Children are born with intrinsic worth which means that their value is inherent to the nature of their being. The nature of their being is their essence. The birthright of their worth is unconditional, apart from morality or performance. They are neither good nor bad. Their worth is immutable which is to say, and it is unchanging. This attribute abides within them as long as they live. There is no way that worth can be added to them.
Informal and formal eduction does not address the essentials of the nature of the child and his essence. Usually, it is implied that the quality and existence of the child's essence is based upon performance. Hence, the child becomes dependent upon others for approval as a bases for feeling good about himself.
Learning comes from repetitive exposure to information and experience. When a child is born, he knows who he is sensually and intuitively. What cognitive, experiential information is given to him, will affirm or negate what the child naturally knows to be real about him.
I have the right to live rather exist
I have a right to personhood rather than being an object of possession
I have a right to equality with every other human regardless of age
I have a right to be respected with regard to my worth
I have a right to be uniquely myself with my own identity
I have a right to speak my thoughts and feelings, and to be heard
I have a right to ask "Why" and to receive answers
I have a right to receive discipline without hollowing, discounts and put-downs
I have a right to be encouraged to grow to maturity at my own pace
I have a right to be free from physical harm at the hands of resentful people
I have a right to be loved for being me
I have a right, with valid guidance, to think for myself, and to make decisions
I have a right to be responsible for myself
I have a right to feel joy, happiness, sorrow, bereavement and pain
I have a right to be a winner
I have the right to care and be cared for, to nurture and be nurtured, to give and to receive
I have a right to form my own convictions, beliefs and standards
I have a right to know and experience personal freedom
I have the right to own my body, mind and soul, and to use them in a sharing experience
I have a right to recognize and accept the rights of others regarding their Bill of Rights
(c)1975 Fred M. Fariss
The underlying foundational presuppositions for "A Child's Bill of Rights" are autonomy, accountability and responsibility. These attributes are native to the intrinsic nature of every human being. These attributes are the "what" of the human being. The attributes speak of the ability of the person. Developmentally, where the problem lies is with the "how" which has to do with the education of the individual. Not only do people in general do not believe that children have rights, but also do not believe that they themselves as well as children do not have autonomy (self-rule), accountability ( first to one's self) and responsibility (built upon accountability).
When a child is born he is born into an authority matrix. Immediately, a conflict is created between the child's autonomy and the parent's authority. To compound the problem, the child is born into a natural symbiosis where he is literally depended upon his parents (or whoever might be the caretakers) for survival. Since the parents do not know of their autonomy, accountability and responsibility, they have only to give to the child the denial of those attributes which lead the child from a relationship of natural symbiosis to a neurotic symbiosis. The symptoms of the conflict surfaces in what is commonly called "the terrible twos." This a time of battle over will - the will of the parents vs. the will of the child. Many teach that the spirit of the child must be broken. The better metaphor would be "killed." The spirit of the child might be broken, but the war is not over. There will be manifest throughout the childhood period of development; the evidence of compensating behavior - the manifestation of the neurotic symbiosis. One thing the child will learn is that there is a force to be dealt with - that force is authority which is ever challenging his own autonomy. No child will take it lying down so to speak, but will in many complicated ways fight back because to be autonomous is natural to his nature. One manifestation of neurotic compensating behavior is rebellion. Rebellion is using one's autonomy without permission. When the child rebels, it only invites the parents to kick in their need to be in control as an authority. It is in this context that the child can not win.
The developmental cycle of a child follows a ten year period, more or less. If the first crisis is the "terrible twos," then the next time of crisis will be the "terrible puberty." Once again, the issue of authority and autonomy will raise its ugly head. The rules will change. The child will find leverage by choosing other sources to be his authority without knowing that he is no more free then he was with his parents. The other sources will be his peers (seeking to please them for approval), his heroes (rock singers, movie stars, players in sports, etc.). And for a small minority, the source will be religion. The powerful element during this time period is the competition between the authority of parents and the authority of the other (those other authority figures). Remember that the foundational issue is autonomy not authority. The struggle for autonomy is the struggle for survival. For most people, this battle will never be solved or won. They will follow a course of compensation which will be either a full surrender to passivity or a pathway of open rebellion expressed in various degrees.
To experience autonomy, accountability and responsibility, one will need to know that the possibility of these do exist. It is very obvious that is easier to lead sheep. Training a child into a frame of reference to submit to authority, not just for respect, but to worship that authority at the expense of one's autonomy seems natural because it is the way society is structured. People want to feel that they are in control. This is the manifestation of the natural drive for autonomy. So what happens if a parent would suddenly let go of the control over a child and let him make his own autonomous decisions. What would happen would be a disaster. Even though the child has the native ability to be autonomous, he does not have the knowledge, experience and skill to suddenly take over and project his autonomy. What I am speaking of here is about attitude. It is not a matter of getting one's own way to do whatever one wants to do. The child first needs to learn the "what" of how he is constituted as a human being. Then he needs to be taught about his native attributes of autonomy, accountability and responsibility to himself as ultimate authority. Beyond this point, the child needs to cultivate his skill in the application of his attributes to real life situations. Learning is a process and when learning really occurs there is change of behavior.
Here is where the real difficulty lies when one decides to apply all of this information in a realtime situation. The older the person is with whom you hope to teach this information, the more resistance will occur. Contrary to the complaint that people make about other people controlling them, at the same time they want that control because provides a sense of emotional security. Most people would rather have a feeling of a sense of security then to be autonomous. Autonomy is so foreign to people that just the thought of being fully accountable to themselves would be like being in a world without love. When applying the above information to another person who is your biological offspring, one needs to keep in mind the part that roles play in the drama. Because of the roles implication, the whole matter becomes more complex then ever. For instance, when a mother seeks to confront her teenage son about his behavior, she immediately comes upagainst another factor that is a part of the scenario - the roles of male and female. When a male goes into puberty, he is beginning to act out his male dominance role over females which will motivate him to be even more rebellious toward his mother and/or other female authorities. As can be seen, the denial of autonomy is manifest in other places like social roles that we have all learned from childhood by precept and example.
The generic roles operate on the plane of polarization. An illustration is: passive vs. aggressive. When what appears to be a manifestation of a radical change of behavior in people's lives, it is simply a change of polarity. The denial of autonomy continues. The hope is that those parents who are stuck in a traditional mode about even their own autonomy is that their son/daughter, the prodical, will magically or miraculously come home and acquiesce to the denial of autonomy so that every one can be comfortable and at peace.
Is there no hope? Yes, there is hope which lies in hard work. The work consist of taking an inventory of one's own database as to how one's values about autonomy is stored. If you want to influence a child regardless of his age, begin with education of that person to upgrade his database so that he has the basic raw materials of information to work with and apply. Secondly, use the contract approach, asking the person to make a contract as an expression of his autonomy to be accountable to himself in the expression of his responsibility. Responsibility is the ability to respond instead of react on a sterile script. Being consistent and persistent, is the most basic ingredient in the formula. The reason it is so hard working on leading someone else to change is because one needs to work on himself at the same time so that one avoids giving an inappropriate invitation that reinforces the denial of one's own autonomy as well as the autonomy of the person that you want to invite to change.
(c)1998 Fred m. Fariss All Rights Reserved
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