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Full text of "The Discovery Of The Child"


That moral monster, the precise, timid child who breaks out
when he is alone with companions and becomes a * little rascal'
because he had not been allowed to exercise his will except
stealthily, disappears in our Children's Houses.

Besides the action of will-power there is another factor in
obedience which consists of knowledge of the act which has to
be performed.

One of the most interesting observations made by my pupil
Anna Maccheroni, first in the Children's House in Milan, and
then in that in the Via Giusti in Rome, referred to the way in which
the development of obedience is dependent on the extent of the
child's knowledge.

Obedience springs up in the child as a latent instinct, directly
his personality has begun, as we say, to control itself. For
example, a child begins to try to do a certain exercise, and once,
all of a sudden, he does it perfectly. He is surprised about it, he
looks at it, then he tries to do it again, but not for some time does
he get the same results. In the end he almost always manages to
succeed, but if anyone asks him to do it, he does not always succeed,
indeed he almost always makes a mistake. The external command
does not yet elicit the voluntary act. When, however, he has reached
the stage when his efforts always succeed with absolute accuracy,
then the external invitation calls forth orderly actions adequate
for the task; the child can always fulfil the order received.

That these facts, individual variations being disregarded, are
laws of mental growth is seen as a matter of common experience
repeatedly in schools and in life. One may often hear a child
say: ** I have done that, but I can no longer do it." Or a master,
.on giving a command, is misled by the inability of the child and
says: "Yet the child used to do it well, now he cannot do it."
Finally, there is the period of finished development, consisting in
this: that when he can do a thing there remains as a permanency
the capacity to reproduce it.

There exist three periods of development.   The first is a sub-
conscious condition in which in the intelligence of the child order