Reading with a psychologist: “How to love a child”, Janusz Korczak


Let’s talk about the classics. We know that there is classical music, classical theater, painting, literature. We guess the meaning of the word intuitively: this is something that has passed the test of time, no longer requires praise or recommendations — trust has long been deserved, and knowledge about this is literally spreading through the air. And in the world of pedagogy, education, there are also such names-luminaries and the works of these, no matter how pathetic it may sound, great people. Today we will look at one of these legendary books by an equally legendary author: How to Love a Child by Janusz Korczak.

The first editions of this main manual for parents of all ages and levels of «advancement» appeared in 1919-1920. — a hundred years ago. It would seem that times were completely different, and a lot has changed over the century. But have children changed, playing not with wooden dolls and horses, but endlessly looking at the mirror surface of gadget screens? Or have only the toys changed, but the essence remains the same? The trust of mothers and fathers, who continue to build their behavior model on this “bible” of education, speaks for itself. The book still retains its relevance.

On the one hand, the author refers to the dogmas of psychology, pedagogy and philosophy of his time. On the other hand, some truths can be considered universal and beyond the control of years. But if you have never held this work in your hands, do not be afraid: Korczak writes not only competently and based on facts, but also highly artistic, easily weaving bright colors and metaphors into his speech, which is what “How to Love a Child so clear and close to modern readers.

about the author

Janusz Korczak was born and raised in Poland at the beginning of the last century. He received a decent education, from a very young age (15 years) he practiced private teaching, and by the age of 27 he graduated from the Warsaw Medical University. During the Russo-Japanese War, he served in a hospital, and later worked in children’s hospitals in Germany, England and France. But after a while, he left his career as a doctor and created an «Orphanage» for Jewish children, in which he introduced an innovative system of children’s self-government for that time.

During World War II, Korczak was deported to a concentration camp along with the children from the orphanage. He rejected the offer of freedom and did not leave the children, dying with them.

He left several high-profile works as a legacy, including “Let children live. Education: Mental, Moral, Physical”, “Leave Me to the Children: Pedagogical Notes”, and “How to Love a Child”.

How, after all, to love a child?

Torment for a child
Adults perceive childhood as a time of carelessness, easy and hassle-free. And what problems can a child have? Yes, little things. But this is the reasoning of a man who has forgotten what it is like to be small.

Janusz Korczak calls to focus on the emotions of the baby. The parent has undeniable authority for the child, especially at an early age. Therefore, a remark thrown by chance, the lack of proper attention, can cause real suffering and pain in a child. Yes, from the position of an adult, this looks insignificant: every day we receive reproaches from the authorities, we conflict with other people. We have learned to deal with it, more or less successfully, we are used to it. But children do not yet have adult life experience, so some of these little things for them are comparable to a disaster and can leave an indelible wound in their soul.

Let them breathe
And here comes the paradox. If a child does not have experience, then he does not know anything, does not understand, and it is definitely impossible to trust him with making decisions. So reason some parents, no doubt, consider themselves loving and caring.

However, where can you get experience if mom and dad decide everything for you: what to eat and drink, how to sleep, how to walk, how to breathe. The will of a small person is gradually cut off. Today we know such a thing as «overprotection», and we know that this is bad. But still, it is often easier to do it yourself than to wait until the child slowly comes to the desired course of action. But Janusz Korczak believes that freedom of choice is vital for a child — if not in vital matters, but without it, he will suffocate.

A child is also a person
The problem with parents is not that they don’t love their children. Nobody wants to harm children. Rather, mothers and fathers do not perceive the child as a full-fledged person, treating him as an incapacitated pet.

At the same time, it is important to always remind yourself that a child is just like you, only with less experience. And how else to get it, if not by trial and error?

Let the child knock down the skin on his knees, stumble and get up again — only in this way can you learn to walk and stand firmly on your feet. There is no ideal path. But you must be ready to help and support when such a need arises.

What is a good book?

• This is the undisputed classic of parenting literature. Even if most of the «covenants» from it are intuitive, it will never be superfluous to remind yourself of all this again;
• Suitable for parents of children of any age: from infancy to ruffy teenage years;
• Reading Korczak is interesting: it’s not just a dry guide to action (press this button, turn the lever to the right). After all, a child is not a mechanism. And this book is not only a guide for parents, but also a way to make them think;
• Stimulus for change not only in the child, but also in yourself.

And at the same time, despite the artistic beauty of the author’s style, «How to Love a Child» can be difficult for those parents who are used to perceiving their position as the only true one. If you are not ready to change yourself, then the book can hurt your ego by pointing out annoying mistakes, which will cause anger and resentment. But if you take a closer look, Janusz Korczak is not writing about how bad parents are at all. This is a book about how it’s never too late to turn things around for the better: neither when you’re a child, nor when you’re already big and accomplished.


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