"Don't talk back to me!" Thus scolded in irate and ignorant mother to her young son. The boy was attemping to make her understand his view of the matter. Her words to the boy simply said to him: "I don't want to hear your side." Many parents tyrannize over their children in this manner. The superior strength or official authority of the older person is used to shut off, in advance, all argument from the child. He is forced to accept in silence what he conceives to be a false statement of a case.
The child feels that he is being unjustly treated. He feels that he is entitled to a hearing. When he does not receive this, a spirit of resentment and rebellion is kindled in his mind. His whole disposition and temper is affected by it. To demand a mechanical and unreasoned obedience from a child, where a reason can be given, is little short of a crime against the child. Those who hold that children should not be reasoned with, but should be made to obey orders without question or hesitation would make good slave drivers but poor parents and educators.
Man is a reasoning being. He is capable of understanding the reason and the necessity for his action. He is intended to control and direct his own conduct. His own judgment is intended for exercise and to enable man to direct, himself. There is a principle of freedom that is more fundamental than the autonomy of small nations, and this is the autonomy of individuals. The highest aim of education, instruction and training, whether at home or in school, should be to help the child to attain rational self-control and righteous self-direction.
Such an aim cannot be realized by demanding of children unquestioning obedience. Give the child a reason why he should not pursue a given line of conduct. If he is too young to comprehend the reason, make him understand that he cannot understand now but will later. We want men and women whose conduct is constantly determined by intelligence and based upon moral principles. To produce such men and women should be the purpose of the training of home and school. Absolutism should be forever banished from the home and school. Rejoice that your child wants to know the why of his actions. Why is one line of conduct superior to another? Your child is entitled to know the answer to this question. Blind, unreasoning obedience is the mark of slaves, not of free men and women. Children should not be treated as slaves nor prepared for slavery.
Children are suffering from too much protection. There is too much paternalism in our homes and government. People are too prone to ask the state to do for them things they can do for themselves. This is wrong. It should be an axiom of sound government that the parents should do for children only those things they cannot do for themselves. Children should be allowed to use their own brains. They should be placed upon their own responsibilities. They should be called upon to exercise their own powers. They should not be taught to depend upon parents or the state or some organization to shield them from evils from which they can shield themselves.
It is the duty of every individual to look out for his own interests. If he fails to do so, he usually pays a heavy penalty for his negligence. Nature places us on our own feet and bids us walk. She does not permit us to ride upon the shoulders of others. If we use our own powers, this strengthens them. If the state exercises our functions for us, our powers are weakened thereby.
Vicarious salvation, like vicarious thinking and exercise by proxy, is injurious. Protection weakens. It builds weaklings, cowards, dependents. Too much protection is like compulsion. Compulsion that forces the will of another, or the ideas, ideals and dogmas of another, or of a group, upon the individual deprives that individual of the right to live his own life, think his own thoughts and form his own ideals. Compulsion drives the individual like oxen and does not permit him to develop and expand. All forms of compulsion are evil. All protection given to the child by the parent that the child can give to himself is evil. Children should learn to defend and protect themselves.