NUMBER 407• 26 NOVEMBER • TESTING PERIOD
INDEX OF QUOTES
Most children coming to us have a desire for a close relation-ship with somebody. This expectation can be apparent soon after admission or it can be covered up because of the memory of the disappointment of previous close contacts with adults which went wrong. Relationships are understood only as those known to the children through their own backgrounds, which are often the main cause of their troubles.
The child, sensing our atmosphere, will soon feel that this may be a safe place, where he does not need to be on his ‘best behaviour’, but can show himself as the immature child he really is. All misdeeds previously done at home are renewed and he wonders how the adults will react. He cannot believe that they will behave differently from his parents or previous teachers. He expects rejection and experiences only disapproval of his action, but acceptance of himself. This is puzzling for the child and a testing out period begins, to find out if this is really true. Can the adult really be trusted?
The adult leads him with generosity out of his frustrations. He does not get irritable over swearing and aggression; he does not resent bed-wetting or even soiling and sees the boy’s pilfering from him as either the collecting of the much smaller child or as the self-defence described in previous chapters. He tries to reach the unconscious experience and thoughts of the child and explores the family history to find a clue to the child’s compulsion towards such behaviour. He gives what might be termed doses of love and makes his few behaviour-demands in such a way that the child grows slowly from dependence to independence through this leadership of the adult. The activities of our community, life with other boys and the challenge to join in and compete in different kinds of occupations are some of the tools the adults choose in a therapeutic attempt to guide the child towards maturity.
The adult must continually keep in mind that he is dealing with a child who has grown up so far in an environment in which he has not learned to react towards frustration in the manner of a healthy child. The child has had to use sidetracks and has been afraid to grow up; it seems safer to behave towards the demands of life like a much younger child, and he is constantly clamouring for material and emotional satisfaction. Consequently, at the beginning, the adult must act as the parental figure, allowing reactions, natural to a young child, in a much older boy.
F. G. LENNHOFF
Lenhoff, F. G.(1966) Exceptional Children: Residential treatment of emotionally disturbed boys at Shotton Hall. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd. pp. 127-128