There are of course not only exemplary children but also children that have, under certain circumstances, as it sometimes is evaluated, bad character traits. About this I would like to say the following. […] Remember, that the so-called bad disposition of a child, that has shaped itself, say in the years up to the seventh year, will not always in absolute terms, lead such a child to develop a bad nature later on in life. Many qualities, some even reaching to up to geniality in later life, can be traced back organically to so-called bad behaviour, which the person displayed at the age of two-, three-, four years of age.
A character trait such as – I mention one of the worst features – the cruelty that a child may display, this cruelty can indeed be overcome between the seventh and fourteenth year, in one or the other direction, if one is competent enough to provide the right pedagogical approach. The impulses of a person towards cruelty, can under certain circumstances be reversed, so that they become impulses toward some of the highest goals.
Source (German): Rudolf Steiner – GA 307 – Gegenwärtiges Geistesleben und Erziehung – Ilkley (Yorkshire), August 7, 1923 (page 260)
Translated by Nesta Carsten-Krüger