Life Style

Children’s education: “There are no universally applicable principles”

The cross : How to define an educational principle?

Daniel Marcelli: It is a statement or a recommendation that falls within the domain of morality (it is a question of separating good from evil, to establish rules of politeness) or of science (one takes into account what is good for the as a child, we try to meet their needs). Parents can see in the educational principles codes to which they must submit or submit their child, or a kind of guide to help them bring up.

→ ANALYSIS. Children’s education: when real life challenges our principles

Do we really choose our principles?

DM: Yes and no. Parents refer more or less consciously to the education they themselves have received: often to reproduce its principles or to take the exact opposite view, which amounts to the same thing since, then, there is hardly any freedom possible.

Society, too, obviously exerts a decisive influence on parents. Especially because educating a child means allowing him to be well with himself and well with others, in the environment in which he evolves.

However, since the mid-1970s, the scene of a triple revolution (the end of paternal power, a new vision of the baby, now perceived as a competent being, and the rise of individualism), we do not no longer really have educational codes shared, in a more or less uniform manner, by the whole of a social class.

Would you say that this freedom can be synonymous with vertigo?

DM: Before, the principles were imposed on the child. Now, the child is the reference element on which we will base our principles. Parents are therefore invited to cook, with a host of questions. Many actually feel helpless, which leads them to run the methods, the advice …

Educational principles go hand in hand with the question of authority. Why does this notion remain crucial?

DM: The vertical dimension of authority is today challenged. But surveys of young people themselves show that they need authority. The whole stake therefore consists in inventing an authority which is based on legitimacy and not on constraint. Keeping in mind that as a parent, we have the absolute right to transmit something moral to our child.

Can we say that there are good and bad principles?

DM: The child is anything but a mechanism, he has his own reactions and also behaves unconsciously according to the supposed expectations of the parents. Also, there are no universally applicable principles.

→ READ. In search of a benevolent authority

We know what is harmful in an education (humiliation, beatings, violence). But the opposite excess (putting the child on a pedestal, never opposing him, never imposing a sanction on him) is not good either.

An example: autonomy is the holy grail of contemporary education. But you have to be able to adapt it with discernment to your child or teenager, taking into account their potential, but also their vulnerabilities.


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