Rousseau: Freedom and Moral Development in Children
For Rousseau freedom is necessary for the well being and development of a child. Freedom is so essential to a child's life that if it is not properly bestowed upon a child then it can completely spoil a child to render his life miserable both in childhood and in the later years.
To understand this importance of freedom we have to look at Rousseau's concept of weakness and power. For Rousseau weakness and power are relative concepts. Anyone who wills something beyond his powers is weak. So, if a person wants to undertake a task that lies completely beyond his powers , then that person is weak.
Rousseau writes, " be it a man , an elephant a brute or anyone , if he wills beyond his powers he is weak." So, a person is weak when he or she wills beyond the capacity.
Before understanding the relationship between weakness, freedom and their impact on the moral development and well being of a child, it is good that we clarify what is ‘to will’?
“Will” should be differentiated from mere wishing and desiring something. In a mere wish , one no longer tries to reach the goal of one’s wish or desire ,through assembling and summoning all means that are at one’s disposal . However, in the case of will one tries to move from a certain undesirable situation towards a desirable one and in doing so uses almost everything that one can use; one uses all the power to reach the goal.
The difference between a tyrant and a good person is that a tyrant has no power of his own and wants others to work for him all the time. A tyrant desires and his will is so weak that he has to look at others for the achievement of his goals.
So, a tyrant lives a miserable life. A life in which he never experiences the real happiness that comes to a self reliant and powerful person, who can execute his will through his own powers and abilities. And this truly happy person is the one who does not will beyond his powers.
So there are two contrasting characters. And these characters are the results of proper and improper education.
Rousseau says that if you restrict the freedom of your child right from the beginning, when your child has just started to crawl or walk, you will soon convert him into a tyrant. How this happens?
Imagine your child trying to reach an object and finally get it through his own efforts. Now suppose you think that this object can hurt your child or is something important for you; in both cases you will snatch that object from your child, and your child will cry. You have restricted the freedom of your child.
Again suppose that your child is walking towards a staircase and you fear that he can have a dangerous fall, and you go there and stop him (which you should and must do), your child will cry. You have again restricted his freedom.
By restricting your child’s freedom it is meant that you stop him from doing things that he can do on his own. This perpetual, repeated restriction will leave your child in a state of mind where he will no longer take initiatives on his own and he will always ask others to provide him things that he can’t get on his own or through his own efforts.
So, if you frequently stop your child from doing things that he does on his own, he will become a tyrant, a miserable person who will not do anything on his own, who will desire things that are beyond his powers to achieve.
On the other hand if you stop yourself from stopping your child frequently, your child will become a self reliant, independent and strong person and life will be good for him.
This means that never place your important things in the room where your child walks, remove everything dangerous or important from his reach, and close all dangerous passages and places where you fear that your child can hurt himself.
Don’t let your child learn to desire things beyond his powers. And you can do it through not stopping your child from doing anything that he himself does. Try to avoid such situations.
So a strong personality can be developed through refraining from the practice of restricting your child's freedom. Instead of stopping him, try to supervise him carefully, and let him do what he does . Don't let your child enter into dangerous places and situations; not through stopping , but through removing dangers away from his reach. Put some kind of barrier to block the places where you don't want your child to go . Have all such places clear out of your child's reach.
By: Khalid Jamil Rawat