Didier Pleux

The Dolto Generation Publication date : October 2, 2008

The child psychologist Françoise Dolto has had an immense influence on parents and their children. Without denying the significance of her contribution, Didier Pleux argues that her ideas may be at the heart of some of the difficulties that parents encounter in trying to impose their authority on their offspring. How did this happen? And what can be done to remedy the situation?

Didier Pleux shows that Dolto was the unwitting cause of an educational deficiency. Although he agrees with Dolto that parents must pay attention and listen to their child's real sufferings, he argues that respecting a child's “desires” is totally irrational. A child's individuality should not make parents forget that children must learn to live with others and to accept frustration.

Was Françoise Dolto overly influenced by her own personal history? According to Pleux, Dolto's mistake was to confuse psychoanalytical theory and reality. He reviews Dolto's major concepts and shows why they fail to account for the reality of children's upbringing. In order to educate children well, now and in the future, parents and educators must go beyond Dolto's heritage, without denying it. Finally, he argues that psychoanalytic hypotheses should be kept out of education, and that we must get back to the real world and to a greater reliance on commonsense.

The centenary of Françoise Dolto's birth will be commemorated on 6 November 2008. Didier Pleux's critical appraisal of her work argues in favour of lucidity and against unthinking admiration. He paints a fascinating picture of Françoise Dolto, her life, and her ideas about child psychoanalysis.

Resuming the work begun in his earlier books, Pleux continues here his exploration of today's children as “little emperors”. He also reflects on some bad habits and misconceptions in matters of education, and offers advice on bringing up children today.

Didier Pleux, the author of Peut mieux faire (2001; paperback, 2008) and De l'enfant roi à l'enfant tyran (2002; paperback, 2008), is a doctor in development psychology, a clinical psychologist and the director of the French Institute for Cognitive Therapy. His work has focussed on the relation between the acceptance of frustration (the reality principle) and human fulfilment. His books include Manuel d'éducation à l'usage des parents d'aujourd'hui (2004; paperback, 2006)) and Exprimer sa colère sans perdre le contrôle (2006).