Guidance Must Be Exercised By Parents
( Originally Published 1923 )
Guidance Must be Exercised by Parents, without Destroying Spontaneity.-The principle that the child should be allowed the fullest freedom of observation and expression does not imply that he is to be left to himself to work out his own salvation. The spontaneous expressions, questions, and experimentation must serve his parents or teachers as an index to what interests him, to what impulses are stirring within him. The process of guiding these interests and impulses consists of finding suitable modes of expression, suitable outlets for his energies, satisfying solutions for his problems. These helps are in the form of substitutes which the child can hardly find for himself, but must be found for him by his elders, who are possessed of greater insight and experience.
By means of approvals variously manifested, the child receives premiums in the form of pleasure or satisfaction which become associated with the desired ways of acting and thinking and feeling. Both implicitly in our conduct and attitudes, and explicitly in our words of caution, explanation, counsel, we select for the child what substitutes he will adopt in place of the primitive impulsive actions and of the tastes that he would acquire if left to himself. It is not enough to prohibit; it is not enough even to refrain from repressing and prohibiting. Positive education means deliberate choice and decision by the parents, the successful transfer to the child at first, of these choices and decisions, and later, of the habit of making his own choices and decisions.
In the course of time we want the child to become aware of having ideals, such as ideals of service, of loyalty, of respect for the body, of chivalry, of deliberate as against impulsive conduct, of ambition, and of purpose. In the early years the foundation for these ideals is laid in the concrete acts of which the child is capable, and which exemplify these ideals not yet made explicit or conscious. Little acts of help or service, habits of proper care for the body—without too much solicitude about the details or the processes—respectful attitudes toward other persons, their opinions and peculiarities, choice in the many details regarding which the child's choice may be quite as good as an adult's, or at any rate, not likely to involve serious consequences, practice in self-restraint and courtesy and consideration—all of these are available as parts of the child's education just to the extent that the parents sincerely value the ideals which they represent, or at least to the extent to which the parents are deliberately resolved to have the child acquire them.