John Locke on Parents Poisoning the Fountain

John Locke 2Daily Dabble in the Classics, John Locke, 1692

The fondling must be taught to strike, and call names; must have what he cries for, and do what he pleases. Thus parents, by humouring and cockering them when little, corrupt the principles of nature in their children, and wonder afterwards to taste the bitter waters, when they themselves have poisoned the fountain. For when their children are grown up, and these ill habits with them; when they are now too big to be dandled, and their parents can no longer make use of them as play-things; then they complain, that the brats are untoward and perverse; then they are offended to see them wilful, and are troubled with those ill humours, which they themselves inspired and cherished in them. And then, perhaps too late, would be glad to get out those weeds which their own hands have planted, and which now have taken too deep root to be easily extirpated. For he that has been used to have his will in every thing, as long as he was in coats, why should we think it strange that he should desire it, and contend for it still, when he is in breeches ? Indeed, as he grows more towards a man, age shows his faults the more, so that there be few parents then so blind, as not to see them; few so insensible as not to feel the ill effects of their own indulgence. He had the will of his maid before he could speak or go ; he had the mastery of his parents ever since he could prattle ; and why, now he is grown up, is stronger and wiser than he was then, why now of a sudden must he be restrained aud curbed ? Why must he at seven, fourteen, or twenty years old, lose the privilege which the parents indulgence, till then, so largely allowed him ? Try it in a dog, or an horse, or any other creatare, and see whether the ill and resty tricks they have learned when young, are easily to be mended when they are knit : and yet none of those creatures are half so wilful and proud, or half so desirous to be masters of themselves and others, as man.


Source: John Locke. From “Some Thoughts Concerning Education,” published in 1692.


Daily Dabble in the Classics is researched, compiled, and edited (with occasional commentary) by The Moral Liberal’s Founder and Editor In Chief, Steve Farrell. The collective project, as well as any individualized spelling modernizations, unique formatting, and introductory or explanatory notes, Copyright © 2009-201e Steve Farrell.


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