Responsibility for Self Begins at “Home”

by Eston on August 29, 2011

In my previous post, “I’m Not Just Whistling Dixie,” I posited the theory that not assuming responsibility for ones metaphors has serious implications for the state of  psychological well-being.  In this post I propose to present a prescription for taking on this responsibility.  “Home,” as the quotation marks are meant to indicate, lies in the mind of the individual.

LeninThe statement that follows has been variously attributed to Vladimir Lenin and to the Catholic Church:  “Give me your children until they are twelve years of age, and they will never depart from our teachings.”

I don’t know if Lenin or the Church ever made such a statement, and whether one of them (or both) did  is not for me a matter of pertinence.  What does matter, however, is the seemingly arbitrary selection of the age of twelve.

It is no coincidence, I believe, that this age is —or at least used to be before hormones became the panacea of choice to pig farmers—the typical  year for the  onset of puberty, the time when young people are mandated by the maturity of their reproductive organs to come to grips with their sexuality.

This quotation appears to me to be based on the conviction that if children  have been properly conditioned (by church or state)—brainwashing is a lot easier when brains are malleable!—then the odds of controlling behavior are a lot better. It is not, in my view, a state to be aimed for.

Whether or not this was the underlying motive of the quote, it is my contention that the onset of puberty marks the time when blossoming adults are mandated by nature to confront the issues of sexual identity and sexual choices.  It is also the ideal time to introduce them to the concept that self concept development is a personal responsibility.

While it would not be inappropriate  to introduce these concepts earlier, according to the philosophy of  Comparison Psychology—my proposed approach to balance in the world of mind—it is at this point of maturity that parents and teachers should begin teaching young people how to accept responsibility for their positive construction of self concept.

teen boyFurthermore, it is believed, parents should structure opportunities for their off-spring to make conscious choices as investments in feeling good about themselves, and they should accept the fact that conditioning a child’s behavior to suit their personal views of how people should live their lives is the ultimate act of selfishness and personal pride.

In this proposed approach to the psychology of self, parents would recognize and children would be told that building a positive self concept is their responsibility, and that their choices and performance levels are building blocks to self-sufficiency—a state of being that will determine character and the levels of success they will know as adults responsible for making their own way.

Allowing children to suffer the consequences of failure is the first law of parenting and an act, on their part,  of genuine love.  While it is permissible to ask, “What did you learn from this?  How did it contribute to your building a responsible sense of self?” it is not acceptable to be judgmental or to threaten consequences.  Sufficient unto the day is the self- punishment thereof.

Along with parents, teachers bear an awesome responsibility for self concept development.  Not only must they teach their subject matter—preferably without such punitive coercions as grades—but theirs is the responsibility for teaching real-world consequences. They are not the biological parents of the student—”love has nothing to do with it”—and their job is to educate, not cuddle.

Not only is the student’s mastery of subject matter conducive to a positive sense of self, failure to do so is a failed opportunity for self-enhancement.  A properly designed system of education would allow  students as many opportunities for subject mastery as their levels of ability require.  Artificial markers such as grades and grade levels would be abolished.  The goal, after all, is self-enhancement, not the application of standards meant to stamp the student as inferior in the eyes of self or peer.

I am one who favors year-round school—it is the height of foolishness to allow expensive facilities to languish empty and unused for three months out of a year!–but I would like to see one semester out of every year in high school dedicated to a self-esteem camp/ laboratory where students would be provided opportunities to make positive investments in their sense of self.  The opportunities could be adjusted to skill level, and students would learn at their own speed —with no tolerance for judgment or criticism—but failure to succeed would not be an option.

In addition to the opportunity for conscious self-enhancement provided by parents and school, the world is replete with opportunities for individual investment in the positive construction of self, and students should know that the choices they make are crucial.  Among their available choices are how they will choose to respond to the challenges of peer relationships, to choices about dress and illegal drugs, to decisions about sexual conduct,  birth control, choices (or non-choice) of religious beliefs, of personal values, and how one wishes to contribute to society, to ecology, to science and the arts.

They should know that the choices are theirs and the consequences real.  The opportunities are there; however, the will and know-how may not be.  That is role of responsible parenting and teaching.  Advice may be sought, but the right to choose is  inviolate, the consequences inevitably their own.

live consciouslySomeday the world will come to recognize that everything we perceive is metaphor—that we can fashion our self concepts reflexively—subject to the whims and vagaries of primitive survival urges and happenstance—or we can build them consciously, examining and controlling our motives, being—to steal a slogan— “all that we can be.”

We need not be slaves to impulse, and we owe it to our children—if not to ourselves—to grant them the freedom of responsible choices that empowers their personal freedom.  We are, whether we like it or not, the people we choose to be.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jenner November 22, 2013 at 7:45 pm

we owe it to our children too… develop a philosophy?


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