A. S. Makarenko Reference Archive

Lectures to Parents

Lecture 1

Dear Parents! Dear Soviet citizens!

The most important part of our lives is bringing up our children. They are the future citizens of our country and of the world. They will create history! Our children are the future fathers and mothers who will, in their turn, rear children. They must grow up to be good citizens and good fathers and mothers.

And this is not all -- our children are our old age -- if they are well brought up we will have a happy old age but if they are badly reared we will experience sorrow and tears. We will suffer before other people and before our country for our guilt.

Dear parents, above all remember the great importance of this matter of child-rearing and your responsibility for it...

Now let us turn our attention to some questions of general significance. First: to bring up a child correctly and normally is much easier than to re-educate him. It is really not as hard as some people seem to think. Any parent is capable of bringing up his children rightly -- if he really wants to. And what a joyful, pleasant, happy task it is! Re-education is a different matter. If you have done a bad job, been thoughtless, lazy or neglectful, much will have to be done over again, corrected. And this task requires more wisdom and patience than we find in every parent. So again we advise you, parents, do your task well from the very beginning....

Many mistakes are made because parents forget what period of history they live in. Out in the world, they seem to be good Soviet citizens, members of the new socialist society. But at home, with their children, they live in the old ways. Of course not everything in the pre-revolutionary family was bad, much should be taken over. But do not forget the major differences. We live in a classless society...our children must grow up to be active and conscious builders of communism.

Parents must remember too, that in the pre-revolutionary family the father had great power; children lived completely under his will, there was no escape for them from parental authority and some fathers treated their children cruelly. Government and church upheld their power -- it was convenient in an exploiting society. In. our family the organization is very different. Our daughters do not have to wait for their fathers to find them a husband!

The feelings of the children rule. Obviously, if parents are to have influence now, they must find new methods, the old ones may no longer be used.

In the old-type family everyone belonged to some class and the son of a peasant was a peasant too, the son of a worker, a worker. Now a broad range of choice opens before our children. Their decisions need not be made according to the economic situation of the family but on the basis of their own capabilities and preparation. Both parents and children understand this. Under such conditions, parental decrees are impossible. Guiding must be done by wiser, more subtle and cautious means.

Our family is no longer a paternal one. Our women enjoy the same rights as men, mothers have rights equal with fathers. The Soviet family is a collective, not a group under one-man rule. Yet in this collective the parents have certain recognized rights. From whence do they derive them?

In the old days, it was believed that paternal power had heavenly sanction, that it was pleasing to God. Parental repression was based on the Ten Commandments.

Now we do not deceive children. Our parents are responsible for their children before Soviet society and Soviet Law. They have great power, therefore, and must have authority. Although a family is a collective of equal members of society, children and parents differ from one another. Parents guide the family, the children are being brought up in it.

Parents must clearly understand that they are not the sole, uncontrolled bosses but must act as the older, responsible members of a collective. A clear concept of this will be very helpful in the task of bringing up children....

The structure of a family is important. This is, in the main, within our control. Even if a family has material problems, it should not limit itself to one child. An only child becomes the center of attention and receives more care than is normal or beneficial.... Often an only child becomes a real despot -- parents find that they have brought up an egoist whether they wanted to or not.

A large, well-organized family accustoms the children from infancy to mutual relationships, gives them opportunities to experience love and friendship in various forms between older and younger children. In such a family, children learn that necessary tasks cannot be carried out alone but must be done together. They experience life in a collective at every step, in play and work. This is essential for Soviet children. In bourgeois society it was less important because that society was constructed on egoistic principles...

Incomplete families, where the parents have separated, have an unhealthy influence on children's bringing up. The children may become the subject of dispute between parents who detest one another and do not hide this from their children. We advise parents who, for some reason, decide to separate to think first of all about the children, to hide their hatred and resolve conflicts tactfully. Parents who truly love their children will try to prevent their mutual differences from reaching a complete break so that their children will not be placed in this difficult situation. Obviously, if the father has left his family he cannot bring up his children. If his influence is bad, better forget him. That is the honest way to do. Of course, he must continue as before to carry his material responsibilities for the care of the children.....

Our next question is the matter of goals.

Some families never think about this. Parents just live beside their children and hope that things will take care of themselves. They have no goals, noprogram. Results, under such conditions, will be casual, haphazard. Parents are often surprised to find that their children have grown up badly... No one can do a job well unless he knows what he wants to accomplish. You must clearly understand your own desires. Do you want to bring up a true Soviet citizen, an energetic, honest, learned human being, one devoted to his country, to the revolution, work-loving, kind and courteous? Or do you want your child to be narrow-minded, greedy, cowardly, some kind of crafty little business man? Think this over carefully... Then you will see what mistakes you are making and what is the best path to follow.

Remember! You did not bring your son or daughter into the world for your own pleasure alone! And always remember that a future citizen is in your charge. If you fail, the grief will not be yours alone. The whole country will suffer. And do not brush this aside! Do not consider this a tiresome argument! If your factory turned out damaged goods you would be ashamed. Isn't it much more shameful for you to give your country a spoiled or bad human being?

Family affairs cannot be separated from the affairs of society. Your activities at home or at work are reflected in your family. They should see you as a politically, civic-minded person and not separate this image from their image of you as parent. Whatever happens in our country will reach them through your feelings and thoughts. They should know what makes you happy or sad, what is going on at your plant, what kind of community activity you are involved in. They should be proud of your successes and your service to society. This will not be healthy pride, however, if it is only pride in your good clothes, your automobile or your hunting rifle.

Your own conduct is decisive. You are constantly educating your child -- even when you are not with him. Your manner of dress, how you treat your friends or enemies, even what you laugh at -- read in the paper -- all this has great meaning for the child. You may not even be aware that your thoughts are affecting him in unseen ways -- a change in your voice...

If you are coarse or boastful at home or -- much worse -- if you are insulting to mother, there is no use thinking about bringing up your children. You are already bringing them up badly and no advice will help you.

The parent's own self-discipline -- control at every step -- this is the most important method of bringing up children correctly.

We often meet parents who believe that some sort of clever prescription exists for bringing up children and that they must find it. In their opinion, if they find this prescription they may bring up work-loving people, honest citizens. If only they can get it into their hands they will be able to work miracles and their child will grow up rightly.

There are no such miracles. No prescription will help if the personality of the person rearing the child has great faults. First pay attention to these faults.

There are no pedagogic tricks. Unfortunately some people believe in them. One thinks up punishments, another some kind of prize, a third plays the clown at home to amuse the children, a fourth bribes with promises.

Bringing up children requires a serious, simple and sincere attitude. -- Laziness, cynicism, frivolity will doom your work to failure. -- Tricks prevent parents from seeing the real tasks, confuse them and waste time.

And how many parents love to complain about lack of time! Of course it is a good thing to be with your children. It would be too bad if you did not see them often. But this does not mean that parents should never take their eyes off the children. This sort of thing develops passivity, accustoms children too much to adult society, may result in precocity. (Parents like to brag about precocity but later they find that they were wrong to do so.)

Of course a parent should know what his child is doing, where he is. But the child must have freedom so that he will be subject to a variety of influences. Don't think that he can be fenced off even from harmful or negative ones. For, in life, he will meet temptations, strange and evil people and circumstances. A hothouse upbringing will never develop the ability to withstand them and to struggle against them. ---

Children must have help and direction from time to time.. but this does not mean that they should be led by the hand... So for bringing up your child it is not more time that you need but correct use of the little time you have.

The essence of child rearing does not....consist in your conversations with the child, in direct effect on him, but rather in the organization of the family, of your own life and the life of the child. In this matter there are no trifles... Good organization consists in not brushing aside small details...These details of life act as an influence regularly, daily, hourly... To guide and organize life is your responsible task.

In summary:

Try to bring up your child correctly so that you will not have to re-educate him, which is much harder.

Remember that you are leading a new Soviet family. As far as possible achieve the right structure of the family.

Set yourself a goal and program for the task of up-bringing.

Remember that the child is not only your joy but a future citizen and that you answer to the country for him. Above all a good citizen yourself and carry your civic feeling family.

Make severe demands on your own behavior.

No need of hunting for tricks and formulas. Be serious, simple and sincere. Guide the child but do not protect him from life.

The main thing in the work of bringing up children is the organization of family life with careful attention to details.