Philip Graham

Published On


Page Range

pp. 185–210

9. The Wisdom of Ursula Wise

  • Philip Graham (author)
In the late 1920s, Susan Isaacs began to give guidance to parents and others, such as nannies or nursery nurses, with responsibility for bringing up children. Her first book for parents, The Nursery Years, which sold well, was published in 1929. In the same year, she began writing a regular column for parents in the magazine, The Nursery World. Her advice was influenced by her psychoanalytic as well as her educational background. Thus, she encouraged parents to consider the possibility of underlying anxieties when looking for the source of behaviour difficulties. She was sympathetic to parents and did not try to minimise the problems they faced.
In contrast, her main competitor in the supply of advice to parents, the behaviourist, John B. Watson, suggested parents based their child -rearing methods purely on reward for appropriate and punishment for undesirable behaviour. Unlike her, Watson took little account of the negative feelings that children experience, their anger, hate and jealousies. Isaacs’s approach was able to give parents greater understanding of their children’s behaviour even if, at times, Watson provided more effective advice on ways of changing behaviour.


Philip Graham