Typos p. 223: pleasureable [= pleasurable]; p. 245: Fénelon [= Fénélon]; p. 245: Vives term [= Vives' term]
The Deuce: Discipline
Now what do the other side say?
As this book is turning out to be longer than I intended, I will confine myself to a typical case and deal with it fully. This will suffice for my purpose and as it illustrates with singular appropriateness much of what I said in the previous chapter, it will be helpful also to the reader.
In a doubtless well-meaning, honest, but shallow book (I cannot fully substantiate this statement now), W. David Wills makes the following highly significant remarks on our subject.
"'Discipline' I maintain (as the word is generally understood) derives largely from a fear of the persons upon whom it is imposed. It arises also, of course, from the satisfaction we derive from having power over our fellow-creatures. There are countless examples of that in literature and in life, though they are generally exaggerated examples. But in my view this element is present even in the ordinary 'healthy discipline,' and I cannot think that any honest disciplinarian can deny that he gets much pleasure from the exercise of his function." (The Hawkspur Experiment, pp. 3637.)
This passage is so tightly packed with what I believe to be quite unintentional pitfalls for the unwary, that I shall be obliged, I fear, to analyse it piecemeal.
First let me dispose of one possible cause of confusion. In the opening lines the author is commenting on Discipline only "as the word is generally understood." By this he evidently means what I do when I say that most modern English people understand it only in my third and fourth
Later on, however, the author leaves the idea of Discipline "as generally understood," and confesses that, even in his view, the elements he deprecates (fear of the persons to be disciplined and satisfaction over exercising power over a fellow-creature) also cling to what is called "ordinary healthy discipline" meaning presumably that used in my first, second and third senses only.
We may, therefore, fairly dismiss from our minds his reservation about Discipline as the word is generally understood, and assume that he, too, understands the word only "as it is generally understood."
This being so, we may ask him in what sense is it true to say that discipline "derives largely from a fear of the persons upon whom it is imposed?" For, from the parental angle the one that chiefly concerns us here how can it be reasonably stated that a wise parent, conscious of the compelling necessity of steadily and consistently opposing the dictates of the Reality Principle to the impulses arising out of the child's Pleasure Principle, is prompted by fear of the child? He may fear the consequences of neglecting his task of imposing this discipline (in my second sense) and he may fear that his powers and knowledge for the difficult task are inadequate. He may even fear lest by mistakes or lapses in his playing of the Diamond Card he is impairing the effect of his discipline. And the more such fears beset him the better parent is he likely to be. But to suggest that the wise and conscientious parent (a rare phenomenon nowadays), feeling it his bounden and often unpalatable duty gradually to school his child to adjust his instinctual life to the demands of society, must necessarily fear that child, otherwise he would not wish to discipline it, is ridiculous and merely increases and complicates the general misunderstanding of the subject.
Nor can we see any necessity for this "fear" even outside the home, in schools, or in the sphere of re-education i.e., when an educator has to deal, not with an unformed child or pupil, but an adolescent ruined by lack of proper parental discipline.
Is there a trace of fear in Disko Troop when he confronts the "systematically spoiled" and "mulishly obstinate" youth, Harvey Cheyne, in Kipling's Captains Courageous, and tacitly and immediately adopts the course of rigid discipline (in senses two, three and four) as the only possible means of saving him?
I agree that when discipline is understood only in the fourth sense, and when an adult feels defenceless in the presence of an aggressive adolescent, that fear may then not only provoke discipline in sense four, but make it appear the only course.
But I deny that fear is either a constant or necessary element in what Mr. Wills calls "ordinary 'healthy discipline,'" and to suggest this is to take one situation alone out of all the multifarious situations in which discipline is imposed on a junior, or anybody for that matter, and to make it do duty for the lot. In fact, with all due respect, I feel bound to submit that, in making this sweeping generalization, Mr. Wills stands confessed as one who cannot imagine
As to his next objection, that the advocacy of Discipline and recourse to it arises "from the satisfaction we derive from having power over our fellow-creatures," I again violently join issue with him, and for two reasons. First, because even if it were invariably true, it is no argument against discipline, and, secondly, because, as I shall show, it is not true, at least in the parental context.
Let us suppose it to be invariably true as, for instance, when a Colonel on parade sees his battalion move as one man to his word of command, he enjoys it. Is that a reason why he should not train them so to respond? He may have wished to become a soldier precisely for this experience. Lord Montgomery, despite all the heavy responsibilities of his post, probably enjoyed commanding the Eighth Army. Indeed, any work, including that of generalship, is hardly ever accomplished with brilliance and success, if it is done reluctantly and with distaste. Only the Puritan, as I have already pointed out, could raise the point of its "enjoyment" as an argument against a function.
If now we turn to parents, we find a flat contradiction of Mr. Wills's allegation. For it is precisely because the parents of undisciplined and delinquent children have followed the line of least resistance, and studied their own pleasure, that their children are improperly trained in the disciplines of social life. It is because they have obeyed the dictates of their own Pleasure Principle and acted like children themselves, shirking the difficult and more unpalatable task of opposing the demands of the Reality Principle to their children's instinctual impulses that they have ultimately had to drag them as "beyond control" before a Court. It is because they have found this course more pleasureable that they have eschewed discipline.
Let Mr. Wills visit any Juvenile Court and ask himself whether the parents he sees there are of the sort who have
But, according to Mr. Wills, self-indulgence would work the other way; for it would lead self-indulgent parents not to spoil but to discipline their children.
Nor is his allegation by any means universally true if we take it out of the context of parenthood. For discipline, in Mr. Wills's sense, would be a measure adopted as an end in itself by a superior, teacher, or trainer, oblivious to and uninspired by the principal object for which discipline has to be imposed. Truth to tell, as millions of parental and school failures are with us to show, it is generally easier and gives greater satisfaction not to impose discipline. For he who does impose it, whether teacher or parent, has to force himself constantly to keep before his mind what is at stake the welfare and future social worthiness of the child or trainee.
Again to refer to Disko Troop, would Mr. Wills suggest that Kipling ever for a moment imagined that the disciplines, with which in the space of five months he turned a ruined adolescent into a desirable member of society, were adopted because they afforded him satisfaction and pleasure? And Kipling was no mean psychologist!
Indeed, if I had my way, I would make it a conditio sine quâ non of any fitness for the post of a Children's Magistrate, a Governor of a Borstal Institution, or a Commissioner of Prisons, that the candidate should, in a written or oral examination, be able to show that he had mastered the
The fundamental mistake Mr. Wills and all those who share his views undoubtedly make is that they never seem able clearly to differentiate between the right and the wrong time when discipline should be imposed. Most parents also fall into this error. They tend to lose sight of the important fact that discipline, in all but the fourth sense, if not imposed at the cost of great patience and pains at the right time leads to the necessity of discipline in the chastisement meaning of number four, when, as a rule, any sort of discipline has become useless unless most skilfully imposed, as in the case of Harvey Cheyne. Even so, a successful result would be contingent on a similar complete separation of the undisciplined adolescent from home and other ties, and his being quite alone of his kind in a hard-working group with no time for polite or sentimental frills and fancies.
Dogs and all domestic animals teach this lesson. The reason why it is never necessary to impose discipline, in the bodily chastisement sense of number four, on a well trained adult dog, is because it has had artificially conditioned reflexes inculcated upon it during the most plastic period, and good behaviour in its adult years has become the natural expression of its being. It is this kind of discipline, in senses one, two and three, that opponents of discipline (and incidentally of 99 per cent. of women) never can understand, and of which they also as a rule quite fail to appreciate the difficulties. For the patience, constant firmness and perseverance required, in order to impose this kind of discipline, makes the task anything but pleasant and attractive. This explains why mothers, and parents
Thus, when I reviewed Mr. Wills's book (see New English Weekly, 18.12.41), in taking him to task for disputing the assumption that "a bit of discipline" is what is needed for the correction of young men who show delinquent tendencies, I pointed out that "what these young delinquents want, what they have never had, is discipline at the only time it can be of any use to man or beast, and that is in infancy and early childhood, when no one harbours any fear of them, and when the joy of 'having power over fellow creatures' is wholly subordinated to the impulses of parental love." I meant, of course, that love which is enlightened enough to keep the child's best interests always to the fore. I then added, "But this is a fact that is nowhere recognized, much less stated in Mr. Wills's book."
The whole of Mr. Wills's attitude to discipline is, therefore, unenlightened and typical of much that characterises the attitude of the usually feminine and popular opposition to the idea.
Before bringing this discussion to an end, I shall give but one quotation from Mr. John Watson's excellent monograph, The Child and the Magistrate, to show that he at least, notoriously enlightened, humane and benevolent as he has
"What is needed is a small local establishment in which the discipline is the sternest, the food of the plainest, where everything is done 'at the double,' and where there is the maximum of hard work, and the minimum of amusement: the kind of establishment a young offender would not wish to visit twice and of which he would paint a vivid picture on his return home" (p. 143).
Quite so! And J. H. Bagot wholly agrees with this suggestion. (Punitive Detention, p. 79).
It is all so obvious that only prejudice can blind anyone to the cogency of it.
Now, concerned as I am chiefly with the education of children in the family circle and by the parents, I may as well without further delay state it as my conviction that Discipline, in the bodily chastisement sense of my fourth definition, should not only never be necessary, but that, whenever and wherever it is resorted to, it is a confession of complete failure and a sign that the parental attitude has been faulty.
I would go so far as to say that this is true also even of dog-training. The most I ever do in training a puppy is to hold it by the scruff of the neck and speak to it sternly, perhaps administering a sharp shaking at the end, much the same as that a mother bitch administers. Nothing else is necessary. And, in this view, as far as child-culture is concerned, I find myself supported by every educationist of standing, from Locke to Spencer and right on to those exponents of the New Psychology who have treated of education. Punishment may be and often is necessary; but bodily chastisement hardly ever.
At most I would subscribe to C. W. Valentine's view that
John A. F. Watson, the experienced and notoriously humane Child Magistrate, although against physical punishment by Courts, has no objection to it in schools or at home. But he is careful to point out that "no good or wise parent punishes his child in order to 'get back on him' for his naughtiness. He punishes him because he hopes that the child as the result will mend his ways." (Op. cit., pp. 98, 108111). Thus, corporal punishment, especially if resorted to after infancy, involves the great difficulty of performing a gesture which, although usually and naturally accompanied by heat and anger and conveying the impression that personal feelings are stirred, should reveal no sign of these associated emotions, an almost impossible feat as between parent and child,
When and where Discipline, in the sense of bodily chastisement is resorted to by a parent, therefore, besides being as a rule a confession of failure, it may be actually dangerous; because, by invoking a display of rage, it is incompatible with what a parent's mood should always be with a child, and it undermines in a most disastrous way the healthy child-parent relationship of trust, respect and affection.
As Spencer very rightly declares, "Parental wrath, venting itself in reprimands and castigations, cannot fail, if often repeated, to produce filial alienation; while the resentment and sulkiness of children cannot fail to weaken the affection felt for them, and may even end in destroying it." (Op. cit., p. 112).
Regarding the ultimate effects of corporal punishment, my own experience certainly confirms Locke's; for the most unpleasant characters I have met in my life have been among
"Qui aime bien châtie bien," is to my mind dangerous nonsense, as is also the adage, "Spare the rod and spoil the child." The modern school of psychologists warn us against stimulating sadistic or masochistic tendencies in the child by corporal punishment (shade of Rousseau!) and Dr. Pfister, for one, is opposed to it for this reason. (Op. cit., pp. 401410, 476477).
But, to my mind the chief objections to corporal punishment as a form of discipline, are, first, that, like all extreme measures, it indicates that faulty methods must have been consistently used in the past; secondly, that it is hardly possible for a parent to resort to it without anger, and therefore without giving the impression that he or she is engaged in a personal feud with the child and redressing a personal grievance; thirdly, that, as Spencer points out, since there is no means of equating blows with the offence provoking them, the justice of this form of punishment always remains questionable both from the child's and the parent's point of view; and, fourthly, as I have already indicated, that by suspending for the time being all tenderness and love, it constitutes an injury to the child-parent relationship.
Nor does it need much insight to grasp that it Is incompatible with the demeanour of the invalid's attendant as described in Chapter V. For the child who breaks a rule in the home, or is guilty of a mischief meriting severe treatment, has really done no more than backslide from a progressive course which was making him valid for society. He is, therefore, equivalent to an invalid who has had a relapse.
And it is significant that it is, as a rule, the child that has been systematically adulated and spoilt, i.e., the child who has, during its earliest years, been the victim of its parent's Pleasure Principle, who, by suddenly administering an unpleasant shock to this parental pursuit of pleasure, provokes the negative side of the parent's Pleasure Principle and consequently is subjected to a violent outburst of indignation.
Thus Dr. Cyril Burt speaks of the worst type of mother, who coaxes and cajoles one minute and "incontinently whips the next." (Op. cit., p. 98). And Dr. Alice M. Hutchison declares of the child who is spoiled, "he has a more intimate acquaintance with punishment than the wisely disciplined child." (Op. cit., p. 86. See also p. 73, where she speaks of a home as "a typical example of that combination of terrible harshness and spoiling.")
But this must be so; for where a parent has all along regarded her child as a source of personal gratification alone, and found pleasure in indulging all his whims and impulses as long as he was too small for these to matter much, she naturally regards it as an affront to herself, and as an assault on her pleasure, if he is naughty and wilful at an age when he can do mischief, and she therefore feels impelled to pay him out for it.
Another cause of this violent behaviour on the part of a parent or parents, as I have already pointed out above (see Chap. III, pp. 47 and 53) may be the fact that the parent or parents in question are convinced of the truth of the
The wise parent, who has kept his or her eye constantly on the end in view, which is to make the child valid for the real world, should have no such feelings. To such a parent, punishment is a resort to means for preventing another relapse. No hint of a personal difference with the child is given.
As Dr. Doris Odlum wisely remarks, "The great thing in punishing a child is to make it feel there's no personal quarrel between you and it." (Op. cit., p. 19). But if blows are given, it is impossible to sustain the rôle of a merely detached leader and friendly guide. And here Dr. Maria Montessori once again strikes the right note. Speaking of
True, this relates to a child not under its parents' care. But parents have much to learn from it notwithstanding. For only by such parental behaviour can punishment be kept from evil contamination by personal feelings of anger and resentment, and the child is bound to be impressed by this in a way which blows and violence rule out altogether. Indeed, with such methods, he ultimately feels the rationale of the process making him valid for the world, and appreciates that a higher aim, above personal feeling, is presiding over his parents' treatment of him.
In conclusion, I may point out that there is yet another aspect of corporal punishment, to which both Kant and Thring, Headmaster of Uppingham, allude, and that is the danger incurred by those who resort to it of making punishment seem a final and total expiation of the wrong committed by the child. Kant says, for instance, that in the case of a lie, this would be fatal, as giving the impression that the intention to deceive, having been wiped out, the status quo ante is re-established. (Posthumous Works, Vol. VIII, p. 616). But the fact that the lie has been uttered imposes a course of parental conduct which should make it both unwise and inexpedient to restore the status quo ante by a mere beating. Thring rather echoes this sentiment, for he is alleged to have said, "I do not inflict floggings for lies or sins against God [whatever that may mean!], unless they violate school order too. I hold it to be very injurious, encouraging the notion that a punishment at school can cancel in any way a grave moral fault." (The English Public School, by Bernard Darwin, p. 134). I shall return to this question.
So that, on the whole, it seems undeniable that, as
Having disposed of the bodily-chastisement aspect of Discipline in meaning four, I have now to deal with the means of proper disciplining the child without any appeal to it, without indeed any appeal to punishment whatsoever. Many broad indications of this will already have been found scattered over these pages, and in Chapter VI, for instance, I discussed the wrong and the right way of handling a child who tries to use his attitude to meals as a means of tyrannizing over an imprudent parent, usually the mother. But much yet remains to be said.
Briefly, my recommendations are as follows:
I believe it to be always practicable and certainly advisable to limit the discipline of children in the home to the first three meanings given at the opening of Chapter X, and to resort to discipline in sense four, i.e., punishment, as little as possible. This course of action is, however, contingent on the following conditions:
1. That prospective parents should have acquired some understanding of the true nature of the average child. This implies abandoning the Wordsworthian standpoint and all its ancillary sentimentalities and imbecilities, and making as wide a study as possible of the authoritative contributions to the subject of child-psychology. When such a course is hardly practicable, as with most parents of the working-class, for instance, whose access to and understanding of technical literature present difficulties, steps should be taken to ensure
Dr. Doris Odlum's You and Your Children, published by H.M. Stationery Office, is a good beginning in this direction. But excellent though this pamphlet is, even its gifted and learned authoress herself would certainly not claim that it is sufficient. Thirty-two octavo pages could not cover more than a small fraction of the ground.
2. That the use of what I call the Parents' Master Cards should be thoroughly grasped. For it is my firm conviction that, with Cards one, two and four skilfully secured and played, discipline in the first three of the meanings given can present no difficulties, whilst in sense four it may be wholly dispensed with.
3. That consistency be observed by the adult in all his or her relations to the child. It is unfair to the child to expect in him the consistent behaviour which he displays towards the unchanging operation of natural laws avoiding the burning heat of fire, for instance if your own relations to him and his ways reveal sharp inconsistencies that leave him uncertain about your wishes, your attitude and, above all, your firmness. All good writers on education, from Kant to Spencer, emphasize the importance of consistency in the adult's attitude to his juniors. Only thus can the child feel safe and certain; only thus can he acquire that respect for spiritual firmness which, as we have seen, is at least half of the active principle in his love. The great fault among the majority of modern mothers in all classes to-day is inconsistency. And yet no child-leadership, no child-discipline in senses one and two is possible where this fault prevails.
4. That the adult should always show good faith and keep
5. Finally, that the adult should balance praise and blame with care and a sense of proportion. This is a point ably brought out by Herbart (Op. cit., pp. 190, 191). It should, however, be more or less self-evident; for, if the child is to acquire any feeling of confidence in our blame, and to try not to incur it, he must also have learnt that our praise is given with judgment and discretion. Applause should, therefore, always be as carefully considered as criticism, otherwise both will soon tend to be regarded by the child as quite negligible.
I have said enough concerning Condition one above in my earlier chapters and those on the child to make further comment unnecessary, and as Conditions three, four and five require no elaboration, I shall now deal with Condition two in relation to the first three meanings I give of discipline.
It is my belief that wise parents to-day succeed in dealing with the child as with a chela, and in establishing that relationship with it which the word presupposes. They are the adults who, with their eyes constantly kept on the end to be achieved the making of their child into a being valid for society hold themselves in hand and maintain towards him, throughout his infancy and childhood, that detached yet solicitous attitude of the guide, philosopher and friend.
Gradually and firmly they present to him, year in, year out, both by precept and example, the disciplines of a creature fit for the society to which they and their child belong, and they achieve control over him by playing the Adult's and the Child's Heart Cards, with a discretion which never places a prematurely heavy strain on either.
All those who, as children, have experienced such a relationship to their parents, will know that nothing in the above paragraph is either exaggerated or unreal. It is not even an idealized picture, the main features of which must remain unattainable to the many. Except for unusually aberrant children, whose hereditary endowment makes them unamenable even to the best treatment, every child would and could be able to enjoy a like experience if his parents only knew how to give it to him.
Even discipline in sense number four then becomes not an actually set punishment, but is imposed merely by an intimation, not necessarily spoken, that the love they have inspired in the child, and which he knows he is getting from them, has temporarily been placed in doubt by his deliberate act. This is the severest punishment that should be required. Hence C. W. Valentine's excellent remark. "Though penalties may be necessary at times, both parent and teacher can keep good discipline with very little, or even no punishment so far as the majority of children are concerned." (Op. cit., p. 53). Locke also held this view, for he maintained that "awe and respect will make Punishment unnecessary." (Op. cit., Sec. 44).
This is absolutely true. Woe to them who cannot believe it!
The difficulty of bringing home the truth and reliability of this method of control and punishment to the unwise parent, especially to him or her who has been self-indulgent and has sought in the child that self-gratification which, for a time, is secured by bending to his will, encouraging his wiles which will become unmanageable with age, paying him too much admiring attention, and being guilty of idle threats and promises, inconsistencies, and alternate bouts of excessive fondness and excessive bad temper the difficulty, I say, of convincing such a parent of the possibility and reliability of this method of control and punishment, consists in the fact that, because the child's respect, and therefore love, has been undermined by the parent's own action, he or she can have no experience of the conditions on which such a method of discipline depends. So little is he or she acquainted with it, that it will seem hardly possible.
For the life the parent leads with the child is one of daily contacts; consequently of daily vigilant scrutiny by the latter. A year's solid foundation may therefore be ruined by a week of really serious lapses. And where are we to find to-day the kind of adults who, apart from anything else, have themselves so well in hand as to be capable of enduring hourly observation, year in, year out, by a creature as eager and ready as the child is to seize and exploit any moment of weakness? According to Robert T. Lewis, "Parents as a body are not qualified for the delicate work of child guidance." (Op. cit., p. 19).
And yet, rigorous as the adult self-discipline must be in order to enable parents to wield the method of control I have described, we know that it is neither beyond the powers of
I have only to think of the few exemplary fathers and mothers I have in my own lifetime met with among the privileged and the working classes, to feel convinced that it is exceptional to-day only because there is rife in modern society so much false doctrine and corrupt belief in the matter of child-psychology, that the majority are not merely ignorant which would often be better than being sophisticated they are actually crammed with erroneous preconceptions and principles. They know as little about the meaning of parental as they do about the springs and essentials of filial love.
Consider, for instance, the occasion of the child's first thumping lie. As we have seen, most competent readers of the human heart, from Locke to the psychologists of the modern school, are agreed that "all children tell untruths at some time or other." But, if we do not know this fact, and regard all children as fit denizens of heaven, then our own child's first lie will strike us as something terrifyingly exceptional, something peculiar to our own child; and, deeply shocked, we shall take steps to wipe the stain from our stock. In short, we shall approach the event from an entirely wrong angle.
One father I knew was so deeply outraged by the disillusionment his hitherto adored little daughter's first lie caused him that, as if confronted by a verminous infestation or festering wound, he immediately resorted to drastic measures to cure her "once and for all" of the hated practice. He beat her, shut her in a dark cupboard to recover from his violence, and manifested every sign of horror.
He repeated this ritual every time she lied, nor need I add that, to his astonishment, she, of course, continued to do so.
Now, this man was clearly behaving, not as a loving
But what would you do with a child that lied?
First, let us remember, as Dr. A. F. Chamberlain points out, that "the environment into which the child is born is well suited in the majority of cases to teach him the advantages and uses of lying" (Op. cit., p. 383), and that, therefore, it is a phenomenon of much less uniqueness than the horror above described might lead us to suppose. Nevertheless, although I disagree wholly with the methods of the father I have just depicted, I confess that I should regard a deliberate falsehood on the part of a child of my own with considerable alarm.
First, because it would denote that a wrong relationship had been established between us, and, secondly, because I should feel that something I had done in the past had evidently led to my child's wish to deceive me. In other words, I should regard the phenomenon as one brought about chiefly by my own faulty behaviour.
I should assume that my child could not have determined to lie to me unless I had somehow failed to secure his trust and respect, and therefore his love. Nor could I conceive it as possible if I had convinced him of my detached and benevolent love. The child's lie would, therefore, be a sign that I must retrace my steps in order to discover how I had failed in both these respects. Somehow I must have
Thus, as Susan Isaacs rightly observes of an untruthful child well beyond infancy. "If the lie springs from fear, this usually means either that our way of dealing with the behaviour which he denies . . . is too severe, or that for some reason or other he has lost confidence in us." And, she adds, "Habitual or frequent lying in any child is a sure indication that his surroundings, and his relations with his parents, need overhauling." (Nursery Years, pp. 58, 59).
Now let us suppose the case of a parent who, having retraced his steps and assured himself that nothing has been amiss, has to deal with a child who has deliberately lied, not once, but two or three times. What is to be done?
Incidentally, Locke who, as we have seen, is generally opposed to corporal punishment, allows for one exception, and that is for obstinacy. And since a recidivist liar betrays obstinacy, he favours castigation for this one offence. (Op. cit., Secs. 78 and 131). I still disagree; but let us return to the hypothetical child above.
Susan Isaacs is opposed to punishment in any form for a lie, and says it is better to ignore it, while simply observing to the child that if he lies no one will know when he is speaking the truth. (Nursery Years, p. 58). This is sound up to a point. But if the lie is a mean one, and places other people a servant, for instance, under suspicion, something must be done. And, in such circumstances, if the form of punishment suggested on pp. 236, cannot be applied, I favour Spencer's solution. (Op. cit., Chap. III). I know that Guyau (Op. cit., pp. 188, et seq.) and others have criticized it.
Briefly, it is this always to allow children to incur the natural consequences of their actions. In this Rousseau had anticipated Spencer by some hundred years (Emile, Livre II), and I think that both men lighted on a profound truth. Nothing is more impressive than a result which with unfailing regularity, and irrespective of who is concerned, follows upon a certain action. Moreover, if the result is unpleasant, as when a child puts its finger into boiling water, the cure cannot fail.
If, therefore, punishment, other than that outlined on pp. 236, ever becomes necessary, it should be restricted to this Spencerian form. For even if sometimes it may be difficult on the spur of the moment to think of the natural consequence of a child's misdeed, the delay is all to the good, as it puts off a hasty, possibly angry and unwise response to it.
Now, applied to the child who suddenly begins to tell lies, the Spencerian solution would suggest the following parental behaviour: show astonishment and possibly grief (grief, however, devoid of any tendency to sulkiness). Then, stroking the child's head affectionately, one might, without a trace of bitterness, say, "What a pity! Now it will take some time for me to know where I am with you!" This sort of remark should then be followed for a while by a consistent display of doubt and incredulity regarding everything the child says, even when he complains of any real trouble. If you happen to be where no clock stands, and he is in sight of a clock, make a point of asking some one else the time his junior if necessary. If he should call out the time, ask to have his statement confirmed. If he says it is raining, go with much ostentation to the front door or window to verify his announcement. Should he say anything which, if true, would call for an immediate response from you,
This treatment which, by-the-bye, should not be protracted, will be found so heart-breaking to the child in all cases in which the bout of falsehood has not been provoked by parental errors, that he will soon strain every nerve to prove to you that he is anxious to amend and to recover your good opinion. He will be scrupulously truthful in a way that cannot fail to be noticed.
When he has convinced you of his bona fides, you may again tenderly stroke his head and say with genuine relief, "I'm happier now. I think I now know where I stand with you." And from that moment accept his word on everything, until you have serious reasons for doubting it. But this contingency is unlikely.
There are, of course, a number of variations of this theme. For instance, Guyau recommends making penalties much lighter for a truthfully admitted than for a falsely denied misdeed. He also advocates slighter penalties for confessed misdeeds than for those in which a child is caught in the act. (Op. cit., p. 205, et. seq.). All these are obvious modifications of the thumping lie, deliberately uttered to deceive, and hardly require elaborating.
At all events, as an example of the natural consequence of a crime, the above sketch will serve to illustrate the wisdom of the Spencerian method. But, in regard to the imposition of penalties along these lines, it is important to remember that the effect can only be lasting and educative, if the educator contrives to appear detached and free from personal pique, just as if he or she were dealing with an invalid. Only thus is the child enabled instinctively to feel that, in the reaction to his misdeed, he has come up against as natural and as universal a law as if he had put his hand in the fire. He will feel opposed by a firmness which, like that
Kant was of the opinion that it was the father's business to see that children abandon untruthfulness. "For," he says, "mothers usually regard it as a matter of no importance whatever, or else treat it as trifling." (Ueber Pädagogik, p. 108). But, seeing that the mother, owing to her closer connection with the home, is best situated for dealing with every misdemeanour as it occurs, and is, moreover, at least in the early and important years, in a better position to impose discipline, in all the meanings given, I do not see, in spite of my sympathy with Kant's point of view, how we can dispense with her co-operation in this matter.
Much the same correctional technique can with safety be applied, if need be, to most of the more serious misdemeanours of children in the home, and parents would find it well worth their while to glance at Spencer's own enumeration of some of the misdemeanours of which children may be guilty, and his manner of dealing with them. As a rule, however, it will be found that prompt obedience and orderly conduct may be expected of all children who have been properly handled and whose love, as defined under the Child's Heart Card, has been secured. For, as Guyau declared, "love is the most powerful weapon in all education" and a child will acquire the habit of obeying "because it respects and loves." (Op. cit. p. 34. Susan Isaacs wholly confirms this view. See her Social Development in Children, p. 410.)
Naturally there are some forms of behaviour in childhood which, although they should not be encouraged, are unamenable to this kind of disciplinary action. Consider, for example, the child's tendency to tiresome self-assertion and exhibitionism. All children are prone to acquire a habit of demonstrating before adults, if parents are self-indulgent enough to encourage them, in their early years, to enjoy this kind of behaviour. And to watch the average
And yet I have seen whole roomfuls of adults, led by the parents, roaring with laughter over the antics and babblings of a child set in their midst.
Thus encouraged, the child not only forfeits that precious prerogative of silence and absorption of which de Quincey spoke, but also acquires a distorted notion of his own importance and gifts, grows up to be as self-assertive as he is vapid, as hasty in his judgments as he is shallow, and acquires a habit of "showing off" which presents an insuperable barrier to the passive absorption of information.
In later life he will insist on an amount of attention and deference which cannot and will not be vouchsafed him, except by the feeble-minded, in the real world outside his home, and under the most favourable circumstances he
Listen to the remarks made on this kind of parental behaviour by an aristocrat and a member of an aristocratic society! Writing in 1687, Fénélon said: "D'un autre côté, les enfants ne sachent encore rien penser ni faire eux-mêmes, ils remarquent tout, et ils parlent peu, si on ne les accoutume à parler beaucoup, et c'est de quoi il faut bien se garder. Souvent le plaisir qu'on veut tirer des jolis enfants, les gâte; on les accoutume à hazarder tout ce qui leur vient dans l'esprit, et à parler des choses dont ils n'ont pas encore des connoissances distinctes; il leur en reste toute leur vie l'habitude de juger avec précipitation, et de dire des choses dont ils n'ont point d'idées claires; ce qui fait un très mauvais caractère d'esprit."
Then this wise educationist adds, "Ce plaisir qu'on veut tirer des enfants produit encore un effet pernicieux: ils aperçoivent qu'on les regarde avec complaisance, qu'on observe tout ce qu'ils font, qu'on les écoute avec plaisir; par là ils s'accoutument à croire que le monde sera toujours occupé d'eux." (Op. cit., Chap. III. See also Vives, Op. cit., Book II, Chap. XI for a severe condemnation of the kind of mother who thus encourages her child constantly to show off. Hyde translates Vives term for the maternal tendency to indulge her child in this way by the word "cockering").
When we bear in mind that the parents who lead a child on in this way are merely self-indulgent narcissists and, as we have seen, little better than drug-addicts, and when we try to recall the number of such whom we have known or have seen, it is difficult not to endorse Mr. R. T. Lewis's apparently pessimistic opinion of the average mother and father. But they get their reward; for ultimately the child cannot fail to despise them and make them pay the heavy penalty of hearing his "snap" judgments turned against them also.
Nor will this treatment be undeserved. The passages from Fénelon make it clear that the parental behaviour he
The discipline of a child at the age when it first manifests its exhibitionist tendencies is implied in Fénélon's strictures on the parents he condemns. It amounts, as every rational educationist, from Rousseau to the modern psychologist, agrees, to refraining from paying him undue attention, and above all from exclaiming rapturously, or otherwise flattering him, when he "expresses" himself. In fact, the technique of many of the characters in Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass is not at all a bad one to adopt with children in general. I have often tried it and found it most salutary. It consists, not in openly snubbing the child, but in forcing him to pause and think by reducing his tags or empty judgments to the ridiculous, puzzling him by presenting a meaning or definition to a word he has used, which he has not thought of, and otherwise, in a quiet way, making him feel what he has to learn before he can pronounce his little piece of wisdom concerning every possible subject and event. Nor have I any doubt that it was in practising this method of handling the self-assertive child that much of Lewis Carroll's masterpieces was evolved. For, little as the average Carroll eulogist suspects it, a good deal of the fun in both books is obtained from exposing the hollowness of hackneyed tags.
But, as Dr. A. M. Hutchison justly observes in regard to the spoiling and the granting of too much importance to a child's fancies and mental gymnastics, "it is infinitely easier to avoid such a course, if we will, in dealing with children in numbers than with a solitary child" (Op. cit., p. 86), and
And here perhaps is the place to deal with the question left unanswered in Chapter X, to which I promised to return the question why there is such a high proportion of eldest children among juvenile delinquents.
I suggest two reasons besides those given by Bagot to account for this phenomenon. The first is that the eldest child of a family is always an only child for a period more or less protracted, and therefore suffers all the disadvantages of the only child, which include being subjected to the unrestrained and excessive attention of its adulatory parents, to whom a child of their own at this stage is still a marvellous novelty to be enjoyed to the full, and at no matter what cost to the child. The second, which aggravates the effects of the first and is not relevant in the case of the only child who remains permanently alone, is that the eldest child, after having been as a rule idolized and indulged beyond measure by his adoring parents, suddenly finds himself, not merely confronted by formidable rivals for his parents' attentions, but also ultimately eclipsed and ousted by them; and, as Aichhorn has abundantly shown, the shock and humiliation of this cruel experience easily destroys his balance and his love of mankind.
Under this head, i.e., the wrong handling of the child's self-assertive and exhibitionist impulses, may be included all those forms of parental misbehaviour which tend to rob the child of his right to learn the limits of his own Pleasure Principle from his educators. What Dr. A. M. Hutchison terms "the corrective salt of criticism" is at bottom the blessing undisciplined children chiefly lack. For, as this same writer wisely remarks, "We shall most certainly find in the home, where discipline is accepted by children as natural and right, that punishments are as rare as weeds in a well-tended garden." (Op. cit., pp. 60 and 124125).
We have seen that the imposition of this mild discipline is
There is, however, still one more matter which must be dealt with, and that is the child's tendency to masturbation and what Pfister calls "inspectionism."
I have already expressed the view that, as a rule, modern parents, especially those infected with Wordsworthianism and sex-phobia, are prone to treat both these matters much too seriously.
To deal with inspectionism first, I suggest that, when once we grasp the function of play both in young animals and children, and appreciate that it is chiefly preparation for adult life and, above all, for adult proficiencies, it seems impossible to exclude altogether both the possibility and even the normality of sex-play. If it is possible to do so, I for one would very much like to know why. For if we give our baby girls dolls, which represent the polite and mentionable end-product of the adult's sexual functions, we cannot logically expect children to skip, as many moderns would like to do, the non-drawing-room or unmentionable preliminaries. Except on the grounds that, with regard to the sexual exercises of adults, we feel we must impose a special prohibition not applicable to other forms of children's play, what serious reasons are there? What is more, is not this special prohibition itself the outcome of the very special attitude to sex adopted for centuries by our civilization?
Apart from other views to be found in the literature, I would advise all prospective parents carefully to study what Melanie Klein says on this subject (Psychoanalysis of Children, especially p. 304), and then to turn to its discussion in the
Certain of the modern psychologists may perhaps exaggerate when they refer to the benefits which, in circumstances they carefully define, may accrue to a female child, for instance, who has not been prevented from sexual play with a brother. But before we indignantly repudiate such claims, let us first look into ourselves to discover how much the heat of our emotion may not be due to our own unbalanced and guilty feelings about it, our hereditary bias, and our conditioning through centuries of pruriency and manicheism.
Personally, I do not believe that, when once this curiosity has been satisfied (which curiosity hardly ever presses for satisfaction until after the dangerous early years, one to five, are over), and not too heavy weather has been made of any act of inspectionism, that average healthy children are prone to concentrate much on this form of play. On the contrary, I think that if it is quietly passed over (if possible, ignored),, they are likely to relegate it to a very insignificant part of their lives. For we must remember that, before puberty, the preparation in them for an active sexual life is far from complete (here I agree wholly with Dr. Hirschfeld) and therefore that the desire to play in this way is beyond all measure weaker than the desire to play with limbs and muscles which, in some ways at least fleetness and accuracy
The discipline to be imposed for this form of children's play is therefore more in the nature of self-control on the part of the adult concerned than severe restraint of the child. For I am convinced that to convey to children caught in the act of sex-play that one is either shocked or alarmed is utterly wrong. As a rule, it will be found to be merely a passing phase, and a sort of essential experiment which, when once got over, satisfies for much longer than the average terrified adult expects. Close but discreet observation will, I submit, generally confirm my view that the common mistake is grossly to exaggerate its gravity.
As regards masturbation, the matter is slightly different. I have already assessed its relative gravity. The only question still unanswered is, how to deal with it. There are various views, all the more modern of which tend to agree. They advocate suppressing the practice if possible, and this, I think, is sound. A few examples will suffice.
Guilfoyle Williams, although deprecating any direct notice of and comment upon it, suggests finding some pleasing diversion "for the child who is caught at it," and, if the behaviour persists, to ask "in a matter of fact tone," whether he feels irritable in that region and say "if so one can see a doctor." He adds that it "can be made plain that this 'tickling' of oneself is a foolish habit that big children should regard as a waste of time." (Op. cit., p. 32). He strongly condemns any form of moralizing, however, and here he is undoubtedly right.
Adler says, "We should not be frightened if we see signs of the beginnings of certain nuisances, but we should do our best to put a stop to these practices without seeming to attach too much importance to them." (The Education of Children, p. 224).
The experienced sexologist. Dr. Hirschfeld, offers more detailed advice and, owing to his wide erudition on the
On the whole he agrees with the French school (Dr. Surbled and Professor Lasègue) that not too much importance should be attached to masturbation in young children; for, as a rule, the practice gives them much less
Drs. A. Kronfeld and W. C. Rogge more or less confirm Hirschfeld's views. For young children they advise elimination of all possible causes of local irritation, a bland diet, light bed covering, and distraction in the form of games and sport. "These measures," they say, "will generally be found to put a stop to masturbation in the child." They also warn parents against severely forbidding the practice and administering sharp punishment for it. (Handwörterbuch der Sexualwissenschaft, p. 338).
Dr. Iwan Bloch (The Sexual Life of our Time, pp. 426427) concurs generally with Hirschfeld, Kronfeld and Rogge, but as far as masturbation in little boys is concerned also favours a very wise recommendation made by a German doctor, B. C. Faust, in 1791, to the effect that, at least until the age of fourteen, all boys should wear kilts. This would prevent overheating of the genital area through the accumulation of shirt-tails, etc., held up by breeches, and would moreover obviate the constant manipulation of the little boy's penis by his parents, other children, maids and menservants, in assisting him to pass water. Those who may consider this advice fantastic should refer to my chapter on clothes in my Choice of a Mate, where I go so far as to recommend kilts as a lifelong and habitual lower garment for men and produce scientific evidence in support of my recommendation.
Now, whilst agreeing with everything Drs. Hirschfeld, Kronfeld, Rogge and Bloch say about removing all possible causes of local irritation in such cases, and providing the child with plain food, light bed-clothing and open-air distractions, I cannot accept Dr. Hirschfeld's advice about telling a young child on all suitable occasions that to play with his genitals will injure his health. I have had some experience in this matter and have been asked by parents how to ward off the danger of autoeroticism in children;
On the contrary, I should favour leaving the subject scrupulously alone until circumstances forced me to mention it, and then I should treat it as lightly as possible while taking every practical step to stop it. But, in so doing, I should not take the child into my confidence, as I am convinced that the average young child will either not masturbate at all, or else do so only with slight enjoyment. I should rely on the practical measures outlined above for suppressing the practice and, if it still persisted, would rely on Master Cards one and two to prevail upon the child to drop it when once he or she was aware of my not wishing it to continue. For, as Dr. Pfister accurately maintains, "A child can be easily led by the tie of an unspoiled love." (Op. cit., p. 349). Owing to the relatively feeble hold auto-eroticism has on young children, the great mistake is to make too heavy weather of it.
Speaking of the children of Samoa among whom, as we have seen, masturbation is "an all but universal habit, beginning at the age of six or seven," Margaret Mead says, "The adult ban only covers the unseemliness of open indulgence." (Op. cit., p. 136). This shows a sensible attitude. I would merely add that, since the only really dangerous form of masturbation begins at puberty dangerous because it may become a fixed habit it is
Every child has its own individuality which should be known, and in the handling of which a wise parent acquires in due course the proper technique. It is difficult, therefore, to lay down hard and fast rules. Some children would remain unmoved on being told, as Guilfoyle Williams suggests, that masturbation was a practice that big children would regard as a waste of time. Others might, in this way, be induced to drop it. If, however, the particular child's nature is well understood, the parent constantly in touch with it should find the correct approach. If Cards one and two require reinforcing in some way, that way will suggest itself. The thing to bear in mind is that, no matter what is done or said, it should always be with a light touch and an air of simple, matter-of-fact unconcern.
I do not propose to give here a summary of these two chapters on Discipline. My principles have been, I hope, lucidly stated and, if understood, will prove to be of universal application. I shall, therefore, conclude merely by echoing a cri-du-coeur which, coming from Adler, is to my mind both abundantly justified and expressive in a few words of all the wise counsels that can be given to the prospective parent, male and female. It is as follows:
"The great need of our age is that we stop pampering children. This does not mean that we stop liking them, but it means that we have to stop indulging them." (The Education of Children, p. 294).
To achieve this end it is necessary only to rid our minds of all the rubbishy doctrines and corrupt traditions and practices which have come down to us from both our recent and our distant forebears, and it is my hope that the present work may prove of service in helping the modern world in this urgently needed transmutation of values.