Autobiography Children Early Years Parents

Getting To Know Me

We all need to make some contact with other people in order to develop our potential as unique beings. To take one example, we would never learn to talk in an easy way unless we are not hearing talk going on around us and to us What gets in the way to our understanding of ourselves is the fear of being isolated through the difficulty in making friends. Wherever there is a group of people of which we are one, this group will have its own ideas about how we should lead our lives. Since we are all individuals, we are all different from each other, with different skills and needs. Since from birth we take a long time to grow to maturity, we go through many different stages to help us to use words and communicate in order to build up a number of rules for ourselves which satisfy our individual needs.

The danger is that in this process, we inevitably pick up other people’s habits that do not suit our own requirements. Freud was the first to make it clear that more trouble is caused by this than by anything else. The big question to which each one of us needs to find an answer is “How can I develop my skills to the full in the way that will give me a worthwhile life and at the same time play my part in making a contribution to the society I live in?”

It took me a long time, most of my long life, to work this out for myself. Since my late ‘teens I have read as much as I could in the area of English literature, philosophy and psychology to find answers about how I could improve my conversation skills without realising that that was what I was doing.

I finally solved the problem of my growing search to learn in what ways I am different from everyone else.

What we do naturally we take for granted, therefore we think that it is easy and everyone can do it. This is a big mistake. For example, one of the greatest errors we make in trying to understand other people is to believe that we all like the same things. Although I have tried to explain to many people that we need to respect these differences, they continue to say “Oh well. Everyone knows that”. They only think they do.

It is hard not to treat parental examples as the truth. It is inevitable that we take in all sorts of beliefs from the cultures in which we live. But we do not have to follow them. Our most powerful need is to think for ourselves. To do that, we must have the freedom to be able to learn what we want, not what our parents want for us. A great many of us do not anyway near achieve our potentials. I am one of the lucky ones.

My main advantage was that I was a first child, born nine months after my parent’s marriage. It was nearly three years before my sister was born, so I had their full interest when I needed it when they were not working. They left me to my own devices. Of course as a child I did not understand what the word ‘love’ meant. I was loved and encouraged most of all by their astonishment at how quickly I learned.

They rarely asked me questions or gave me orders. This is very unusual. From an early age I arranged my own life in choosing what I wanted to do from the wealth of material in my unconscious mind.

My father said of me when I was three, “Jean is sensible”. They expected me to get on with my life without help. As a result I had no impulse to have tantrums or to rebel. Many parents think they have to ‘bring children up’ and ‘teach them right from wrong’. What a waste of time! We all have different ideas about that! Children thrive best with a minimum of guidance of the right kind in an environment of loving care. Going to school was therefore a big disappointment.

Children Education Parents

Children – Let Them Get On With It

What usually grab the headlines are great disasters. The publicity aroused by the rescue of the Chilean miners was well deserved. This does indeed have a real reason for raising our spirits. For once in a while a lot of government money was put into equipment that was very expensive and the chances of it finding the right place was very difficult. The joy that went around the world was more than justified. The overwhelming courage of the trapped men touched everyone who might have been in the same situation. For once, here was the head of state, President Sebastian Pinera who put people before money and has now promised to do something about the hardships the miners had to put up with.

Last night I watched one of my favourite writers on politics, Andrew Marr. His subject was how Jack Kennedy won the Presidency for the first time by having had a vast sum of money from his father, whilst his opponents had far less. He also told some cruel lies about his opponents. He appeared as having no scruples whatsoever. He, too, was good-looking and charismatic and quite ruthless about lying and deprecating better men than he was. His oratory was his best weapon. Why are we all taken in by such things? Because we don’t think properly.

I have a feeling that most of us do not have a very good opinion of ourselves. If all of us, as individuals, were educated, from earliest days, to use words and conversations to help them to think clearly, they would grow up with a natural sense of their own worth. Would they still need heros and heroines? I think not!

Our children are our best hope for the future provided that we start now to change the way we talk with them and respect them. Throughout history children have been exploited by adults in all sorts of ways. Alice Miller called this Poisonous Pedagogy.

Children are small and weak physically in their earliest ages. But there is a wealth of wonderful potential in their minds. Anyone who pays close attention to these little ones know this. We do not need teachers who try to force on them what they do not want. All we need to do is to give them an environment full of things that would catch their interest and let them get on with it. Some of our greatest men in the past, Churchill, Bertrand Russell and George Bernard Shaw were not regarded as geniuses by teachers. We must have always lost exceptionally talented people because of their being disenchanted through having missed out on kindly ecouragement from people who like and respect them.

Children Education Parents

Offsted – Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!

I read in my Saturday paper that at long last pupils will be taught to spell and learn grammar. About time too and the younger the better. When I was a child I enjoyed doing spelling tests every week. I believe that the teaching of English grammar should be started at the same time as children are learning to read and write. This is the practice in some European countries. Another subject that could be taught in primary school is another language.

It is well known that up to a very early age, say 6 to 8, children can easily learn two or even three languages at the same time and we are talking about all normal children, not the brightest ones. The older we get the harder it is for children to learn another language.

I have heard from parents that when their children start school they are often very disappointed because they don’t want to play they really want to learn proper subjects. We have always underrated just how much small children can take in. Of course the methods for this early teaching need to be carefully designed. Let me give you an example. My nephew’s son has a Danish mother. They came to visit us when he was three years old and he was already speaking Danish and English. His wise mother spoke her own language to him from the start in tandem with lots of English from his family and friends.

As we were having lunch his mother was talking with him. “Did you answer in Danish?” I asked him. He looked puzzled and turned to his mother for help. She said “This is how Mummy talks”. His mother cleverly used this phrase instead of the word ‘Danish’. I realised that he could easily move from one language to another, but he hadn’t yet grasped the concept that there were many other languages. He just took all this for granted.

It occurred to me how useful it would be to to learn the grammar at the same time as we are learning the language. I had to wait until I was at grammar school to learn two languages, French and Latin and English grammar. I know I would have learned all this much earlier and easier with skilful teaching leaving me free to go further and faster later on.

If children learn real grown-up stuff, in their eyes, it would be a wonderful boost to their confidence and they would improve, not lose, their ability to concentrate.

One of many mistakes in education changes since I was a child, is giving homework to children under eleven. With good teachers, there is no need. Children need time to themselves to play and read in their own homes and put school behind them until the next day. Even worse, it is another great mistake for parents to try to ‘help’ with homework. That is not a role of parenting. Home is somewhere to relax and rest. There should be no interference between teachers and parents unless there is a serious problem that needs to be examined. However, most teachers who choose their job have the gift of finding their own way of passing on information. Busybodies, i.e. Ofsted, should stay away unless there is a real reason for help.

Behaviour Parents

Are You Afraid?

What should we be defending ourselves against? All the things that have happened to us that have caused us pain and unhappiness starting from the beginning of our lives. The earlier the experience the greater the effect on the rest of our lives. I have often been asked “How could something that happened such a long time ago still affect our lives by making us suffer?” The answer is simple. When we are born, all we bring with us are the genes we inherit from our ancestors: not just from our parents but all the rest of the people who came before them. Are you a musician and surprise your family because they have no interest at all in this art? If you could go back far enough you would find a musical antecedent.

I was so different from both my parents in so many ways that I was convinced that my real parents were somewhere else. From a very early age, say about three or four years old I discovered that my parents could not answer the myriad of questions I put to them. Decades later I was listening to an interview on the radio to celebrate the seventieth birthday of the pianist, Alfred Brendel, one of my favourites. To my delight he said that he had almost nothing in common with either of his parents. His experience was similar to my own. The only time his mother was delighted about his music was when he was presented to the Queen of England.

He said that he was fortunate enough to have managed to forget everything his parents had tried to teach him! My experience was identical. My interests meant nothing to my parents. I cannot remember any words of wisdom coming from either of them. Everything I learned was in the books I read. All my friends were therefore dead ones. I developed a powerful gift for self hypnosis that enabled me to go into another world of my own where I could cut off anything I found disagreeable. That was my defence mechanism, to work things out for myself and to question everything teachers tried to teach me, except for the ones that interested me.

Defence mechanisms can be positive or negative. The positive mechanism is much shorter than the negative one, which is much longer, laden down with phobias of all kinds. They are negative because they don’t give you something you can take away. For example, claustrophobia is a good excuse for getting out of any groups of people in restricted places, but that can cause you to lose something that might be useful to yourself.

There are effective ways in psychotherapy to deal with such things, but it takes courage and cooperation from the clients to overcome such useless fears.

My defence mechanism prevented me from talking and making friends from fear of having nothing in common with anyone else. I went into another world when I was studying and thus I developed from a very early age a very useful skill. I learned to concentrate deeply on everything that interested me. In addition, as I grew older, my curiosity about people and their strange ways led me into making myself meet people I could talk with about my work.

Since then my main interest is human behaviour and thought. Unwittingly, I learned to think logically and keep my strong feelings under control. Just the kind of temperament that makes a good psychotherapist.

The best thing I learned from my strange childhood was to be independent and to trust my own judgement, whilst at the same time I maintained an open mind. Difficulties in childhood, as long as we have parents who are basically kind and do not try to force their opinions on us, as my parents were, can be overcome by ourselves. The help I got was from books and not from people.