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Impressions on tender minds: John Locke and keeping our kids healthy

Wise words from John Locke:

"The little, and almost insensible Impressions on our tender Infancies, have very important and lasting Consequences...the Minds of Children are as easily turned this or that way..."

A few years back, I wrote a book on John Locke's educational philosophy: his thought reflected the philosophy I was creating on what I considered important for our young children and so it was a pleasure to walk with a master philosopher for a year and to return to his thoughts periodically to regain insights. Modern psychology is still following the path opened up by Locke - whether knowingly or not: social conditioning and the power of habits tempered with our ability to choose to alter those habits are elements of several strands of counselling, coaching, and clinical psychology that are apparent to the student.

The infant and young mind is tender and impressionable - and in the 17th century, Locke was warning people of the impact that letting the children learn anything (especially from the uneducated) or throwing children into boarding schools 'for a sake of a little Latin and Greek'. We have learned much since Locke's writings - Piaget, the great influential child psychologist of the 20th C - was following his notions, as was John Holt and A S Neill with his democratic Summerhill School. We have learned to guide and help the child learn and to make learning fun - indeed, Locke was enthusiastic about making learning fun with colourful books and games long before they became the norm.

Yet his warnings about what we expose our children too are still ignored or unheard: we presume that children can take adult level knowledge. They can't. Whether it is a higher, abstract level reasoning (which tends to develop in the mid to late teens) or the horrors of the world, forcing a learning or stepping back and allowing an exposure can be detrimental. In Simplicity Parenting, John Payne writes of the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder he saw in children in war torn areas (as expected) but also in middle class homes in the UK where children were brought up in guilt and fear of international events, climate change horrors, and the daily news. And what of the children who are exposed and permitted to plug themselves in - electronic games dull the mind, dull the senses, and create an inordinate passivity (just sit with me for a while when I work with the gamers!) and the graphic nature of some of the games DOES have its effects on the mind. As John Locke warned, those impressions do have important and lasting consequences...

Hmm - that may have an impact on what goes into the Christmas /Birthday wish list!

Article by Dr Alexander Moseley
Added Thu, 3 Dec 2015 10:54

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