The Nervous Child eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 153 pages of information about The Nervous Child.

The same arguments may be urged against taking little children to the theatre.  The nerve strain is apt to be out of proportion to the enjoyment gained.  If children must go to theatres and parties, the treat should be kept secret from them until the moment of its realisation, in order that the period of mental excitement should be contracted as much as possible, and grown-up people should be advised to treat the whole expedition in a matter-of-fact sort of way that does nothing to add to the excitement or increase the risk of subsequent disillusion.

CHAPTER VIII

NERVOUSNESS IN EARLY INFANCY

We may now pass back to consider the nervous system of the child in infancy.  There, too, from the moment of birth there are clearly-marked differences between individuals.  The newborn baby has a personality of his own, and mothers will note with astonishment and delight how strongly marked variations in conduct and behaviour may be from the first.  One baby is pleased and contented, another is fidgety, restless, and enterprising.  At birth the baby wakes from his long sleep to find his environment completely changed.  Within the uterus he lies in unconsciousness because no ordinary stimulus from the outer world can reach him to exert its effect.  He lies immersed in fluid, which, obeying the laws of physics, exercises a pressure which is uniformly distributed over all points of his body.  No sound reaches him, and no light.  After birth all this is suddenly changed.  The sense of new points of pressure breaks in upon his consciousness.  Cold air strikes upon his skin.  Loud sounds and bright lights evoke a characteristic response.  A placid child who inherits a relatively obtuse nervous organisation will be but little upset by this sudden and radical change in the nature of his environment.  His brain is readily but healthily tired by the new sensations which stream in from all sides, and he falls straight away into a sleep from which he rouses himself at intervals only under the impulse of the new sensation of hunger.

Babies of nervous inheritance, on the other hand, will show clearly by the violence of the response provoked that their nervous system is easily stimulated and exhausted.  They will wriggle and squirm for hours together, emitting the same constant reflex cry.  The whole body will start convulsively at a sudden touch or a loud sound which would evoke no response from a more stolid infant.  The sleeplessness and crying exhaust the baby, rendering the nervous system more and more irritable, while the sensation of hunger which is delayed in other children by twelve hours or more of deep sleep appears early and is of extreme intensity.  We must see to it that sense stimuli are reduced to the lowest possible level.  True, we cannot again restore the child to a bath of warm fluid, of the same temperature as his body, where he can be free from irksome pressure and from all sensations

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The Nervous Child from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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