Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Louise J. Kaplan

American Psychologist, Feminist Scholar and Author

"The toddler must say "no" in order to find out who she is. The adolescent says "no" to assert who she is not."

"It didn’t take elaborate experiments to deduce that an infant would die from want of food. But it took centuries to figure out that infants can and do perish from want of love."

"The purpose of adolescence is to revise the past, not to obliterate it. . . . Adolescence entails the deployment of family passions to the passions and ideals that bind individuals to new family units, to their communities, to the species, to nature, to the cosmos. Therefore, given half a chance, the revolution at issue in adolescence becomes a revolution of transformation, not of annihilation. "

"During adolescence imagination is boundless. The urge toward self-perfection is at its peak. And with all their self- absorption and personalized dreams of glory, youth are in pursuit of something larger than personal passions, some values or ideals to which they might attach their imaginations. "

"Hopefulness is the heartbeat of the relationship between a parent and child. Each time a child overcomes the next challenge of his life, his triumph encourages new growth in his parents. In this sense a child is parent to his mother and father. "

"Adolescence is a time of active deconstruction, construction, reconstruction—a period in which past, present, and future are rewoven and strung together on the threads of fantasies and wishes that do not necessarily follow the laws of linear chronology. "

"Children, even infants, are capable of sympathy. But only after adolescence are we capable of compassion. "

"By directing our sentiments, passions, and reason toward the common human plight, imagination grants us the advantages of a moral existence. What we surrender of innocent love of self is exchanged for the safeties and pleasures of belonging to a larger whole. We are born dependent, but only imagination can bind our passions to other human beings. "

"Though they themselves might be as surprised as their parents and teachers to hear it said, adolescents—these poignantly thin- skinned and vulnerable, passionate and impulsive, starkly sexual and monstrously self-absorbed creatures—are, in fact, avid seekers of moral authenticity. They wish above all to achieve some realistic power over the real world in which they live while at the same time remaining true to their values and ideals. "

"Adolescence is the time to enlarge the natural sentiments of pity, friendship, and generosity, the time to develop an understanding of human nature and the varieties of human character, the time to gain insight into the strengths and weaknesses of all men and to study the history of mankind. "

"Every human society endeavors to preserve itself by inventing the adolescence it requires. . . . Adults are prone to create myths about the meaning of adolescence. Whatever their political or personal inclinations, whether they glorify nature or revere society, whether they are identified with youth or they are detractors of youth, most adults find it imperative to defuse the awesome vitalities of these monsters, saints, and heroes. "

"Young people...have more compassion and tenderness toward the elderly than most middle-aged adults. Nothing—not avarice, not pride, not scrupulousness, not impulsiveness—so disillusions a youth about her parents as the seemingly inhumane way they treat her grandparents. "

"It is not speech or tool making that distinguishes us from other animals, it is imagination....Of what use are speech sounds and tools without an inspiration toward perfectibility, without a sense that we can create or construct a history. "

"In every adult human there still lives a helpless child who is afraid of aloneness.... This would be so even if there were a possibility for perfect babies and perfect mothers. "

"From the beginning moments of life, the urges for each of us to become a self in the world are there—in the liveliness of our innate growth energies, in the vitality of our stiffening-away muscles, in our looking eyes, our listening ears, our reaching-out hands."

"Schoolchildren make up their own rules and enforce their own conformities. They feel safest when leisure time is rationed and dosed. They like to wear uniforms, and they frown on personal idiosyncrasies. Deviance is the mark of an outsider."

"Adolescence is the conjugator of childhood and adulthood."

"A man's fatherliness is enriched as much by his acceptance of his feminine and childlike strivings as it is by his memories of tender closeness with his own father. A man who has been able to accept tenderness from his father is able later in life to be tender with his own children."

"Fathers represent another way of looking at life?the possibility of an alternative dialogue."

"Paradoxically, the toddler's "No" is also a preliminary to his saying yes. It is a sign that he is getting ready to convert his mother's restrictions and prohibitions into the rules for behavior that will belong to him."

"Normally an infant learns to use his mother as a "beacon of orientation" during the first five months of life. The mother's presence is like a fixed light that gives the child the security to move out safely to explore the world and then return safely to harbor."

"In every adult human there still lives a helpless child who is afraid of aloneness.... This would be so even if there were a possibility for perfect babies and perfect mothers."

"The toddler is struggling to make sense of his parents' "No." No-saying is the helpless child's way of acting as though he had the power and authority of his parents. The more their "no's" make him feel vulnerable, the more he has to say "No" himself."