119. Internal freedom: first step is to understand independence

by Aigul Aubanova on March 15, 2010

in Zone of PFE book

First, let’s clarify the idea of two images in parents’ minds. The majority of parents have an image of a Child when they raise a child, and they have an image of a Man who their child should grow up to be. The Child is supposed to be dependent, one who is to be taught what to do. The Man is supposed to be independent, one who is supposed to know what to do. The greatest disappointment in upbringing takes its root from this point. When parents raise their child by the image of dependent child they receive a big child in the end, not an independent man as they were expecting. Therefore Simon Soloveychik asks readers to make it clear what result parents want to get in the end of upbringing, what goal they want to reach.

Every parent would agree that his or her child should become an independent person. Thus, independence is the ultimate goal of upbringing of a child. If this is so, then we need to accept that there is only one image we should keep in our mind when we raise children. It is the image of an independent child, or a child striving for independence. “How is this possible?” You may ask, “A child is dependent on us!” Yes, a child is dependent on us, and yet, a dependent child may still be free. It seems to be a contradiction: we have a child dependent on us and we still can raise a free child, simultaneously. Many parents do this work and they are very happy with their results. For the reason, to diminish this contradiction, we need to clarify what we mean by independence.

“Independent means being free, or more precisely, being internally free” (S.Soloveychik). Chapter 9 is the most difficult chapter of the whole book because it is about internal freedom, or inner independence. Most people are confused here. Everyone can admit that freedom assumes freedom of choices. In comparison to a commonplace opinion though, internal freedom also assumes full responsibility for those choices. Therefore a free man is a completely responsible man. How do irresponsible children grow up to be responsible people? Apparently, “freedom of a man is determined by the source of punishment for his mistakes,” says Simon Soloveychik. If we punish children for their wrong choices we take responsibility ourselves. We are being responsible, not the children. When we scold, blame, or rebuke a child for his or her mistakes we punish the child. The child doesn’t learn responsibility. All the child learns is that we don’t love him or her and that he or she is supposed to be guilty. Therefore children grow not free, afraid of people, afraid of life, afraid of freedom.

When teenagers are used to punishment in childhood, they don’t know internal freedom, and they don’t know responsibility. They avoid responsibility. When there is a chance they strive to join a group of other teenagers or adults, they strive to continue being dependent, because they don’t know any better. Unfortunately, instead of understanding the root of mistakes in upbringing, parents tend to control children even harder and eventually parents fail.

Why does it need to be so complicated? Why do we even talk about responsibility? Sometimes it is more convenient to raise a child who is obedient and controllable. Let’s admit it: sometimes we don’t want our children to be free! But do we want our children to be happy? In the movie Pursuit of Happiness the main character, Chris Gardner acted by Will Smith, represents a free man. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t blame, he is fully responsible, and he feels equal to other people. He is in search of solutions, in pursuit of his happiness. Will Smith’s character calls for our admiration. Do we want our children to grow up to be people who will be worth admiring? Then we need to learn how to raise them free.

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