacrifice. It should make us
pause at times and inquire, “ Do we as parents cripple our children?”
There is so much real joy for most mothers in the affection they
receive from their children that there is grave danger that the child
may be babied too much. Perhaps in the heart of every mother is
reluctance to see her child develop independence, and there may be
more satisfaction than she is willing to admit in the fact that he clings
to her tenaciously, that he refuses to eat unless fed by her, and that he
refuses to go to bed unless she lies down with him. This present enjoy­
ment for the mother will have to be paid for later by the child. It is
the normal, natural thing for a child to assert his independence and
assume the full limit of responsibility at the earliest possible age. Let
him try and fail, if need be; he will learn by mistakes. Often it is
easier to do the things for him which he is slow in doing or finds hard.
But wait, give him time. The habits of dependence which are fostered
by parents often make it well-nigh impossible for the boy or girl to
stand alone in years to come.
Very early in life the child must learn that things cannot be his
simply because he desires, them. Do not try to give him everything
he demands or wishes; he must develop the habit of foregoing certain
of his wants, of giving when he would like to take, and of dividing
and sharing his toys. He will not understand why he should do these
things, but even a little child can appreciate that such acts bring appro­
bation and praise and make other people happy. In this way he will
grow to manhood with courage to face the disappointments and
failures of everyday life.
Always avoid bribing, and do not make promises which you know
you cannot or do not intend to keep. So often we hear, “Now,
Johnny, be a good boy and mother will buy lots of candy”, or “Do this
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and mother will give you a penny.” Soon Johnny will no longer be
satisfied with one penny, and you must give him 2 and then 3. A child
with a little determination can easily work this method to his advan­
tage. Or again, if a reward has been promised and the little girl or
boy has made a great effort to do as asked, do you carelessly disregard
the just demand for the reward ?
A child is quick to realize it if he is being cheated or deceived.
Frequently parents will misrepresent or lie to a child to keep him quiet
or to gain a desired result. Often this is done quite unconsciously;
then, suddenly, without realizing how it has happened, the mother
awakens to the fact that her child has no regard for the truth and has
lost confidence in the statements of others.
Threatening a child is a common method of setting out to obtain
control. It is, however, useless and inexcusable. The simple state­
ment of what will follow if a child persists in disobeying cannot be
considered a threat if the promised results really follow. But many
parents indulge in meaningless threats: “ Be good or the doctor will
cut your tongue out”, “ Stop or I’ll go for the policeman”, “ Be quiet or
I’ll lick you”, or “The old man with the bag picks up little girls who
don’t mind their mothers, and they never come home again.” These
and many others are in everyday use, with one of two results. Either
the child is controlled by terror, which may have a far deeper and
more disastrous effect than is apparent, or he realizes that none of the
promised happenings takes place and develops an utter disregard for
them. Either result is unsatisfactory and should never be brought
T o the child the parent should be companion, friend, and confidant.
The parent whose little child brings all his troubles and doubts to him
for solution has established a relationship of tremendous value. This
can never be brought about if the parent’s attitude is cold and repel­
ling. A mother who is too busy to bother with a little child’s nonsense
will never be bothered by his real problems.
You may be sure that each event of the day is receiving consider­
ation by the child. The interpretation he is giving the simplest doing
may not be known to us and may be far from the correct one. Do not
further confuse him by talking “over his head” in partly disguised
language about things he should not know. Few parents realize how
much children understand of what they hear. Do not talk about him
in his presence nor laugh at him. Self-consciousness is quickly devel­
oped. He may be hurt by the laughter, which he does not under­
stand, or it may create an unwholesome desire to “show off” and
attract further attention.
A child should be treated with as much courtesy as an adult. Chil­
dren have affairs and plans of their own which they are following.
These plans are frequently utterly disregarded by the “grown-up.” If
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they must be interfered with, let it be with some explanation and
consideration for the children.
T h e small daughter of a young couple was playing contentedly on the hearth
by her father’s feet when her mother called from upstairs for her to come to bed.
T w o or three minutes more and Betty could have completed the task she had in
hand, and, had mother know n this, she w ould have waited before calling her.
W ith a quivering chin and eyes filled w ith tears Betty turned to her father,
saying, “ But, D addy, I don’t want to go. I want to finish.” Father could see
the little girl’s point, and his answer was, “T h a t’s too bad, Betty. Mother didn’t
know how near through you were or she would have let you finish; but never
mind, ‘orders is orders’, so run off to bed.” A n d off she went. In this w ay he
showed that he sympathized w ith her in her disappointment and that he ex­
pected her to meet it bravely; and he also upheld the mother in her request—
all in a considerate, understanding way.

It might here be said that one of the fundamental rules of child
training should be that parents present a united front to the child. If
differences in judgment occur, let them be settled in private.
The relationship between parent and child, which is the basis for
obedience, is one that should not be undervalued. It begins at birth
and continues until the child has freed himself from parental domina­
tion. The adjustment is so delicate, so constantly changing, that it is
not surprising that in many instances it becomes twisted and warped,
broken and severed. Too often the young person, finding that his
parents continually oppose his efforts to establish himself as an indi­
vidual, gives up the struggle and submits to parental control long after
he should be free from such domination. This occurs only when
parents cling selfishly to the pleasure and satisfaction that they get
from the child’s dependence upon them.
Parents who have had unfulfilled wishes and desires are likely to
want their child to have what they could not, regardless of whether or
not it is in keeping with the instinctive needs of the child. A father
who has been extremely anxious for a college education which circum­
stances did not permit, pushes, crowds, and crams his son in Latin and
Greek. The natural inclinations of the boy, his intellectual equipment,
and his personality may be such as to have fitted him best for mechan­
ics instead of the classics; but these factors are ignored. The kind,
“self-sacrificing” parent quite unconsciously forces the boy to the*
breaking point mentally or to open rebellion socially, and then
wonders what it is all about.
The parent who looks back on his early days with resentment and
bitterness because he was subjected to the iron rod of discipline may let
down all the bars of discipline in his efforts to prevent a like catas­
trophe in the life of his child, saying, “My boy is going to have the
freedom that was denied me.” The child is given freedom without
guidance. He soon gets a false idea of his relationship to others,
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becomes disobedient, defiant, a rebel within the household. As long
as he remains in the protected environment of the home, which is
altered to suit his whims, things go well, but when he has to get out
and deal with the problems of life in company with other people he is
in conflict with society at once.
Parental ambitions are ofttimes the shoal upon which many children
are wrecked. Parents who set standards so high that failure is inevi­
table are obviously developing in the child the beginning of a deepseated feeling of inferiority that may last throughout his life. One is
very dependent upon the opinions of others for his own feeling of
self-esteem. Success is essential as a driving force to renew or continue
the effort necessary to attainment. The child who is always falling
short of attaining the standard set by parents soon becomes an
unhappy, inefficient person.
Parents must keep in mind that the child has other functions in life
than to satisfy parental hopes and ambitions, and they must not forget
that there are great individual differences in children which determine
the intellectual load they are capable of carrying and wide variations
in their motor coordination which in a measure determine their ability
and skill in athletic activities. Curb your parental ambitions until you
find out whether they are in keeping with the intellectual equipment
of the child and suited to his personality make-up.
There are parents who rarely have any intimate contact with their
children except in matters of discipline. In this respect fathers are the
worst offenders. Rarely do they* recognize the daily efforts the child is
making to “put himself across” in a satisfactory way. A ll this is taken
for granted or possibly criticized; but when he comes home late from
school or has had bad marks, or if they say he has done wrong and the
child has been cross and irritable, then father is introduced into the
picture as the mighty avenger of wrongdoing. This type of relation­
ship between father and child is one to avoid at all costs, for quite justly
it builds up feelings of bitterness and resentment on the part of the
child. The older the child gets the more he rebels against this type of
authority, and often this attitude spills over and affects authority
wherever it is met, even in adult life.
Many people are industrial misfits because they cannot submit to
authority. They constantly feel that they are being imposed upon, not
given a fair deal, or bullied and browbeaten. The origin of such a
conflict is often found in the early parental relationships. Children
should be allowed the same praise and rewards for their efforts in the
home that they would naturally receive in the outside world. W e are
all struggling for reward in some form or other— it may be money,
fame, or power.
Not pnly do we have to deal with the personal relationship between
parent and child and the particular methods that are used to obtain
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satisfactory behavior, but we have to think in terms of the broader
aspects of the home and what each member has to contribute to create
a healthy mental atmosphere. A ll too frequently the home becomes
a reservoir into which are poured all the worry, grief, and disappoint­
ments which are associated with the day’s work, whether it be that of
the mother in the home, the father at the shop, or the child in school.
A tired, overworked, harassed mother quite unconsciously takes advan­
tage of the family circle and recites the troubles and trials associated
with her day at home. A father who has had a busy and hurried day
associated with numerous irritating situations finds in the home a place
where he can settle down and give up the effort of putting on a good
front. Here he can express his grievances against those in authority,
his petty jealousies toward his colleagues, and often his own feelings of
inadequacy. Anxieties, both real and imagined, find uncontrolled
expression in such a home. It is not surprising that children living
under such conditions, surrounded by all these unhappy and unhealthy
adult emotional expressions, are affected by this atmosphere and that
such a home often cannot compete with interests and activities that
can be built up outside. Such a dull and depressing home atmos­
phere does not leave happy memories nor inspire children to imitate
their parents. As they grow older it drives them to the street corners
and to undesirable commercialized amusements.
The relationship between parent and child is a most delicate one,
and should be based not only upon love and devotion but upon a clear
understanding of what the child needs and what the parent has a
right to expect in the way of responses during different stages of
growth and development. A home that encourages repression, where
stern, rigid disciplinary measures are used in an effort to obtain obedi­
ence, invariably twists the mental outlook of the child and often leads
to resentment toward authority later on. On the other hand, parents
who overindulge the child, preventing him from meeting the ordinary
difficulties associated with growing up, anticipating his wants and
catering to his moods, are likely to produce an overdependent attitude,
an exaggerated idea of self, and an inability to make an adjustment
to the demands of life outside the home.
There is no finer nor more important job than being a parent. This
generation or the next will not handle it perfectly. There is a great
deal to learn, but much will be accomplished if the approach to the
problems of childhood is not blocked or impeded by anger, fear, over­
solicitude, or the idea that being a parent means being obeyed at all
times. Kindness, common sense, and an effort to understand the
child’s own attitude toward his difficulties will do much to bring about
an intelligent solution of most of the problems.
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Which is the more important, heredity or environ­
ment ? has provoked endless discussion. “He’s just like his father,
and you can’t do a thing with him”, accounts to some people, fre­
quently the mother’s people, for all the bad traits a child may show.
Others are sure that, no matter what his parents may have been, every
child starts fresh and the conditions which surround him determine
absolutely what he will be. Everyone knows that children from de­
graded homes who have been adopted by well-to-do families and have
been given every advantage have turned out some disgracefully and
some so as to make worth while everything that has been done for
them. What made the difference in results? Heredity? Perhaps.
As the proverb has it, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”
Environment? Perhaps, also, some children who were surrounded by
bad conditions during their early years were already started in unfor­
tunate habits before they were transplanted. Moreover, the new con­
ditions, supposedly better, may have been better in lodging, food, and
clothing only. The child may have been brought up, in fact, by a
feeble-minded nurse and the friends she met in the park, or may have
led a lonely life starved of affection and been seen by his foster mother
only when her social engagements permitted her to play with the
child for a little while as she might with a doll.
After all it is useless to attempt to settle whether heredity or envi­
ronment is the more important. Every living being is affected by
both. The practical question is, What may be done to control both
so as to get the best results— in good corn, good pigs, or good people ?
Experience in raising corn may be used as an illustration. It is a
well-known fact that corn grown in fertile soil— that is, in good envi­
ronment— produces a much greater yield than corn grown in poor
soil. Also, in a given soil the yield depends largely on the variety of
corn used for seed; that is, on the heredity the corn has back of it.
There are varieties which in fair soil will yield over ioo bushels per
acre; others under the same conditions produce only miserable nub­
bins yielding less than 5 bushels per acre, or even no seed at all. There
is no use in arguing which is the more important in raising corn—
good seed or good soil and climate. It is important to make the best
choice of seed we can and to plant it in the best soil we can find, or, if
either one is necessarily poor, to make the most out of what we have.
Growing boys and girls involve somewhat the same problem. Their
heredity is fixed, but the environment can often be improved. The
importance of a living wage in maintaining a home in which children
can be brought up successfully cannot be overestimated. Crowded,
he question,

89881°— 37----- 2
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insanitary quarters may make pale, stunted children, neither physically
well nor mentally alert. A poor home drives the child for amusement
to the streets and alleys, where he often meets, in the activities of a
“gang” bent on mischief, much temptation from which a better home
could have protected him. Even within the home, when there is no
money to pay rent for sufficient rooms to give the family adequate
privacy in sleeping quarters, little children are early aroused to sex
interest and experiences, which they should have been spared until
old enough to meet them normally. Not all children in such envi­
ronments become criminals, paupers, or psychoneurotics, but environ­
ment has much to do with the production of these types.
The problems of the home environment in the congested districts
are many, and frequently the fact must be faced that for one reason or
another conditions cannot be made satisfactory. Fortunately resources
outside the home are gradually being developed which are helping to
solve the difficulties. The nursery schools and kindergartens are pro­
viding a place where little children under the school age may come
together and slowly, by experience, learn how to live with the group.
The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Young Men’s Christian Association, and
Young Women’s Christian Association continue for the older boys
and girls the opportunity for social contacts and a chance to give
and take that the schools have started.
There are also handicaps for children who are brought up in the
apartments of the well-to-do. Often the parents’ fear of the landlord’s
displeasure over injury to walls and woodwork and the complaints
from neighbors because of noise may cause the children to be con­
tinually repressed. As in the poorer districts, there is little opportunity
for play and social life. However, the economic pressure is less, and
the parents should be free to devote more time and thought to the
training of the young ones. Possibly the children of friends may be
gathered together in small groups for play or stories or excursions to
park and zoo. The community’s resources for social activity should
be utilized for all children as they grow older.
The home is the workshop which often makes a fine product out
of apparently unpromising material and which, unfortunately, often
Spoils much good material. The parents control the destiny of the
child and make his environment to a large extent. Their mental
ability, their emotional control, their interests, particularly their interest
in the child, their ambitions, their moral standards— these all deter­
mine what the child shall make out of the endowment that nature has
given him. Some parents who read to their children or tell them
stories and answer their questions in an interesting and intelligent
manner, though they do not alter the children’s intellectual equipment,
do furnish a rich soil in which the children may develop, and thus
affect very much the point which their development may reach.
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Parents can even determine what kind of atmosphere the child’s m i n d
shall grow in— one of discontent, wrangling, deceit, and hate, or one of
cheerfulness, sincerity, and love.
So many common environmental factors result in disobedience,
lying, stealing, and other forms of nonsocial conduct at a very early
age that it is rare to find one type of delinquency alone. It would be
impossible to enumerate in detail, even were time and space to permit,
the factors, both inherent and acquired, tending to make the child a
nonconformer. One can only hope to set parents thinking in terms
of motives for undesirable conduct and attempting to ascertain the
purpose served by this conduct in the life of the child.
Following are suggestions with regard to early delinquencies:
T h e oversolicitousparent stuffs and overfeeds the emotional life
of the child, whereas the stern, cold, forbidding parent deprives
the child of mental nourishment, leaving him hungry and resentful. There is plenty o f room between these tw o extremes to
give a fair degree o f assurance o f strength and stability to the emo­
tional life of the child so that he w ill neither suffer from hunger
pains nor be nauseated b y overstimulation.
There is a lamentable ignorance and an inexcusable lack of in­
terest on the part o f many parents as to the resources available
and utilised by the child to gratify his pleasure-seeking tendencies.
So long as children are trained and dominated by personalities
inadequate because o f intellectual defects or an unhealthy outlook
on life, so long shall w e have children w ith characters twisted
and warped through suggestion and imitation of these parents.
The environment w hich many a normal child has the misfor­
tune to inherit produces an unhealthy, antagonistic reaction on
his part in an effort to improve it.
There is no reason w h y w e should expect a normal child to
adapt himself to an abnormal environment. The impulse to rebel
in such situations is an indication o f stability.
A ll too frequently it is the conduct w hich annoys and incon­
veniences parents that causes most concern and not the conduct
representing fundamental handicaps to the child in later life.
Hyperactivity, mischievousness, and curiosity are more apt to
bring the child into conflict w ith parental authority than sub­
missiveness, self-centeredness, and daydreaming, all o f w h ic h
indicate that the child is getting out of touch w ith reality.
V ery often inadequacy, inferiority, and delinquency are sug­
gested to the child by family and neighborhood gossip regarding
his difficulty in getting along at home or in school.
T he parent w h o depends on threats and punishment to bring
about the desired conduct on the part o f the child is often making
a great deal of w o rk for the judge and the police court.
When cheating the child is held in the same contempt as cheating
the adult, children w ill have a higher regard for tru th and
No greater affliction can be thrust upon the child than that of
inheriting the type of parents w h o refuse to allow him to grow up.
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'"TP here is no more important aspect of any problem than to deter-


mine just what constitutes the problem. In helping parents to
meet adequately the responsibilities and obligations of parenthood
it is essential to define as clearly as possible some of the problems that
every normal child has to meet in the process of growing up.
The child at birth is already equipped with appetites, reflexes, and
tendencies which are essential in sustaining life. During the early
months this is a full-time job, as eating, sleeping, and elimination
occupy most of his time. Under ordinary conditions he is adequately
protected from the stresses of his environment, so that the dangers to
his physical well-being are reduced to a minimum.
The child at birth is not endowed with either manners or morals.
He has no ready-made standards of truth, honesty, courtesy, or obedi­
ence. Neither is he born selfish, dishonest, mean, jealous, or cruel.
The time soon comes, however, when the child has to make some com­
promises between the desire to satisfy self and the demands made
upon him by the environment in which he is being reared. It is at
this time that he comes in contact and frequently in conflict with cer­
tain barriers which are set up for the purpose of making him conform
to the habits and usages of a social group. 1 That is, he must begin
building into his personality those habits and traits which will tend to
make him ultimately a conforming individual.
It is not surprising that these restraining influences put in operation
by the parents inevitably create opposition and a certain amount of
rebellion. These must be overcome before the parents can successfully
accomplish their purpose. Conflict under the existing conditions is but
to be expected when we consider how fundamentally self-centered the
infant child is. Self is forever in the foreground during these early
months, demanding in its crude, instinctive way all the creature com­
forts of life, playing for attention, and devising ways and means of
exerting power. This immature, self-centered individual is constantly
seeking pleasure and protection. He has no feeling of obligation and
no sense of responsibility toward those upon whom he is so entirely
dependent. It is quite obvious that such a state cannot exist indefi­
nitely. If it were not for this process of socialization, with all its
restraining influences, society would soon have a generation of defiant
young rebels with whom to deal. The child must meet and success­
fully adjust his own life to the opposing forces set up in the environ­
ment. That is, his behavior must be modified, certain compromises
made between what he desires and what he is permitted to have, so
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that he may move on with success and satisfaction to the next step in
development. If he fails at this point his conflicts and rebellious atti­
tudes will leave him emotionally crippled, hampered by inhibitions
and feelings of inadequacy, thinking that he must not do this and is
incapable of doing that. Such feelings invariably lead to unhappiness
and inefficiency.
It is in the process of acquiring adequate ways of meeting the
restraints and barriers set up by the environment that the child
develops habits, personality traits, and the more complex patterns of
conduct and mental attitudes toward the world in which he lives.
Whether these habits and attitudes be of the type that will permit him
to make the necessary adjustments to life and become a socialized indi­
vidual depends largely upon his experience during these early years.
It is during this period that the inherent tendencies with which the
child is endowed at birth and those which he acquires in the process of
development, his ways of thinking and feeling, all become woven into
a common fabric called personality. This is the sum total of all those
mental and physical attributes which go to make up, not any individ­
ual, but one particular individual with well-defined traits all his own;
this is known as individuality. It is this total personality with which
we have to deal in all problems of human relationship.
In spite of the factors common to all children, there are very marked
individual differences. It is because there are such wide diversities in
the constitutional make-up of every individual and because these indi­
viduals are called upon to adjust themselves to environments that are
varied and constantly changing that the problems and situations
created are so complex. One need only mention the differences that
exist in the inherent intellectual endowment of children. Not only do
we have to deal with the bright and the stupid child, but also with the
genius and the idiot. There is no common pattern for the physical
make-up of the child. Height, weight, muscular coordination, and
susceptibility to fatigue are all important in giving one child an
inherent advantage or disadvantage over another. Emotional stability,
concentration, and will power are all aspects of the individual
make-up, which fluctuates as widely as does intelligence. These are
frequently the factors which ultimately determine how adequately the
child may utilize his inherent mental ability and his physical stamina.
The outward expression of what one thinks and feels is action.
Conduct, therefore, has become the all-important standard by which
people are judged. W e are prone to accept it at its face value as being
either good or bad, according to its impression upon us individually.
The same type of. conduct that is approved by one group would not be
sanctioned by another. Conduct that would not be taken seriously in
a child of 6 years would cause parents great concern if it occurred a few
years later.
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Notwithstanding the fact that we have no set standards for conduct,
there are fairly well-defined rules, regulations, customs, and traditions
recognized and approved by society that must be adhered to or we fail
to receive social approval. So in the task of helping the child to
become socialized we follow certain standards of the social group in
which we live to measure the degree of success or failure. This being
true, it is important to get a broad perspective of just how the conduct
of the developing child is affected by the world in which he lives.
In the light of what we have already said, conduct may be defined
as being the result of the child’s reaction to his environment. It fol­
lows that if we are to understand conduct we must study the child
and carefully investigate his environment, keeping in mind that no
two children are identical in their native endowment and that environ­
ments vary tremendously. Rarely do we find two individuals meeting
similar environments in the same way. Besides these individual dif­
ferences there are marked variations in some individuals as to the way
they respond to the same environment at different times. Standards
of conduct likewise vary according to age, sex, race, and community.
Before discussing the child and his environment let us consider for
a moment a few of the important aspects of conduct which will be
helpful in our efforts to understand the child. Any mere descriptive
account of conduct is of value only so far as it helps to determine what
may be the driving force or motive of the conduct. For example,
cruelty is a type of conduct. It may be induced by jealousy, a feeling
of inferiority, an unhealthy desire for power, or one of many other
causes. Stealing may be an end in itself or simply a means to an end.
The approach to the problem of altering conduct depends upon the
motive of. the conduct. Undesirable conduct is only a symptom and
not the fundamental condition, and, like temperature or headache, it
may have numerous and varied causes.
Any serious effort to understand conduct must take into considera­
tion the child’s experiences. N o fair evaluation of what the conduct
means or how it can be altered can be arrived at without adequate
information as to the child’s early life. Conduct is the expression of
certain well-defined instinctive forces in the child that are striving for
an outlet in a world in which adult standards prevail. It is not sur­
prising, therefore, that there is much conflict between the child and
society during the period when he is learning his own ways of meeting
life. He has to learn to control certain physical mechanisms, such as
bowels and bladder, and to develop the mechanics necessary for talk­
ing, walking, feeding, handling objects, and other such activities. He
must learn to control his anger, fear, and jealousy. He must restrain
impulsiveness that would be a source of danger to physical well-being.
Finally, he must assume certain social obligations concerned with what
adults term “morals”— honesty, truth, approved sex standards.
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Important as all these habits and conduct patterns really are to the
child and to the social group, they are of permanent value only if the
child has developed a healthy mental attitude toward them. It is
obvious that in our effort to help the child develop habits that will
prove useful in later life and that will be socially approved as he is
growing up we must do all we can to make him understand our aim.
It is easy for the child to get the idea firmly fixed in his mind that
parents are simply trying to superimpose a strong will upon a weake.
one. Conformity to standards because of outside pressure and fear
will probably not last very long after the pressure has been removed.
Conduct, whether good or bad, socially approved or disapproved, finds
its source in the same fountain. It is the same struggle for satisfaction
that makes one boy a bully and another a champion and protector of
the weak. It is our task as parents to direct the child’s activity, as far
as possible, so that he will acquire his satisfactions in ways that are
socially approved.
The child, as has been stated, is not born with morals nor equipped
with the habits necessary for meeting life adequately. These are all
acquired processes. The infant is decidedly primitive and instinctive
in all his reactions to life. Self is all-important, and he has little or
no regard for the environment in which he lives, except as it con­
tributes to his creature comforts, adds to his sense of importance and
power, or perhaps inflicts upon him some painful experience. How­
ever, the child is well endowed with the mental characteristics essential
for the acquisition of knowledge. He is curious, and he is ill at ease
until his curiosity is satisfied. He is imitative and extremely sug­
gestible— a fact that tends to make learning easy and pleasant. Plas­
ticity is one of his outstanding mental characteristics, so that he ac­
quires new habits and relinquishes the old with comparative ease.
However, in spite of the fact that the child is well equipped to learn
from his environment, his job is a most complicated one. Much con­
fusion exists as to what is actually right or wrong. More difficulty
arises over social customs and manners which are simply aporoved or
Grown-ups unconsciously add to the child’s troubles by taking much
for granted, assuming that he must know or should know things that
he has never had an opportunity of learning. It is very important that
we as parents consider carefully the material with which we have to
deal in making plans for our children. W e must lay aside our precon­
ceived ideas of what we wish our child to be and must develop to the
best advantage what our child is. A ll too frequently we are swayed
by our unfulfilled wishes, hopes, and ambitions, giving too little atten­
tion to the child and the needs of his own personality. W e frequently
force him into situations in which failure is inevitable. Parental hopes
and ambitions should not stand in the way of permitting the child to
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find those normal, healthy outlets, whether at work or at play, which
satisfy his emotional needs. “Problem children” as such are compara­
tively rare, but in the process of growing the child encounters numer­
ous problems, many of which are simply incidents of the phase
through which he is passing. Most of the undesirable ways of think­
ing and acting which children develop, are indications that the
environment— particularly those aspects of the environment for which
the parents are responsible— represents the real problem.
Children represent the raw material from which the future genera­
tion is to be produced. The number of queer, peculiar, eccentric,
unhappy, maladjusted adults in any generation that will be turned
out from the infants of that generation will depend to a very large
extent upon the wisdom which their parents have exercised. They
must see that these children have the training, discipline, and educa­
tion best suited to their needs. If the personalities of parents are in­
adequate through intellectual defect, or if their outlook on life is
twisted and warped by their own distorted ambitions, it will not be
surprising if these inadequacies are reflected in the child’s personality.
In an effort to alter undesirable habits and to establish others that
are better suited to the child’s needs we must consider certain mental
characteristics of child life that are particularly useful at this period.
W e must ask ourselves, “Is the child especially suggestible, imita­
tive, plastic, affectionate ?” W e must determine his responses to praise,
blame, reward, and punishment, and try to understand his hopes,
desires, and interests as well as his fears, doubts, and misgivings. Not
only must we have information regarding his intelligence but we must
carefully investigate those emotional disturbances which interfere with
his ability to use it. Undesirable habits and personality defects not
only must be eradicated; they must be replaced by some new interest.
It is not sufficient to build up barriers which will thwart desires, block
the emotional driving forces, and thus leave the child in a state of
frustration. These forces must find new outlets in ways that are
acceptable to the social group and also give satisfaction to the child.
It may be a comparatively simple matter for the nursery-school or
kindergarten teacher to make the casual observation that a certain
child is suffering from a feeling of inferiority. It will require a thor­
ough investigation into the family history and a complete understand­
ing of the circumstances, conditions, and personalities with which the
child has had to contend to determine whether this feeling of inferi­
ority is based upon some physical handicap or is due to mental retarda­
tion. The answer to the problem may be found in the home— unfa­
vorable comparison with a superior brother or sister, a dominant,
intolerant parent who sets standards so high that the child never
attains success in the parent’s eyes, or criticism that is more or less
constant and savors of injustice. The child may be the product of
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an oversolicitous mother who has refused to allow her child to grow
up or a mother who is too preoccupied with her social functions to
give the child his due share of attention. Habits such as masturbation
and enuresis, especially when the child is made to feel that he is in
the grip of some terrible habit, are occasionally responsible for a feeling
of inferiority. These are just a few suggestions indicating how varied
may be the underlying factors that lead to just one of the many person­
ality problems.W e must also keep in mind that children with feelings of inade­
quacy do not all meet their problem in the same way. One child may
become rebellious and resentful toward criticism— a state of mind
which leads to defiance, disobedience, and truancy. Another may be
completely subdued and retreat to a life of daydreaming and fantasy.
Another may develop a defensive attitude by blaming his troubles on
his environment, his parent, his teacher, or his playmates. He takes
the position that he is right and the world is wrong. Many children
find an outlet for their inferiority in the classroom and on the play­
ground by a life of delinquency.
Whatever form asocial or undesirable behavior may take, it can be
understood only in terms of the child’s experiences. One must make
a real effort to determine the forces lying behind the conduct and the
particular purpose the conduct is serving in the life of the child. Only
by making thorough investigations and taking the attitude that be­
havior is but a symptom and not a cause shall we ultimately reach an
understanding of child behavior. We shall then be able to introduce
methods, not only to overcome that which is undesirable but also to
perpetuate those habits and mental attitudes which are essential to
a well-adjusted existence.
The job of growing up, even under favorable conditions, is one that
is beset by many pitfalls. Well-intentioned adults, ofttimes confuse
the child by their everchanging standards. They are altogether too
erratic in their demands upon him. Parental discipline is likely to
depend upon their whims and moods, rather than upon a well-defined
plan of child training. Under such conditions the child is tossed
about upon the wave of emotionalism. He is without compass, rudder,
or pilot, and it is not surprising that he fails to reach his harbor or goal.
He flounders about on a sea of immaturity, insecurity, and dependence.
The parents have failed to understand him and have neglected to
utilize his inherent mental characteristics for the development of those
habits and personality traits which are necessary to the health, happi­
ness, and efficiency of the normal individual, whether he be in the
nursery, school, or college, or engaged in some other constructive
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he health, happiness, and efficiency of the adult man and woman
depend to a very large extent upon the type of habits they acquire
from their training and experience during early, life. Any information
which gives the interested parent a better idea of the mental life of
the child, methods that may be utilized in developing desirable habits,
and suggestions for overcoming undesirable habits may be considered
well worth while.
“Habit” is such a common, everyday sort of term, with which every­
one is more or less familiar, that it hardly seems necessary to discuss
it at all. However, it is in this very fact— that habits are common­
place and ordinary in the minds of the great mass of individuals—
that the danger lies. A ll too frequently the fundamental importance
of forming right habits in early life is minimized or overlooked
Without any attempt to give a strictly scientific definition, it may
be said that habit is the tendency to repeat what has been done
before. One develops not only habits of acting but habits of thinking
and feeling in certain ways. Habits in regard to the care of the body—
eating, sleeping, eliminating, bathing— are easily formed and vitally
affect health. Our manners are a collection of habits; we do a rude
or a courteous thing almost without stopping to think. If we did not
learn the muscular movements which become habitual through repeti­
tion we could never play the piano, run a typewriter, or gain skill in
athletics. O f course, children must learn the simpler motions first— the
use of knife and fork, the buttoning of clothes, and the tying of knots.
The morals of .most of us are, to a large extent, the result of habits
of thinking formed in early life— our attitude toward the drinking
of alcoholic liquors or the taking of others’ property, or the problem
of sex, as well as our attitude toward other people, whether sincere
or deceitful, friendly or antagonistic. Most of our prejudices are the
outcome of habits of thinking formed in childhood. Many persons,
as children, develop a feeling about racial and religious differences
which may lead in later life to intolerance and hatred toward their
fellow men. This same attitude of mind is seen in children toward
their playmates who have the misfortune of being orphans or toward
those who are boarded under the care of a child-placing agency. Care
should be taken to see that children are early taught kindness and con­
sideration for those less fortunate, for unconsciously they will form their
attitudes from the home atmosphere.


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A ll these tendencies toward thinking and acting in certain ways,
which are called habitual, are the outgrowth of training and expe­
rience. They are not inherited. W e begin to form habits at birth and
go on through life, forming them quickly and easily in youth and
more slowly and with difficulty as the years advance. The oftener the
act is repeated or the thought is indulged in the more lasting the habit
becomes. Since habit formation begins early and is more or less con­
stant throughout life it is of great importance that emphasis be placed
upon establishment of desirable habits.
A young child has certain characteristics that make the acquisition
of new habits easy. For one thing, he is suggestible; that is, he accepts
without reasoning about it anything which comes from a person he
looks up to. “My father said so” or “My mother did it” makes a thing
absolutely right for a little child. Again, a child naturally tends to
imitate the words, actions, and attitudes of the people around him,
and this makes it of the greatest importance that older people furnish
him the kind of models they want copied. A child wants to please
those whom he loves and wants to have them say they are pleased.
A t first it is only father or mother or some one else in the immediate
family whose good opinion he wants. Then it is the kindergarten or
school teacher. Finally, at 9 or 10, the praise or blame of his playmates
or of the gang leader concerns him more than anything else. When
this stage is reached parents should not be disheartened and think that
their boy is developing into a black sheep. It is a perfectly natural
stage which children pass through and which calls only for greater
care in the selection of wholesome companions.
This attitude of concern regarding what other people think is a force
that parents may use in developing right conduct. Rarely is a child
found who does not care for the approval of some one, and training
should make a child realize that it is to his advantage to win approba­
tion for desirable acts. Praise for unselfishness, kindness, and general
consideration for others tends to perpetuate that type of conduct.
Some parents play upon a child’s natural sympathy for others until
it becomes like a worn-out elastic band which has been stretched till
it is useless. “Don’t make a noise; mother’s head aches”, may make a
child sorry for mother at first, but if it interferes with every bit of
happy play he has he soon learns to be hard-hearted about it. O n the
other hand, real sympathy for others, which is one of the finest quali­
ties of personality, may be developed by training and form the basis
of a habit of kindness and understanding which will last through­
out life.
Plasticity, which, as William James states, means “the possession of
a structure weak enough to yield, yet strong enough not to yield all at
once”, is a mental characteristic in a child’s life which permits him to
adjust himself to the numerous and varied changes necessary during
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the early years of life. It is the same characteristic which permits the
adaptations in adult life that promote happiness and efficiency. It is
this plastic state of the child’s mind which prompts him to develop
new methods of reacting from day to day. It is the characteristic that
is absolutely essential to the formation of new and the giving up of
old habits. It is this instinctive tendency with which the child is born
that facilitates habit formation.
A child must be thought of as something more than arms and legs
which are always tearing clothes and getting into trouble, eyes and
ears which are seeing and listening when it is inconvenient for adults
to have them, and a stomach and other internal organs which get out
of order sometimes. A child has a mental life far more delicate and
complex than his physical body, far more difficult to keep in order,
and much more easily put out of adjustment. A child lives a real
mental life, full of hopes, ambitions, doubts, misgivings, joys, sorrows,
and strivings that are being gratified or thwarted much the same at
3 years of age as they will be at 30. The home is the workshop in
which the character and personality of this individual are being molded
by the formation of habits into the person he will be in adult life.
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first tasks which confronts the mother is that of sup­
plying proper nourishment to the newborn child. Because of
the delicate organism which must be dealt with and the close relation­
ship between the emotional and the physical life of the child the prob­
lem may be handled best by a physician who is skilled in the treatment
of children’s diseases. Not infrequently difficulties regarding the feed­
ing of the child and the child’s attitude toward his food cannot be
explained on any physical basis. It may be that diagnosis, treatment,
and cure have taken place with regard to some physical condition
which might well have been the cause of a given feeding difficulty,
and still the problem is unsolved. It is with this group of cases in
which every physical basis for trouble has been eliminated that this
discussion is particularly concerned. The common complaints in these
cases are absolute refusal of food, refusal to swallow, the sucking of
food after it has been taken into the mouth, and vomiting if the child
is forced to eat. Experience has shown that many of these habits are
easily explained by situations in the home. The attitude of the parent
toward the child, unwise selection of food, making the meal too
important, and creating scenes to which there is attached unpleasant
emotion— all increase the difficulty.
In the minds of many parents poor appetite is associated with poor
health, and it is therefore only natural that a poor appetite in a child
should arouse worry, anxiety, and oversolicitude in the parent. In the
type of cases under consideration there is frequently no relation
between faulty food habits and poor appetite; in fact, it is quite notice­
able that many of these children with faulty feeding habits are by no
means poorly nourished, underweight, anemic individuals. The prob­
lem usually resolves itself into the quality of food taken, the method
of taking it, and the necessary outlay of energy and effort on the
mother’s part to force adequate nourishment upon the child.
One of the most common mistakes the mother makes is brought
about by her preconceived notion that every child requires the same
amount of food and that every child must necessarily eat every meal.
With this idea in mind she becomes fretful and emotionally upset if
the child fails to meet her standards. Notwithstanding the fact that
the state of nutrition is one of the most important indicators of the
child’s well-being, it does not hold true that all children require the
same amount of food, that they must necessarily be of the same height
or weight at a certain age, or that any particular harm will follow if
they miss a meal or two. It is frequently this undue anxiety on the


ne of the

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part of the parent that tends to make the meal hour an event rather
than an incident in the daily life of the child.
T h e result of such oversolicitude on the part of one father is seen in the case
of a bright little girl of 6. H er mother died of tuberculosis, and the father is
haunted by a fear of the child’s having contracted the disease. H is one desire
is to see her fat and rosy. Three large meals a day are forced upon this child
by an overwrought father, w ho in his anxiety creates such a tense atmosphere in
the home that Sally loses all appetite or bolts her food in fear of the wrath to
come, or, in a different mood, waits to be coaxed and bribed to swallow a single
mouthful. Instead of being a simple routine, mealtime offers an opportunity,
w hich the child sees and grasps, for staging a little drama in w hich she is the
principal figure, the object of solicitude and concern. T h e meal itself has lost
importance, and all depends upon the child’s wishes.

W ho does not like to feel his own importance and power ? Small
Tommy, by eating or not eating, can pretty well control his parents
and make them bow to his will. Mother herself may unconsciously
defeat her own desires. She may start the meal by reminding Tommy
that he did not eat his breakfast. There may follow a period of teasing
and coaxing or threatening and bribing, all of which, if Tommy has
a will of his own, may make him determined not to give way, or he
may compromise and eat if mother will sit down to feed him, even
though he can well perform this task for himself. Then, the meal
over, Tommy hears the whole situation reviewed to a neighbor who
drops in and to whom mother turns for sympathy. Most people like
to be “unusual” or “different”, and, according to mother, Tommy is
decidedly so. Is there any wonder he should strive to maintain the role ?
The relation between functions of digestion and emotional states
of mind is a close one. Desire for food is greatly affected by feelings
of anger, jealousy, sorrow, or joy. As the emotions in children are
much more unstable and more quickly aroused than in later years, it
is easy to understand why a child who has been forced to eat some
particular article of food for which he had no desire, or to eat more
food than there was a physiological demand for, should reward his
mother for her efforts in feeding him by rejecting the entire meal.
This habit of vomiting food may start as a purely physiological
process, as described. If, however, the act produces on the part of the
parent undue care and attention, it may be repeated on other occasions
for quite a different reason; that is, as a definite demand for attention.
Every effort should be made to have the child in a calm and cheerful
state of mind at mealtime. If he is tired or sulky or greatly excited,
he probably will show a lack of appetite and food may be distasteful
to him.
Until good habits of eating are well established, have the child eat
alone, where, without an interested audience, he may learn to feed
himself and slop and spill if need be while he learns. In this way there
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- j£ x will be less to distract him, and he will not see and desire things
which are provided for the adults and which he is better off without.
If mother sits with him for company, she should have something to
take up part of her interest— some sewing, for instance. The child
will not then feel her entire interest focused on him. Nothing can
be worse for the child than to feel that it is of vital interest whether
or not he eats his food. Conceal your anxiety, and treat the meal hour
as a pleasant but incidental part of the day’s program.
If lor some reason the child cannot or will not eat the meal before
him, do not force him or talk the matter over before him. There is
grave danger of arousing an antagonistic attitude toward a particular
type of food by insisting that it be eaten the first time it is presented.
There is probably a certain resentment on the mother’s part if her com­
mand is disputed, and perhaps there is some feeling, though it is
entirely unjustified, that if she cannot make Johnny eat spinach or
carrots the first time they appear on the table he will never eat them.
As a matter of fact, there is more danger in creating an unpleasant
scene which the child will remember when next he sees these foods
and which will thus prevent him from eating or enjoying them.
Dainty serving of food goes a long way in arousing appetite. A small
table and china “all his own” or being allowed to sit in mother’s place
at the table may have a great appeal. Let the child know that when he
learns to feed himself in a quiet, efficient manner he may then come to
the table with the “grown-ups.” This may give him incentive to strive
for perfection. Occasionally consult the child’s preference about his
food, but never let him feel he is free to dictate as to what he will and
will not eat. Teach him that certain foods are required if he is to grow
big and strong and rugged like the “Daddy” he adores. Do not insist
on pushing him; lead him once in a while. Little harm will result
from his missing a meal now and then. There are times when food
is repulsive to children for no apparent reason. There are other occa­
sions when their mood is such that they enjoy arousing anxiety, worry,
and solicitude in the parent. You will find when this is the case and
the child says he does not want any lunch that it is wise to reply that
it is quite all right and if he is not hungry he may run out to play.
You have thus removed every resistance which he hoped to battle
against, and if this is just an emotional attitude it is unlikely that he
will take any chances on missing a meal in the future.
Remember that children are quick to copy and if, for instance,
IP grandma is on a limited diet and cannot eat this or that, or if father
frankly emphasizes his likes and dislikes, the child is apt to become
finicky and notional in his eating. The child who early learns to eat
with a good appetite whatever is set before him will be saved much
discomfort and embarrassment in later life.
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O f course, the child should have plain, nourishing, easily digested
food that is well cooked and served in small quantities. Regularity in
serving meals is of great importance, not only for physiological reasons,
such as keeping the intake of food evenly regulated in order that the
digestive apparatus may work smoothly, but for other reasons as well.
Obviously, if a child learns that food is available at any hour of the day
he will not be greatly concerned in eating at any definite time. It
should be understood by the children and strictly adhered to by the
parent that if the youngster does not eat at the allotted hour he gets
nothing until the following meal. Care must be taken, however, that
he is not fed between meals by other members of the family or sup­
plied with pennies with which he can buy sweets to appease his
hunger during the interval. The child should not be hurried during
the meal, nor should he be given sufficient time to play and dabble
with his food. The ordinary meal for a child should not require over
30 minutes at the most. If by that time he has not finished, remove
the food without any comment. And again, remember, the meal hour
must not be at a time when the child has an opportunity of “putting
himself across” as an individual of importance because of his attitude
toward taking his food.
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percentage of all mental conflicts and abnormalities in
adults and children either are directly caused or are colored by
unfortunate attitudes or experiences with the ever-present force called
sex. There is no force in all mental life that is more urgent in its
demands for some form of expression and none to which society, the
family, and the individual will allow less freedom.
Whether parents recognize it or not, the child’s sex life and sex
interest begins its development at an early age. It need not be looked
upon as a problem and certainly should not be approached from a
moral point of view. A n effort should be made to understand what
it all means to the child and to help him gain the same unemotional
attitude toward that subject as toward eating, bathing, or sleeping.
Sex activity of some type is so common in most children of the pre­
school age that one begins to think of masturbation, sex curiosity,
and interest in excretions as the rule rather than as the exception.
These phases of interest do not represent problems any more than
teething, learning to talk, or learning to walk. They are but normal
expressions of intellectual and emotional development. The curiosity
that a preschool boy has about the anatomical difference between
himself and his little sister has little or no significance beyond indi­
cating normal interest until the unwise parent endows the situation
with much mystery by hastily covering up the little girl when the
brother appears in the bathroom unexpectedly, causing him to sneak
away as though he had committed some crime by his intrusion. It is
the mother’s emotional attitude that creates unhealthy curiosity in
the child, when the nude body and a few short explanations would
have soon satisfied the boy’s normal interest without harm either to
him or to his sister.
Any lasting curiosity or interest in the excretions is invariably the
result of the child’s having been told that such interest is bad or nasty
or that these things are never talked about. Rarely do we find this
interest prolonged after the child has been told just why these func­
tions are necessary to health. The excretions may be likened to the
waste in the garbage pail or to the ashes in the furnace. They can
be explained in terms of health and good bodily functioning, so that
there remains nothing more for the child to be curious about. But if
these natural functions are associated with things “good” and “bad”
there is immediately created a mystery which the child quite naturally
tries to solve. There are enough mysteries that are beyond the child’s
intellectual understanding. Life is very complicated and confusing at
best, and parents should endeavor to simplify it by explaining all that

jL jl.

89881°— 37----- 3
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the child is capable of grasping rather than making it more difficult
for him by an emotional attitude toward life’s simplest, natural,
normal, and healthy activities.
The very fact that sex as a subject for discussion is always taboo in
the presence of the child accounts for the intense curiosity which many
children develop at an early age regarding the subject. A ll too fre­
quently the child’s natural desire to be enlightened on this subject just
as freely as on any other is met by cold reserve, a sharp rebuff, or a dis­
honest answer from one who in all other ways is a considerate and wise
parent. It is therefore not surprising that the child soon learns to keep
to himself the knowledge he has gained from his own investigations
or has gathered from some more sophisticated playmate, and soon
becomes as self-conscious about his sex life as the parents are themselves.
A little child quickly senses a tense atmosphere and embarrassment
on the part of the adults when faced with his eager questions, and
because of this he is apt to follow one of two lines. This way of dis­
concerting those with whom he comes in contact may please him, so
that he will continue his questioning at most inopportune times, or he
may be made so ill at ease and self-conscious that he determines never
to be placed in such a position again if he can help it, and therefore
ceases to bring his puzzles and problems to his parents, who should
stand ready to help him over the hard places. Because he stops his
questioning and seems uninterested is no sign that he is no longer
filled with curiosity over these mysterious things which seem to be so
shocking. He may be quietly using every means available to find out
in other ways the answers for which he will no longer ask.
The parents must free themselves so far as possible from self-con­
sciousness when the subject is mentioned. Clear, frank answers suited
to the child’s intelligence and development will satisfy his interest for
the moment, whereas emphasizing the matter by “hushing the child
up” and telling him it is “naughty” to talk of such things will make
him only the more determined to find out why, and what it is all about.
O f course, care must be used in educating the child on these matters.
Do not rush in and give him a mass of details far beyond his grasp.
Go slowly and frankly from day to day, and as the questions arise meet
them with thought and consideration. Do not tell the child fanciful
tales about the stork and the doctor’s bag when the new baby arrives;
this will soon become an insult to his intelligence. Instead tell him
beforehand, in simple language, that he is going to have a baby brother
or sister, and let him take part in the joy of anticipation. It is a far
greater mystery to the child to hear the stork story than to be told that
a baby lives and grows within the mother just as a flower does that has
been planted in the ground; that it takes nine months for the baby to
grow, and during this time it is kept warm and well nourished by the
mother. Such simple facts are readily accepted.
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One of the most hampering things in regard to early sex instruction
is the attitude of society in general to such matters. The parents may
be ever so careful and may try to give the child a normal^wholesome
view of the subject, meeting him frankly and showing no embarrass­
ment. If, however, he makes a slip in public their thoughtful training
may be largely undone.
T h is w as the case w ith a youngster of 6 who had recently had a little sister.
H is parents had confided in him and he had taken part in the preparations and
anticipation. H e had a clear but simple idea where babies come from and had
no feelings of shame on the subject. One day, on the porch w ith his mother
and several of her friends, he said quite clearly, pointing at one of the women,
“Mother, don’t you think that lady is goin g to have a baby, too, pretty soon?”
T h e group freely showed their consternation and disapproval. T o the little boy
this was a most humiliating situation, producing self-consciousness and diffidence
w ith outsiders for some time afterward.

Care must be taken to teach the child that such subjects are talked
over only with father and mother in private, just as many matters are
not subjects of general conversation. A t this point there is danger,
however, that the child will associate all matters of sex with those of
elimination. Never tell a child that his questions are “bad” or “dirty”
or shameful.
If he does ask them at an embarrassing moment
quietly say with no show of emotion that you will tell him all about
that later when you have more time to talk with him
Children may early develop a sensitiveness in regard to their bodies
and a curiosity to see themselves and others nude. Some even resort
to tricks of hiding and peeping through keyholes to gain opportunities
of seeing members of the household undressing. On the other hand,
they may become overmodest and prudish. Try never to arouse spe­
cial interest or attract the child’s attention to his body.
O ne little girl of 3, having just learned the art of dressing and undressing
herself, was experimenting one morning, having nothing else to do. H er
mother, finding her in the parlor w ith all her clothing off, was shocked, and
because she was shocked impressed upon the child that w hat she had done was
“naughty” and “not nice” , and that people must never see her without her clothes
on. T h e whole matter was overemphasized, and the youngster took it to heart
and became sensitive and unduly modest. She would cry if a passing stranger
happened to see her at the w indow in her nightgow n, and she lost all pleasure
in playing about the beach in her bathing suit if she thought she was under
observation. She has been made so conscious of her body that she is meeting
one difficulty after another in regard to the subject when she should have been
spared all thought and worry.

Although crowded living conditions at times are necessary in these
days of high rents and apartment life, the child should have a room
separate from his parents whenever possible. Adults little realize how
early children begin to take in what is done and said in their presence.
If their curiosity is aroused by half-disguised conversation over their
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heads, they will make it their business to try to learn more and clear
up the mystery. Many a child has “played possum” and pretended to
sleep when he was listening to what was going on, and he may brood
and puzzle for some time over the things he does not undertsand.
Often children who have heard much talk of medical matters and
operations, or have spent time in hospitals and have been subjected
to physical examinations, will try out on each other in their play things
they have heard or seen. If, when youngsters are found indulging
in such experimentation, the situation is ignored and the interest of
the children is diverted instead of being focused on the matter by swift
and drastic punishment it is far less likely to leave a lasting memory.
There are two important things for parents to remember with refer­
ence to the subject of sex. The first is that frequently at an early age—
sometimes as early as 6 months— children may become aware that
certain pleasurable sensations can be aroused by handling or rubbing
the genitals, squeezing the thighs together tightly, straddling stair rails
or the arms of chairs, riding on some one’s foot, and in many other
ways that have been discovered accidentally or have been demon­
strated to them by other children or unscrupulous nursemaids or
attendants. Often visits to the toilet are occasions of great interest
to the child, and many times it is only then that the child indulges
in masturbation. The second point to remember is that this early
period of what may be called sex awareness is transitory, unless
emphasized by unwise treatment, and should play no larger part in the
child’s life than does the early habit of bed wetting. Little children
have no thought of wrongdoing when first practicing masturbation,
and care should be taken that they are not shamed and severely pun­
ished, as this may injure their pride, make them self-conscious, focus
their interest, and make them cling tenaciously to the habit.
In every case in which a child is found to indulge in this practice a
careful examination should be made to determine whether there is any
physical cause, such as irritation, constipation, intestinal worms, local
adhesions, or other abnormalities. The urine should be examined for
hyperacidity and bacteria which might indicate inflammation.
The genitals must be kept free from the accumulation of any foreign
matter. This entails daily observation on the part of the mother.
W ith the boy, the long projecting skin must be pulled back over the
penis and the parts carefully cleansed with absorbent cotton. Equal
care must be given to the girl, for local irritation is more often the
starting point of masturbation in girls than in boys.
Parents should be sure that the child’s trousers and underwear are
well-fitting. Too tight or irritating clothing is a source of much
annoyance to children and draws their attention to their bodies.
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Know as intimately as possible every individual with whom the
child comes in contact. Keep informed as to what is taking place
when a group of children is spending long periods of time in the barn,
the basement, or the attic. It often happens that a younger child has
been initiated into certain sex activities by one of the older children in
the family who never has been suspected. Try to keep yourself in
touch with all the activities and interests of the children through per­
sonal contact. Know the teachers, the neighbors, and the playmates of
your child, and above all things win and keep his confidence.
Most young children are not secretive about masturbation. Where
they do it openly occupation and diversion are perhaps as useful as
any more elaborate methods of treatment, such as physical restraint,
rewards and punishment, charts to show achievement, and other
things of this sort. If, when seen indulging in this practice, the child
is given something to interest him, a book or pictures to look at, or
a definite errand to do, or is told a story, his attention will not be
drawn to the habit, and it will soon drop into the background and be
forgotten with his lesser interests. Some children when put to bed at
night or for a day nap may learn to resort to this habit until sleep
overtakes them. If such is the case it may help to give the child a well­
loved doll or toy animal to hold after he is tucked in at night or to tell
him stories until he falls asleep; with the child of 4 or 5 who is out­
growing his customary day nap and to whom sleep comes with diffi­
culty it may be better to give up the nap and put him to bed earlier at
night rather than make him stay in bed when he cannot sleep and so
give him an opportunity, unwatched, to indulge in this practice.
There is, however, a group of children with whom masturbation is
only a symptom of an unhappy state of mind, and the habit comes to
represent a retreat when life, with its manifold problems, becomes too
complicated and lacking in satisfaction. It may be compared to the
situation of the adult who turns to drink for momentary relief. The
child who is moody or lonely or who has been punished may resort to
the practice for consolation and comfort. If this is the case, the prob­
lem is quite different and far more difficult. The personality of the
individual needs careful investigation, and no generalization will be
of value.
Those in charge of the child must know him well and must under­
stand his moods and their causes. They should know his interests,
plans, and hopes, and what brings happiness and satisfaction to him
Above all things, parents must not allow undue fear and anxiety
to sway them and make them give the habit more weight than it
should have. The important thing to remember is that the dangers
to the physical and mental well-being of the child are more apt to come
from the parents’ own attitude and unwise treatment than from the
habit itself.
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teachers, and nurses recognize the fact that both selfconfidence and independence appear at a very early age if the child
is given an opportunity of demonstrating what he can do with his
environment, the extent to which he may control it, and the limita­
tions which it imposes upon him. During late childhood, adolescence,
and adult life we are constantly meeting with a large number of
individuals who are sorely handicapped by their lack of self-assurance.
Our schools, colleges, shops, and offices all bear witness to the fact that
sound bodily health and good intellectual equipment are no assurance
of success when an individual is handicapped by fears of failure and
is constantly dependent upon others for reassurance and encourage­
ment. It is, therefore, of greatest importance that parents start out
with a program for training that will permit the child to assume such
responsibilities as his intellectual equipment and physical development
will permit.
Certain obvious dangers and pitfalls confront parents in the task of
training children toward the goal of independence. Perhaps the
greatest stumbling block in carrying out this task successfully is the ^
fact that many parents get so much pleasure and satisfaction in serving
their children that they cater to them slavishly. They not only supply
all the children’s actual wants, and therefore do many things which
the children are perfectly capable of doing for themselves, but often
even anticipate their desires and create appetites and demands which
would be better left to develop slowly and at a later date. Naturally,
such an attitude relieves the child of the necessity of thinking and plan­
ning for himself.
During the first 6 months of life many fundamental habits are
being formed, ofttimes without obvious evidence that much in the way
of real development is taking place. For example, the kicking, reach­
ing, crawling, and handling activities of children during this early
period are all-important in the later development of a well-coordinated
nervous system. It is therefore important that these movements be not
restricted by fear or by having everything so well within the reach
of the child as to protect him from the necessity of reaching and
stretching and even of planning how to obtain the desired object. A
little later in life many children are inhibited and acquire fears by
living in the presence of adults who are constantly worried themselves
and therefore warn the child of the dangers surrounding practically
every situation in life with which he makes contact. On the other
hand, we see parents who bravely but injudiciously subject their chil­
dren to situations in which fear and failure are both inevitable.


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It may be well to stress the point that children should be very care­
fully led into each situation which is strange and new, whether it be
the first attempt on a new swing or paddling in the water. A tendency
inherent in most of us makes us cautious in facing new experiences,
and many times the fear that is attached to the primary experience car­
ries over into adult life. In the same way the satisfaction and pleasure
that come from successfully meeting these new situations act as the
force which tends to make us repeat them. Success is by all means the
strongest motive in keeping the child experimenting with his environ­
ment. The fact that he can start and stop certain movable objects, that
he can build and tear down, that he can dig valleys and create hills in
his sand box are the earliest tangible evidence of how he can modify
the world in which he lives, and it is the emotional satisfaction that is
derived from these childish pursuits that ultimately results in self-con­
fidence and independence. It is most desirable to give the child all the
available opportunities of demonstrating his ability. Rubber balls,
shovels, hoes, rakes, wheelbarrows, carts, large building blocks, ham­
mer and nails, with suitable material with which to work, are all much
more useful in developing independence than mechanical toys, which
amuse for the moment and perhaps keep the child well entertained but
do little to educate or train him.
Parents ofttimes foster a dependent attitude on the part of the child
by failing to appreciate just what he is capable of doing for himself.
It is not unusual to find mothers feeding their 3-year-old, dressing bim
when he is 5, going to school with him at the age of 8, planning all his
playtime at 12, looking after his personal hygiene at 14, selecting all
his friends and companions at 18, and finally picking out a marriage­
able mate at 21. This type of parent, who has selfishly dominated the
entire life of the child under the pretense of having made a great per­
sonal sacrifice, is simply practicing self-deception. This oversolicitous
attitude on the part of the parent is often found when the child has had
in early life a prolonged sickness or an accident— the practice of doing
everything for the child starting from necessity and continued from
habit or for parental satisfaction long after the child’s need had passed.
It is not surprising that the child clings tenaciously to such attention,
for he, like all human beings, finds satisfaction in being sufficiently
important to gain it.
One can only mention in passing a few of these outstanding situa­
tions in the parent-child relationship that lead to dependency and lack
of self-assurance on the part of the child. They all spring from the
innate tendency with which human beings are endowed to seek pleas­
ure and avoid pain. The great mass of children hesitate to venture
forth and experiment with the unknown. This is due to fear of
failure, humiliation, and ridicule. Yet they all desire to keep their
self-esteem and self-regard at the highest possible point. Children
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therefore must have tasks presented to them which will challenge their
intellectual equipment. Motives for accomplishment must be given
which will spur them on to attainment.
A t the present time we are passing through a most interesting and
frequently baffling situation in relation to parents and children during
the adolescent period. Young people today are confronted with an
environment quite different from that which their parents had to face
20 years ago. The automobile, the telephone, and the radio have pre­
sented new opportunities for gratifying the ever-increasing demand
for amusement. Parents are rather confused as to how this new de­
mand for freedom can best be met. They hesitate about making their
discipline too rigorous. They are, on the whole, not quite satisfied
with the order of things which they had to meet in their early days.
Yet they are extremely panicky and filled with honest doubts as to
whether or not the average youth can manage his own affairs with
wisdom. Youth is not slow to appreciate the fact that parents have
lost confidence in their own ability to make decisions wisely for their
children. So these boys and girls are boldly usurping all the authority
possible and following, so far as conditions permit, their own desires.
It is perhaps at this point that the wisdom displayed by parents in the
early training of their children will do much for the children’s future.
The child who has been allowed to develop, in his preadolescent years,
self-confidence, assurance, and independence will be less likely to abuse
the privileges and opportunities that come with adolescence when he
suddenly awakens to the fact that much of his conduct, whether it be
good or bad, is necessarily based on his own decisions. This early
adolescent period is the time when youth has to kick off the shackles
of parental domination in order to develop into manhood and woman­
hood unhampered by dependence on family. It is during the pre­
adolescent years that the child should build up habits, lay down pat­
terns of conduct, and develop will power that will permit him to
postpone the desires of the moment for the more worth-while things
that the future has in store. In other words, what may be expected in
the way of personality, emotional stability, and independence from a
boy or girl at 18 depends upon the habits he or she has acquired during
earlier years. Training and education begin at birth, and the habits
acquired during the early years are utilized for a lifetime.
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is more than what is generally implied when casually
used in relation to children. Mere submission to the control of
others who happen to be in authority or who through prestige, power,
or leadership hold positions of influence is a kind of obedience, but of
a very low order.
Obedience is not an end in itself; it is only a means through which
we attain greater efficiency and happiness. It is not merely a series of
responses which are looked upon as being satisfactory by parents to
varied situations that are constantly being presented by the child’s
environment. It is a more complicated conduct pattern which has
become part of the individual’s personality, prompting him to react
adequately to all stimuli arising from both within and without.
Adults are too likely to overlook those impulses within the child
which demand attention and which the child is called upon to obey.
One of the dominant forces of the young child’s life is curiosity. It is
stimulated by practically everything that is strange and new, or such
things as are in motion or can be set in motion or controlled by the
child. The child, responding to this inner urge and obeying the im­
pulse to investigate, to demonstrate his power, and to satisfy his
curiosity, may disobey— may not even hear— a command coming from
Adults must beware of the danger of checking normal responses to
fundamental impulses in order to gain obedience to some unimportant
demand of their own. If the child finds that obedience to these im­
pulses is associated with pleasure and satisfaction, he will continue to
obey them. It does not matter whether we are dealing with the phys­
ical demands of eating, sleeping, and elimination or the mental urges
for power, for satisfaction of curiosity, and for the approbation that
comes from socially approved moral standards. The impulse that
comes from within must be taken into consideration.
Parents usually think of obedience in children as the immediate and
proper response to their commands. They invariably endow this kind
of obedience with much virtue it does not possess. The obedient
child’s submissiveness to parental authority in itself gives parents a sat­
isfying sense of power, as the obedient child is a living memorial to
their own achievements. This attitude might be justified if obedience
were an end in itself, but this is not so. Obedience is only a means
through which self-control, independence, and conformity to social
standards may be attained.
Fear as a motive for obedience as well as disobedience is worthy of
consideration. Through fear of punishment the child may disobey the

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impulse from within to tell the truth. Fear may restrain him from
obeying the impulse to talk, to run, to investigate, and to venture
beyond the narrow limits of what an oversolicitous parent considers
safe. The fear may be of punishment or of loss of approbation, and at
times it is perfectly justified. Nevertheless fear is utilized all too fre­
quently by parents as the easiest way to assure themselves of obedience.
Fear as an influence on social behavior must be recognized as a vital
force— probably, as society is organized today, an essential force.
Nevertheless it is very much abused in our efforts to train children to be
obedient. Fear of consequences often helps to prevent a particular act
of misconduct, but it does not help the child to test the value of his
varied impulses and to obey those which are most worth while and
which will work out to his advantage in later life.
The parents who “cannot understand” why the child disobeys, why
he fails to live up to their preconceived ideas of what he should do and
be, who are continually making a great mystery of the child’s dis­
obedience, invariably destroy the confidence the child should have in
those whom he respects.
One of the goals that children struggle to attain is power, and there
is little satisfaction in this power unless the child has an opportunity to
exhibit it. Many adults never learn, either by training or by experi­
ence, the disadvantages of being dominated by this particular urge, and
much of the difficulty arising between parent and child is found in the
parents’ unconscious striving to show their power. It leads them to
most drastic and unfair measures in their efforts to be obeyed by those
over whom they have authority, whether it be in home, shop, or office.
Punishments out of all proportion to the demands of the situation are
introduced, and a feeling of fear— later, resentment and hostility— re­
sults. When authority is abused by parents in order to gain obedience,
the antagonism aroused in the child may become a very harmful and
handicapping influence in later life, leading to an unconscious resent­
ment toward every one in authority.
Temporary periods of disobedience are most commonly caused by
poor physical health. The child who is acutely sick, who suffers from
chronic colds and coughs, malnutrition, or some ill-defined disturbance
of the ductless glands, or who is otherwise not up to par, is a more
difficult child to train. A careful physical examination should always
be the first step in an effort to understand any change in the child’s
mental attitude toward life. Individual instances of disobedience are
most often due to fatigue. Let the average normal, well-behaved child
get unduly fatigued by loss of sleep or too much work or play, or be
overstimulated by a shopping trip, a visit, or a party, and he is likely
to be a little more irritable and a little less likely to meet adequately
the ordinary tasks of his daily routine. Fatigue can always be treated
by giving the child longer rest periods and shorter daily duties.
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The child’s mental attitude toward life may be affected by rather
trivial and apparently unimportant situations, which often pass by
unnoticed. Adults are very apt to concern themselves only with the
obvious factors that might account for disobedience. Jealousy, shyness,
fear, and feelings of inferiority are often unnoticed or ignored.
The child who has the stern-disciplinarian type of father, who be­
lieves that children have no rights in the family circle, who is con­
stantly keeping them repressed by his forbidding attitude, may often
seek self-expression at school or on the playground outside that which
is socially approved. The child who is failing in school and getting
very little satisfaction from personal contacts may use the home as the
place where self-assertion can be practiced without fear. This simply
represents an effort at compensation on the part of the child.
In the effort to understand why the child is disobedient we must
look beyond the incident which is causing us concern at the moment.
It is often an expression of discontent and unhappiness which has been
in the making for a long time. The child who is worried, anxious,
and fearful about some common problem, such as masturbation, jeal­
ousy, shyness, failure to get on with the group or to make a place
for himself in school, will invariably be a difficult child to manage in
the home. It is the parents’ job to know so far as possible just what
mental burdens the child is carrying.
If parents are to be a constructive influence in the life of the child,
it is essential that they be acquainted with him, that they know some­
thing about the problems with which he is confronted in meeting the
obligations of his everyday life. They must try to share in his joys
and help him to meet his difficulties. Trivial and unimportant as they
may seem to us, they are very real to the child. It is only by means of
such a relationship that obedience of a constructive and continually
developing type can be gained. Obedience, like respect, is something
to be given; that which comes only because it is demanded or through
fear will be of short duration and, being the result of undue submis­
siveness, will prove to be only a handicap.
Whether children are obedient or disobedient is to a great extent
dependent on the standards and requirements of the environment and
the attitude of those in authority. If the ideal of conduct is too high
and the goal of attainment too far distant, effort may appear futile.
The method used in attempting to gain obedience is frequently the
cause of failure to accomplish the desired result.
Often there is such an apparent lack of interest on the part of the
adults in the task expected of the child that he may well feel it is not
worthy of his effort.
While Tommy is deeply engrossed in play with his toys or in a
new book the carelessly shouted orders of his mother, busy with her
dishwashing, may pass unheeded, such commands having become so
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familiar that he has developed the same negative adaptation to them
as the stenographer develops toward the hammering of typewriters in
a busy office. He may have heard the command and appreciated what
was wanted, but experience may have taught him that a command
ignored by him is one forgotten by his mother— so why should he
There may, however, be some doubt in his mind what to expect,
for on one day mother allows her unheeded request to drop unnoticed,
while on the next she may take time from her work to administer swift
and sure punishment. Inconsistency in discipline keeps the child in
a most upset state of mind, and soon his response to any request comes
to depend on his interest in his immediate occupation and his willing­
ness to take a chance.
It may be that Tommy is capitalizing his disobedience. Often he has
heard mother say, after coaxing and pleading a while, “Now, if you
eat your dinner like a nice boy, you may have some candy”, or “If you
stop making so much noise, you may have a penny.” If Tommy has
learned that such offers follow a lack of response to the first request,
it is only natural he should wait until they are made before complying.
By holding out, he may obtain greater material gain and also far more
attention and interest. It is something to be distinguished, if only as
the “despair” of the family.
Threats of action by policemen, “bogy men”, and doctors are a most
unfortunate method to use in obtaining obedience. Either they cause
hampering fear and timidity, or else at an early age the child comes to
realize that they are idle and meaningless and turns them to his imme­
diate advantage. Tommy may learn to play up fear of doctors, for
instance, so that by an outburst of yelling and kicking he may avoid
having his teeth cared for or his eyes examined.
The importance of honesty in handling children cannot be over­
emphasized. If the early trust and confidence which they have in
their parents is carelessly broken down, the props are knocked out
of their world, for if what father and mother say is not true, what
may be believed ? Many times it has a direct bearing on whether or
not obedience is obtained. Some parents will deliberately deceive their
children in an attempt to gain obedience or in the hope of making an
unpleasant task or duty less painful in anticipation.
O ne small lad, though he had considerable fear of pain under the dentist’s
hands, went through the first session manfully, shedding only a tear or two. H e
dreaded the second visit, however, and continually fretted about it. In order to
calm him, his mother assured him, “ T h is time he w ill not hurt you at all.”
U p to this point the mother had always been right, so he believed her. T h e
shock was a severe one when it happened that he was hurt more than on the
previous visit. H is im plicit confidence was shattered, and he became tim id and
fearful in new situations and showed an evident lack of trust in the statements
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made to him. T h is was clearly shown on another occasion at the dentist’s
several months later. There had been some question of extracting one tooth,
but his mother definitely promised him that it should not be done on this par­
ticular day and that he need have no fear. If it proved necessary, arrangements
would be made later to have it done under gas. H e understood this clearly,
yet, when actually in the dentist’s chair, he became panic-stricken and could not
be pacified. A ll reassuring statements were met w ith “Y o u told me before that it
w ouldn’t hurt, and it did. I want to go home. H e shan’t touch m y teeth.” It
will be a long time, if ever, before this child regains his confidence.

In dealing even with very young children one should make an effort
to find out their reasons and motives. Many times what seems like
flagrant disregard for the parents’ requests is to the child only an
earnest desire to help mother or father, as the case may be.
A little girl of 4, who had been told time and again not to play w ith water,
when found in the kitchen dripping wet, having spilt water all over herself, was
punished for her disobedience. Later it was learned that what she had done
was to climb up on the sink to get a basin of water and a cloth w ith which to
wash the finger marks off the doorway as she had seen mother do. She slipped,
the water spilled, and punishment followed. T o her it must have looked as if
she were punished for trying to help.

Another child had learned that he must never pull up the plants in the garden.
H e watched his father at work getting out the little weeds in the flower bed, and
a few days later, in an attempt to be helpful, he pulled up all the litde new
growth of carrots and left standing the tall, well-developed ragweed.

Some restrictions are placed on children that it is nearly a physical
impossibility for them to carry out. “Sit still” and “Be quiet” are very
easy to say, and yet to a healthy youngster, full of life and vigor, such
commands are extremely hard to carry out for more than a few
minutes at a time. Little children are growing and developing new
muscle power all the time, and they must have freedom to run, jump,
shout, and play. Nature demands it. Perhaps some special part of
the house or yard may be set apart as theirs— a place with few dangers
or hampering restrictions where they may safely “work off their
steam” unchecked by continual nagging.
If a habit of obedience is to be built up, first of all stu d y your
child. K n o w w h at he thinks and how he reacts.
G ive a fe w well-thought-out commands and see that they are
fulfilled; a command w o rth giving is w orth carrying out. Avoid
overcorrection and an autocratic manner; children are as quick
to resent domination as adults.
Gain the child’s attention, then make the directions clear and
simple and, if possible, explain the reason for the request. The
child w h o has learned by experience to expect only reasonable
requests w ill be prepared to act in an emergency w hen immediate
response may be a vital matter.
Gain the child’s interest, show him the value of the desired
action, be interested in his accomplishment and in the outcome.
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Make requests positive instead of negative— “ Do” rather than
“ Do not.” Give a suggestion w hich w ill draw the child’s in­
terest aw ay from the forbidden act and focus it on something else.
Consider promises carefully before making them. Once they
are made keep them or explain the reason for failure to do so. Do
not break trust.
Be consistent; have one set of rules. Do not allow at one time
w h at is forbidden at another. In this w a y the child w ill know
w hat to expect.
Be generous w ith praise and appreciation of effort. Too often
children receive attention only w h en they disobey. Let them
learn to obey because the request is reasonable and because com­
pliance brings pleasure and approbation rather than because it
brings material reward.
Above all things expect obedience. Do not let the child feel that
you are uncertain as to his response or that you are sure he w ill
disobey. Everyone likes to live up to w h at is expected of him
particularly the child. He may as easily live up to your pride
and confidence in him as to his reputation of being the most
undisciplined little scamp in the neighborhood.
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ewards and punishments are powerful forces which affect conduct,
, and it is of vital importance to those who are charged with the
responsibility of modifying behavior by stimulating desirable impulses
and restraining or inhibiting undesirable ones, to recognise the dangers
of injudicious use of these forces. Rewards and punishments play an
important role in the development of personality during childhood and
continue to operate more or less during the lifetime of the individual.
It does not matter.whether the reward be in the form of praise,
approbation, or widespread recognition, such as comes from fame,
glory, and power, or whether it be of a more material nature, such
as money, treasures, or other tangible assets, which tend to satisfy our
acquisitive longings. Either kind of reward satisfies that desire, ofttimes secret in the heart of man, which makes him struggle onward
to achieve his goal. Many times the highest types of rewards are post­
poned and are to be attained only by indirect measures and by the
use of someone other than ourselves as the instrument to attainment.
That sense of security which comes to a man in leaving his family
well protected after his death; the pride of the illiterate mother who
has found her reward in the education of her son, though she may
be quite aware of the barrier that it puts between them; the ideals of
men who have served and sacrificed, believing that sometime, even
though it be in the far distant future, these ideals will benefit mankind, are all simply examples of how rewards of a vague and intan­
gible nature dominate our conduct. Such rewards necessitate planning, forethought, foregoing the desires of the moment in order that
the ultimate goal may finally be reached. The control of those primi­
tive impulses, which are centered about self-satisfaction without due
consideration of others, should be the basis of all rewards, regardless
of how simple they may be or how early they are applied.
Punishment as a means of making man conform to his self-made
laws, as well as to those of a higher order, is as old as the world itself.
Fear is the basis of all punishment, and as a factor in controlling con­
duct it cannot be ignored. Yet its influence has been limited indeed
in all attempts to socialize mankind.
Penologists, criminologists, and sociologists are all quite in agree­
ment that as a deterrent of crime, punishment, as such, has been a
failure. Intelligent parents and specialists in the field of child training
are practically all in accord with the opinion that punishments delib­
erately inflicted rarely serve the purpose of helping the child to
struggle persistently toward a desired goal.


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Punishment makes many children contemptuous, rebellious, and
resentful. It may dull their finer sensibilities and bring out cruelty,
brutality, and other primitive traits. It may lead to evasiveness, trick­
ery, and lying in the effort to avoid meeting a painful situation.
The question may now be asked: In our effort to affect conduct is
it better to appeal to the fear of punishment or to the hope of re­
ward ? The reward method says to the child, as it does to the adult,
“If you conform to certain rules and regulations, if you control certain
impulses and desires, if you follow the biddings of the parent or the
one in authority, you will be happy.” The punishment method says,
“If you do not conform, if you do not forego the pleasures of the
moment, if you yield to those temptations which make you break
rules and regulations of community or home, you will be unhappy.”
One lures the child toward the desired goal by the promise of pleas­
ure. The other attempts to attain the same end through fear.
It is important that children learn to forego the pleasures of the
moment— to control natural impulses— in order that they may make
satisfactory adjustments to a life of reality later. In the child’s effort
to attain reward, whether it be praise or something more material, the
necessity of making certain sacrifices, of giving up certain pleasures,
of controlling certain impulses, is very much a part of the plan. A ll
reward should have as its objective the development of self-control.
Another aspect of the subject of punishment and reward that must
be considered is the mental attitude of the person who is to inflict the
punishment or dispense the rewards. Punishment, of whatever type
it may be, is very likely to be administered hurriedly, impulsively, and
ofttimes unjustly, without all the essential facts of the case at hand.
There is invariably an element of retribution associated with punish­
ment; something has already been done— some rule disobeyed, some­
body angered, humiliated, or hurt. Under such conditions it is not
unlikely that the one who has charge of the punishment will be
dominated by an emotion of an unpleasant type. The emotional
attitude will dominate the situation, and the thoughtful approach to
the problem will be forgotten in the turmoil. On the other hand,
rewards are intended to prevent undesirable conduct. They are
usually talked over and planned, so that time and thought can be
given to them. Therefore they have a better chance of being weighed
and valued beforehand. Intellect is more likely to prevail. One
might look upon punishment as an unsuccessful attempt to cure un­
desirable habits; rewards are a fairly successful way to prevent them.
These generalizations regarding rewards and punishments may
perhaps serve as a formulation of policy with regard to assisting the
child in the development of habits which will be of value in later life.
Not only is the habit important but the attitude toward the habit needs
careful consideration if the habit is to endure.
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The child who is truthful and honest simply because he is afraid
of punishment is in a very dangerous situation when that fear is
removed. Fear may be applied again when the case demands; but
even so, it is pretty much like a weathervane that has to be set as the
wind changes.
The child whose experience has taught him that honesty is asso­
ciated with a satisfying sense of security; that his conduct is socially
approved; that in being trusted and respected he gains in freedom and
acquires a sense of responsibility which stimulates his self-esteem is
quite unlikely to give up such a trait, tendency, or habit, because it is
so much a part of his whole personality.
W ith reference to both rewards and punishments too many artificial
methods have been introduced unnecessarily into the field of child
training with the idea of making the child conform. He is called
upon to adjust his early life to so many parental whims that many
children by the age of 4 have a well-developed authority complex
(see p. 11) with the result of either repression or rebellion. A wellthought-out plan for the welfare of both the child and the parent is
essential, but it is not necessary to make the child, build his fife around
the peculiarities and general atmosphere caused by the mental indi­
gestion that many parents suffer. Nature itself will provide a large
percentage of the punishments and many of the rewards needed to
teach the child the type of conduct which pays and that which does not.
One must keep in mind that generalizations are dangerous. Chil­
dren differ in their emotional make-up as they do in their intellectual
equipment and strength. Their reactions to praise, blame, rewards,
and punishments differ widely, and we as parents are very apt to use
the method to which the child responds most readily, regardless of
whether it is going to serve best his future needs. The intense desire
for praise that we develop in some children makes them spineless;
their chief concern is to find out what others desire and to follow the
path of least resistance for the sake of praise. Fear of punishment
develops cowards, while indifference toward rewards and approbation
makes futile an attempt to affect conduct through these channels.
This problem of rewards and punishments, like many other prob­
lems of human relationships, we have not wholly solved. A t least,
however, we have recognized the importance of these two forces, re­
wards and punishments, in affecting conduct. W e have recognized
that there are wide variations, in both quality and intensity, as to the
response shown by different children toward the methods which
adults use to make them conform. Finally, we have acknowledged
that parental emotions are ofttimes substituted for a well-thought-out
plan in the administration especially of punishments. This clearer
vision of the problem is quite essential to training the child with greater
wisdom and justice.
8 9 8 8 1 ° — 3 7 ------- 4
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is one of the most common and one of the most inca­
pacitating handicaps of early life. Many theories which prevail
as to prevention and treatment bear witness to the fact that we are
without knowledge as to its exact cause. Moreover, there is probably
no one definite cause. Like fever, for example, or any other symptom,
it has a multiplicity of causes. This means the treatment cannot be
carried out wisely unless an effort is first made to determine the factor
or factors which lie behind the stuttering.
Stuttering is looked upon by many workers interested in this prob­
lem as a personality disorder; others are inclined to think of it in terms
of a disorganized neuromuscular mechanism, a lack of coordination
between one’s ideas and one’s power of motor speech. Whether it
be primarily a personality disorder or a physical disorder, the stam­
merer invariably develops an emotional attitude toward his stammer­
ing and toward life in general, which is more serious and frequently
more of a handicap than the stammering itself. Fear, anxiety, feel­
ings of inferiority, anger, and depression are all common emotional
reactions toward stuttering. It is probable that this secondary group
of symptoms is the result rather than the cause of the stammering, for
children during the preschool years are less likely to be affected in
this way than are older children and adults.
Yet it is common knowledge among parents, teachers, and others
who have had an opportunity to observe the stuttering child that there
are certain situations and conditions which invariably precipitate or
aggravate the difficulty. Thus excitement of any kind and situations
that call for rapidity of speech, such as the confession of wrongdoing
or telling of other experiences with which considerable emotion is
associated, tend to increase the stuttering. Fatigue is a very noticeable
aggravating factor; in fact, many of the younger children who have
just begun to stammer show marked improvement when they have
had an enforced rest in bed on account of some acute illness.
It appears also that certain people have a very definite effect on the
child who stammers. The child may find it absolutely impossible to
recite before certain teachers, while he does very well with others;
or in conversing with one parent he may appear “hopeless and help­
less”, as one father stated, while in talking to the other parent he
hardly stutters at all. These reactions to people are exactly what one
would expect with a disorder of an emotional nature.
If we take the view that stammering is an emotional disorder we
are faced with the important factor which many parents and teachers
overlook; that is, the emotional tension back of the stammering is

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the result of certain conflicts of which the child is quite unconscious
and which, therefore, are beyond his control. In such a case if one
wishes to eliminate the fundamental cause the ordinary methods of
speech correction are not adequate; frequently they even exaggerate
the difficulty. In other words, it is the individual and not his symp­
tom which must be treated, and the cause of the stress and strain is
to be sought in his emotional life.
The really important aspect of the problem of stuttering with which
we are concerned here is prevention. The preschool years hold oppor­
tunities not present later on, for the proper development of speech
and the correction of any defects which may arise. Children learn to
talk during the first 5 or 6 years of life, the earliest attempts being
made at 12 to 18 months. Although the mechanism of speech, like
most other motor activities, is put into operation involuntarily and
quite without effort on the part o f the speaker, it is one of the activi­
ties which require the finest coordination of the muscles involved in
the process. Furthermore, the motor part of speech is but the vehicle
by which ideas are conveyed. Anything that occurs, of either a
physical or an emotional nature, which affects proper coordination
between the development of ideas and their expression by the speech
apparatus, results in disordered speech. If there is a complete break
between the mental and the physical or between ideas and their
expression, we get what is termed aphonia or complete loss of voice.
If there is but an inhibition or irritation resulting in spasms of the
muscles making up the speech apparatus, it results in stuttering or
some similar defect. This is important because during the early years
the factors resulting in a lack of coordination of the muscles which
are concerned with speech are frequently obvious and correctable.
There are innumerable causes, both mental and physical, which may
interfere with the speech apparatus. Fatigue, infections, accidents,
fear, grief, worry, excitements, concussions— in fact any and all of
those experiences which increase tension and prevent relaxation— are
such causes.
When the child is first learning to talk, it is well not to make too
much of this newly acquired habit, either by effort to stimulate more
speech or to effect a better quality. Let him have the same freedom
with speech apparatus as he has with other muscles. W e encourage
kicking and crawling; let us not interfere with babbling. Avoid
everything that would in any way direct the child’s attention to the
fact that he is learning to talk. When the child becomes conscious of
the fact that he is making an effort to carry out an act which is
naturally automatic, an undesirable factor is introduced.
It is a mistake for parents to interrupt the child in order to get their
own ideas across, to criticize his hesitations when he is reaching out
for ideas or better ways of expressing his ideas, to hurry the child and
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make him feel that what he has to say is not worth the parents’ time.
A ll these everyday commonplace situations create in certain children
inhibitions with regard to speech which may result in stuttering, if the
children are predisposed to this particular handicap.
Keep in mind that all children are not driven by the same type of
motor. There are those whose muscular apparatus is so geared that
their entire motor activity is naturally slow. They talk and walk
slowly; they wash, dress, eat, work, and play in leisurely fashion.
They represent one of the most misunderstood groups of children that
exist. They are harassed, worried, nagged, ridiculed, and oftentimes
punished because they have neither inherited nor acquired the speed
in performing the ordinary chores of life which permits them to keep
pace with others in the household. One would not think of trying to
get race-track speed out of a truck horse regardless of his size, health,
and heredity; but it is a fact that many of us not only expect but
demand that children all move along at about the same rate with refer­
ence to both their mental and their physical activities.
It is a common observation of parents and teachers that not infre­
quently stuttering begins when an attempt is made to make the nor­
mally left-handed child use his right hand. Much research has been
done in this particular field within recent years. It is sufficient to say
here that neither parent nor teacher should, under ordinary conditions,
consider trying to change the handedness of the child. Such interfer­
ence is commonly associated with the development of stuttering.
A tendency toward stuttering is frequently observed in children
who are rather superior intellectually but who present evidence that
the motor part of their nervous systems has not kept pace with the
mental development. It appears that with these children the ideas
get ahead of the physical ability to express the ideas. Therefore there
is almost constant pressure exerted from the mental side which cannot
find adequate relief in expression. This situation leads to certain dis­
organization, inhibitions, and spasms of the muscles of the motor
apparatus, which result in stuttering.
In these cases treatment is approached from two angles: First, the
child’s environment should be so modified that the mental side of his
life will not be overstimulated. He should not be subjected to situa­
tions in which his emotions and imagination will be played upon
unduly, and, in a general way, his environment should be made
simple. Secondly, every effort should be made to see that the child
has the opportunity of improving his general motor coordination.
His attention should be turned from being overstimulated by seeing
and hearing too many stimulating things to the doing of things call­
ing for motor activity. Such activities as climbing, building with large
blocks, throwing balls, kicking, skipping rope, using the larger mus­
cles of the arms in drawing on the blackboard, and other types of
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exercise which bring about better muscular coordination will be help­
ful in overcoming a tendency to stutter.
A regular, routine type of life is a valuable asset during the develop­
mental period of the child’s life. Especially in the neurotic child,
stuttering may be only one symptom. These children need more
hours in bed than the average child, and naps should be continued
later in their lives. Recreation and definite periods of leisure time
should be part of the child s daily routine. The lives of these emo­
tionally unstable individuals must not be complicated with too many
activities. Have a simple program and stick to it. Do not clutter up
their lives with too many events of a social nature. These children,
being intellectually keen, will invariably try to carry out a program
far beyond what their emotional stability justifies. For such children
it is especially important to eliminate exciting bedtime stories, violent
frolicking before retiring, tickling, and other experiences that may
be overstimulating on the sensory side of the child’s life.
The most critical and important period in the life of the stutterer is
probably that when the parents first become aware of the defective
speech. When a child begins to stutter, we have no way of knowing
whether we are dealing with a rather trivial and temporary problem
or with the beginning of an affliction that will continue through life.
W e do know, however, that the most important aspect of any handi­
cap or problem which the child has to face in life— whether it be a
weak arm, a shortened leg due to infantile paralysis, a damaged heart
due to rheumatic fever, or stuttering due to a poorly organized nervous
system is the mental attitude which the child develops toward the
handicap rather than the handicap itself, and it is this mental factor
which accounts for much of the resulting incapacity. W e know that
it is not wise to build the life of the individual around his weaknesses,
abnormalities, and handicaps. This does not mean that we can ignore
defects that have been either inherited or acquired; on the contrary
the best available medical skill must be used for their correction, but
these handicaps should not be emphasized. The attitudes which chil­
dren sometimes develop are but a reflection of the wisdom or lack of
wisdom which parents have used in dealing with the problem. The
handicapped child should get a frank, healthy outlook on life as a
whole; by so doing, he can turn some of the apparent liabilities into
Parents, therefore, should make a point of not focusing the attention
of the child upon his difficulty. They should not stop him every time
he stutters and make him repeat, and impress him with all the diffi­
culties which are going to occur later on in life if he continues to
stutter. This method not only is irritating and confusing to the child
but lays the foundation for the unhappy and unfortunate mental atti­
tude just referred to. In our efforts to cure the stuttering we may so
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twist and distort the personality of the child that he is more unfitted
for life by virtue of his undesirable personality than he is from his
stuttering. It has been found wise during the early period of stutter­
ing for the parents slowly, clearly, and unemotionally to repeat the
word, sentence, or phrase over which the child has had difficulty with­
out even commenting on the reason for so doing. Further than that,
nothing should be done at the moment when the child is having
difficulty with speaking.
So many factors contribute toward the precipitation of stuttering
and under certain conditions stuttering is exaggerated for so many
reasons that it is wise for parents when confronted with this problem
to consult with a child-guidance clinic whenever one is available, or
the specialist in speech if one is associated with the school. A psy­
chologist or a psychiatrist will have helpful suggestions if his advice
can be obtained. A personal contact with one of these agencies or
individuals gives the parents the opportunity to present in detail the
development and the course of their particular child’s difficulty with
speech, so that the child may receive the individual attention indicated
and the parents may be helped in getting an attitude toward the child’s
problem which will avoid complications later on. In many communi­
ties where there is no child-guidance clinic the department of psy­
chology in a college or a State university will be in a position to advise
parents as to methods of procedure in any particular case.
By following out the foregoing generalizations parents can, how­
ever, do much to eliminate some of the common errors which tend to
increase the actual speech difficulties of the stutterer, and they can
avoid building up in the child’s mind emotional attitudes toward his
speech which in themselves are most incapacitating.
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must be laid on the importance of a careful physical exam­
ination in order that so far as possible the various physical causes
for bed wetting may be eliminated. There is grave danger in over­
looking this warning. To treat a child who is suffering from some
disease of the genito-urinary tract, which may cause bed wetting, on
the assumption that the trouble is simply a matter of poor habit train­
ing is a calamity. T o prevent the child from obtaining relief through
proper medical and surgical means might even result fatally; and to
make demands on the child to overcome a condition that it is beyond
his power to control is obviously futile. Many rather minor physical
conditions act as the exciting factor in bed wetting. Local irritations
in the genital region and adherent prepuce, phimosis, narrow meatus,
rectal irritations due to worms, and other physical conditions are all
important. Bed wetting is frequently associated with a highly con­
centrated acid urine, especially where the fluid intake has been insuf­
ficient. The more general conditions of anemia, malnutrition, and a
constitutionally unstable nervous system may all cause enuresis and
should receive proper treatment.
After cases with these organic conditions have been eliminated there
still remains a large group of cases that depend upon faulty habit
formation for their cause and persistence. And one must bear in mind
that even in those cases where definite physical causes have been found
and eliminated the enuresis may persist simply from habit.
Enuresis may occur either in the day or at night or at both times.
In some cases it occurs only at night, and in others only during the
daytime. It is found in both sexes with about the same frequency.
The child may reach the sixth or seventh year, and occasionally an
even later age, before he overcomes the habit of bed wetting, .which
is normal in infancy. Other children become perfectly trained in
bladder control before the end of the second year, only to develop
the “wet habit” later on. After the child has once been trained to
the dry habit and the enuresis has returned it may last only a few
days or it may go on indefinitely.
“In most cases,” says Doctor Holt, “the condition is purely habit,
often associated with other habits which indicate an unstable or highly
susceptible nervous system.” 1 It is with this group of cases that we
are concerned. In the great majority of cases in which the child is
not properly trained at 2% years of age the fault can be attributed
directly to the parents. They have failed to establish the dry habit in
t r e ss


1 Holt, L. Emmett, M. D., and John Howland, M. D.: The Diseases of Infancy and Child­
hood, p. 665. D. Appleton & Co., New York, 1919.
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the child. This may have been because they were ignorant of the
importance of habit training. Often it is because of indifference or
laziness, the parents feeling that it is too much work to take the child
up at inconvenient hours and therefore permitting him to become
accustomed to wet diapers.
It is often true, too, that parents attribute the child’s difficulty to
inheritance. They say that they, too, had the same trouble until late
childhood or early adolescence and that they are simply waiting for
the child to outgrow the habit as they did. Parents are inclined to
accept such parts of their own childhood experiences as they remem­
ber as being fair guides for what to expect of their children. Unfor­
tunately, many of the memories carried over consciously into adult
life are deeply charged with emotions, which may be either pleasant or
unpleasant. So the mother who because of enuresis was shamed,
humiliated, punished, and frightened through the efforts of those con­
cerned to overcome the habit will probably be very sympathetic
toward her own children who have the same trouble. The mother’s
fear of subjecting the child to the emotional experiences of her own
childhood is often the real reason why she seeks explanations for the
enuresis on physical grounds where none exist, and why she clings
firmly to her plan of letting the child “outgrow it.” If it were true
that fear, humiliation, and punishment are essential to treatment,
this parent would be quite right in avoiding it, but fortunately they
play no part in the proper treatment of enuresis. In fact, the most
important feature of the treatment is to prevent the child from develop­
ing a feeling of inferiority because of the habit.
In the treatment of enuresis it is because a general improvement in
the child’s behavior and attitude accompanies improvement in this
habit that one is led to believe that the feelings of inferiority and
shame associated in many cases with enuresis frequently color the
entire mental life of the child. It is therefore of practical importance
in the treatment of mental problems in children, where enuresis hap­
pens to be one of the symptoms, to institute treatment for the enuresis
at the earliest possible date.
Although it was impossible in the case of the little girl described
in the following paragraphs to determine the underlying cause of her
terrifying wakeful periods, it is of interest to note that many favor­
able changes in her behavior took place during the treatment of the
enuresis and subsequent to it.
M . A ., aged 3 years and 9 months, was brought to the clinic by her mother,
w ho said that about a month before she had begun to wake up in the night
frightened, crying out, and talking about soldiers. There was the further prob­
lem of enuresis, w hich had persisted since birth and occurred both at night and
in the daytime. She had always been finicky about her food. She was very
shy and would say nothing in the presence of strangers, but would cling to her
mother. A lthough a very quiet child, the mother stated, she was capable of
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entertaining herself. W hen younger she had a severe temper and frequendy
went into tantrums. She was extremely jealous of her younger brother. T his
jealousy was carried to the extent that when her mother first began to nurse him
the child would lose no opportunity of slapping or quarreling w ith him. She
did not care to play w ith other children and was self-centered and retiring. She
was obedient and rarely had to be disciplined. H er play life was occupied
largely w ith her dolls, occasionally w ith her brother, but she rarely associated
w ith other children. She was more attached to her father than to her mother
and lacked a normal interest in her brother.
For a lon g time there had been some difficulty about sleeping. T h e child was
put to bed at 7:30 in a room by herself, and usually went to sleep w ithin half
an hour. T hen she w ould w ake up at 1 or 2 o’clock and every hour thereafter
until 7 o’clock, when she insisted upon getting up. T h is wakefulness, accom­
panied by crying, m uch disturbed the household. For 3 weeks she had had an
unusual fear of soldiers, and upon w aking cried out in fear, saying “D o n ’t let
the soldier get m e!” T h e story was that some weeks earlier she had been taken
to Boston Com m on by the mother and had seen soldiers drilling. T his, for
some unknown reason, alarmed her, and since that time she had talked continu­
ally about soldiers, saying that they were going to take her away. W hen she
waked at night she would cry out to her mother, “ Close the door; the soldiers
are com ing!” She refused to go into any room alone since the occurrence and
wanted her mother constantly by her side. She had become very much afraid
o f the dark.
A t her first visit to the clinic she was extremely shy and would have nothing
whatever to do w ith the examiner, and spoke only to her mother in whispers.
She resented any attempt on the part of the doctor to become friendly and
seemed unusually timid.
Routine measures for the enuresis were instituted. T h e child was permitted
to go to bed at the usual hour of 7:30, was waked at 10, and then was permitted
to sleep until morning. T h e mother was instructed to take her to Boston
Com m on every day when the soldiers were drilling and to allow her to make
such advances as her fear would permit, while constantly reassuring her and
instructing her about the soldiers as intelligently as her years would allow.
A t the end of a month the mother reported that the child had shown consid­
erable improvement and had gone 2 weeks without w etting the bed, had slept
better, and was no longer afraid of soldiers. T h e fact that the mother had taken
her to Boston Com m on every day had seemed to dissipate her fears. T h e child
was more friendly toward the doctor but was still shy and bashful.
Improvement continued during the summer months. In September the child
entered the kindergarten. She got along w ell and showed a normal interest
in the school work. She enjoyed the association w ith other children, and was
quite unselfish, well-mannered, and obedient. T h e mother reported that she
was getting along splendidly, no longer wetting the bed, and having no diffi­
culty about her eating. She no longer had any fears that disturbed her, either
by day or at night.
T h is little girl since coming to the clinic had shown marked ability to adapt
herself in a satisfactory w ay to both home and school conditions. She is no
longer wholly dependent on her mother, and has become interested in her little
brother and affectionate toward him. She is sleeping well, her appetite is good,
there is no difficulty w ith enuresis, and she is no longer disturbed by fears and
terrifying dreams.

Although there are marked differences in the ways in which chil­
dren respond to training and the ease with which habits are estab
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lished, there is no reason to believe that any child who is free from
physical defects cannot be trained to proper toilet habits by persistent
and conscientious effort on the part of the parents. If the child has
gone beyond the age of 3 without developing the dry habit, the matter
should be given serious consideration.
The first and most important step in the treatment is to interest
the child in making an effort to overcome the habit. This attitude
is never brought about through punishment. Present the problem
to the child as a thing capable of achievement, something that is well
within his grasp. Make him feel that he is bigger than the habit
and capable of conquering it. A ll this adds to the enthusiasm with
which he will undertake the task. T o humiliate the child serves no
useful purpose and does not help him overcome the habit.
One may point out, however, all the disadvantages that the habit
entails, not only to himself but to his parents. Project these dis­
advantages into the future and impress him with the importance of
growing up so that he can participate in the various activities of life
without danger of being humiliated. Point out that the advantages
to be gained are worth the extra effort needed to succeed in over­
coming the habit. Boys are always interested in going away with
their parents on pleasure trips, or going off to summer camps, or
making other excursions away from home, which would be quite
impossible unless they overcame the habit of bed wetting. This
interest can often be made an effective argument.
After all the advantages and disadvantages and the various motives
for making the effort have been presented to the child, so that he is
eager and anxious to start out to conquer this undesirable habit, it is
well to introduce some help from outside. A regime should be estab­
lished which eliminates, as far as possible, excessive mental strain.
The child should have definite hours for getting up and going to bed.
If he is still of preschool age, his hours in bed should be increased both
at night and at nap time. T w o or three hours can be added to his
rest time by putting him to bed one hour earlier than usual and keep­
ing him in bed half an hour later in the morning, and by increasing
the length of his mid-day rest period by an hour. For the child who
was getting 12 hours at night and a i-hour nap, this will add 2% hours
of rest, which means much to the active child with a highly organized
nervous system. It at least conserves his output of energy, even if he
only rests and does not sleep. It is important that some amusement,
such as pictures or reading, be provided for such hours when the
child is not sleeping.
The child with the habit of enuresis should have a simple, bland
diet and should always avoid highly seasoned food. Routine measures
should be established to prevent constipation and stimulate free elimi­
nation through sources other than the kidneys. Water and milk
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should be eliminated from his diet after 5 o’clock at night. The
parents should make an attempt, by trips of inspection, to find out
at what time the wetting occurs. When the critical hour has been
determined, the child should be taken up and thoroughly awakened
on his visit to the bathroom. He should be wakened again early
in the morning, if that is necessary. A careful record should be kept
of his failures and successes. A simple chart serves a useful purpose
not only for a record but as tangible evidence of the child’s success.
This device was used with success in the following case:
O . J., 5 years old, gave no trouble until, at the age of 2, he was very ill w ith
pneumonia. Follow ing this illness he would soil himself and wet his clothes
and his bed. T h is condition persisted for 2 years, but for a year and a half he
had been troubled w ith enuresis only at night, about 5 nights out of 7. H is
mother said she spanked him, rubbed his nose in the urine, deprived him of
things, and refused to give him clean pajamas over long periods of time, trying
to impress him w ith the idea that he must learn not to wet his bed. *
T h e child was generous and friendly, liked other people, and played w ith
other children. H e was inclined to be obstinate and could not be driven, but
could be easily persuaded. H e had no particular fears, and enjoyed playing
outdoors w ith other children, but, on the other hand, he spent m uch of his time
w ith his little sister playing dolls.
T h e fact that the patient had been treated at numerous clinics led the mother
to believe that the case was hopeless. She claimed to have carried out all
the directions given her by the physicians, but in spite of this the enuresis
T h e boy, as seen at the clinic, was attractive and bright, interested in his
environment, anxious to demonstrate his ability in printing and drawing. H e
discussed his problem openly and frankly, without any apparent embarrassment,
and expressed a willingness to cooperate. Physical examination and laboratory
tests on urine were both negative.
T h e routine treatment for enuresis was oudined as follows: T h e child’s diet
was to be simple, free from spices and sweets, and was to include only a mod­
erate amount of meat; his evening meal to be served at 5 o’clock, after w hich
he should have no fluids. H e was to go to bed at 7 and to be taken up,
thoroughly awakened, and sent to the toilet at 8:30, again at 10, and then was
to be permitted to sleep until 6 in the morning. Stress was laid on the fact
that he must be thoroughly wakened and made to realize w hy he was being
aroused; and the mother was warned to be sure that the child voided when he
was taken up. A chart was then brought forth and given to the child, and
it was carefully explained how the record should be kept.
T h e child responded to his part of the program w ith much enthusiasm, but
the mother showed considerable skepticism about the routine outlined for the
patient. T h e patient was returned to the clinic one w eek later, and at that
time it was apparent that she had not carried out directions, in spite of
her statements to the contrary. She had instituted her own treatment w ith
patented kidney pills. She was prevailed upon, however, to follow the routine
outlined for a month and was requested to visit the clinic every week. A t the
end of the first month the mother said that she was much pleased w ith the
change in the boy and thought the chart had brought it about.
She was
anxious that the younger child, of 2 % years, should be admitted to the clinic as
a patient for the same trouble. In another month she said the bed w etting had
completely stopped, and she was relieved of a great burden.
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The only comment that need be made on this case is in reference
to the tactfulness that is necessary in getting cooperation from the
parents and in making them feel that although they have tried
various remedies at different times, perhaps they have never put any
plan into operation which took into consideration all the aspects of
the individual case. The matter of enuresis in this case was uncom­
plicated by any other nervous symptoms or undesirable habits, and the
enthusiasm that the child showed in keeping the chart was, in itself,
favorable from a prognostic point of view.
In efforts not to create an unpleasant and lasting emotional reac­
tion toward the habit of wetting there is danger of being too casual
about it and in this way making the child feel that he has no responsi­
bility for overcoming the habit. The child is apt to get this idea when
he hears his mother tell other members of the family that John has
inherited his trouble, that he has weak kidneys and nothing can be
done about it. “In time he will outgrow it, just as I did, but for the
present we must make it easy for him, poor boy.” One mother carried
her solicitude to the extent of changing her boy’s bed when he was
presumably asleep and hoping he would think the next morning that
he had been dry all night.
W ith many children there is danger of taking away the respon­
sibility from the child in quite a different way; that is, by making
him feel that so many people are already concerned about this prob­
lem of wetting that there is little for him to contribute. Certainly
mother and father are doing all they can, and from what he hears
they think of little else. The nurse has it ever on her mind, and
under the doctor’s orders she is planning all the time to institute
helpful measures. The foot of the bed is raised, fluids are restricted,
food is selected carefully, and the child is awakened at all hours to
go to the toilet. Just as has been suggested, these and other in­
genious devices are tried out but without much effect. The impor­
tant aspect of the treatment has been neglected. The child has not
grasped the idea that the wetting is his problem and responsibility,
and that the parents, nurse, and doctors cannot do more than help
him after he has made up his mind to overcome the habit.
T . G . was a well-developed specimen of American boy, 8 years old, belonging
to a well-balanced, sturdy fam ily of N e w England stock, who were most com­
fortably situated financially and socially. T h is boy had been troubled w ith
bed w etting at night and during his naps (w hich had been discontinued 2
years before) through all his life except in brief intervals, varying from a few
days to 3 weeks.
H e had been treated by a reputable pediatrist, who, having failed to find any
physical cause for the child’s difficulty, began to utilize every conceivable method
that is ordinarily used for these habit cases. In spite of special nurse, charts,
urinals mechanically applied, medicine, w ashing out the bladder, rewards, and
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punishments, the boy continued to w et the bed practically every night. Every
conceivable device had been tried, first alone and later in combination; and
there seemed to be nothing to suggest for treatment that had not already failed
except absolutely ignoring the problem. T h e boy was seen on tw o occasions
when the bed w etting was not even mentioned. H e talked of his school w ork
and companions and his interest in games and books; he told of stories he had
read and of things he had seen; he discussed details of his everyday life and
touched on his hopes and ambitions and how he expected to attain them.
E verything that one could think of that m ight interest a boy of his age was
taken up as a matter of conversation except the bed wetting. In the meantime
all the therapeutic measures were discarded without comment. D u rin g the
third visit the boy finally broke out w ith the remark, “I thought you were
goin g to cure me o f w etting the bed, and you haven’t said a thing about it.”
T h e doctor replied in a rather casual and indifferent w ay as follows, “ W h y,
I had almost forgotten that. N o w that you speak of it, I remember your mother
mentioned it to me. But, of course, that is your job. A n y boy w ho stands as
well in his class as you do, w ho plays baseball and football, and rides a horse
like a man, w ho has so many friends and gets on so well w ith people can get
over a simple habit of w etting the bed just as soon as he makes up his m ind
that it is worth the effort. A n d medicine, charts, and doctors can’t do it for
you.” N o thin g more was said about it; the conversation continued about the
best w ay to throw a particular curve w ith a baseball. T h e boy was told to
return in a week, and his first remark was, “ I haven’t wet the bed since I was
in here the last time.” A n d except for an occasional accident he continued to
be dry. In this particular case the only possible thin g to do was to do abso­
lutely nothing but put the responsibility upon the child, and it worked.

In what might be termed “a therapeutic talk with a child” it is
important to present clearly and concisely all the motives possible
for getting over the habit and at the same time through suggestion
make him feel that the task is well within his power of accom­
plishment. Impress upon him by repetition that you have every con­
fidence that he will succeed. This type of suggestion can often be
given best by someone outside the family, particularly by the physician
in whom the child has confidence. Do not set a mark for the child to
strive for that means perfection at first. Let him have the opportunity
of exceeding what you expect of him; for example, if he is wetting the
bed every night let him understand that you will consider three dry
nights success for the first week. Then if he attains three or four suc­
cesses he will start out the second week with real enthusiasm and not
as one defeated in his first efforts.
Another type of suggestion, which the mother can administer and
which is extremely helpful as a therapeutic measure, is the practice of
sitting down by the bedside just after the patient has retired for the
night and having him repeat over and over again the phrase, “A dry
bed in the morning.” Tell him how comfortable it is going to be to
wake up dry and how happy he will feel all day at having won the
battle at night. This tends to keep the importance of being dry in the
child’s mind; and probably these associations make the sensations from
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the bladder register more keenly on the brain, which gives the child
a greater awareness of his need to urinate.
Much of the wetting that occurs during the day in children over
3 years of age is found in the busy, active, excitable youngster who is
so engrossed with the outside world that he is hardly aware of the calls
of nature, whether it be to empty his bladder or to fill his stomach.
Children have not the voluntary control of the sphincter muscles that
the adult possesses, and when they wait to urinate beyond a reasonable
period they are lost, regardless of their good intentions and will power.
In dealing with this particular group of cases something must be
done to impress the children with the importance of attending to their
physical demands. They must learn by experience that wetting their
clothes is not a paying proposition, that it will invariably work out to
their own disadvantage. Inasmuch as these children are greatly con­
cerned with the outside world there is no more effective punishment
than isolation. Being kept by themselves after an accident, not in bed
but at rest without companionship, works wonders in a short time.
If the child is prone to look upon this isolation with resentment it can
always be carried out on a medical basis, the child being told, perfectly
truthfully, that much of his trouble is due to excitement and excessive
fatigue and that he needs absolute rest. This takes away any feeling
of injustice that he may entertain about being cut off from companion­
ship, and the experience still serves as a motive for greater effort in
developing the dry habit.
A few children wet their clothes with what parents consider “malice
aforethought.” They will wait until they have been changed and
cleaned up, then deliberately urinate. Each one of these cases is a
study in itself. The routine measures for the ordinary habit cases and
the punishment by isolation have no value with these children. Inva­
riably we find by investigating the situation with care that the child’s
conduct is the result of some well-defined conflict which is operating
just below the level of consciousness.
Mary, aged 5 years, w ith an excellent fam ily background and without any
evidence of neurotic instability, w ho was easily trained at the age of 2, sud­
denly, to the utter dismay and alarm of her parents, began w etting and soiling
her clothes during the day. A study of the case revealed almost at once that
th is conduct was probably in response to her jealousy of her little brother, aged
15 months. T h is presumption was substantiated by the therapeutic measures,
w hich consisted in explaining to the parents that M ary had been somewhat
neglected since the arrival of the new baby, and in givin g M ary some very defi­
nite responsibilities for his care. W ithin a week the problem ceased to exist.

Each one of these cases needs to be carefully studied, if possible, by
some one particularly interested in the mental life of the child. But
if such a person is not available, do not feel that there is nothing to
be done, for often in a study of the situation as a whole (that is, the
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child, his environment, and the people with whom he comes in con­
tact), some very obvious cause will reveal itself and the parents will
be surprised that it had not occurred to them before. Often we see
only the outstanding problem, which inconveniences, annoys, or wor­
ries us, and overlook entirely the situation that produces it.
It would be hardly fair to close this subject without saying that
occasionally the habit of enuresis fails to respond to any of the simple
methods suggested, that in spite of intensive study and treatment the
habit occasionally persists. This may be due to an inherent weakness
of the urinary system, which there is no way of measuring at the
present time. It may be that the habit serves some very useful purpose
in the scheme of things in the life of the particular individual. Or it
may be that the person treating the case has failed to determine the
cause and therefore cannot apply the necessary therapeutic measures.
Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

is one of those personality traits that need careful con­
sideration, inasmuch as it is a definite part of every child’s original
make-up. It should be looked upon as an inborn rather than an
acquired attitude toward life, which must be overcome or at least
modified as the child develops. Otherwise unhappiness cannot be
avoided. From the moment the child is born life just naturally begins
to evolve around self. Self must be pleased, protected, praised, and
served at all costs. A ll the child’s earlier reactions toward life are
expressed in terms of what the world has to contribute toward his
pleasures and what factors in his environment can be utilized to
help him avoid pain and discomfort. These primitive attitudes toward
life are obviously the very essence of selfishness and are changed only
through training, education, and experience. The modification of
these asocial inborn tendencies, of which selfishness is an example, is
what is commonly called socializing the child.
It must be kept in mind that every child embarks upon life with
these tendencies strongly influencing his attitudes and reactions to the
varied situations with which he is confronted. There is no doubt
that the strength of these tendencies varies greatly in different indi­
viduals. Fortunately, most of these primitive urges may be modified,
in some degree at least, by the influences of the environment in which
the child is developing. Jealousy and selfishness may be traits that
certain children must battle more or less continuously in order to
overcome. Selfishness is a personality trait which may express itself
so subtly that, like weeds in a garden, it may pass by unnoticed for
a long time quite overshadowed by gracious manners, honesty, and
efficiency. Yet in the course of time it becomes so dominant in the
personality that it leads to much unhappiness for the individual as
well as those with whom he comes in contact.
Selfishness is a term not easily defined. Someone has said, “A man
is called selfish not for pursuing his own good but for neglecting his
neighbor.” In other words, the selfish person is one whose own satis­
factions in life are obtained without due consideration for the needs
or satisfactions of others. The statement is often made that everyone
is bent on doing those things which will bring him the most pleasure,
and if it so happens that one does not find pleasure in doing things for
others it is just “too bad.” However that may be, as Henry Ward
Beecher has said, “ Selfishness is a distasteful vice which no one will
forgive in others and no one is without himself.”
Certain parental attitudes and methods of training tend to foster
selfishness. They prevent the child from arriving at a mature attitude


e l f is h n e s s
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toward life, embracing in his code of living consideration for others.
Contradictory as it may sound, it is nevertheless true that the most
unselfish parents frequently have the most selfish children. This situ­
ation is brought about by the fact that these parents, in their appar­
ently unselfish efforts to do everything possible for the child, all too
frequently deny him opportunity of doing things for himself and for
others. When a child, on the one hand, has every wish gratified and
most of his desires anticipated and, on the other hand, is never con­
fronted with the necessity of foregoing any of his personal pleasures
for the convenience, happiness, or welfare of anyone else, he is being
denied a privilege to which every child is entitled. He is not being
confronted with the ordinary everyday situations that would help
him to overcome those inborn selfish tendencies with which he em­
barked upon life. It may even be necessary for parents to create situ­
ations and opportunities that will give the child a chance to exercise
his newly acquired attitudes of thoughtfulness and consideration.
It is well to keep in mind that some children need more training
and experience of this sort than others. Perhaps the only child in the
family, the child who is very much younger than the others, the child
who has had but little opportunity of mingling with other children,
the overdependent child, all may need special attention. The child
who is failing to develop thoughtfulness for others not infrequently
obtains a new outlook on life from nursery school, kindergarten, camp,
or a visit away from home to relatives and friends.
It is frequently necessary for parents to use all their skill and inge­
nuity in creating situations within the home itself which require the
child to forego certain pleasures and be subjected to certain deprivations
and occasionally to disappointments in order that he may learn to meet
these situations in a satisfactory way. Parents must not be satisfied
with what appear to be unselfish and generous impulses in children
when they are merely expressed in words or carried out without any
effort or sacrifice on the part of the child. Such expressions of concern
for others have but little meaning or value unless the child puts some­
thing into the situation in the way of time, effort, and sacrifice.
For example, Billy comes home from school several days before
Thanksgiving very enthusiastic over the idea that his class is to make
some contributions in the way of food to the poor families in the
neighborhood. He just cannot wait to do his part. The idea is fine
and highly commendable. What actually happens, however, is that
he gets a dollar from his father, who helps him to look over the food
ads in the daily papers and mark off what can be purchased for his
dollar. A little later the boy gives the note to the maid. She orders the
groceries, and as far as he is concerned nothing else happens. On the
day before Thanksgiving he goes thoughtlessly off to school, having
entirely forgotten his gift for the needy and his concern for their wel89881°— 37----- 5
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fare. Had Billy used some of his own money, made a little sacrifice in
one way or another, given up some of his play time to go to the store,
and made a real effort in preparing his gift for delivery, it would have
been an experience very much worth while and one that undoubtedly
would be repeated with pleasure and satisfaction.
Selfishness may be related to an unwise system of rewards. One
must keep in mind that there is a real difference between bribes and
rewards. A bribe implies payment by one individual to another in
order to insure the rendering of a service which should have been per­
formed without compensation or which should not have been rendered
under any condition. In dealing with children, bribes are invariably
handed out in an effort to influence them to behave as the family and
society have a right to expect them to behave simply because it is the
thing to do. Rewards, however, should imply no obligation on the
part of the parent. They are dispensed by the parent without any
persuasion on the part of the child, as a recognition of some effort or
service already rendered by the child. Therefore the conduct has not
been directly influenced by the reward. The element of reward can­
not be entirely eliminated in the lives of either children or adults.
It will undoubtedly always be a factor in stabilizing conduct. Rewards
that are dispensed carelessly and thoughtlessly may soon take on all
the undesirable qualities of bribes.
The earliest evidences of selfishness— that is, those which first
attract the attention of the parents— occur when the child is old
enough to realize that he has a valuable service to sell to the family
or that he has a real contribution to make to the home life. This
service may be measured in terms of saving time for the parents, avoid­
ing irritations and humiliations, or contributing something in a posi­
tive way— doing something useful. It is the age when the child begins
to appreciate that the manner in which he conducts himself is of vital
importance to the parents. It is at about this time that the child also
begins to recognize the fact that money has a value outside itself. In
other words, money is a means and an ever-ready dispenser of comfort
in the social scheme of things. Money may be used to acquire stand­
ing with a group and may render companionship more accessible.
It is therefore important that by the time the child reaches 7 or 8
years of age he should have begun to acquire, either by habit or pref­
erably by the normal growth and development of the altruistic tend­
encies, what may be termed an unselfish outlook on life. This means
that the child is beginning to realize that he is not living a life unto
himself— that by the very nature of the social structure his conduct
naturally affects and is a matter of concern to those with whom he
comes in contact in the home, school, playground, and elsewhere.
Parents should try to see that their particular methods of training
are not producing a selfish attitude in the personality development of
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the child. They should keep in mind that certain methods, desirable
as their results may be for the moment, are but forces that are oper­
ating from without and do but little to help the child to develop as
an individual. Bribes, ill-advised rewards, and praise or approval
that is unwisely dispensed are all very apt to lead the child selfishly
to expect applause and recognition for doing the ordinary routine
chores of life— things which the family and society have a right to
expect and which are accepted without comment in the outside world.
This attitude of expectancy quite obviously will lead to disappoint­
ments later in life. There are, of course, many other bad features
about bribes and about rewards and praise utilized unwisely, but those
mentioned relate to development of selfish attitudes in later life.
Illness also has its relation to selfishness. A prolonged illness may
be a critical period in the life of the child, for here the stage is all set
for making him self-centered. This may be the first step in the devel­
opment of selfishness. A n overanxious attitude on the part of the
parents, leading to indulgence, is very likely to give the child a dis­
torted idea of his importance and to twist his ideas regarding his
own obligations and responsibility toward others. It is very easy for
the sick person, especially the child, to develop an exaggerated idea
of his own importance and to become very demanding upon the time
and attention of others. If the illness or the convalescent period is
unduly prolonged and the situation is not wisely managed, many of
these children become filled with self-pity, feel neglected and misun­
derstood, and later develop a miserably selfish attitude toward life,
which leads to much unhappiness.
The outlook upon life with which the child will resume activity
after a prolonged illness or the results of a serious accident will depend
very largely upon the attitude which the parents take toward the child
and his illness during this trying period. So far as it is possible every
effort must be made to introduce interests and occupations in order
that the child will be thinking in terms of health rather than illness.
The important thing is to impress the child with the fact that sickness,
after all, is just a period of partial incapacity which must be taken
as an incident in life rather than a disaster. This period of incapacity,
annoying as it may be, should not be looked upon as an excuse for
laying aside all responsibilities and obligations. A normal, healthy,
unemotional attitude on the part of the parents and the provision of
interesting occupations and constructive periods of recreation are the
answer to many of the difficulties arising during periods of illness.
One should mention in passing that selfishness is frequently found
assuming a rather important place in the personality make-up of chil­
dren who have special abilities. This may be due to the fact that
parents and others with whom the child comes in contact are unwise
in making too much of these particular talents. They overlook the
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training that is essential to the development of the more ordinary,
everyday traits of character. Under such conditions the child may
soon learn to take advantage of his abilities. The special consideration
that the prospective artist gets because he plays the piano, sings,
recites, or has some other method of showing off especially well, may
so'please him and his parents that he evades some of the household
responsibilities. In other words, his importance eventually becomes
exaggerated if measured in terms of his particular talent.
This same situation may arise in a family where one child stands
out as being intellectually superior. Here again, this is the child who
reflects credit upon the family. His enthusiasm for pursuing intellec­
tual tasks and the results which are gratifying to the parents, the
attainment of high marks, give him a rather special and unique posi­
tion in the family circle. He may avoid some of the arduous tasks,
such as setting the table or washing the dishes, so that he can have
a better opportunity to pursue his intellectual tasks. Notwithstanding
the fact that such an attitude on the part of the parents may lead to
resentment and jealousy on the part of the other children, it gives the
child, for the moment at least, a false sense of his own security. He
may be able to maintain this security within the home, but he loses it
as soon as he has to compete in the world outside. This type of
youngster later in life develops a feeling of not being understood or
appreciated, a rather characteristic attitude of most selfish people.
We should be very careful not to build the life of the child around
some apparent or perhaps passing ability at the expense of including in
the total personality make-up such traits as selfishness, jealousy, and
feelings of inferiority. Neither an example set by the parents nor the
teaching of the gospel of unselfishness is sufficient to overcome the
inborn tendency to safeguard self-interest at all costs, an attitude with
which the child is endowed at birth. The child must learn from the
experience of meeting life as it actually exists. The situations which,
to a large extent, are provided by the parents must be real situations.
The parent must not so modify them by creating a false impression of
what he wants or what the child needs that he makes them highly
artificial and unlike anything the child will meet in the outside world.
The child living in a world of reality will soon learn the advantages of
including in his personality make-up tendencies which are known as
unselfish; that is, a philosophy of life which does not center around
self but takes the other fellow into consideration. It may sound a little
contradictory in discussing selfishness to say that the unselfish attitude
pays, but that is exactly what the growing child must learn. It may
not always pay in terms of the material things of life, and it may not
pay in terms of comfort or freedom from struggle; but it is generally
acknowledged that unselfishness does pay in terms of peace and con­
tentment. and these are great sources of satisfaction in life.
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Probably the most effective method of safeguarding the child from
becoming a selfish, self-concerned individual is to present him with
opportunities of rendering service to others and to see that such serv­
ices are recognized and approved. The satisfaction thus derived will
be likely to stimulate further activity in the same direction. It may
be that parents will have to create situations by directing the child’s
attention to the desirability of serving others without material reward.
Parents should make it clear to children that, whatever their social or
economic level may be, there is always some service that they can
render not only to those who are less fortunate but to those who are
more affluent. The idea of many adults that nothing can be done for
their friends and neighbors because they are well endowed with the
material things in life is false. A bunch of wild flowers to the rich
old lady who lives in luxury may mean quite as much to her as a
basket of food to a poor family around the corner. Children should
be encouraged to gather up their old toys and some of the new ones,
if the spirit moves, and see that they get into the hands of some less
happily situated youngster.
Many unselfish impulses on the part of the child are curbed by the
thoughtless parent. It may be that it is inconvenient to allow the child
to carry out this impulse, or the parent is afraid that the impulsive gift
may be followed by regret, or that the child is not in a position to go
through with what he attempts. Every effort should be made to
encourage rather than discourage such activity. It is only through
the satisfaction of actually doing that habits are established and
W e as parents should be extremely careful to set examples of unsel­
fishness in our personal relationship with children. W e are in a posi­
tion, by virtue of our power, to be intolerantly selfish in the eyes of
children. It must seem to them at times that our wills are being
exerted on all occasions with utter lack of consideration of their needs
or desires, and the only excuse that we feel called upon to give the
child is that it is for his own good.
It is unfortunate but perhaps necessary that the home be built
around the adults; but it is not necessary that these adult attitudes be
domineering, selfish, and intolerant. Quite unconsciously we may
humiliate, tease, ridicule, and, perhaps worst of all, bore the child with
our superior and self-satisfied outlook upon life. It must be part of
the training routine of parents to see that a healthy mental atmosphere
is created and that a relationship is built up which tends toward
developing cooperation rather than resentful submission.
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as it may seem, one of the most difficult tasks in life is being
honest with oneself. A ll human beings have a tendency to evade,
avoid, deny, and reject that which is unpleasant or painful. With
most of us there is an equally strong tendency to see life and its varied
situations as we would like to have them. The individual is inclined
to guard and protect his self-esteem by refusing to face situations and
facts frankly that do not fit in with his ideals. Jealousy, selfishness,
timidity, and other undesirable personality traits can all exist in
marked degrees in an individual without being recognized by him.
The means and the methods that permit this process of self-deception
to continue may become habitual and a definite part of the personality
make-up. Hence any intimation by the family or by friends that such
traits exist is met with a dignified attitude of righteous indignation,
and not infrequently with violent resentment.
This tendency to see life as we would have it rather than as it
actually exists; to build up our own self-esteem by attributing all our
conduct to high and lofty motives; to find excuses for our own faults
and failures in some defect in the other fellow’s character or conduct;
to bury our heads like the proverbial ostrich, and deny the existence of
failure, danger, or defeat is an attitude of human beings with which
most of us are familiar. By using such methods we have all found
ourselves in difficult, embarrassing, and unnecessarily humiliating
situations, refusing to face the facts of a given situation frankly, pro­
ceeding without doing so, and failing to reach the desired goal. Suc­
cess, of course, is not always attained by logical methods of thought
and action, but they make the chances of success greater; and failure or
defeat is less painful when it has not been brought about by our selfimposed unwillingness to deal honestly with ourselves.
The reader may now remark, “That is all very true. W e recognize
these frailties of character in our friends and neighbors who meet all
of life’s situations in the way described, but why discuss the obvious ?
What about it? W ho can help it? People are born that way and
that’s that.”
This attitude toward self-deception is neither valid nor helpful.
There well may be certain inherent tendencies like timidity, sensitive­
ness, shyness, limitations of resources and abilities that create motives
and reasons why one adopts this self-deceptive and protective armor.
It is a fact, however, that the personality traits and general attitudes
toward life which make for frankness, honesty, courage, and inde­
pendence are, on the whole, acquired in the process of development.

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Childhood plays as important a role in the development of character
as it does in the process of physical growth. Much of the child’s life
is lived in a world of unreality. It is just as natural for the child to
have faith in the make-believe world as it is for him to eat and sleep.
The normal child is quite indifferent to the world as it actually exists.
His life of fantasy must not be disturbed by the realities of a situation.
He dreams dreams and has visions. He is quite unperturbed by the
fact that the grown-up world in which he lives fails to appreciate how
simple and carefree life may be if one does not take it too seriously.
A couple of chairs may be a span of beautiful horses and an old
apron makes a golden harness. A few pieces of bric-a-brac, a doll, and
a teddy bear, and the old shawl thrown over the same old chairs,
make a wonderful circus. The teddy bear and the doll may be
endowed with all the reality and animation which the child’s imagina­
tion can give them. Playmates without shape or form may assume
a place of importance in the life of such a child, even surpassing for
the time being interest in his parents. How easy it is for him to
identify himself with the characters of the stories which he is told in
early life. Little Black Sambo, Tom Sawyer, and Robinson Crusoe
have all been reincarnated over and over again in the lives of Ameri­
can children.
O f course, children cannot continue to live in this world of fantasy
and daydreams and at the same time keep step with those who are
living in a world of reality. Here success or even survival depends
upon meeting frankly and fearlessly the problems with which they
are confronted. Furthermore, they must learn to anticipate and pre­
pare for these struggles in a world where competition is keen and
where sentiment is all too frequently looked upon as weakness. One
must be as adequately prepared to meet failure, disappointment, and
defeat as he is to enjoy success, approval, and victory. These are the
realities of life which cannot be solved by evasion or flight into a
make-believe world. Yet this is frequently what is done by the child
in times of trouble.
Again, I hear the reader remark that there can be nothing very
abnormal in a method of thinking and acting that is so frequently
encountered in the average everyday child. A ll of us know or can
remember some child whose play life was lived very much in this
fantastic way. It is quite true that daydreams become a menace to
the child or the adult only when they play too important a part in
the individual’s life. For then he is deterred from making the neces­
sary effort to find his satisfaction in the stimuli which spur many men
on to real achievements. A large number of the best and most
practical things in life had their origin in some fantastic mood of the
dreamer well-endowed with an active imagination; but let us keep in
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mind that this type of individual did not stop there. He took his
dreams and worked months and years over a story, a poem, an object
of art, a piece of music, or an intricate mechanical device which was
essential to make his dream a reality. A life of passive enjoyment
must not be substituted for one of active effort. When this happens
one is truly living in a fool’s paradise.
Growing up implies that the child is gradually taking on the respon­
sibilities which are in keeping with his age; that he is acquiring an
outlook on life which permits him to see himself in relation to and as
part of the total situation, whether it be home, school, or playground.
A t times this self-evaluation leads to certain realizations about self
that are not altogether pleasant or easy to accept. A t home he learns
that he cannot have all the attention which he would like. He must
share his mother’s time with father or perhaps with another child in
the family. He realizes that he is not so attractive nor so popular as
his playmates; or perhaps he is less well equipped physically to par­
ticipate in all the activities of the group.
The school situation brings out certain intellectual differences, and,
try as he may, he cannot show up well in competition with his chum.
Perhaps he does class work well but is a failure on the playground.
No one selects him when choosing sides for a game. It may be that
because of shyness, freshness, selfishness, or domineering attitudes he
is ostracized socially, not invited to the parties, not accepted by the
group. These are just a few of the painfully pathetic and not infre­
quently tragic situations which the growing child has to meet. The
attitude which he develops and the understanding which he acquires
through the careful guidance of parents and teachers may avert much
unhappiness at the moment and real misery in later life.
It is perfectly true that not all children embark upon life free and
equal. A certain group of children are, from the beginning, in bond­
age to oversolicitous parents or to a crushing economic and social
situation. There is lack of equality in intellectual endowment, and
the child who falls below average in intellectual equipment cannot
compete scholastically with those who are above the average intel­
lectually. No amount of protection on the part of parents or teachers
will deceive his contemporaries. The dull child may get by for the
time being, but sooner or later he must face the fact that in dealing
with abstract material he is at an obvious disadvantage.
Yet this relatively inferior child may have ways and means of reduc­
ing his handicap to a minimum. Special mechanical abilities, unusual
skill in athletics or music, developed with persistency and tenacity of
purpose, may permit him to go a long way in compensating for his
mediocre scholastic ability. It is not fair to assume that because a
child is not intellectual he is dull or stupid. Many intelligent chil­
dren would not belong to the intellectual group. When these chil-
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dren are understood and so guided and helped that they may under­
stand themselves, their ambitions and their abilities will not be con­
stantly coming in conflict. It is then possible for them to develop into
efficient adolescents and adults. A ll too frequently, however, these
children flounder about and are subjected to situations where failure
is inevitable. They seek to explain this failure in terms of conditions
and situations which are beyond their control, such as poor health, the
fact that they have not been given a fair chance, that the parents or
the teacher or the boss does not like them. A t the moment many
such failures are being explained on the basis that the individual is
a victim of the depression, social and economic discriminations, and
various other excuses which only serve the purpose of self-deception.
Jealousy is a personality trait that masquerades unrecognized by the
one in whom it exists. It is looked upon as a fault or a weakness that
one is loath to admit. It is characteristic for the jealous person to
be intolerant of jealousy. Most children at some time or other pass
through a stage when jealousy is a predominating emotional response,
and unfortunately this undesirable trait is often fostered by parents. It
may be that the new brother or sister who has been suddenly and
unexpectedly introduced into the family life has usurped the throne,
so to speak, and is getting all the attention. Less frequently children
become jealous of the mother or the father, who seems to interfere
with their own intimate and often unhealthy emotional relationships.
Praise unwisely distributed or punishment unjustly meted out may be
the cause of a disposition on the part of the child to be jealous. Wise
parents recognizing the existence of any of these situations will, of
course, institute measures at once to correct them and to reestablish
happy, wholesome relationships in the family.
Jealousy may be introduced into the home from the school when
the child finds himself in unsuccessful competition with his col­
leagues socially, scholastically, or on the playground. Here the source
of trouble is the child’s feeling of insecurity and inferiority. These
children all need encouragement. Every effort should be made to
build up their self-esteem and give them that feeling of importance
which comes from being wanted and needed. Furthermore, they
should be helped in every way to understand the nature of this unde­
sirable emotional response to many of their everyday experiences. Just
as the wise parent would take infinite pains to overcome the tendency
to lie or steal, so should he be concerned over the problem of jealousy.
The grievances of the jealous child should be carefully analyzed and
A frank, honest acceptance of the fact that the individual has a
tendency to be jealous is the first step in helping the child to manage
his own problem with wisdom. It is too much to expect that chil­
dren as a group will reach the school age without having incorporated
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into their personality make-up some undesirable trait. It may be .shy­
ness, jealousy, pugnacity,, selfishness, or evasiveness. Whatever the
undesirable tendency may be, the child invariably will not recognize
it as such. The difficulties which arise on account of this defect in
personality should not be explained in some way which permits the
child to avoid his own responsibility.
Parents are in a position to help the child face his problem hon­
estly, to see clearly how such a trait leads to unfairness toward others
and unhappiness for himself. In order to do this parents must have
the courage themselves not to allow flimsy excuses on the part of the
child to be accepted as adequate reasons for undesirable conduct or
emotional outbursts. Parents are frequently inclined to deceive them­
selves in regard to the defects in their children which are obvious to
others. It is a protection against criticism and an unwillingness to
admit failure .
Another personality trait causes untold trouble to the one afflicted.
It is the basis of friction with neighbors and associates and is an
obstacle in building up friendships. It is the disposition to be critical,
sharp-tongued, and intolerant. There is a group of individuals who
quite unconsciously resort to ridicule and sarcasm and have a feeling
of animosity toward all mankind. The unfortunate aspect of the
whole situation is that these individuals are rarely aware of just what
they are doing or why they are doing it. When they are aware of
their lack of popularity and the fact that they are avoided and
shunned they are quite honest in denying that they know the reason
for this attitude of others toward them. They claim in all sincerity
that they would be the last to say an unkind word or an untrue thing
of anyone. Their ungraciousness of speech and manner, if recognized
and defended at all, is defended on the ground that they are simply
frank, tell the truth at all times, or do not believe in being hypocrites.
They offer other and similar excuses which on the whole appeal to
them as being rather praiseworthy and for this reason to be com­
mended rather than condemned. How these overzealously honest
individuals deceive themselves and how much they sting and bore
their neighbors they never know. The reasons for this mental attitude
toward society and life in general are numerous and varied. It may
be a play for attention, a defense against a world that has not been
sympathetic, or a reaction to a home environment that has been too
Whatever the particular cause may be, it is evident that the indi­
vidual has failed to make those adjustments to life which are essential
to happiness. The unhappy results due to this lack of adjustment can
invariably be modified if the unfortunate victim is given help in
understanding the motives and reasons that lie behind such attitudes.
O f course, this attitude toward life, the feeling of inadequacy, with
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the accompanying sense of insecurity, may become habitual and a
definite part of the individual’s personality. It frequently has its
beginning in early life. It is but the response of an unhappy child,
a thwarted adolescent, or a defeated adult. Treatment, as well as pre­
vention, can best be undertaken before these attitudes have become
fixed. It is during the formative years, when the mind is plastic, that
the child should learn that honesty is not incompatible with kindness,
sincerity and graciousness may go hand in hand, and truthfulness
and frankness need not be associated with pain. Many individuals
fail to think straight with reference to these important attitudes which
mean so much in their personal relationships. Suffering from a
marked feeling of inferiority, they cover themselves with this armor
of sarcasm, ridicule, and intolerance so that their weaknesses may
pass by unnoticed. These individuals would rather be thought tough
than weak. They would rather be looked upon as cynics than as
sentimentalists. Obviously these are the unconscious defenses of
timid individuals who are afraid of themselves and consequently
afraid of life itself.
One might mention in passing the child or the adult who learns to
avoid his obligations and responsibilities by continually resorting to
“alibis.” This type of individual is not necessarily jealous, critical,
inadequate, or lazy. He simply has never acquired the habit of
actually going through to the finish. He tires, loses interest, becomes
distracted, or slips away to escape putting in the necessary effort to con­
tinue beyond the point which his natural inclinations dictate. The
will power has never been developed which is essential if he is to push
on after the initial enthusiasm has passed. Such an individual, either
child or adult, will unconsciously spend much time in thinking up
excuses for not completing a task. There is always some reason quite
satisfactory to himself why he should not carry on; one unfinished job
has interfered with another, for some reason it would be wise to start
over at a later date, the job is too hard, there is not enough time, or it
is not worth while. The child claims that he thought the parent or
teacher had decided to have the lessons done in some other way or
at some other time, he failed to understand the directions, somebody
told him this or that which changed his plans.
The individual who has established the “alibi” habit will attempt to
evade by this method not only tasks that are unpleasant but prac­
tically everything that entails endurance and persistence. Such a
child naturally develops into an adult who is absolutely dependent
upon direction and supervision in all relationships that involve respon­
sibility. Even then we find him drifting and shifting from one task
to another like a ship without a rudder. Such irresponsible attitudes
are all too frequently the result of lack of training or poor training.
From the very beginning the child has been permitted to meet the
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ordinary everyday situations of life with these evasive methods. We
all know from experience that it becomes very easy for the child to
incorporate into his personality make-up another method of selfdeception.
“Know thyself” may be interpreted as meaning that human beings
should take account of stock and get a proper evaluation of their
personality make-up, of their liabilities as well as their assets. It is
important to recognize undesirable traits and habits while they are
in the making and prevent their development so far as possible.
Rarely is perfection attained even by methods of prevention. This
being true, the individual can only hope to avoid becoming the
victim of his own weaknesses by appreciating the fact that they are
very much a part of his total make-up. As such they are entitled to
serious consideration. He need not focus his attention on the socalled sterling qualities of character; they will look after themselves.
Much of the success attained in guiding and directing those traits
of personality which cause trouble in social relationships will depend
upon the frankness with which the individual faces his problem and
the courage and efficiency with which he sets out either to control or
to change these attitudes. Jealousy, intolerance, vindictiveness can
cause untold damage if permitted to exert an uncontrolled influence—
if their existence is not recognized and acknowledged, and if their
influence is not modified. Most individuals are afraid of discovering
in their personality make-up certain traits which do not fit into the
picture of themselves that they have built up. They cling to the false
ideal, denying the reality as it actually exists.
Children develop at an early age this tendency toward self-deception
which permits them to evade facing certain life situations because
they are painful, unpleasant, or difficult or because their conduct in
relation to these situations reflects unfavorably on certain recognized
standards which they have accepted. It is frequently acquired by con­
tact with adults through imitation. Children are quick to see how
easy it is for mother to avoid some unpleasant obligation by having a
sick headache, how frequently father offers unreasonable excuses which
the child is forced to accept as adequate reason for his failure to keep
a promise, and how tenaciously father sometimes clings to his decisions
and opinions in spite of evidence indicating that he is in error. It is not
surprising that children soon learn to evade responsibility and to dodge
their obligations if such methods are practiced by the parents. It is
easier, for the moment at least, to evade an issue, especially if it is
likely to be associated with unpleasantness, than to meet it frankly.
Children learn to believe that evasion is likely to “get them by.” Un­
fortunately, by the time they are old enough to appreciate fully how
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inadequate such evasions really are and how frequently they lead to
failure and disappointment, the habit has become firmly fixed.
Parents have a grave responsibility in setting an example for children
not only in matters pertaining to manners and morals but with refer­
ence to attitudes toward life that are less well defined, such as frank­
ness, sincerity, courage, loyalty, and dependability. Such personality
traits all become interwoven into a common fabric which ultimately
sets the standards, creates the ideals of the particular child. Fear,
ambition, and a sense of insecurity about life in general are the three
most important pitfalls which prevent parents from helping their chil­
dren to meet frankly and courageously the problems with which they
are confronted. Parents who are afraid to recognize the fact that their
children are developing undesirable habits and mental attitudes, avoid­
ing and evading responsibility, parents who become indignant at any
criticism directed toward their children regardless of whence this
criticism comes or how just it may be are simply creating difficult
situations which they must inevitably meet later. They are giving the
child a false sense of his own security and importance in relation to
the outside world and depriving the child of the opportunity of cor­
recting these undesirable tendencies at a time and under conditions
which are most favorable. Oversensitive children are not infrequently
the product of the home which has failed to give honest, frank, con­
structive criticism. It is essential that every individual, whether he be
child or adult, develop an attitude toward self which will permit him
to recognize his own faults as well as his virtues.
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e m o t i o n s are experienced by man which from a social point
of view are more important than jealousy, and perhaps no emotion
is so dependent upon early environmental conditions for its develop­
ment. It arouses anger, and frequently hatred, toward the object of
jealousy. It causes the jealous individual to feel disregarded and infe­
rior to his friends and neighbors, it damages his pride, and it lowers
his self-respect. This may produce a desire for revenge and retaliation
or may cause him to withdraw and hide his true feelings under a
mask of indifference.
W e are all familiar with one or more of our friends or acquaint­
ances who have what we call a jealous disposition. Not only are they
jealous in reference to their love and friendships but also of good
fortune which falls to others. Pleasure and happiness can be only
temporary for this type of individual. Their satisfaction with life is
constantly being interrupted by their attitude toward the achievement
and happiness of others.
One of the most common situations which stimulate jealousy in
the child is the birth of a new baby. This is not surprising when quite
suddenly and unexpectedly a child of 3 or 4 finds his mother devot­
ing practically all her time to the intruder. It may be that the child
has been through a period of worry and upset. Often the older child
is sent away during the mother’s confinement. This may be the first
time he has ever been away from home, and adults can little appre­
ciate what this may mean to him, even though he be with the most
well-meaning of relatives. His entire world is in upheaval. How can
he know that it will ever come right again? He puzzles his little
head over this, is told time and again that he is going back to mother
and daddy, but when he gets there he appears to be supplanted. Or
it may be that he stays at home, and mother is taken away to the
hospital with little or no explanation to him. Again he is faced with
an upset world. W hy has mother left him? W ill she really come
home again? Then she comes, but not with undivided attention for
him. Mother’s love and attention must be shared; small wonder that
feelings of hatred for the baby are aroused.
However, this attitude toward the newborn baby can invariably be
overcome if the older child is confided in and told that he may expect
a new little brother or sister. He then awaits its arrival with interest
and pleasant anticipation. Handled wisely, what might be a most
unpleasant event in his life becomes a real pleasure which will mean
companionship and a new playmate— someone to care for and pro­
tect. This sense of responsibility will work out to the advantage of

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both children. If in the course of events the older child does become
jealous of the baby, never foster this attitude by teasing or encouraging
it or by looking upon it as something that is “funny” or “cunning.”
The emotions of childhood are far too dangerous to be toyed with in
this way. Intelligent parents will find numerous ingenious ways to
convince the child that he is still just as much loved and as important
a member of the household as he was before the “usurper” arrived.
It is simply a matter of giving the older child a little more time and
attention and a little assurance that he still holds the affection of those
he loves.
Often a child will become markedly jealous when the parents show
affection for each other or for children outside the family circle.
Unfortunately parents not appreciating the gravity of such a demon­
stration are frequently flattered by the child’s resentment. This inter­
esting and unusual display of emotion appeals to them, and they term
it “cute”, making every effort to perpetuate and exaggerate it and
even arousing it for show purposes when visitors come in. In one
case the daily delight of the father of a little girl of 2 was to incite her
to wrath on his return from work by cuddling the baby sister and
ignoring the older child. This continued treatment has so warped
her outlook that at 5 she stands at odds with the world, disliked by
family and playmates, defiant, belligerent, and frequently making
vicious attacks upon the sister by whom she feels she has been sup­
planted. This, of course, is an exaggerated instance, but situations
of this sort are far more common than most people suspect.
Again, jealousy is aroused in one child by the constant praising and
holding up of brother or sister as a model or persistently pointing out
shortcomings and defects in the child who is inclined to be jealous.
Nothing is more disastrous than playing the merits and abilities of
one child against those of another. It causes feelings of bitterness,
resentment, inferiority, and inadequacy. N o family is big enough to
play favorites or show partiality.
In order to avoid as far as possible the development of jealousy in
the child it is necessary to deal with that common characteristic of
childhood called selfishness.
The child must learn that he has certain obligations toward his
family and later toward the community in which he lives. As early
as possible he must begin to think of what he does and what he says
in relation to other individuals and how his words and acts affect
them. He will be repeatedly told that such and such an attitude in
a given time or place is right or wrong. He will live in an environ­
ment where he can see that his pleasures and those of others are being
considered by each member of the household. Thus, long before he
can reason why, he will have acquired certain habits, developed largely
through suggestion and imitation.
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The jealous child is apt to be one who in early life has not had the
opportunity of developing interests outside himself. The only child
is in a position to become self-centered. This is especially true if this
child has been brought up in a crowded section of the city where he
is confined to limited quarters, with no companionship except that
of his mother. He is, to be sure, monarch of all that is within his
reach, but his field is far too limited. He has no knowledge nor
chance to gain knowledge of the interests and activities of other
The same holds true in a greater or less degree with a child who,
by illness or accident, has been prevented from making early contacts
with other children and has had only the companionship of an oversolicitous mother. He, too, becomes impressed with his own impor­
tance. Not infrequently one child in a family is especially favored by
one parent or the other, being protected not from experiences but
from the natural consequences of those experiences. Such children
in later life are of the type who fail to recognize superiority in others
and are intolerant and resentful toward authority.
It is fairly safe to assume that if a child can be taught habits of
unselfishness in the home, where his personal attachments are strongest
and where he would naturally have more provocation to jealousy, and
can learn to meet successfully the situations which develop there, he
will encounter little or no difficulty from this emotional handicap
when he gets outside.
If it so happens that there are no other children in the home, every
effort should be made to bring the child into association with children
outside, even at the risk of physical dangers in the street and the
chance of picking up some of the vocabulary of the alley.
The child should be taught to share his toys and playthings, his
candy, books, and pennies with other children. In games he must
learn to strive for the good of the group and not for personal achieve­
ment. If defeated, he must learn to acknowledge better playing and
take it with a smile. Children should learn to play many games with
fair ability rather than to excel in one particular game. There is a
great tendency, not only on the part of children but on the part of
adults as well, to cling to the things they do exceptionally well and
retire from the field of activity where they do not excel. Unselfish
conduct should always be rewarded by commendation and occasion­
ally by something of a material nature. There is certainly no disad­
vantage in the child’s learning from experience that unselfishness is
a paying proposition.
It is the jealous child who becomes the jealous man or woman. As
a child he encounters innumerable difficulties in getting on with his
playmates. Because of this he develops a sense of failure and shame,
which is a tremendous handicap. He feels wronged and neglected;
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he has missed a “square deal.” His self-centeredness becomes more
marked and he draws away from his playmates and the activities of
life thoroughly discouraged; or he may become domineering and
pugnacious in an effort to gain attention for himself. Later in life
this emotion causes an inability to share in the joys of others and
makes it impossible to see others succeed without manifesting open
resentment. The jealous person becomes an object of dislike. Often
he develops the idea that he is unjustly treated or persecuted, and all
too frequently this idea causes uncontrolled resentment and disastrous
Study your child. Find out why he behaves as he does. Is he
aggressive, belligerent, and defiant? Is he sullen and resentful, or
does he explode in outbursts of temper which clear the atmosphere ?
It may be that he is shy, quiet, and always a model of good behavior,
letting life slip past him without taking an active part. Think the
thing over; try to see his reasoning. Remember that the attitude he
is showing may be the very opposite of what he really feels. Aggres­
siveness and defiance may be a mask for feelings of failure and dis­
couragement; passive indifference may cover deeply wounded feel­
ings. On the other hand, the child’s conduct may be only the result
of imitation and may be patterned after an admired “grown-up” or
child with whom he comes in contact. Take time to know your boy
or girl; it will prove in later years to be time well spent.

89881 °— 37-

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e a r is perhaps the most common emotion which human beings
experience, yet it is extremely doubtful if the child has any inherent
fears at birth. Most fears are produced by some experience through
which the individual has had to pass in early life.
In dealing with children we are very prone to speak of their foolish
fears, yet they are foolish and unreasonable to us as adults simply
because of our inability to understand how certain experiences have
left upon the mind of the child impressions and feelings which govern
conduct for a long time. A large number of parents frighten children
either as a punishment or as a means of obtaining desired conduct,
and perhaps only a very few parents take the fears experienced by
their children seriously enough. They do not make inquiry into their
cause nor make efforts to eradicate them by careful explanation.
There appear to be two distinct types of fear— what might be called
objective and subjective fears. The first are fears of thingswvhich can
be seen or heard, like animals, policemen, doctors, lightning, guns,
and high places. The subjective fears are more intangible and the
causes are very hard to find. They are based on the feelings and
attitudes of the child to something which he has heard and upon
which he has brooded without daring to express his fear.
Objective fears are usually more easily recognized and compara­
tively easy to overcome. Sometimes the child has forgotten the experi­
ence with which the fear was first associated; but if it can be recalled,
the fear can be taken out of it by a straightforward explanation.
Some children are afraid of anything new or strange, but they soon
become accustomed to it if they are allowed to do so gradually. It is
a mistaken notion that a child should be pushed into a situation where
he is afraid in an effort to “train him.” A little child who cries at his
first experience of bathing in the big ocean is not helped by being
thrown in but, on the contrary, gets an experience of dread and fear
of water which may not be easily overcome.
Fear of animals may occur at a very early age but usually passes off
as soon as the child becomes accustomed to the sight of them, unless
he has been so unfortunate as to be frightened by an animal or by
threats that the animal will get him if he is not a good boy.
Many children are threatened with the policeman or the “bogy man.”
Sometimes mother speaks to the ragman and asks him to take a
naughty boy away in his bag. It is particularly unfortunate when
mothers use a threat of the doctor to frighten their children into
obedience, for the time may come when a child’s life may depend on
a doctor’s ability to get him to take treatment without crying or


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struggling. “The doctor cuts the fingers of little boys who touch
things” is not good preparation for such an emergency.
Often fears are due to unpleasant experiences for which the parents
are in no way to blame, and may even extend to things which are
merely associated with the unpleasant experience. For instance, a
child who has been hurt in a doctor’s office may be afraid to enter any
place which looks like a doctor’s office. A book agent, with his black
bag, may be a terrifying figure to such a child. This is very differ­
ent from fears produced by threats. The fears based on a real experi­
ence can be overcome by gradually associating pleasanter things with
the same situation or by appealing to the child to face his fears bravely.
Children quickly adopt their parents’ attitude, be it one of bravery or
one of fear. Many mothers wonder where their children get fear of
lightning or of animals, forgetting that they themselves have shown
fear when they thought the children were not noticing.
Such was the case w ith litde Ellen. H er mother thought the child inherited
from her a fear of the dark and everything strange.
Ellen would awake
screaming at night, saying some one was climbing in at the w indow. Her
mother compared this in the child’s hearing to her own fear of being left alone
of an evening when she thought every sound meant a lurking marauder. T h e
mother had heard many ghost stories in childhood, and though she denied that
she had ever told them to Ellen, she talked quite freely about them in her pres­
ence. It is not hard to see where this child’s “ inherited” fears originated.

If the child develops a fear of loud noises and flashes of light, such
as thunder and lightning and firing of guns, he can overcome it only
with the help of intelligent suggestion from the parents. He must
see from their attitude that there is no occasion for fear. The mother
who is terrified by these situations and whose fear is openly demon­
strated before the child can be of no assistance to him. Imitation
clearly plays an important part in the development and control of
fear. This may be seen, for instance, if things go wrong at sea and
a ship is in danger. One panic-stricken person may start a stampede
for the lifeboats, whereas one calm and fearless officer can quell the
impending panic and control the situation.
The subjective fears are very hard to trace back to their cause and
to overcome. They are often so vague and intangible that an adult
would not dream that a child could be thinking of such things. As
Victor Hugo says in his Recollections of Childhood, “ But a thing
once said sinks in the mind; that which has struck the brain often
from time to time comes back again, and in the breast of simple
infancy lives unexplained full many a mystery.”
For example, vague and poorly formulated ideas about death are
the basis of more mental anxiety in children than is generally sup­
posed. T o one child death meant being buried in a hole, another
child had a fear of being buried alive, and many children are disturbed
by the line in the evening prayer which is familiar to most children,
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“If I should die before I wake.” It would be impossible to state all
the vague fantasies of childhood about this ever-present problem of
death, but it should not be difficult to give the average child a concep­
tion of death and the hereafter which will do. much to allay the
common fears surrounding this mystery.
Another common fear which children have is that of being deserted
by their parents. This undoubtedly is brought about in many in­
stances by their having been told at some time or other that if they
were not good their parents would go away and leave them. Some
parents even wrap them up and say they are going to give them away.
O ne mother, w ho had to go to a hospital for a w eek’s treatment, told her
little girl, 3 years old, that she was going out to buy a loaf of bread. T h e child
watched at the w indow for her mother to come back, and when hour after hour
passed she became terrified. Once she was taken past a huge building where
she saw her mother in a bathrobe sitting at a w indow but could not speak to
her. W eeks later, when mother was at home and well, this child could not
sleep at night, fearing that her mother would go away again if she closed her eyes.

Fear of being deserted is not often expressed in words, but more
often in the attitude of the child toward the mother, so that separa­
tion, even for a moment, produces an unpleasant scene. A child with
this hidden dread may give up games with other children in order
to stay close to mother’s side, and, even up to the age of io or 12,
may return home frequently to make sure that mother is there.
Things said in jest may cause great anxiety to a little child. A man,
now a college professor, relates how he suffered for weeks in boyhood
because someone told him that if he ate bread and molasses horns
would grow on his head. He at once gave up eating that delicacy
without explaining to anyone through fear that he would be laughed
at. Then he imagined that he had lumps on his forehead. In a
frenzy of anxiety he asked his mother if she could feel the horns,
and she, thinking it was a part of some game, said, “Yes. I believe I do.”
The grown man still feels the pain of that experience.
Fear is a driving force in human conduct. It makes us do things; it
keeps us from doing them. It protects from danger, and without
a reasonable amount of fear mankind could not live. It is useless to
talk about eradicating fear; but in training the child every effort
should be made to see that fear does not become a curse instead of
a means of protection. A child should fear punishment, danger, loss
of the approval of those he cares for, and, when he becomes old
enough to appreciate it, loss of the approval of his own conscience.
He should not have to spend his early years weighed down by fears
which make him nervous and sleepless at times, afraid to play happily
or work with enthusiasm, all because someone got him to obey through
fear or failed to help him by wise understanding and explanation at
the right time to get rid of the scars of unpleasant experiences.
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A nger is an emotion which practically every individual experiences
i l from time to time. It is an intense emotion and one which
often leads to undesirable conduct. This is particularly true in chil­
dren who, because of their limited training and experience, have not
developed adequate self-control and are therefore apt to show a vicious
attitude toward the object which has aroused their anger.
Anger is frequently stimulated when any of the instinctive tenden­
cies are thwarted or obstructed. How often the little child is seen to
turn in wrath on the blocks that will not stay one on another or the
train of cars that will not go. He strives to break and destroy them
because he cannot construct or operate them as he wishes. Again,
the child, and the adult, too, is seen to show anger when personal
wants are obstructed or pride and self-importance are injured. Fear,
with no outlet for flight or escape, may arouse anger, as in the animal
at bay. It is produced, therefore, by innumerable causes that may
operate in the environment in which the individual is living, and it
may express itself in many different ways.
In dealing with this emotion in children it is necessary not only to
be sure that a certain act was an expression of anger but to determine,
so far as possible, how the anger was aroused. For example, a solution
is sought for the problem of a child who for 2 weeks has been break­
ing window glass. Among other things investigation may show that
he was always angry when he broke the glass. The next step of im­
portance is to find out the circumstances and conditions of the envi­
ronment which produced this emotion of anger. In this particular
case it so happens that it was the result of jealousy; but it might well
have been stimulated by many other feelings, such as resentment at
punishment felt to be undeserved or failure in school or at games.
The reason for the anger is particularly important in dealing with
the problems of children when anger colors the picture. The vital
thing is not the anger; this is only a danger signal which warns us to
look deeper for the fundamental cause from which it arises.
The emotion of anger is dependent for control upon the develop­
ment of certain inhibitions or restraints, and if the child is to grow
into a self-controlled and useful adult it is essential that they be estab­
lished early in life. The important thing for him to learn is that the
natural tendency to react to this emotion by retaliation does not at all
times work out to his advantage.
One of the common manifestations of anger in children is the
so-called temper tantrum, an uncontrolled outburst of kicking and
screaming, which is a dramatic physical demonstration of the child’s
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resentment. On the other hand, some children when angered become
sullen and moody. O f the two attitudes the latter may result in more
harm to the child. It frequently leads to brooding and unhealthy
fantasy formation of a revengeful nature, which gradually may cause
the child’s interests to “turn in” and his energy to be wasted in living
a “dream life” of things as he would have them and not as they really
are. A temper tantrum, however, may result in undesirable conduct
for the moment, and then the atmosphere may be cleared until the
next occasion for anger arises. In a great majority of children the
emotion shown is not out of proportion to the stimulation, is of short
duration, and is a normal, healthy reaction. In fact, it might be said
that there is something wrong with the child who never becomes
angry. However, the child who meets all difficult situations in life
with chronic irritability or a temper tantrum is in grave danger of
developing other personality defects later which will make him an
unhappy, inadequate individual in adult life.
Almost invariably one learns that the temper tantrums manifested
by children work out, either directly or indirectly, to their advantage,
for the .moment at least. It may be that the child is determined to
have his own way or craves attention, no matter how it is gained, or
feels that he can obtain a bribe if he holds out long enough. The
demonstration the youngster makes of his anger is so spectacular and
impressive to those who have denied him his desires that they sur­
render and agree to his demands in order to avoid further unpleasant
scenes. It is quite amazing to see the acuteness with which a child
can choose the time and place where giving in to him will seem almost
a necessity. In this way the child quickly learns that he can partly
control his surroundings. Soon the tantrums which originally were
produced by situations calling for intense emotion are produced to
dodge any situation requiring submission to the will of others. The
temper has become out of all proportion to the demands of the occa­
sion, and the child will as readily stage a violent tantrum if the mother
has brought him home a red lollipop when he desired a green one
as he would if the tantrum were the result of some real grievance.
One small boy of 4 cleverly used this method to gain attention from the
fam ily whenever he felt slighted or left out. If corrected or if things did not
suit him, the response was immediate. First, Johnny would burst into tears,
then would follow piercing screams; if this failed to bring results, he would cast
himself on the floor, kickin g and striking whatever came in his way. B y this
time the fam ily as a rule relented, know ing w hat w ould follow. If, however,
they held out, Johnny was not discouraged. H e had a final card to play. T h e
kickin g and screaming would stop; he would become rigid; because he held his
breath he w ould begin to turn blue about the mouth. T h a t was the end. H e
had brought them to his feet. W et cloths were dashed in his face and he was
comforted and promised whatever he desired, however impossible.
H avin g
achieved his desires for the moment, he would return to his own affairs.
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To one who is not familiar with these outbursts this account may
sound exaggerated, but it is not. They are truly terrifying, and it
requires a cool head and strong determination to hold out against a
child under such conditions.
These are only a few of the most obvious causes of temper out­
bursts. It must be remembered that there are more subtle reasons for
them which may not always stand out so clearly. Suppose, for
instance, the boy in his play is quietly following out a line of action
he has planned and is eager to finish. A t a word from an unin­
terested “grown-up” all his plans and efforts must be stopped or be
tossed aside, whether he can see any reason for this or not. Is there
any cause for surprise that he should show his resentment in the most
emphatic way possible to him? Or it may be that these tempera­
mental youngsters are but a reflection of the instability of their par­
ents. Do you lose your temper ? Does it make you angry when your
child misbehaves? Do you endlessly say, “Stop!” “Don’t!” when
there is no real need to do so? Don’t try to gain obedience by shout­
ing at the child, as many parents do; it only irritates him and makes
him more excitable and therefore harder to control. It does not take
a child long to learn his parents’ limitations and to measure with great
accuracy the amount of kicking, screaming, and yelling necessary to
bring about the desired ends. If the parents are ready to take a firm
and united stand and if they have the courage to admit, if such be the
case, that they, too, need to learn self-control, the battle is soon won.
In the first place, the child who has these explosions of temper is
likely to be emotionally unstable by nature, the type of child who is
not capable of withstanding the average amount of stress and strain
without undue fatigue. Temper tantrums are only one of the many
symptoms of nervous fatigue in childhood. They are often preceded
by restless sleep, capricious habits regarding food, faultfinding and
complaints of being “picked upon” by playmates and unjustly treated
by parents and teachers. This means that the child needs more rest
and sleep as well as more energetic play during his waking hours.
He should not be confined to the house and cut off from playmates,
a situation which in itself makes him self-centered, cross, and hard to
please, and keeps him in a chronic state of tension, ready to explode
at any moment. Neither should he be dragged on shopping trips, nor
taken to the movies or to parades where he will be excited and
Temper tantrums in each instance must be considered in relation
to the exciting cause and the personality of the child. If they repre­
sent an unconscious protest against the thwarting of some fundamental
desire, every effort should be made to determine the cause and remove
it or alter the child’s attitude toward it. On the other hand, if they
have become habitual— that is, a crude method of gaining an end— or
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if they are utilized to attract attention or obtain bribes, then it must
be definitely decided that they will no longer work out to the child’s
advantage. Once a definite stand is adopted it will not take the
child long to see that his former methods of gaining his ends are no
longer tolerated— that he is making no material gain and is losing
approbation by his conduct. When once he senses this the temper
tantrums will be discarded.
Anger is not always expressed by such explosive reactions. There
is a group of cases in which the individual is so overcome by anger
that temporarily action is quite impossible. Common expressions,
such as “being paralyzed by rage” and “so mad I could not speak”,
convey well the idea. This type of reaction is not so common in chil­
dren, yet it is sometimes found. The emotion may be pent up and re­
pressed from day to day until it reaches the breaking point. Then
suddenly and without apparent reason or perhaps for some trivial
cause the explosion takes place, and it is quite beyond those with
whom the child comes in daily contact to understand how this hith­
erto quiet, reserved youngster could suddenly have produced such an
Many of these periodic and apparently unexplainable outbursts
might be avoided if the parents would stop now and then and “take
account of stock.” Look into the child’s general condition. Are there
any evidences of nervous fatigue, such as twitching or jerking of the
larger muscles or blinking of the eyes ? Is he eating and sleeping well,
and is his elimination good ? What about school and playmates ? Is
he getting on well ? Does he mix well with other children or do they
tease him; and if so, why? Does he play with older or younger chil­
dren ? Is he inclined to be a bully ? Does he take his part in games ?
What are his duties outside of school ? Is he being tutored to make
a higher grade or to keep him in his class ? Does he have too much
to do— music and dancing lessons, which keep him from having suffi­
cient outdoor exercise ?
Find out what he is thinking about. What are his problems, hopes,
and disappointments? If he seems unhappy, find the cause of his
discontent. He may be jealous or troubled by some ill-defined fear
or worried by the problem of sex. He may feel inferior to others.
Help him to see things clearly and in their true light. Appreciate
the fact that the obligations of parenthood mean something more
than to see that the child has enough to eat and wear and does not
steal, lie, or set fires. The big task is to see that the boy or girl is
happy and that he or she is learning how to meet the problems of
everyday life successfully.
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deliberate lying, misrepresenting the facts of the case,
and tendencies to “make believe”, sometimes with marked
elaborations, are extremely common in children, these deviations from
absolute truth are much less well defined as abnormal conduct than
stealing. Lying is almost universally connected with stealing as a
means of defense, an effort on the part of the child to avoid the
humiliation of confession and subsequent punishment. It is exactly
what one would expect the child to do in his effort to protect himself.
Successful lying which goes undetected gives the child, consciously
or unconsciously, a sense of power and satisfaction owing to the fact
that he has attained his end by his effort. This is especially true with
the group of misrepresentations that are consciously utilized to cover
up other misdemeanors.
The most vicious type of lying is that usually prompted by jealousy
or by resentment toward members of the family or intimate acquain­
tances. This might be termed slanderous lying, the object of which
is to misrepresent or place in an uncomfortable situation the indi­
vidual about whom the lies are told.
Less offensive and not particularly serious is the lying of the child
who is inclined to “put himself across” in a big way by exaggerating
his achievements. Fabrications which tend to reflect to the credit of
the child are normal mental processes in early life. Many children
live in a make-believe world, and parents are apt to interpret the
child’s descriptions of his dream world as deliberate lying. But the
whole motive is quite different, and except for making the child
understand that he is not dealing with the real world and that every­
one to whom he tells the tales understands that fact too, nothing need
be done. Fantasies which are the products of daydreaming often
serve a very useful purpose in the development of the child’s mental

O ne litde youngster, when about 4 years of age, having been deceived by his
mother regarding the death of his grandmother to whom he was much attached,
took refuge in his imagination to lessen, for the moment at least, the severe sting
he felt at the loss of his grandmother. H e began to tell the other children
that his grandmother was not dead but had gone to N e w York and was going
to have him and all the other children down there, and went on to describe the
pleasures of the trip. One can easily see that this process of self-deception served
to make his loss more tolerable

Imaginary playmates and daydreams can be considered perfectly
normal psychological mechanisms in the life of the child. It is only
when these daydreams satisfy to an abnormal degree the emotional
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life of the child that they become serious, although they often stimu­
late the child to activity in order to make the dreams come true. One
must guard against allowing the habit of daydreaming to be substi­
tuted for the effort necessary to get enjoyment and satisfaction out of
In dealing with the fabrications that have no basis in fact or that
serve no apparent useful purpose— that is, the so-called products of
daydreaming— it is neither necessary nor desirable to make the child
admit the lack of reality in his dreams. It is much better simply to
impress him with the fact that you, as an adult, are taking it for
granted that he is making up an interesting story, which amuses you
as any story might, and that the possibility of accepting it as the truth
has never occurred to you. There is less danger in encouraging these
make-believe stories in children if they are given to understand that
you accept them as such than there is in trying to inhibit them by
constantly denying their existence or by punishing the narrator. Such
punishment is apt to increase the romance the child derives from his
stories, fill him with self-pity, make him introspective, and drive him
further away from reality.
Pathological lying, a condition described by Dr. Healy,1 can be seen
developing very early in life. In this particular group of cases deviation
from the normal is so pronounced that only the most careful study by
a well-trained specialist is of real value. When such a condition exists
every effort should be made to get the child to some private physician
or clinic.
Lying is not infrequently a part of the general picture seen in the
undisciplined, poorly trained child, and is almost always associated
with stealing, destructiveness, temper tantrums, exaggerated jealousy,
fears, and the deceitfulness involving misrepresentation, not only by
words but by deeds as well.
A tendency to deceit is often fostered by parents who worry over
it, attempt to verify every statement the child makes, and force him
into a corner from which, it seems to him, there is no escape except
through lying.
Such a situation is illustrated by the case of a lad of 7 years of age, being
treated for enuresis, who had been advised to drink less before going to bed.
For some time he deceived his mother by going to the sink, apparently to wash
his face, while at the same time he managed to swallow considerable water. H e
w ould take every opportunity to convey by his actions the wrong impression to
his mother and lied whenever he felt it would work out to his advantage. A l­
though the mother was endeavoring to bring up the lad to be honest and
upright, she was much worried lest he m ight develop after the same moral
pattern as his father, w ho had deserted the family about the time the child was
born and who was said to have been immoral, alcoholic, and absolutely un1 Healy, William: The Individual Delinquent, p. 729.
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Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1915.



trustworthy because of his lying and deceitful ways. T h e danger lay in the fact
that the mother, because of her extreme anxiety, was prone to see deceitfulness
in many situations in which the boy was involved when it really did not exist.
She tried to verify every statement and held him to strict accountability for the
slightest deviation from the truth.

This not infrequent practice, on the part of parents, of forcing
children into situations where lying will almost inevitably follow,
has always a bad effect. The child feels that he has been driven to
lie and is not only humiliated but resentful. It is very much better
for the child to feel that he makes a free choice of truth or falsehood,
but he should be made to learn from experience that he is most
unlikely to lie successfully and that the attempt to do so is always
going to work out to his disadvantage.
Parents must be particularly careful not to take advantage of the
mental and physical immaturity of the child by a careless and in­
different attitude toward their promises to him. Children have keen
memories for many of the petty deceptions to which parents resort
in an attempt to get desirable conduct with a minimum amount of
effort on their part. If, when the time comes for a child to make
his first trip to the dentist, he is told he is going to the park to see
the animals, or going to visit his aunt, or on some other outing which
he would naturally anticipate with pleasure, and then finds himself
in a dentist’s chair, the chances are that besides the temporary pain
there will be resentment not only toward the dentist but also toward
his mother, which may cause a great deal of trouble later.
The doctor, the policeman, and the dog should not be used as objects
of fear by parents in order to get the desired conduct. These threats
work effectively once or twice, but soon the child learns that on the
whole doctors are kindly and friendly, the policemen protect rather
than punish, and dogs are good playmates. Furthermore, he learns
that the parent’s word cannot be depended upon. He also comes to
realize that from this method of instilling fear in other individuals one
derives a sense of power, and he uses it on his younger brother or
his neighborhood friends. Cheating the child in this way not only
destroys the child’s affection for the parent but gives the child an
undesirable habit to imitate.
Punishment which is too frequent, severe, and often out of all pro­
portion to what the situation demands leads to lying as a means of
protection. This fact needs no comment other than the statement
that frequently the punishment itself defeats the very purpose it was
meant to accomplish. Many children use lying impulsively as an
instinctive way of protecting themselves from disciplinary measures,
especially when the corrective measures are unjustly severe or when
the child realizes that his having been honest and frank will not be
considered a mitigating circumstance.
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There is no better, more logical, nor surer way of developing the
habit of truth in the child than by permitting him to live in an envi­
ronment where he may have truth as an example to imitate.
Moralizing in an abstract way about the beauty and value of truth
has but little effect in establishing the habit of truthfulness during the
early years of childhood. Parents should avoid letting a child develop
the habit of lying merely because it is easier for them to avoid the
issue than to meet it squarely. The lying of children is not infre­
quently the imitation of the same practice by other members of the
family who themselves are inclined to meet every issue in life either
by self-deception or by deception of others. The ever-useful headache,
saying that one is out when an undesirable neighbor calls, lack of
frankness between the parents in simple household matters, and
warnings to the children of “Don’t tell your father” or “Don’t tell your
mother” tend to give the child an idea that evading the truth is per­
haps a very useful bit of technique in dodging new, untried, and diffi­
cult situations.
It is not difficult to teach most children that telling the truth is
worthy of effort, inasmuch as it brings them the approbation of those
with whom they have to live and adds to their material pleasure. This
may be accomplished by giving them an environment of truthtelling
and by demonstrating to them that lying will invariably work out to
their disadvantage.
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is a harsh word to apply to the acts of children. It is
associated so closely with a criminal career, and one so naturally
thinks of jails and prisons, highwaymen and robbers, that childhood
and this type of delinquency seem almost incompatible.
On the other hand, problems are never solved by dodging the issue.
“O f course, we don’t consider it stealing when Johnny takes things
belonging to me or to other members of the family”, said one mother
in defense of her 8-year-old boy, and another mother argued that
“taking food or pennies is not considered pilfering.” Sometimes the
juvenile offender is acquitted by the parent on the ground that “he
does it in such a cute way” or that “he is so unselfish— he never uses
for himself the things he takes but always gives them away”— or “you
can’t expect a child so young to understand what he is doing.”
These are only a few of the numerous excuses by which parents
permit themselves to be deceived. Stealing must be considered steal­
ing as soon as the child has developed mentally and socially to the
point where he is capable of differentiating his property rights from
those of the people with whom he comes in contact. It must not be
forgotten that most children are warned at an early age that such acts
are against the wishes of their parents without being given any appre­
ciation of the social code called honesty.. In such cases the act of
stealing is nothing more than disobedience and must be treated as
Children naturally absorb from the environment in which they are
living a tendency to conform to the social customs of that environ­
ment, and they can also give an intelligent reason why such social
customs are enforced. When a child reaches this stage in his develop­
ment he must be held responsible for his conduct, and it is grossly unfair
for parents to minimize its significance by refusing to face the issue.
Stealing is a dangerous habit because it is very apt to work out
temporarily to the advantage of the child, and it can be utilized as a
means of gratifying, for the moment at least, many of the desires that
would otherwise have to go unfulfilled. To the child it seems a short
cut to prosperity, and it is perfectly natural that he should use this
method and continue it until he learns that it works out to his
When one considers that all children are born into the world unciv­
ilized, nonmoral individuals, dominated entirely by selfish motives
and with the sum total of their physical and mental activities directed
toward seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, and that certain natural
tendencies are constantly operating in early life, unchallenged by train89

t e a l in g

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ing, experience, and education, it is not surprising that pilfering
among children is very common. Stealing is but a deviation from
the tendency to acquisition that is normal and instinctive. Storing
away for future needs permits the individual to indulge in a feeling of
security against poverty, starvation, and other calamities. It is one of
the instinctive tendencies that need to be inhibited and directed by
training and experience. It varies in intensity in different individuals,
but to deny its existence is not solving the problem.
As with any other aspect of human conduct, it is the underlying
forces that must be considered rather than the act itself. Only by
studying the motives for the conduct and the purpose that it serves
can we intelligently understand and treat the individual. The basic
factors leading to this undesirable type of conduct are so numerous
and varied that it is difficult to group these individuals or to discuss
them in terms of types. Yet certain definite environmental factors
are more or less common to the group as a whole, and consideration
of a few of these elements is worth while.
Perhaps habit has not been sufficiently stressed in its relation to steal­
ing in children. The child who during his early years of development
has not acquired through his home training the idea of respecting the
rights and property of the family group is not likely to be a better
conformer at school. As his environment broadens and the number
of personalities with whom he comes in contact increases, the greater
will be the demands on his powers of adaptation, and it is not unlikely
that the technique he used and found successful in the home will be
practiced at school. But the delinquencies which were considered
“cute” in the home may be considered evidences of criminal tendencies
at school. What the mother excuses on the ground of his immature
years the teacher looks upon as abnormal compared with the group,
and in the social code of his playmates the child is “crooked.” It does
not take schoolmates long to recognize nonsocial traits in a child, and
their criticism is invariably harsh.
It therefore behooves every parent to instill into the mind of the child
at an early age the importance of respecting the rights of others in the
group in which he lives. This cannot be done through a process of
moralizing. The child must learn from actual experience that con­
duct which disregards the rights and property of others invariably
works out to his disadvantage. There is no better way for the child
to learn during these immature years than to appreciate the relation­
ship between cause and effect, desirable conduct bringing pleasure and
satisfaction and undesirable conduct evoking unhappiness and pain.
N o task requires a higher degree of intelligence from parents than
the distribution of rewards and punishments, which is most important
in the development of conduct that is going to work out to the advan­
tage of the child in later life. The handicaps that some children
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acquire from ignorance and from poor training or lack of training
during the first 6 years of life are rarely overcome.
There are situations, such as the following, in which the home
shares with the outside environment the responsibility for early
Mary was an apathetic but friendly little girl, who vigorously denied, even
before the subject was broached, the thefts of which she was accused. She did
not have to be prompted to discuss her interests, her play life, and the movies
which she occasionally attended. She said that she hated dolls, liked to play
ball, and enjoyed the play life on the street. Mary volunteered no complaint of
her home life, but it was not difficult to see that she was far from happy. Just
before the interview was ended the child returned to the matter of stealing,
stating quite openly and frankly that she had stolen. W ithout being questioned
she confided, “N obody likes me. I don’t know why. T h e girls don’t like
me— they knock me down and tease me.' I stole only from the people who
teased me and from those I don’t like.”

Stealing was Mary’s way of “getting even” and served as a rather
crude instinctive reaction toward those who had hurt her by their
teasing and their ridicule. The fact that she would destroy or hide
the things she took indicated that, although only 6 years of age, she
appreciated keenly the social significance of her acts. She knew what
happened to older people who stole, and she associated stealing with
policemen and jails. Mary had a very definite fear of being found out
and was quite ingenious in concealing her offenses.
Revenge and jealousy are not uncommon motives for stealing,
especially with girls, even up to the college age. A girl of 16 .years
was brought to court on a charge of breaking and entering. Investi­
gation showed that on three occasions she had gone to the house of
her best friend and stolen wearing apparel, skates, and a ring, all of
which she carefully hid away and made no attempt to use or sell.
A rather long, detailed story of the case revealed the fact that, in spite
of her extreme fondness for her girl friend, there were times when she
became intensely jealous of her, especially when the other girl ap­
peared in new clothes such as her own parents could not afford to
buy. It was after such periods of jealousy that she committed the
One must here assume that jealousy was a strong personality trait
in the mental make-up of the girl, and it is extremely doubtful
whether any treatment would completely eradicate it at her age. It
is important, however, to give such an individual a better insight into
her personality make-up so that she may battle with her handicaps
Not infrequently one finds stealing associated with certain worries
concerning the sex life of the child, especially following masturbation.
Although it is rather difficult to connect the two psychologically, it is
found that the depression and the sense of degradation which many
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children develop with their sex conflicts lead to a feeling that nothing
is worth while and that there is nothing to lose by one more delin­
quent act. Then, too, they derive not only material gain from this
act but a certain sense of excitement and a feeling of satisfaction in
“putting it over on the other fellow.” In three cases of this type,
involving boys from good homes, the father of one being a professor
and those of the other two physicians, the relationship between the
sex life of the child and the stealing could not be denied.
Stealing merely as a means to an end is commonly encountered.
A boy of 9 years, from an excellent fam ily of culture and education, suddenly
began to steal money from other members of the fam ily, using it to purchase
candy and other delicacies w hich he distributed am ong his boy companions.
In this particular case the boy’s intellectual, social, and athletic activities were
very m uch overshadowed by those of a superior and rather arrogant brother,
w ho was constantly hum iliating him. In athletics especially the boy was not so
efficient as most boys of his age, and for this reason he was cut off, more or less,
from his companions. H e did find, however, that his popularity could be estab­
lished, in a measure at least, by supplying the boys w ith gum and candy and
treating them generously. In order to do this he resorted to thefts. A tempo­
rary separation of the boy from his older brother by a summer at camp, explain­
ing the underlying motives for his difficulty, and laying special stress on the
development of his physical life, proved to be a satisfactory solution of the
Another case of this kind was that of a rather undernourished, poorly de­
veloped, anemic-looking lad 7 years of age, w ith a rather superior intellectual
equipment, w ho about a year ago committed his first, and what fortunately
proved to be his only, theft.
It so happened that his mother, a hard-working, conscientious woman, whose
husband had died a few years previously, was m aking a heroic struggle to keep
together a fam ily consisting of the boy and his two sisters, one older and one
younger than he. It seemed a bit more than the mother’s limited finances
would permit to allow Frederick to have 20 cents a week w ith w hich to buy
m ilk at school. T h e boy not only needed and wanted the m ilk but he was
deeply humiliated when, at the recess period, all the boys except him and two
others left the classroom to get their milk.
T h is was the situation w hich tempted him to plan to steal $5 from his
mother’s pocketbook. H e had the bill changed and gave the tw o other boys
w ho were in the same situation 20 cents each to buy their m ilk, keeping the
same amount himself and secreting the rest of the money in the bathroom at
home. H is presence in the group buying m ilk was noticed by the teacher, who
reported it to the mother. Meanwhile the mother discovered her loss. Upon
being questioned, Frederick immediately admitted the theft and returned $4.40
to his mother. H e appreciated fully the nonsocial nature of his act and the
consequences w hich m ight follow if this type of conduct became a habit.
Except for m aking arrangements whereby the boy m ight receive m ilk regu­
larly at school, as his poor physical condition demanded, and allaying the worry
and anxiety of an overwrought mother, nothing in the w ay of treatment was
instituted. Although 8 months have already passed, no further difficulties have
been reported.
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Sometimes the fantasies of children stimulate desires and ambitions
to be like some one whom they admire and lead to temporary delin­
quencies in the attempt to carry out these ambitions.
One lad of io stole $5 from his mother. A few days later he told her that
he had obtained a job as errand boy after school hours. For an entire week
he came home each evening just in time to meet his father and have supper
w ith the family. A t the end of the w eek he turned in five $1 bills to his
mother w ith a great deal of pride in the fact that he was helping to support the
fam ily. A short time later the mother discovered her Joss and the fact that the
lad had not been working. W hen questioned he confessed that he had taken
the money and had it changed into dollar bills. H is only reason for the act
was his desire to imitate his father and contribute to the support of the house­

Sometimes stealing is resorted to purely as a means of excitement
or adventure. And it may later become a habit as a result of poor
training in the home.
A boy of 7 years, living in a foster home, began stealing before he was 5
years old. H e was not particular what he appropriated, but preferred money—
anything from pennies to $5 bills. H e seemed to get a great deal of pleasure
and satisfaction from the adventure itself; in fact, short-changing his parents
and cheating the storekeepers when he was sent on errands were favorite pas­
times. T h e foster mother did not take seriously his petty thefts until he finally
stole $5. She found considerable amusement in telling, before the boy, how he
had cheated a storekeeper, and was likely to excuse his delinquencies on the
ground that “ it was born right in him.” It is true, to be sure, that the heredi­
tary background was poor. H is father was spoken of as a “worthless char­
acter”, and little was know n of the mother except that she died when the boy
was 2 years of age. T h e foster mother was oversolicitous, “ bending over back­
w ard”, so to speak, in her efforts to be kind and just to the lad, and excusing
the results of her poor training by the fact that “nothing could be expected of a
boy w ith parents like that.”

The fatalistic attitude shown by this foster mother toward the un­
desirable habit, coupled with her lack of appreciation of its future
significance, made the prognosis in this case, even at the early age of
the child, very grave. There is no reason to doubt, however, that this
boy, had he fallen into more intelligent hands, might have developed,
in spite of his bad heredity, a social code to serve him in good stead in
later life. Under the existing conditions one might write with a fair
degree of assurance the future history of this lad’s career, which
undoubtedly will be highly colored by his delinquent traits.
Another boy resorted to stealing merely as a means of adventure. H e was
finally apprehended after climbing in one of the windows on the street floor of
a large apartment house and secreting himself in the closet. D uring the exami­
nation he stated, “M y mother thinks I do these things because I got hit in the
head” , referring to an accident w hich he had had 2 years before, and went on
to say, “ But that’s not the reason. I do it because I want these things and I
want to get money to spend.”
T h e boy ordinarily would have been quite
satisfied to allow his injury of 2 years before to account for his delinquency, as
8 9 8 8 1 ° — 3 7 -------- 7
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his mother insisted upon doing, but it so happened at the moment he was being
interviewed he had the desire to appear as a normal lad and not as one who
was the victim of a disordered brain.

Parents may ordinarily expect such suggestions and excuses for
delinquency to be accepted by the child and to act as mitigating cir­
cumstances for his misdemeanors.
The foregoing cases indicate in a very general way how varied may
be the motives for stealing, even without considering the lad who may
be regarded as mentally defective and is always the tool of the gang.
His responsibilities are limited by his inferior intellectual equipment.
Such children as these, to a very large extent, present problems that
have to be adjusted in an institution where they may receive training
and supervision over a long period of time. As a result of such train­
ing they are allowed in many instances to go out into the community
again and make very satisfactory adaptations.
The problems cited have been taken from cases of children in vari­
ous stations of life— the rich, the poor, the educated, and the ignorant.
Almost all are problems which could be solved effectively by a careful
study of the personality of the child and the environment in which
he lives.
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he preceding chapters have dealt largely with the adjustments
between the child and his environment and have stressed the im­
portance of habits, mental attitudes, and emotional stability. Unless
the contrary was specified, it has been presumed that the problem
under discussion was not due to inadequate intellectual development,
nor that the child was poorly adjusted because the environment was
offering an insufficient challenge to a superior intellect. It is impor­
tant, however, to discuss briefly what part intelligence plays in guiding
everyday conduct and how essential it is to recognize at the earliest
possible date any deviations from the normal.
It is probably a conservative estimate to say that not more than
60 percent of all types of mental deficiency can be explained on a
hereditary basis and that the remaining 40 percent can be attributed
to various causes which may arise any time after conception up to the
fifth or sixth year of life. The importance of the physical condition
of the mother during pregnancy is now receiving proper recognition.
Accidents and injuries to the child during birth are no longer passed
by unnoticed. Acute inflammatory conditions affecting the brain and
its coverings frequently leave scars which retard intellectual develop­
ment. There are, however, undoubtedly many minor infections which
also do much damage but which pass by unrecognized. Injuries to the
nervous system, which may result from innumerable causes, are factors
to be considered in arrested mental development.
The establishment of fixed standards for normal child activity in
the first 5 years of life is difficult and carries with it the danger of
unnecessarily worrying many parents, especially those who are oversolicitous. It is important to recognize the fact that so-called “normal
children” develop with varying degrees of rapidity, which have little
significance in their ultimate intellectual achievement. In general,
however, one can say that there are certain physical and mental accom­
plishments which we have a right to expect at definite age periods of
the average child who has been brought up under what may be con­
sidered average conditions. The following objective criteria may
help parents to measure the progress of the growing child. Only the
simplest achievements of the child, which can be readily observed in
his everyday behavior, have been recorded.


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Before 4 months:
Kicks feet while in bath.
Tries to sit up.
Plays w ith his hands.
Turns his head to voice.
4 to 6 months:
Splashes water w ith his hands
while in bath.
Reaches out intentionally to grasp
w hat he sees.
Begins to pick up his spoon.
Plays w ith objects.
Laughs aloud.
Vocalizes tw o or more sounds.
9 to 12 months:
Stands w ith help.
Continually reaches for things.
W aves “bye-bye.”
Plays “pat-a-cake” or “ peek.”
Says “ mama”, “dada”, or the like.
12 to 18 months:
Stands alone.
W alks w ith help.
Tries to do litde things for him­
self, such as trying to put on his
Points for things at the table.
Laughs or coos to music.
H as a vocabulary of about five
18 to 24 months:
Is able to w alk, sit down, get up,
climb stairs, and so forth— all
the simple motor processes.
Uses a spoon well.
Drinks from a glass.
A sks to go to toilet.
H as bowel control.
Begins to take interest in picture
Can point to one or more objects.
Can point to one part of body.
Begins to combine words— relat­
ing of tw o words is about the

24 to 36 months:
Begins to use hands, now for finer
motor coordinations, such as:
Imitates drawing of circle.
Imitates vertical stroke.
Cuts w ith scissors.
Is talking in short sentences.
A sks for things at the table.
Engages in dramatic play
(m im icry).
T ells experiences.
C an tell his first name.
Can repeat three syllables.
36 to 48 months:
Can tell his name.
Know s his sex.
Asks questions of elders.
Recognizes tunes.
Can name four objects in pictures.
Uses pronouns and plurals.
Can repeat six syllables.
48 to 60 months:
Laces shoes.
Buttons clothes.
Brushes teeth.
Washes himself.
Does simple errands outside.
C an use at least one or more de­
scriptive words.
Can repeat 11 or 12 syllables.
Can draw a square.
Can count four fingers or has a
number concept of four.
60 months:
Puts toys in order in box.
Should have dropped infantile
articulations— “ baby talk.”
Can count 10 pennies or has a
number concept of 10.
Can tell his age.
N am es four colors.
Can give the meaning in terms of
use of such simple objects as
chair, table, horse.

It must be stressed that we cannot be too inflexible in our attitude
toward these general standards of so-called normality, but it is well
that parents having a child who fails to live up to the achievements
expected at his age should at least seek assistance in determining the
importance of any particular lack of ability. This, of course, does not
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necessarily mean that if a child 3 years of age is unable to do all that
has been listed as normal for a child of 3 he is mentally deficient; but
if a deviation is at all marked it does indicate that he is retarded in this
particular aspect of his mental life.
It often happens that because a child is failing in school, is unable
to compete with his fellows on the playground, depends too much
upon his parents for help, and is incapable of doing the ordinary,
everyday tasks which we have a right to expect of a lad of his age, we
begin to think of him as being backward, subnormal, or retarded.
Yet when we measure this lad’s inherent intelligence and compare it
with that of the group in general we find that his backwardness, dull­
ness, or stupidity— call it what you will— is more apparent than real.
Ofttimes the fact that children have been considered and treated as
dull is responsible for their attitude of failure toward any task that is
a challenge to their intelligence..
There are many and varied reasons why children appear dull when
there is no actual defect of intelligence. Only a few examples can be
given, but such cases are so common that they will undoubtedly ex­
plain a fairly large percentage of these dull-appearing children.
For one or many reasons parents may develop an oversolicitous atti­
tude toward a child. It may follow a serious illness when solicitude
was demanded, or perhaps in the event of the death of one child
another is called upon to absorb all the emotion and sentiment the
mother had been spending on the two. Some mothers just “love to do
for their children” and rejoice that their children cannot get on for a
moment without them. Actually it may be that the child is denied
the opportunity of doing for himself. A ll his wants in life are antici­
pated and gratified, ofttimes before he realizes them himself. He is
never allowed to wiggle, struggle, kick, reach, and battle for that
which is just beyond his grasp. He has never had the opportunity of
finding out just what his capabilities really are, and consequently he
sits back and expects some one else to cater to his whims. These chil­
dren are much sinned against by parents who do not realize what they
are doing, and unless their problem is recognized and corrected early
they are likely to go stumbling along through life, living on a much
lower level than their intellectual equipment justifies.
Again, there is danger of making a child feel inferior if he is con­
stantly being subjected to nagging and criticism. The child is quite
dependent upon other people for the esteem in which he holds him­
self. If the parents in their efforts to train the child set standards so
high that he always fails, or if the training routine is overweighted
by so many details that incessant nagging follows, the child just natu­
rally feels inadequate. It is much better for parents to be satisfied
with a lower level of achievement and stress only the essentials of good
conduct. This attitude permits the child to enjoy a much happier rela
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tionship with his parents and will lay the foundation for security and
confidence in himself. No one can use his intellect to best advantage
who is handicapped by doubts and misgivings as to his own ability.
It is not unusual to find that the apparent dullness of a child is due
to physical factors, past or present. The child is often held back in
his school work on account of some subacute or chronic illness, such
as infantile paralysis, encephalitis lethargica (so-called “sleeping sick­
ness” ), or circulatory deficiencies following some of the acute infec­
tions. Nervous disorders such as mannerisms, stammering, and St.
Vitus’ dance are also important. Such illnesses and the subsequent
period of convalescence often keep the child from advancing in his
school work and social adjustment for one or more years.
Illness may play a part in affecting the relationship between achieve­
ment and intellectual endowment in two distinct ways: First, the
handicaps imposed by the illness itself keep the child away from nor­
mal, stimulating contacts. Secondly, the mental attitude the child
develops toward the illness is often more important than actual illness,
for it lasts longer and affects the child’s mental attitude toward life.
Nothing renders a child or an adult quite so impotent and inadequate
as to begin building his life around some minor incapacity. Parents
can usually be held directly responsible for the way the child meets
adversity. Whether a physical handicap is minimized or magnified
depends largely upon the wisdom and judgment with which the situ­
ation is handled by the older members of the household.
Superior children comprise a relatively small percentage of the mass
of children, yet in actual numbers they represent a fairly large group,
and in every community, school, or college probably one or more
children will fall into this group. Because of their intellectual superi­
ority these children should represent the choicest material from which
leaders for the future generation may be selected, and for this very
reason it is important that they be not unwisely exploited and allowed
to become victims of their own superiority, as frequently happens.
Precocious children are often used by the overambitious parent or
teacher for demonstration purposes in the home or the classroom.
They become exhibits brought out on festive occasions and allowed to
do their “stunts” to the satisfaction and applause of an audience.
Under such conditions they learn to expect rewards and praise for
every act, and they are unhappy unless they are in the limelight, occu­
pying the center of the stage.
It is quite obvious that the child’s contacts with reality will soon
become artificial under such guidance and that he will find it difficult
to get along and be happy in the future without constant praise and
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Many times we find a superior intellect going hungry for some task
which offers a sufficient challenge to real effort. In those cases, where
there seems to be a wide gulf between the child’s achievements in
school and outside school, a psychological test is indicated, which will
undoubtedly be helpful in the analysis of his difficulty.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, the child of average ability fre­
quently suffers by comparison with his superior brother and sister, and
consequently develops a feeling of inferiority. This situation should
be recognized by parents and an attempt made, in cooperation with
the school, not to let the superior child be held back in order to keep
pace with his less well-endowed brother, nor the latter suffer from
unfair criticism. A n attempt should be made to allow the child to
find his own intellectual level, whatever that may be.
A good intellectual equipment is of value only so far as it is well
directed and operating unimpaired by emotional stresses, which fre­
quently take the form of fear and worry. As has been stated, indi­
vidual difficulties must receive careful consideration, and an attempt
must be made to fit the individual for the task for which his person­
ality make-up and intellectual endowment best adapt him.
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does a child reach his third or fourth year without having
illness or becoming the victim of an accident. It is true
that the illness may be short or the accident trivial; nevertheless, it will
represent his introduction to an experience which is likely to be re­
peated many times during his life. The mental attitudes which the
child develops toward illness and the methods which he learns to use
in meeting the resulting incapacity, whether it be long or short, mild
or severe, are extremely important.
Fortunately the great majority of illnesses to which the average
child is subjected during the first 5 years of life will in themselves be
neither severe nor prolonged. Nevertheless, discomforts and restric­
tions are of necessity imposed upon the child’s normal everyday activi­
ties. He is cut off from the usual channels which act as safety valves
for mental tension and motor activity. These situations may produce
conduct on the part of the child of a most baffling type and present a
real challenge to the parent. It is the relatively mild illness and that
period known as convalescence following severe illness or serious acci­
dents that usually present the most difficult problems for parental
management. The child and the situation in which he finds himself
need most careful consideration in order that the mental attitudes
built around the illness by both the parent and the child may not
become more serious in their after effects than the illness itself.
The attitude of the parents, particularly the mother, upon whom
most of the responsibility for the care of the sick child falls, is probably
the most important aspect of the whole situation. Children are sensi­
tive to the moods of those with whom they live and those with whom
they come into intimate contact. It is not at all surprising that the
concern and anxiety which the parent shows about the everyday
health of the various members of the household are reflected in the
behavior of the child, even when he is enjoying good health. When
this parental anxiety is increased and replaced by fear due to illness,
it is certain to make a deep impression upon the ailing one. Parents
cannot help being worried over their children when they are sick.
However, they need not discuss theif anxieties before the child so that
he gets an exaggerated idea of the seriousness of his illness. Such
statements as “I am worried to death over Mary”, “She had a raging
fever all last night”, “There is so much infantile paralysis about”, “If
she is not better by midday I must call in the doctor”, and the grave
and serious expressions worn by parents when in personal contact
with the child only increase the child’s anxiety. Obviously unwise are
such remarks— so obviously unwise that it seems hardly necessary to


l, some
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mention them were it not for the fact that they are commonly
observed by the practicing physician. It is far better to take the atti­
tude that health itself is only a relative condition, that temporary
upsets are common, and that uncomfortable symptoms in many in­
stances are just warnings that perhaps one has been unwise or unfor­
tunate in getting a cold, eating indiscreetly, getting overtired, or per­
haps acquiring one of the various ailments associated with childhood.
The wise attitude to take toward calling the doctor is not to impress
the child with the fact that it is an emergency measure, but simply
that it is the custom to call in the physician for advice and guidance
under the existing conditions. In other words, so far as it is possible
and justified, minimize the importance of the illness. This is at least
an intelligent attitude with which to start upon an illness that may
incapacitate the child for an indefinite period.
W e must keep in mind that even under the best of conditions and
with the wisest precautions an illness invariably places the child in
an entirely new relationship with the rest of the family, especially
when that illness is severe or prolonged. The normal, well-adjusted
child enjoys good health and a feeling of well-being. Carefree and
unrestrained, he meets life and its obligations according to the de­
mands imposed upon him by his particular group. He has learned
that not all of life’s experiences are happy and that associated with,
approbation, privileges, and rewards are responsibilities. If he fails
to live up to the standards set up by the family and the group outside
the home he is criticized, scolded, or perhaps punished. Life to him,
after all, is a game of give and take. If he has not had the misfortune
of being brought up with an exaggerated idea of his own importance,
he soon learns that it is not wise to expect special consideration for
his particular whims. The family as a whole conforms to the diet
of the household without grumbling. The various members have
their jobs. Chores are continually popping up at inconvenient times.
The stress that is put on cleanliness and manners is a bit of a bore.
However, all these are part of the routine of the household and the
school. The child learns to do definite things at definite times. He
learns that conformity pays. He learns that in the long run he gets
more fun out of life by playing the game fairly and squarely and
earnestly, as the others do. If parents have not achieved just this end,
it is at least the objective of their effort to help the child acquire those
attitudes and habits which will make him a useful citizen.
Now comes the illness or the injury which almost at once places
the child in quite a different situation. It is difficult for many adults
to appreciate how suddenly and completely the child’s relationship
with the entire household changes when he becomes sufficiently ill to
cause parents real anxiety. Immediately he takes the center of the
stage. From being just one of the group, another “kid” in the family,
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he becomes the monarch of all he surveys, and the world begins to
revolve around him. Not only are his whims immediately gratified
but every effort is made to anticipate his wishes. Whatever may be in
his environment is his to accept or reject.
The child is not slow to recognize the fact that he is in rather a unique
and interesting position. No longer is he being held responsible
for his conduct. He has no obligations in relation to the rest of the
family. Privileges, so far as he is able to enjoy them, are increased.
The irritating and annoying conduct and the selfish attitudes which
used to bring forth criticism and punishment are now overlooked.
Nagging and complaints on the part of the parents cease. A ll his
virtues, many heretofore undiscovered by the parents, are brought into
the limelight, and his sins of omission and commission are overlooked.
Not only is his relationship with the parents affected but also his
responsibility toward other children. The younger members of the
family are repeatedly warned that “Johnny is sick and he must not be
crossed or irritated.” The reasonable demands and complaints of the
other children are likely to be minimized or ignored. The sick child
is quick to dominate the household. He clings fast to this position
acquired by virtue of the anxiety of his oversolicitous parents.
This new power which the child has acquired because of his illness
is, of course, relative. It depends upon the insight and wisdom with
which the situation is handled by the parents at the outset. It is safe
to say that the picture as painted occurs to some degree in every case
of illness, because this struggle for power is one of the fundamental
goals for which children strive. The amount of power which they
gain by taking advantage of their illness may play a very important
part in later life. These undesirable methods that children learn to
utilize under abnormal situations become woven into their personali­
ties. They represent real handicaps in later years when the child is
trying to make a place for himself in the social scheme of things.
A t the onset of the illness and during its acute stages it is wise to
keep the ailing member of the family isolated from the others. The
sick child has but little inclination for entertainment, and he needs
but little diversion other than that of helping mother or the nurse carry
out the routine essential to getting well. Dad drops in, of course, be­
fore going to work and at the end of the day. Others who are con­
cerned with his care and comfort come and go, but visits from younger
members of the family and outsiders serve no useful purpose.
The sick child should not be showered with attention or gifts, nor
should the attitude of those looking after the child be one of maudlin
sympathy. If parents are not careful, it is all too easy for the child
to develop the idea that he has really achieved something important
by getting sick. Certainly he has never before received so much
attention, and nothing he has ever done has received such recognition.
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In spite of all precautions, both young and old are likely to get an
exaggerated idea of their own importance if illness is long continued.
As soon as the acute stage of the illness has passed and that period
known as convalescence or recuperation begins, every effort should be
made to outline an intelligent plan of occupying the child’s time.
Here the skill and ingenuity of the parents or the nurse may be taxed
to the utmost. The program should be a constructive one. It should
include work, recreation, and amusement, and, so far as possible, these
activities should be carried out in an orderly way. In other words,
there should be a routine of procedure. The school child should have
some very definite task assigned, well within the limits of his ability,
with appreciation of the fact that attention and concentration will be
a bit more difficult because of the illness. The younger children
should be encouraged to do something constructive with household
articles, such as clothespins, or with blocks or mechanical toys. Or,
perhaps, they could be urged to engage in some special hobby of their
own. After a period of rest the child may read, or be read to, or listen
to a radio program. Before starting the amusement period, when he
may play with games and puzzles— which may be home-made— the
child should again be left alone for a period of quiet and rest.
For those children whose convalescence occupies months rather
than days, occupational therapy has much to offer. Parents may get
valuable suggestions from a physician, from a children’s hospital, or
from an occupational-therapy center, as to just what type of activity
would be best suited to the particular child when his emotional needs
as well as his physical incapacities are taken into consideration. Chil­
dren who have developed hobbies, such as collecting stamps or coins,
woodworking, drawing, building boats or airplanes, and the like, are
fortunate indeed. Many an interesting hour can be whiled away in
these activities. It is also well to keep in mind that this period of
convalescence may provide just the opportunity for introducing into
the life of the child some hobby or interest which will be a source of
pleasure and satisfaction all the rest of his life A ll too frequently the
normal, healthy, active child has considered himself too busy with the
ordinary affairs of everyday life to indulge in any of these interesting
diversions. The leisure time which he now has, because of his limita­
tions and enforced inactivity, allows him to delve into many fascinat­
ing and heretofore undiscovered pastimes. A n illness with its period
of convalescence may be by no means an entire loss to either the child
or the adult if his routine is wisely managed. The fact must not be
lost sight of that most of the occupations and diversions, hobbies, and
achievements developed during this time can be utilized to advantage
in broadening the outlook on life after recovery is complete.
Let us keep in mind that when the convalescent child is well enough
to participate in card games, checkers, and other activities which
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bring him in contact with other children he must be encouraged to
be a good sport whether he wins or loses. He must not be permitted
to use illness as an excuse for getting special privileges and receiving
undue consideration. It should be pointed out to him very clearly
that if he is not well enough to be a good sport he is not well enough
to enjoy companionship.
The study of one little girl demonstrates what may happen after­
ward if a child has everything her own way during an illness:
M ary, at 7, dominated the entire household. M other faithfully fulfilled her
slightest wish, fearing to cross her lest she become ill. H er sisters patiently
shouldered her share of home duties and quietly gave w ay to her at every point
in order to avoid, if possible, the almost inevitable outburst of temper w hich
was so upsetting to the household. H er ready excuse for all occasions was,
“ Y o u musn’t mind w hat I do; you see, I’ve been sick”, or “ I’m not strong
enough to do that ’cause I’ve had paralysis.”
It-is true that she had lived through more than her share of illness and was
accustomed to admiration and interest from doctors to whom she was frequently
shown as an unusual case.
H er “ alibi” of ill health helped her over many difficult places in school, and
at home special concessions were made for her and she was excused at every
turn. H er life seemed built about this desire to hold the center of the stage.
Through a radical change of attitude on the mother’s part this litde girl, who
was fast developing into a chronic complainer, has now become a hearty, normal
youngster, gayly competing w ith her sisters in “helping mother” , trying each
week to learn to do one new task independently and striving toward an ideal
of robust good health rather than desiring the role in life of “interesting invalid.”
After a litde judicious neglect and ignoring, the alarming physical symptoms
w hich so greatly troubled the mother vanished. T h e marked tremor of M ary’s
hands, w hich made it seem necessary that the mother feed her each mouthful
she ate, disappeared, as also did the tremor of voice. After determination by
physical examination of the child’s actual condition an appeal was made to her
ambition and pride. H er desire for attention and wish to excel were turned
aw ay from the goal of ill health. W ith encouragement on the part of the physi­
cian and her mother, and w ith faith in her ability to make good, she is now
taking her part in home and school, standing on her ow n feet and learning to
face life as it is.

It is safe to say that the attitude which the sick child develops
toward his illness and those with whom he has to live will depend very
largely upon the wisdom with which the whole situation is handled
in the home. If he becomes self-centered, domineering, demanding,
critical, and selfish, he has learned to utilize his illness in order to
avoid responsibility and receive special privileges. A ll too frequently
many of these undesirable personality traits and attitudes toward life
cling to the child long after recovery has taken place. Many a life has
been marred by building it around some trivial incapacity following
an illness or an accident. On the other hand, illness has provided
many an individual with the opportunity of building up courage, con­
fidence, and fortitude that have proved invaluable in later life.
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he vast number of individuals who are excluded froma life of
what might be termed average efficiency because of inadequate
mental development represent one of the big social, industrial, and
educational problems of the day.
The magnitude of this problem and the frequency with which it
is met were brought to public attention during the World War. At
this time it was shown by the report of the Surgeon General of the
Army that 12 out of every 1,000 men examined by the local medical
boards were considered to be unfitted for Army service because of their
inferior mental equipment.
In our school population the presence of mental deficiency is
discovered very largely through psychological examinations, actual
achievement in school work, and general ability to meet the ordinary
everyday obligations of life at any given age. It is found that there
are approximately 20 mentally defective children out of every 1,000
This large group of mentally defective individuals gives rise to
many social and economic problems. These individuals are unable
to keep pace with others of the same age in the school room or to
compete industrially on an equal basis. They are incapable of so
regulating and adjusting their conduct that they can get along with­
out infringing upon the rights of others. Thus defective mental devel­
opment is frequently found in association with juvenile delinquency
and crimes committed by adults. Mental deficiency as a social prob­
lem is receiving much attention from the eugenist, sociologist, edu­
cator, penologist, psychologist, psychiatrist, and others who have a
broad interest in the individual and his adjustment to society at large.
Our particular interest at the moment is not so much the broad
social problem as the individual defective and his relation to the home
and the community in general. The primary and outstanding cause
of mental deficiency is still regarded by authorities on this subject as
defective germ plasm. This covers the so-called group of hereditary
cases. Yet within the past few decades we have realized more and
more that heredity as such cannot be held accountable for all the cases
of mental deficiency. There are innumerable conditions, beginning
at the time of conception and continuing during the early years of
life, which may act as the causative factors in preventing normal
intellectual development.
It is usually much easier to recognize the condition than it is to
determine the exact cause, and, so far as the individual is concerned,
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an early diagnosis is by far the most important aspect of the situation.
Nothing can be done for that portion of the brain which has been
damaged by accident or disease or prevented from developing beyond
a certain point because of defective germ plasm. The problem re­
solves itself into developing to the highest degree, through wise and
adequate methods of training, that part which is unimpaired. Prob­
ably no situation with which parents are confronted is more difficult
to face frankly than that of having brought into the world a defective
child. Death with its bitter, uncompromising finality is far less diffi­
cult to meet courageously than is the long-lingering grief which sur­
rounds this tragic situation. Death is ofttimes the logical result of
illness and accidents. It falls within the grasp of human understand­
ing. A tragedy though it is, it is final, and the parents have a chance
of assimilating the sorrow into the total experience of their lives and
carrying on with courage and fortitude.
The mentally defective child, however, is a living memorial to the
parents of some cruel trick that nature has played upon them. They
have doubts and misgivings as to just how much they themselves are
to blame and frequently live a life of self-condemnation because of a
situation for which they were no more responsible than the wind and
the waves. This attitude or state of mind often leads to an ever
present pursuit of a cure for that which is incurable. These emotion­
ally overwrought parents feel that there must be an operation, a drug,
some bit of medical magic to create or restore that which never
existed. The tragedy and pathos of such an attitude on the part of
parents are revealed in the following situation:
Mr. and Mrs. A brought their 8-year-old son, D avid, to the clinic to be
advised about the education of the boy. H e had had 2 years in the first grade
and had not accomplished the w ork required for a promotion. It was quite
obvious from a very casual examination of the boy that he was definitely retarded.
H is developmental history, both physical and mental, his social adjustments,
school achievements, and psychological examination, all bore witness to the fact
that he was more than 3 years retarded.
T h e parents recognized the immaturity of his mental development when he
was about 3 years old, but the fam ily doctor had said to them: “ Stop worrying;
the child w ill grow out of it.” Later, after seeing but little improvement, they
visited a specialist. H e recognized at once that the child was backward and
advised “gland treatment” and a companion or tutor who would give the boy
special instruction. H e sent the parents away feeling much encouraged in
the thought that their child would be all right in time. T h e father’s salary
was not adequate to pay for such instruction, but he cheerfully drew from
his savings account and finally mortgaged his home to keep the teacher for a
period of more than 2 years. T h e parents noticed some improvement, and the
teacher was quite enthusiastic over her success. T h e child learned to count, to
tell colors, to recognize all the letters and numbers, and to recite a few nursery
rhymes. Y e t he remained totally inadequate to compete w ith other children
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or to do things for himself like others of his age. Finally the fam ily funds
were exhausted, the teacher had to be dismissed, and the child’s failure in school
was so obvious that these misguided parents sought help elsewhere.
There were tw o other children in this family— one a girl of 4 years and the
other a boy of 10. T h e mother was frank in adm itting that most of her time
was spent w ith D avid. T h e father was so devoted to this defective boy that
the other tw o children were becoming extremely jealous, and the older brother,
because of this jealousy, was getting to be a real problem.

Time and money had been literally wasted on this child, and the
whole family life had been built around that which was abnormal
rather than that which was normal. T w o children, physically and
mentally excellent specimens of good health with potentialities for
worth-while achievements, were being shamefully neglected, and pre­
ventable problems of a serious nature were being created. The lives
of four people were being demoralized in an attempt to improve in
an emotional and sentimental way a fundamental organic defect which
was obviously incurable. This may, perhaps, seem a rather harsh
statement; it may appear to be lacking in that characteristic trait which
we call human kindness; but when the whole family situation is
taken into consideration there can be no question as to how this
serious problem should have been managed. Those who advise the
parents should study the defective child carefully. Nothing should be
left undone in an attempt to determine whether there are factors
accounting for the retardation which can be remedied. After these
factors are eliminated and the diagnosis of mental deficiency is made,
parents must be treated with absolute frankness. Telling them will be
hard for the doctor and hearing the truth will be hard for the parents.
Nevertheless it will save them repeated disappointments and heartaches
and permit them to meet the situation frankly at the outset.
This approach to the problem gives the other members of the family,
especially the children, the time and attention from parents which they
need. The children have the opportunities to which they are entitled.
The household is happier and better adjusted. A t the same time the
unfortunate one has not been denied anything that would be of
material aid.

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