Storm's Journal


a lot of people tell their kids to stop doing something, and that is
ineffectual. why is this? it is because the children only work by imitation,
and when being told not to do something, it does not process, rather, they
only learn to imitate how their parents are telling them off. if a child is
banging pots and pans, and someone yells at them "stop banging", they don't
stop banging, they just learn to yell at other people like they were yelled
at. the better thing to do in this case would be to pick up some crayons,
and start drawing--in other words, DEMONSTRATE the desired behaviour, and
the child will imitate. knowledge of this one simple principle can make a
tremendous difference in the ability of the parent to bring the desired
behaviours out of the children.

the following are some exerpts from a lecture by the educator *rudolf
steiner*, who helped establish the most popular independent schooling system
in the world for the children of the waldorf-astoria cigarette factory in the
early half of this century.


Human beings are the most imitative of all animals. This is especially true of
the child before the change of teeth. Everything is imitated during this time,
and as whatever enters the child through its senses as light and sound works
formatively on the organs, it is of utmost importance that what surrounds the
child should act beneficially.

At this age nothing is achieved by admonition; commands and prohibitions have
no effect whatever. But of greatest significance is the EXMAPLE. What the
child sees, what happens around him, he feels must be imitated. For instance:
the parents of a well-behaved child were astonished to discover that he had
taken money from a cashbox; greatly distrubed, they thought the child had
inclinations to steal. Queostioning brought to light that the child had simply
imitated what he had seen his parents do everyday.

It is important that the examples the child sees and imitates are of a kind
that awaken inner forces. Exhortations have no effect, but the way a person
behaves in the child's presence matters greatly. It is far more important to
refrain from doing what the child is not permitted to do than to fobid the
child to imitate it.

(Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VI, Cologne, December 1, 1906, "Education...", p.96)


After a few days, Willie got tired of it [the Waterwheel] - and small
blame to him, for it was of no earthly use beyond amusement, and that
which can only amuse can never amuse long. I think the reason children get
tired of their toys so soon is just that it is against human nature to be
really interested in what is of no use. If you say that a beautiful thing
is always interesting, I answer, that a beautiful thing is of the highest
use. Is not a diamond that flashes all its colours into the heart of a
poet as useful as the diamond with which the glazier divides the sheets of
glass into panes for our windows? 

(George MacDonald, from 'The Gutta Percha Willie') 


The developing organs must be treated in ways that promote their health
and inner forces. The child should not be given toys that are too finished
and perfect, such as building blocks or perfect dolls. A doll made out of
an old table napkin on which eyes, nose and mouth are indicated is far
better. Every child will see such a homemade doll as a lady attired in
beautiful finery. Why? Because it stirs the imagination, and that induces
movement in the inner organs and produces in the child a feeling of
well-being. Notice in what a lively and interested manner such a child
plays, throwing itself body and soul into what the imagination conjures
up, while the child with the perfect doll just sits, unexcited and
unamued. It has no possibility to add anything through imagination, so its
inner organs are condemned to remain inactive. (pp. 97-98)

[Instead of stimulating the child with synthetic noises reproduced
electronically, it is better...] at the ages between one and seven all
kinds of songs were sung to the children, like...nursery rhymes and
children's songs. What mattered was not sense and meaning but sound; the
children were made aware of harmony and consonance; we often find words
inserted purely for the sake of their sound. Often the rhymes were
meaningless. For example: "Fly beetle fly, your father is away; your
mother is in Pommerland, Pommerland, fly beetle fly." ... it was not
the meaning in such rhymes that was important, but the sound; hence, the
many children's songs had no particular sense.

Nothing has a more deadening effect on the child's spirit than putting
together and fixing some structure, using finished geometrical shapes.
That is why buildng blocks should not be used; the child should create
everything from the beginning and learn to bring to life what he forms out
of the lifeless. Our materialistic age extinguishes life through
mass-produced lifeless objects. Much dies in the young developing brain
when the child has to do meaningless things like, for example, braiding.
Talents are stiffled and much that is unhealthy in our modern society can
be traced back to the nursery. 

As every age makes different demands, it is useless to lay down general
rules. it is not knowledge or proficiency in pedagogical methods that
matter in a teacher, but character and a certain presence that makes
itself felt even before the teacher has spoken. The educator must have
attained a degree of inner development, and must have become not merely
learned, but inwardly transformed. The day will come when a teacher will
be tested, not for knowledge or ever for peagogical principles, but for
what he or she is as a human being. (p. 109)

Modern teach methods fail...because only the external aspects are
described... Plants should not merely be shown and described, the child
should make paintings of them..." (p. 109)

It is best not to give children perfect dolls and similar toys. A healthy
child will only get pleasure from it for a short while. A knot in a table
napkin with indications of eyes and ears will provide far more pleasure;
this is because the child's fantasy becomes active in providing what the
doll lacks. (p.135)

(Rudolf Steiner, Lecture VI, Cologne, December 1, 1906, "Education...")


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SUBMIT AN ARTICLE posted: august 24, 1999 last updated: april 19, 2004