The Education of Children
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The Education of Children

Alfred Adler

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eBook - ePub

The Education of Children

Alfred Adler

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Originally published in 1930, this title looks at the education of children. Adler believes the problems from a psychological point of view are the same as for adults, that of self-knowledge and rational self-direction. However, the difference being that due to the 'immaturity of children, the question of guidance – never wholly absent in the case of adults – takes on supreme importance.' The title starts by presenting the Individual Psychology viewpoint as a whole, with the later chapters undertaking to tackle in more depth the various interrelated problems of children's education.

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Appendix I
An Individual Psychological Questionnaire

For the Understanding and Treatment of Problem-Children, Drawn up by the International Society of Individual Psychologists.
1. Since when has there been cause for complaint? What sort of situation (psychic or otherwise) did the child find himself in when his failings were first noticed?
The following are important: change of environment, beginning of school life, births in the family, younger or older brothers and sisters, failures in school, changes of teachers or school, new friendships, illnesses of the child, divorce, new marriage, death of the parents.
2. Were any peculiarities noticed at an earlier age in regard to mental or physical weakness, timidity, carelessness, reserve, clumsiness, envy, jealousy, dependence on others when eating, dressing, washing or going to bed? Was the child afraid of being alone or of darkness? Does he understand his sexual role? Any primary, secondary or tertiary characteristics of gender? How does he regard the opposite sex? How far has he been enlightened on his sexual role? Is he a stepchild? Illegitimate? A foster child? Orphan? How did his foster parents treat him? Is there still a contact? Did he learn to speak and walk at the right time? Without difficulty? Was the teething normal? Noticeable difficulties in learning to read, draw, sing, swim? Is he particularly attached to either his father, his mother, his grandparents or his nurse?
It is necessary to determine whether he is hostile towards his environment, and to look for the origin of his feeling of inferiority; whether there is a tendency to avoid difficulties and whether he shows traits of egoism and sensitiveness.
3. Does the child give much trouble? What and whom does he fear most? Does he cry out at night? Does he suffer from enuresis? Is he domineering towards weaker children or towards stronger children as well? Did he show a strong desire to sleep in his parents' bed? Was he clumsy? Did he suffer from rickets? What about his intelligence? Was he much teased and derided? Does he show vanity in regard to his hair, clothes, shoes, etc.? Does he indulge in nail-biting or nose-picking? Is he greedy when eating?
It would be illuminating to know if he strives more or less courageously after priority; further, if obstinacy prevents him from pursuing his impulse to action.
4. Does he make friends easily? Does he show tolerance towards persons and animals, or does he molest and torment them? Is he fond of collecting or hoarding? What about avarice and covetousness? Does he lead others? Is he inclined to isolate himself?
These questions are in connection with the child's ability to "get in touch" and the degree of his discouragement.
5. With reference to all the above questions, what is the present position of the child? How does he conduct himself in school? Does he like school? Is he punctual? Is he excited before going to school? Is he in a hurry? Does he lose his books, satchel, exercise-books? Is he excited about exercises and before examinations? Does he forget to do his school work, or does he refuse to do it? Does he waste his time? Is he lazy? Is there a lack of concentration? Does he disturb the class? How does he regard the teacher? Is he critical, arrogant, indifferent towards the teacher? Does he ask others to help him with his lessons or does he wait until he is invited? Is he ambitious in regard to gymnastics and sport? Does he consider himself comparatively untalented or entirely so? Is he a great reader? What sort of literature does he prefer?
Questions that help us to understand how far the child is properly prepared for school life, the result of the "going to school experiment," and his attitude towards difficulties.
6. Correct information about home circumstances, illness in the family, alcoholism, criminal tendencies, neurosis, debility, lues, epilepsy, the standard of living. Any deaths in the family, and how old was the child when they occurred? Is he an orphan? Who is the dominating spirit of the family? Is the home education strict, with much grumbling and fault-finding, or is it indulgent? Are the home influences such as to make the child afraid of life? What about supervision?
From his position and attitude in the family circle we may judge of the impressions the child receives.
7. What is the child's position in regard to his place in the family constellation? Is he the eldest, the youngest, the only child, the only boy, the only girl? Is there rivalry, much crying, malicious laughter, a strong tendency to depreciate others?
The above is important for the study of character, and throws light on the child's attitude towards others.
8. Has the child formed any ideas about the choice of a profession? What does he think about marriage? What profession do the other members of the family follow? What about the married life of the parents?
It may be concluded from this whether the child has courage and confidence for the future.
9. What are his favorite games, stones, characters in history and fiction? Is he fond of spoiling other children's games? Is he imaginative? Is he a coolheaded thinker? Does he indulge in daydreaming?
These questions are in reference to a possible tendency to play the hero in life. A contrast in the child's behavior may be regarded as a sign of discouragement.
10. Earliest remembrances? Impressive or periodical dreams about flying, falling, powerlessness, late arrival at railway station, anxiety dreams?
in this connection we often find a tendency to isolation, warnings to be careful, ambitious traits and a preference for particular persons, country life, etc.
11. In what respect is the child discouraged? Does he consider himself neglected? Does he respond readily to attention and praise? Has he superstitious ideas? Does he avoid difficulties? Does he try his hand at various things only to give them up again? Is he uncertain about his future? Does he believe in the injurious effects of heredity? Was he systematically discouraged by those around him? Is his outlook on life pessimistic?
Answers to these questions will help us to prove that the child has lost confidence in himself and that he is now on the wrong road.
12. Are there other tricks and bad habits, e. g., grimacing, pretending to be stupid, childish, comical?
In such cases slight courage is manifested for the purpose of attracting attention.
13. Has he speech disabilities? Is he ugly? Club-footed? Knock-kneed or bow-legged? Stunted? Abnormally stout or tall? Badly proportioned? Has he constitutional abnormalities of eye or ear? Is he mentally backward? Left-handed? Does he snore at night? Is he remarkably handsome?
These are disadvantages which the child as a rule overestimates, and by which he may be permanently discouraged. A faulty development is often seen too in the case of very pretty children who become obsessed with the idea that they should get everything they want without exerting themselves. Such children miss numerous opportunities of preparing themselves for life.
14. Does he often talk of his incapacity, his "lack of talent" for school, for work, for life? Does he harbor suicidal thoughts? Is there any connection in point of time between his failures and troubles? Does he overrate apparent success? Is he servile, bigoted, rebellious?
Here we have manifestations of extreme discouragement, mostly apparent after vain efforts on the part of the child to get rid of his troubles. His failures are due partly to the ineffectuality of his efforts and partly to a lack of understanding of persons in touch with him. But his inclinations must be satisfied somehow, somewhere; so he seeks some other, easier scene of action. "Nebenkriegsschauplatz."
15. Name the things in which the child is successful.
Such "positive performances" give us important hints, for it is possible that the interests, inclinations and preparations of the child point in a different direction from that in which he has hitherto gone.
From answers to the above questions (which should never be put in regular sequence or routine-like, but constructively and by way of conversation) a correct notion of the individuality is formed. It will be seen that though the failures are not justified, they are conceivable and can be understood. The errors disclosed should always be explained in a patient and friendly way, without any threats.

Appendix II
Five Case Histories with Commentaries


A boy, fifteen years old, is the only child of parents who have worked hard to achieve a modestly comfortable existence. They have been careful to see that the boy had everything necessary for physical health. In his early years the boy was happy and healthy. His mother is a good woman, but she cries too easily. Her report of her son is made with much effort and many interruptions. We do not know the father, but the mother describes him as an honest, energetic man who loves his family and who has much confidence in himself. When the boy was very young and was disobedient, the father would remark, "It would be a fine state of affairs if I couldn't break his will." His idea of "breaking" was setting the boy a good example, not bothering to teach him much, but whipping him whenever he did something wrong. In the boy's early childhood, his rebelliousness was expressed by his wanting to play master of the house, a desire frequently found in the spoiled, only child. He showed early a striking inclination to disobedience and developed the habit of refusing to obey so long as he did not feel the hand of his father.
When we stop here and ask what salient character trait will surely develop in this child, we must answer, "Lying." He will lie to escape his father's heavy hand. It is indeed the chief complaint with which the mother comes to us. To-day the child is fifteen years old and the parents never know whether he is lying or telling the truth. When we probe a little more deeply, we hear the following: The child was for a time in a parochial school, where his teachers also complained that he was disobedient and disturbed the class. For example, he would shout the answer to a question before he was asked, or he would ask a question in order to interrupt, or talk loudly to his classmates during class. He would write his homework in a most illegible hand—he was, moreover, left-handed. His conduct finally got beyond all bounds and his lying was noticeable as soon as he feared punishment from his father. His parents at first decided to leave him in the school, but before long they had to take him out because his teacher concluded that nothing could be done with him.
The boy looked like a lively lad whose intelligence was recognized by all the teachers. He finished public school and had to take the entrance examinations for high school. His mother awaited him after the examination and he told her that he had passed the test. Every one was very happy and they all went to the country for the summer. The boy frequently spoke of high school. Then the high school reopened. The boy packed his schoolbag, went to school and came home each day for lunch. One day, however, the mother walked with him part of the way and as they crossed the street together, she heard a man say, "There's the boy who showed me the way to the station this morning." His mother asked him what the man meant, and whether he hadn't been to school that morning. The lad answered that school had ended at ten o'clock, and he had walked with the man to the railroad station. His mother was not satisfied with the explanation and later spoke to the father about the matter. The father decided to accompany his son to school the following day. The next day, on the way to school, the father learned, in answer to his insistent questioning, that the boy had failed in his entrance examinations, that he had never been to high school, and that he had loafed around the streets all these days.
His parents engaged a tutor and the boy was eventually able to pass the examinations, but his conduct did not improve. He still disturbed the classroom procedure, and one day he began to steal. He stole some money from his mother, lied violently about it, and only confessed when threatened with the police. And now we have before us a case of sad neglect. The father, whose pride was such that he thought he could bend this twig, now gives his son up as hopeless. The boy is punished by being left alone with no one speaking to him or paying any attention to him. His parents also claim that they no longer beat him.
In answer to the question "Since when has there been cause for complaint?" the mother replies, "Since his birth." When we receive such an answer, we assume that the mother wants to imply that the boy's bad conduct is inborn, since his parents have tried everything to straighten him out, and have been unsuccessful.
As a baby, the hoy was extremely restless, he cried day and night. All the doctors, however, declared that he was quite normal and healthy.
This is not as simple as it sounds. There is nothing remarkable in the fact that nursing...

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