June, 1933 in The Nursery World
Problems with Boys
“How can I help with my boy’s over-exuberance?” asks a Mother this week
“My husband and I are against corporal punishment and have never applied it. I would very much like to know how you would deal with such ‘pranks’ as drawing on the walls, doors, etc. The boy, who is five and a-quarter, seems to get hold of pencils in a remarkable way and we never catch him actually scribbling. He has plenty of blocks and paper to write on. we had one nursery repapered last September, but it is already spoilt. He is terribly full of life – quite wild. He is perfectly good with me, but as soon as his daddy goes in to say good night to him he leaps out of bed and starts playing the fool, takes his pyjamas off, strips his bed and nurse’s, throws everything about and one night actually picked the jug of water up and poured the contents all over the armchair and floor. All this he thinks is huge fun and is still more amused when we do not seem to like it. If my husband says he will not say good night to him and leaves the room, the boy just rushes out all over the flat and it is impossible to keep him in is room. The only punishment we can give him is not to allow him in the sitting room with us the next day – this he minds very much. He has plenty of little friends to play with and takes a lot of exercise and is out from 9.30 a.m. till noon and 2 p.m. till 6 p.m., has riding lessons and rhythmic dancing twice a week and is in bed by 7 p.m. he is very intelligent and forward for his age and very easy to reason with except during his wild moments – I do hope you can advise me how to cope with his over-exuberance without crushing spirits.”
From the practical point of view you certainly have something of a problem with your little son. I do not, however, think you have a psychological problem. That is not to say, there is nothing in this behaviour of your boy that augurs ill for his future development. He is obviously full of energy and fun, and all that is needed, from the point of view of his future character, is the gradual deflection of this vigour and horse-play into more useful social channels. But as compared with the children who are always whining and unhappy, or merely indifferent and inhibited, your boy is well off in his psychological make-up. From the practical point of view his scribbling and his over-excitement when his daddy goes into his room must be something of a nuisance. But I think a good deal of the practical inconvenience could be obviated, and it seems to me likely also that if you based your remonstrances about his behaviour simply on the practical grounds of inconvenience, that would be more likely to have an effect in subduing his excitement to a more reasonable level than any scolding.