Typos p. 149: threshhold [= threshold]; p. 149: superstititions [= superstitions]
The Adult's Master Cards
Let us, however, suppose the existence of a unicum in the form of an adult who is ready, if not to cry, at least to feel, "mea culpa!" Let us picture him or her on the threshhold of matrimony and contemplating the task of rearing a family. For the sake of the argument, let us, moreover, grant such an adult the sincere wish to be rid of all the shabby and dilapidated equipment of the parent of yesterday and to-day, all the superstititions and illusions we have been examining and, in addition, prepared to undertake parenthood only after having first achieved self-discipline and normal social behaviour and acquired a grasp of the psychology of childhood and of the demands of a decent social life. Let us even endow him or her, into the bargain, with a sense of responsibility compelling enough to ensure that, throughout the training of each child that may come of the marriage, an eye will be too constantly kept on the distant desirable goal to allow of self-satisfaction, self-indulgence, self-esteem and all the flattering moments of the parent and child relationship interfering with sound parental control in the best interests of the child.
Given such a unicum of an adult, what Master Cards does he or she hold which will help to overcome the enormous difficulties, both subjective and objective, in the way of child-education?
The answer to this question will be the burden of this and the ensuing chapters, and it is believed that it may prove a message of hope to all those who to their credit be it said may have been unduly depressed by what has gone before.
As the more thoughtful reader may already have guessed when, in order to substantiate the claims of my second and third chapters, I enumerated the various features of the
Now, among the leading Master Cards which adults, as parents, or parent-substitutes, should always hold and which are, indeed, indispensable if they are, as educators, to be certain winners in their contest with the forces arrayed against them, both in the child and in themselves, are the following:
1. Their own love of the child, which we shall call the Adult's Heart Card.
2. The child's love of them, which we shall call the Child's Heart Card.
3. The child's hereditary endowment which, since it is now a question chiefly of luck (though I consider this a modern and adventitious feature of it), we shall call the Club Card.
4. The child's powers of imitation, which we shall call the Diamond Card; for although the diamond which the child is set to imitate is nowadays chiefly paste, it ought not to be so.
5. The child's ambition to master his environment which we shall call the Spade Card, owing to the implied symbol of the sword, as cutting through to victory, and
6. The power of Discipline, which we shall call the Deuce, as the word implies the idea of a disciple, and therefore the relationship of two the chela and the teacher.
I shall now deal with each of these separately and leave 6, or the Deuce, for later chapters.
1. The Adult's Heart Card. It is not only natural for parents to love their children; but it is also natural for the child to need his parents' love. It is almost as much a
Important as this factor of parental love is, then, it is essential for parents clearly to grasp what it should be, or rather, what are its desirable features and means of expression.
In the preceding chapter I claimed that one, at least, of the most vital elements in parental love is understanding. And by this I meant something wider and deeper than Stekel's "sympathy," which he calls "the dawn of Love." (Technique of Analytical Psychotherapy, p. 175). I meant a knowledge of child-nature in general, of the particular child to be dealt with, and of the social demands which are to be made upon the child. This may seem to be putting it all on a rather high level; for the reader will immediately think of the harebrained mothers and fathers he meets everywhere in parks, on beaches and at amusement centres, and throw up his hands in despair.
I know! But I cannot see how we are going to get a satisfactory form of parental love and its sane expression unless we do somehow secure this element of understanding as an essential part of it.
Next in importance I would claim respect for the child as a sine-quâ-non of desirable parental love. And by this respect I do not mean Ruskin's sentimental, Wordsworthian maxima reverentia as due "not only to the innocence of children, but to their inspiration" (Fors Clavigera, 1903 Ed. Vol. IV, p. 415), but respect for the child's extreme plasticity and malleability, which implies a recognition of the careful use which must be made of both if he is to be rendered society-worthy.
I submit that, without these three elements understanding, respect and prevision a sane and sound parental love is hardly thinkable; and yet, it must be admitted by all who are attentive observers of their fellow-men to-day that most parents behave as if they could easily get on without them.
Very few people, however, are able to form a clear idea of what parental love should be, because unfortunately the word "love" in this context happens to be the same as that used in the relationship of the sexes. Unless, therefore we painfully try to differentiate the two, and determine how far they are distinct, we can make no headway. For it is my belief that the confusion of the two, or the fusing of the two into one idea, is the pitfall which usually traps the unwary parent, especially among the more sensual and illiterate type, and causes him or her to flounder in error till the child in the case is beyond salvation.
To make the matter plain, I shall take Dr. Pfister's definition of love. It will serve our purpose very well, because in it, I suggest, he quite inadvertently and, I feel sure, unintentionally, stumbles into the very confusion it is most important to avoid.
He says: "Love is a feeling of attraction and a sense of self-surrender arising out of a need, and directed towards an object that offers hope of gratification." (Op. cit., p. 77).
Now, this is good enough if it relates only to the relationship of the sexes. But to wish, as he does, to extend it to parental and filial affection also, is to be guilty of the very
The reader will have missed the implicit burden of my previous chapters if he has failed to appreciate that it is precisely the gratification of the adult's love-impulses towards the child which must above all be guarded against. I agree that, in the love of the sexes, this hope of gratification and its realization is an essential factor and it would be hard to set any bounds to it.
In the adult's love for the child, however, it constitutes a very real danger not to the adult, of course, but to the child. For it brings about exactly what, unfortunately, now happens in the majority of parent-child relationships. The child's character and future are jeopardized, because the parent or parent-substitute insists on extracting his meed of gratification from the relationship.
"It's my child, not yours!" the implication being that, come what may, he or she has a right to enjoy it.
As Freud and his disciples (Dr. Helene Deutsch, for example) are never tired of pointing out, the doting affection of most mothers is only narcissism, and from it they derive endless gratification. But, to the extent that this personal gratification is pursued regardless of its possible effect on the child, it is inconsistent with that understanding and that respect for the child's plasticity which, as I have shown above, are the first essentials of sane and sound parental love.
Stimulating caresses, cuddling, and immoderate kissing which, unfortunately, give to the ignorant onlooker the impression of deep affection, and indulging the child in all its whims and wants, are really a source of immense satisfaction chiefly to the parent or ersatz-parent. But, whereas they fall normally under the head of Pfister's "hope of gratification" in the sexual context, they are aberrant and deleterious the moment his definition is extended to parental
Besides, apart from their deleterious effect on the child, they are also to be apprehended because, in addition to giving the ignorant onlooker an impression of deep affection, they give the parent guilty of them the personal feeling that he or she really does love the child when, all the while, no evidence whatsoever is produced to show that the love is of a kind which considers the best interests of the object loved.
But can love be possible if it excludes a deep concern about the best interests of the loved one?
Now, in the above, I have referred only to the crassest and most obvious forms of adult and parent gratification, such forms as all enlightened psychologists inveigh against, and which Adler had in mind when, of one aspect of it, he wrote: "Children should not be stimulated bodily by too much kissing and embracing." (The Education of Children, p. 225). Even to allow, in a definition supposed to cover parental love, a loophole for such excesses is to misunderstand what this love should be. And yet we have only to look about us to discover that there is hardly a parent (or grown-up for that matter), certainly not one in the working classes of the present day, with their reduced families, who does not think it is his or her right to obtain gratification of this kind to the full, especially as the ignorant world comments, "How that child is loved!"
"It's my child, not yours!"
In case I may seem unfair in referring to working-class parents as especially prone to indulge and spoil their children, I appeal to Our Towns where (p. 34) the authors say of working-class mothers that they are "too ignorant and weak to resist the caprices and tantrums of their children," and examples of this abound throughout the book (see, for instance, pp. 3 and 30). But it should always be remembered that, although this maternal lack of self-control may seem more conspicuous in the working than in the middle class, it is my belief that it is so only to a slight extent.
"It's my child not yours!"
"Yes!" society might retort. "But your child will one day be our road-hog, our thug, our burglar, our murderer!"
"It is especially difficult," says Aichhorn, "in such cases, to make mothers see that pampering in the home has led to the asocial behaviour." (Op. cit. p. 200).
There are, however, subtler forms of gratification, as intense as the above, but less conspicuous and more widely practised. Because even those parents habitually indulge in these who would refrain from the more sensual or obvious forms of gratification at their child's expense, and would disapprove of letting a child have its own way in everything.
Consider, for instance, the mother who, regarding her child quite narcissistically, and loving him in the sense of Pfister's definition, will indulge him to the top of his bent in his exhibitionist tendencies, or keep him dependent on her
Is it not obvious that the average mother displays all these forms of behaviour, because it pleases her so much to do so that her eyes are diverted from the main purpose and objective other parental function? Is it not clear that she herself is still too much dominated by the Pleasure Principle to be able to oppose to her child's Pleasure Principle the Reality Principle which will prepare him for a decent life in society?
And are we to call the emotion that prompts this kind of parental conduct motherly love? Is it not too palpable that it is chiefly self-love?
You see a mother slaving for a boy of five or six, picking up the toys he flings to the ground, or with which he litters her carpet, or stuffing him with cake, biscuits, or sweets on demand, or allowing herself to be ruled by him and giving him his way in everything, or accepting as valid his feigned attacks of lameness, headache or what not. She imagines that she is securing his love for ever by such behaviour. It gives her pleasure to do what she thinks will achieve this end, and thus to be his chattel, his servant. She plays both parts to perfection and, damning the consequences, even expects others to join her, and resents it if they refrain.
"The child who is spoilt," says Dr. A. M. Hutchison, "does exactly what it likes." (Op. cit., p. 87). And in his valuable book, The Difficult Child and the Problem of Discipline (p. 92) C. W. Valentine declares that "it is usually the mother who does the extreme spoiling of the child which is liable to make him a 'difficult child'."
In all this, however, she is often ably supported by her own mother and mother-in-law. True, she ought to resist their self-gratification at the expense of her child. But if she herself cannot resist the temptation to gratify her feelings at her child's expense, how can she insist on their resisting it?
On this point, as we have seen, Adler is very outspoken (see p. 112 supra); but do not let us forget that even grandparents could hardly adopt this attitude if, as mothers and fathers, they had already shown themselves capable of feeling a genuine love of children.
These examples suffice to reveal the dangerous irrelevance of the passage about gratification in Dr. Pfister's definition of love, at least as it relates to the parental kind. For, unless the parent, or parent-substitute, keeps so constantly to the fore the object to be attained by child-education as to hold the self-gratificatory aspects of children's company severely in the background, parental love becomes what, unfortunately. it usually is to-day merely parental self-indulgence.
"Criminal and neurotic types spring chiefly from the class of pampered children," Adler exclaims (The Education of Children, p. 294). No wonder Robert T. Lewis was able to state that "the modern home is not, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, a place suitable for the rearing of children."
I hope I am not giving the impression that I regard as deleterious, or dangerous, or both, the giving of caresses and the granting of some freedom to a loved child. This would be very far from my intention. I am well aware of the part played by parental caresses at the proper time, when the child's mood and best interests are served by such attentions. I also appreciate the important difference between giving a child a wholly free rein and allowing him only such extensions of his freedom as his growing self-control renders advisable, which is what all liberty should mean. All I am insisting on is this (and here I have the support of all competent psychologists), that the moment either of these forms of indulgence (caressing and promoting the child's autonomy) affords so much satisfaction to the adult as to be persisted in for the sake of that satisfaction, they are wholly to be condemned.
With their customary knack of hitting the nail on the head, Dorothy Burlingham and Anna Freud claim that "children should on no account serve as outlets for the uncontrolled and therefore unrestrained emotions of adults, irrespective of whether these emotions are of a positive or negative kind." (Op. cit., p. 52).
Children need love. They need to feel that love directs every gesture and thought of the giants about them. But they soon discover whether it is a love centred in them or in the giants professing it. Only when they are convinced by a thousand incidents that it is prompted by a deep concern
Susan Isaacs puts it very well when she says that we should not "indulge our love for the child by way of kissing and caressing," but rather "by intelligent provision for his interest in things and wants." (The Nursery Years, p. 60).
Now it is this kind of love alone that can constitute what I have termed the Adult's Heart Card, because it will convince the child of the sincerity of our regard for him and of our anxiety, not so much to please as to protect and provide for him. It will impress him with our indispensability and, what is most important of all, inspire him with a dread of losing it by any rash act of his own which would alienate us. This last is the highest power of the Adult's Heart Card. But it can be used to effect only if the adult's love has been of the non-self-gratificatory kind I have tried to define in this section. In these circumstances and I speak with a vivid memory of its use in my own childhood it can hardly fail. I mean by this that it will always facilitate and simplify the adult's difficult task.
It is not an easy card to play. Parents cannot escape a deep emotional attitude to their own child and it is hard for them to acquire that objectivity and calmly distant and detached attitude which I alluded to in describing the good sick-room attendant. On the other hand, the emotional relationship to the child is not without its peculiar advantages. Because the feelings of love are mutual and, in addition to
Thus, a revised version of Pfister's definition of love, applicable to the parental situation, would read something like this: "Love is a feeling of attraction and a sense of self-surrender arising out of the need of a creature relatively helpless, uncultivated and invalid for society, which is one's own, and is directed towards him under the empire of an understanding of his nature, a respect for his extreme plasticity, a deep regard for his welfare, and a constant appreciation of the main issue, which is to make him valid for society."
Imperfect and verbose as this is, I submit that if its spirit is observed, the Adult's Heart Card will immensely simplify the parent's task.
2. The Child's Heart Card. The child enters his world as an utter stranger. He knows nothing whatsoever about it. As Locke pointed out, children are "travellers newly arrived in a strange country, of which they know nothing." (Op. cit., Sect. 120.) He has to learn all its features through his own senses, all its rules and conventions from those among whom he is born. In ordinary circumstances his first contacts are with those to whom he owes his being. They are giants and he constantly has fresh experiences which convey to him their infinite resourcefulness and, above all, their immense strength.
This strength never fails, and he learns to trust it implicitly. Woe to him and to them if, at a critical moment, this strength should fail, for it would not only destroy his trust, it would shake his sense of safety, his confidence in his
Ridiculously small and feeble as compared with the giants, his countless experiences of their strength gradually produce in him a profound respect for it and, just as a kitten curls in its tail, draws up its legs, shuts its eyes, and abandons itself without struggle and with a sense of perfect security to its mother when she seizes it in her jaws to carry it hence, so the child develops a sense of security and trust which in time generates profound respect. This is of very great importance, especially in view of its spiritual parallel, to which I shall refer in a moment.
He obtains from the giants the food and warmth that satisfy him. From his mother first and later from any of them he takes the nourishment that pleases him. Partaking of it, digesting it and evacuating the waste from it, are his principal interests. In addition, he receives all kinds of comforting attentions from the giants. They evidently mean well by him and are neither to be shunned nor feared. If he calls for their aid, they intervene and remove what irks him, or gratify a need. In a magic manner they transform a disagreeable and wet condition into a dry, snug one. These conjuring tricks which he does not understand add to his sense of trust and reinforce his respect. And, since his dependence on the giants is repeatedly impressed upon him, they appear essential to his survival. His self-preservative instinct rivets him to them.
Gradually two emotions regarding them become paramount in him trust and respect. They are still conditioned only by his physical impressions of their immense strength and resourcefulness, but they form an important foundation to what in the best circumstances will ultimately be his wholehearted respect for them. And this is the active
As slowly he develops, however, he gradually becomes aware of the fact that, besides their superior physical strength, the interest his self-preservative instinct has in relation to them, and their many ministrations to his well-being, the giants possess another strength which is of a different kind from that which their arms and hands have conveyed to him. He finds that the firmness of their physical strength, which has given him his sense of perfect safety in their care, and which he has learnt to trust and respect, is paralleled by a firmness of will, of resolve and of purpose. Their voice and gestures express this strength, and do so without necessarily involving any intervention of their physical strength. True, he often finds its firmness opposed to the impulses in him which are dictated by his Pleasure Principle. He finds these impulses frequently thwarted; for the giants' firmness in opposing them can be most impressive and shattering. But as, in other ways, it seems to work to his good, and as they obviously mean well by him, he gradually learns to rely on this form of firmness and to feel safe and secure under it. He gathers as much confidence in it as he did originally in their purely muscular strength. Indeed, so formidable is this intangible form of firmness, so repeatedly does it control him and admittedly thwart him, whilst never actually landing him in any disaster, that he comes to trust and respect it also, and with increasing intensity. His attitude towards it thus completes the other indispensable factor of his respect for them. And, since respect is the active principle in the child's filial love, its necessary foundations are established.
In so far as these experiences follow a normal course, therefore, his love increases. For quite soon his initial impulses to rebel and resist give way to a serenity which is the fruit of his feeling safe in his giants' intangible form of control. As J. M. Guyau says, "respect is at bottom nothing but affection." (Op. cit., p. 35.)
But, as we have seen in a previous chapter, the child is impelled by aspirations to power power over everything, his giants included. His sense of inferiority, alone, would suffice to stimulate this aspiration. Since, therefore, he quickly discovers by repeated and convincing experiences that all attempts at merely muscular resistance to the giants' tangible or physical firmness, not to mention attempts at supremacy over it, are utterly otiose, he is all the more disposed and eager to measure his intangible strength against theirs. This promises to be a field where he might perhaps more easily prevail.
Thus his vigilance becomes directed towards discovering any weakness, flaw, or breach, in the intangible firmness of his giants. Let it lapse ever so slightly; let it yield too often, or become discontinuous, or otherwise reveal a vulnerable spot, and instantly he will thrust out an arm from his own reserves of intangible firmness and introduce it into the failing area. Then, if the giants' weakness persists, or is often enough repeated to allow his arm to establish, as it were, a bridgehead, he will ultimately effect a break through, and this will have far more disastrous consequences than merely that of giving him his own way.
To cut a long story short, it will be the first nail in the coffin of his sense of security, hence in the coffin of his respect, and consequently in the coffin of his love yes, of
Rousseau was well aware of the child's vigilant observation of his seniors and rated higher than the adult's his capacity for discerning character. He said: "L'enfant, pour l'ordinaire, lit beaucoup mieux dans l'esprit du maître que le maître dans le coeur de l'enfant" (Emile. Livre II). And, with her customary shrewdness, Susan Isaacs writes: "Children watch the behaviour of parents and teachers with quite as observant a glance as parents and teachers turn upon them, and often reflect upon what they see in a way that might disconcert most of us did we but know it. . . . Authority has to be won and kept by the real tested qualities of sense and firmness. And the children will be continually trying out the power of the adult to keep their allegiance. They will be quick to sense and despise weakness, and quite merciless to exploit it." (Social Development in Children, p. 395.)
Just as the child learns to rely on and rejoice in the giants' bodily firmness when it is most unfailing, and respects it only as such, so in his heart of hearts, despite the clashes of his Pleasure Principle with it, he relies on and rejoices in the giants' intangible firmness. Just as he is made to feel uneasy and insecure by a lapse in the former, so he feels uneasy and unsafe by lapses in the latter, and this despite the temporary advantages he may secure from such lapses. For they cause him to become disorientated. The bottom seems to fall out of his life. His sense of complete safety is shaken and with it, unfortunately, the respect he felt for the custodian of it. With his respect, however, his love diminishes also.
This is the explanation of a fact that has often puzzled observers of child-life in the past the fact that they do not love deeply those who habitually spoil them, so that they are able to leave them, even when they are their own mothers, without a pang, without serious nostalgia, and quickly settle down happily in a new environment.
In such situations I have, of course, refrained from offering the explanation of the phenomenon which I give here, but that it is the correct one cannot well be doubted.
The decline in the feeling of safety built up on the sense of the reliability of the giants' intangible firmness necessarily leads to a decline in respect, and a corresponding diminution of that passionate attachment which respect inspires. The child is, therefore, soon consoled for the loss of what, although convenient to him in his pursuit of power and autonomy, was at bottom a source of uneasiness to him. Consequently, if in his new environment he meets with giants who restore to him the trust and respect which he desires to feel for their intangible firmness, it is they who, if he is not already ruined, will secure the love his parents, or parent, has forfeited.
Harvey Cheyne, in Kipling's Captains Courageous, learns to adore the Troops, father and son; but he survives with singular equanimity his sudden long separation from his foolish and adoring mother.
As J. M. Guyau puts it, "Children like firmness, even if it affects themselves" (Op. cit., p. 33); and Susan Isaacs, as if commenting on this statement, says, "it is essential for the child to feel that the adult who is responsible for him, who has the parental function towards him, should be really stronger than he, not only in the physical sense, but in the psychological sense also." (The Social Development of Children, p. 423. See also Melanie Klein, Love, Hate and Reparation, p. 75.)
Erasmus, over four hundred years ago, pointing to "the mischief that accrues when mothers are allowed to keep their children in their lap until they are seven years of age," declared, "if they want playthings do they not see that monkeys or toy-dogs would serve them just as well? For no one can exaggerate the importance of these years for character." (Op. cit., 495A496A.)
In justice to one class of mothers, whose principal shortcoming is not so much their self-indulgence as their ignorance of child-nature, it should be pointed out here that the maternal behaviour which forfeits a child's respect and, therefore, impairs his love, may often arise from a wholly mistaken fear lest, by firmness and consistency in opposing the Reality, to the child's Pleasure Principle, they may diminish their child's love. I believe this to be if not quite, at least nearly, as frequent a cause of spoiling as is narcissism and self-indulgence. Perhaps that is why Naomi Norsworthy and Theodora Whitley find it necessary to say,
"Meet the child fearlessly on the level where he is, no matter where that may be, and then raise him to higher and higher levels." (Op. cit., p. 87.)
Properly secured and skilfully played, however, the Child's Heart Card, like Card I, is of high potency in child education. Indeed, successful education is hardly possible without it. Everybody, from Locke to the latest exponent
The child does not wish, in fact he dreads, to hurt or grieve the giant he has learnt to love. This constitutes the power of the card we have been examining. Its high potency in education, even outside the home, has long been recognized by educators. That charming pedagogue, Herbart, was one of the first to make it a prominent feature of the pedagogic technique. In his Allgemeine Pädagogik (1806) he calls attention again and again to the ease with which authority can be exercised when once a love relationship has been established. "But," he asks, with reference to the school-teacher in particular, "how can this relationship be secured by one with a cold, an aloof, and forbidding manner?" (Op. cit., p. 168.) J. M. Guyau elaborates this idea. He, too, half a century later than Herbart, recognized the indispensability of the child's love if authority is to be successfully exercised by the educator (Op. cit., pp. 7292); whilst Aichhorn, Anna Freud, and other modern psychologists have repeatedly laid stress on the importance of a love relationship, even between the re-educator and the delinquent juvenile placed in his charge.
Anna Freud goes so far as to say that "whatever we embark on with the child, whether to teach it arithmetic or geography, whether intending to educate or analyse, we must first establish a very definite emotional relationship with it." (The Psycho-analytical Treatment of Children, p. 38.)
By forfeiting this love, which is the essential basis of all successful child-training, the pampering and spoiling parent, whose self-indulgence has lost him or her a child's respect, runs the risk not only of ruining the child for society, but also of robbing him of one of the richest and most memorable emotional experiences a human being can have.