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Other Undesirable Instincts

We are all provided by nature with some instincts which, while they may

serve a good purpose in our development, need to be suppressed or at

least modified when they have done their work.

SELFISHNESS.--All children, and perhaps all adults, are selfish. The

little child will appropriate all the candy, and give none to his

playmate. He will grow angry and fight rather than allow brother or

sister to use a f
vorite plaything. He will demand the mother's

attention and care even when told that she is tired or ill, and not

able to minister to him. But all of this is true to nature and, though

it needs to be changed to generosity and unselfishness, is, after all, a

vital factor in our natures. For it is better in the long run that each

one should look out for himself, rather than to be so careless of his

own interests and needs as to require help from others. The problem in

education is so to balance selfishness and greed with unselfishness and

generosity that each serves as a check and a balance to the other. Not

elimination but equilibrium is to be our watchword.

PUGNACITY, OR THE FIGHTING IMPULSE.--Almost every normal child is a

natural fighter, just as every adult should possess the spirit of

conquest. The long history of conflict through which our race has come

has left its mark in our love of combat. The pugnacity of children,

especially of boys, is not so much to be deprecated and suppressed as

guided into right lines and rendered subject to right ideals. The boy

who picks a quarrel has been done a kindness when given a drubbing that

will check this tendency. On the other hand, one who risks battle in

defense of a weaker comrade does no ignoble thing. Children need very

early to be taught the baseness of fighting for the sake of conflict,

and the glory of going down to defeat fighting in a righteous cause. The

world could well stand more of this spirit among adults!

* * * * *

Let us then hear the conclusion of the whole matter. The undesirable

instincts do not need encouragement. It is better to let them fade away

from disuse, or in some cases even by attaching punishment to their

expression. They are echoes from a distant past, and not serviceable in

this better present. The desirable instincts we are to seize upon and

utilize as starting points for the development of useful interests,

good habits, and the higher emotional life. We should take them as they

come, for their appearance is a sure sign that the organism is ready for

and needs the activity they foreshadow; and, furthermore, if they are

not used when they present themselves, they disappear, never to return.