Development of Personality

The fact is that the high ideal of educating the personality is not for children: for what is usually meant by personality—a well-rounded psychic whole that is capable of resistance and abounding in energy—is an adult ideal.

It is only in an age like ours, when the individual is unconscious of the problems of adult life, or—what is worse—when he consciously shirks them, that people could wish to foist this ideal on to childhood.

I suspect our contemporary pedagogical and psychological enthusiasm for the child of dishonourable intentions: we talk about the child, but we should mean the child in the adult.

For in every adult there lurks a child—an eternal child, something that is always becoming, is never completed, and calls for unceasing care, attention, and education.

That is the part of the human personality which wants to develop and become whole.

But the man of today is far indeed from this wholeness.

Dimly suspecting his own deficiencies, he seizes upon child education and fervently devotes himself to child psychology, fondly supposing that something must have gone wrong in his own upbringing and childhood development that can be weeded out in the next generation.

This intention is highly commendable, but comes to grief on the psychological fact that we cannot correct in a child a fault that we ourselves still commit.

Children are not half as stupid as we imagine.

They notice only too well what is genuine and what is not.

Hans Andersen’s story of the emperor’s clothes contains a perennial truth.

How many parents have come to me with the laudable intention of sparing their children the unhappy experiences they had to go through in their own childhood!

And when I ask, “Are you quite sure you have overcome these mistakes yourself?” they are firmly convinced that the damage has long since been repaired.

In actual fact it has not.

If as children they were brought up too strictly, then they spoil their own children with a tolerance bordering on bad taste; if certain matters were painfully concealed from them in childhood, these are revealed with a lack of reticence that is just as painful.

They have merely gone to the opposite extreme, the strongest evidence for the tragic survival of the old sin—a fact which has altogether escaped them. ~Carl Jung, CW 17, Para 286