We develop a child, help him to study, we lead him to his real successes and we improve his image of himself as a worthy man. But this is difficult; it is accessible to few parents. During half an hour it is unlikely to help a son to study.
But there is another possibility: we instill in a child the sense that he is a worthy, gifted, and intelligent man, and the striving to live with dignity appears in him by itself. We instill that he is intelligent and he becomes intelligent.
Once I was a guest of a bird lover. Lots of canaries lived in cages and all of them were called Tweety. This bird is Tweety, and that bird is Tweety. I was wondering, why? My host explained, when he works with one canary and calls her “Tweety, Tweety, good Tweety!” the other canaries listen to him and become envious, therefore they sing badly. When they all are Tweetys, they think that their owner works with them and that they are all good… Therefore they sing better.
Even a canary needs to be told that she is good!
A dog is told every minute, “Good boy, good!” Why then are children always admonished and reprimanded?
Sukhomlinsky wrote, “Not one parent can assert goodness in the soul of a child if the child himself doesn’t strive for that.” This is the first thought and the first step. And he continued, “But this striving appears only when the community and a parent see first of all goodness in the child.”
Is this a difficult child? Disobedient? Here is the only way to improve him – you must see him as the good child and wait, until he, himself, begins to strive for better. Then he really changes for the better.
It seems important to us to show to a child that he does everything wrong, doesn’t do things correctly, doesn’t take the right thing, doesn’t eat right, doesn’t… It seems to us that we impart our intelligence in him, but in reality we destroy his own ability to think. If the child accepts all those “wrongs,” he will be crushed, destroyed, or suppressed, and his intelligence will freeze. But he escapes. He becomes closed from us. And all our words are in vain.
Let’s assume that we are right and all our reprimands are fair. Other people’s children are as children and only our child does everything wrong. But we want him to do everything right, don’t we? We don’t have another goal, do we? Then, we don’t have other means but one: to change our tone and say, “You are good! Try harder.” A child absorbs these words and accepts them as a remedy; he needs them to increase in strength. Now we are his ally and now we may, not rushing, reach what we wanted.
For educational reasons sometimes we have to lower a too high opinion of a man about himself (especially adults when they become arrogant). But even in this case we affect the man’s image of himself, and not anything else. We say, “Look at yourself!” In the meetings we demand not to touch personalities, we can accuse actions but a personality is untouchable.
Let’s erase from our lexicon words related to personality: “lazy,” “slovenly,” “fool,” etc. A child may feel laziness, he may say and make a foolish thing, but he is not lazy, not rude, not a fool, not a thief, and not a bungler. We can’t tell a child, “You are always as such” one only word “always” may make him a bad man forever. We should spare weak children, not let them notice that they are less able than others. We must try to instill faith in their strength. And in this way we may help children. The best teachers and the best parents coped with children’s faults by only one way: instilling faith in them and waking a desire to become better.
We are all sure that we must be unbiased to children. But because we are not ideal ourselves, we – people of principles – don’t tolerate faults, we concentrate on the faults of children, not understanding that we destroy them, “bringing up liars, hooligans, and thieves.”
Parenting For Everyone, by S.Soloveychik, Book2 Part 3Chapter 11