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can be heard discussing Positive Psychology here.


A Philosophy of Parenting –
Love, Law, and Work

August 2013

In the ongoing debate about why children are failing in school, parents (and politicians) are often heard blaming the schools, and educators are heard blaming the parents. Luc Ferry, a philosopher and author of On Love – A Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century, helps to clarify this issue by making an important distinction between “upbringing” and “education.” Upbringing, he explains, is the business of parents, a relationship between them and their children. Education, on the other hand, is the task of teachers and is not aimed at children in all dimensions of their personality, but solely as pupils. 

Parents/children/upbringing - teachers/pupils/education; the words have meanings, suggests Mr. Ferry, and it is better not to get them mixed up. Teachers are not the parents of children and parenting is not their job. Conversely, it is not desirable for parents to become too involved in the education which their children receive in the classroom. 

Not only is it advantageous for children to be brought up before they start school, it is absolutely necessary. Then teachers are largely absolved of the tasks linked to parenting.  Even if education necessarily involves an element of upbringing, teachers need to be able to concentrate first and foremost on the transmission of knowledge. As a parent it is important for you to know that your child’s education will suffer greatly if the upbringing you give them is defective.

How, then, can we succeed in bringing up our children properly so they can utilize the education we offer them?  Mr. Ferry suggests we are most likely to succeed when we manage to transmit three important elements to them. These include love and the importance of the law, and of work. 

We all understand that when children do not feel they have been adequately loved they are more vulnerable. The love we give them enables them to acquire self-esteem and the capacity to bounce back after the upsets and difficulties they will inevitably encounter in the course of their lives. However much you love your child though, love is not enough without the other two elements - the law and work.

The law, as Mr. Ferry calls it, translates within the family to the reasonable limits parents must set. Children must respect these limits because they represent the law. The law, that law which the child  can’t argue with, and which you can’t negotiate with your child on the principle that your ‘no’ must be a no and your ‘yes’ a yes, is what enables them to enter social life and society at large. We need the element of the law to ensure our children will behave properly and have peaceable relations with other people, including those they don’t like.

Finally, there is teaching your child the importance of work.  Unless you hand on the fundamental knowledge of the importance of hard work and help them to do it, you are not equipping them for adult life. Even before they start school it is important for you to teach them the behaviors, attitudes and discipline associated with work. They will need them in order to succeed.

We love our children so much that far too often we are unable to pass on to them the authority of the law or the importance of work.  It is important to remember as a parent responsible for your child’s upbringing that all three are vital for their well-being.  Children who are brought up with these three elements in mind are able to start school in a fit state to learn what they are taught, without their teachers being reduced to doing unsuccessfully the work that you have neglected.  If, in addition to love, you pass on the importance of the law and of work, you will go a long ways in ensuring your child’s current and future success.



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