Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing

By A. S. Neill | Go to book overview

Defecation and Toilet Training

Visitors to Summerhill must often get an odd impression about us, for sometimes we all talk about toilets. I think it is absolutely necessary to do so. I find that every child is interested in feces.

So much has been written about a child's interest in his feces and urine that I expected to learn a lot by observing my infant daughter. However, she showed no interest at all nor any disgust. She had no desire to play with her body products. But when she was three, a friend of hers--a girl a year older who had been trained to be clean--introduced her to a hole-and-corner excrement game marked by much whispering and shame and guilty giggling. It was a tiresome game and we could do nothing about it, knowing that to interfere would be to risk inhibition. Luckily, Zoë soon tired of the other little girl's one- track activities, and the feces game came to a end.

Adults seldom realize that there is nothing shocking to a child in feces and smells. It is the shocked attitude of the adult that makes the child conscience-stricken. I recall a girl of eleven who came to Summerhill. Her only interest in life was toilets. Her delight was to peep through the keyhole. I promptly changed her lessons from geography to toilets, making her very happy. After ten days, I made a remark about toilets. "Don't want to hear about them," she said wearily. "I'm fed up talking about toilets."

Another pupil, a boy, could not take an interest in any lesson because he was so preoccupied with excrement and its likenesses. I knew that only when he had exhausted this interest would he be able to go on to mathematics. And so it was.

A teacher's work is simple: find out where a child's interest

-172-

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Summerhill: A Radical Approach to Child Rearing
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • To Harold H. Hart vii
  • A Foreword by Erich Fromm ix
  • Contents xvii
  • A Word of Introduction xxiii
  • One - Summerhill School 1
  • The Idea of Summerhill 3
  • A Look at Summerhill 13
  • Summerhill Education Vs. Standard Education 24
  • What Happens to Summerhill Graduates 29
  • Private Lessons at Summerhill 35
  • Self-Government 45
  • Coeducation 56
  • Work 59
  • Play 62
  • Theater 66
  • Dancing and Music 71
  • Sports and Games 73
  • Report of the British Government Inspectors 75
  • Notes on His Majesty's Inspectors' Report 86
  • The Future of Summerhill 89
  • Two - Child Rearing 93
  • The Unfree Child 95
  • The Free Child 104
  • Love and Approval 117
  • Fear 124
  • Inferiority and Fantasy 133
  • Destructiveness 138
  • Lying 146
  • Responsibility 152
  • Obedience and Discipline 155
  • Rewards and Punishment 162
  • Defecation and Toilet Training 172
  • Food 177
  • Health and Sleep 182
  • Cleanliness and Clothing 184
  • Toys 188
  • Noise 190
  • Manners 192
  • Money 198
  • Humor 200
  • Three - Sex 203
  • Sex Attitudes 205
  • Sex Instruction 218
  • Masturbation 223
  • Nudity 229
  • Pornography 231
  • Homosexuality 234
  • Promiscuity, Illegitimacy, and Abortion 236
  • Four - Religion and Morals 239
  • Religion 241
  • Moral Instruction 247
  • Influencing the Child 255
  • Swearing and Cursing 259
  • Censorship 263
  • Five - Children's Problems 267
  • Cruelty and Sadism 269
  • Criminality 272
  • Stealing 276
  • Delinquency 282
  • Curing the Child 289
  • The Road to Happiness 294
  • Six - Parents' Problems 299
  • Love and Hate 301
  • Spoiling the Child 306
  • Power and Authority 309
  • Jealousy 317
  • Divorce 323
  • Parental Anxiety 325
  • Parental Awareness 331
  • Seven - Questions and Answers 341
  • In General 343
  • About Summerhill 348
  • About Child Rearing 355
  • About Sex 369
  • About Religion 373
  • About Psychology 375
  • About Learning 378
  • Index 380
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