Imatges de pàgina

deputed to express the anger and inflict the punishment) are regarded with indifference, if not with aversion; and hence the equally numerous cases in which children are looked upon as inflictions. Seeing, then, as all must do, that estrangement of this kind is fatal to a salutary moral culture, it follows that parents can not be too solicitous in avoiding occasions of direct antagonism with their children-occasions of personal resentment. And therefore they can not too anxiously avail themselves of this discipline of natural consequences——this system of letting the penalty be inflicted by the laws of things; which, by saving the parent from the function of a penal agent, prevents these mutual exasperations and estrangements.

ADVANTAGES OF THE METHOD OF NORMAL REACTIONS. 5. Among the advantages of the divinely ordained method of moral culture by the experience of normal reactions are, First, that it gives that rational comprehension of right and wrong conduct which results from actual experience of the good and bad consequences caused by them. Second, that the child, suffering nothing more than the painful effects brought upon it by its own wrong actions, must recognize more or less clearly the justice of the penalties. Third, that recognizing the justice of the penalties, and receiving those penalties through the working of things, rather than at the hands of an individual, its temper will be less disturbed; while the parent occupying the comparatively passive position of taking care that the natural penalties ase felt, will preserve a comparative equanimity. And fourth, that mutual exasperation being thus in great measure prevented, a much happier, and a more influential state of feeling, will exist between parent and child.


6. At present, mothers and fathers are mostly considered by their offspring as friend-enemies. Determined as their impressions inevitably are by the treatment they receive; and oscillating as that treatment does between bribery and thwarting, between petting and scolding, between gentleness and castigation; children necessarily acquire conflicting beliefs respecting the parental character. A mother commonly thinks it quite sufficient to tell her little boy that she is his best friend; and assuming that he is in duty bound to believe her, concludes that he will forth with do so. “It is all for your good;" "I know what is proper for you better than you do yourself;" "You are not old enough to understand it now, but when you grow up you will thank me for doing what I do;"these, and like assertions, are daily reiterated. Meanwhile the boy is daily suffering positive penalties; and is hourly forbidden to do this, that, and the other, which he was anxious to do. By words he hears that his happiness is the end in view; but from the accompanying deeds he habitually receives more or less pain. Utterly incompetent as he is to understand that future which his mother has in view, or how this treatment conduces to the happiness of that future, he judges by such results as he feels; and finding these results any thing but pleasurable, he becomes skeptical respecting these professions of friendship, And is it not folly to expect any other issue? Must not the child judge by such evidence as he has got ? and does not this evidence seem to warrant his conclusion ? The mother would reason in just the same way if similarly placed. If, in the circle of her acquaintance, she found some one who was constantly thwarting her wishes, uttering sharp reprimands, and occasionally inflicting actual penalties on her, she would pay but little attention to any professions of anxiety for her welfare which accompained these acts. Why, then, does she suppose that her boy will conclude otherwise ?

But now observe how different will be the results if the system we contend for be consistently pursued—if the mother not only avoids becoming the instrument of punishment, but plays the part of a friend, by warning her boy of the punishments which Nature will inflict. Take a case; and that it may illustrate the mode in which this policy is to be early initiated, let it be one of the simplest cases. Suppose that; prompted by the experimental spirit so conspicuous in children, whose proceedings instinctively conform to the inductive method of inquiry-suppose that so prompted the child is amusing himself by lighting pieces of paper in the candle and watching them burn. If his mother is of the ordinary unreflective stamp, she will either, on the plea of keeping the child "out of mischief," or from fear that he will burn himself, command him to desist; and in case of non-compliance will snatch the paper from him. On the other hand, should he be so fortunate as to have a mother of sufficient rationality, who knows that this interest with which the child is watching the paper burn results from a healthy inquisitiveness, without which he would never have emerged out of infantine stupidity, and who is also wise enough to consider the moral results of interference, she will reason thus:-"If I put a stop to this I shall prevent the acquirement of a certain amount of knowledge. It is true that I may save the child from a burn; but what then? He is sure to burn himself sometime; and it is quite essential to his safety in life that he should learn by experience the properties of flame. Moreover, if I forbid him from running this present risk, he is sure hereafter to run the same or a greater risk when no one is present to prevent him; whereas, if he should have any accident now that I am by, I can save him from any great injury; add to which the advantage that he will have in future some dread of fire, and will be less likely to burn himself to death, or set the house in a flame when others are absent. Furthermore, were I to make him desist, I should thwart him in the pursuit of what is in itself a purely harmless, and indeed, instructive gratification; and he would be sure to regard me with more or less ill-feeling. Ignorant as he is of the pain from which I would save him, and feeling only the pain of a balked desire, he could not fail to look upon me as the cause of that pain. To save him from a hurt which he can not conceive, and which has therefore no existence for him, I inflict upon him a hurt which he feels keenly enough;

and so become, from his point of view, a minister of evil. My best course then, is simply to warn him of the danger, and to be ready to prevent any serious damage." And following out this conclusion, she says to the child—“I fear you will hurt yourself if you do that." Suppose, now, that the child perseveres, as he will very probably do; and suppose that he ends by burning himself. What are the results? In the first place he has gained an experience which be must gain eventually, and which, for his own safety he can not gain too soon. And in the second place, he has found that his mother's disapproval or warning was meant for his welfare: he has a further positive experience of benevolence a further reason for placing confidence in her judgment and her kindnessa further reason for loving her.

Of course, in those occasional hazards where there is a risk of broken limbs or other serious bodily injury, forcible prevention is called for. But leaving out these extreme cases, the system pursued should be not that of guarding a child against the small dangers into which it daily runs, but that of advising and warning it against them. And by consistently pursuing this course, a much stronger filial affection will be generated than commonly exists. If here, as elsewhere, the discipline of the natural reactions is allowed to come into playif in all those out-of-door scramblings and in-door experiments, by which children are liable to hurt themselves, they are allowed to persevere, subject only to dissuasion more or less earnest according to the risk, there can not fail to arise an ever-increasing faith in the parental friendship and guidance. Not only, as before shown, does the adoption of this principle enable fathers and mothers to avoid the chief part of that odium which attaches to the infliction of positive punishment; but, as we here see, it enables them further to avoid the odium that attaches to constant thwartings; and even to turn each of those in. cidents which commonly cause squabbles, into a means of strengthening the mutual good feeling. Instead of being told in words, which deeds seem to contradict, that their parents are their best friends, children will learn this truth by a consistent daily experience; and so learning it, will acquire a degree of trust and attachment which nothing else can give.


7. The perpetual ill-behavior of many children is itself the consequence of that chronic irritation in which they are kept by bad management. The state of isolation and antagonism produced by frequent punishment, necessarily deadens the sympathies; necessarily, therefore, opens the way to those transgressions which the sympathies should check. That harsh treatment which children of the same family inflict on each other is often, in great measure, a reflex of the harsh treatment they receive from adults-partly suggested by direct example, and partly generated by the ill-temper and the tendency to vicarious retaliation, which follow chastisements and scoldings. It can not be questioned that the greater activity of the affections and happier state of feeling, maintained in children by the discipline we have described, must prevent their sins against each other from being either so great or so frequent. Moreover, the still more reprehensible offenses, as lies and petty thefts, will, by the same causes, be diminished. Domestic estrangement is a fruitful source of such transgressions. It is a law of human nature, visible enough to all who observe, that those who are debarred the higher gratifications fall back upon the lower; those who have no sympathetic pleasures seek selfish ones; and hence, con. versely, the maintenance of happier relations between parents and children is calculated to diminish the number of those offenses of which selfishness is the origin.

When, however, such offenses are committed, as they will occasionally be even under the best system, the discipline of consequences may still be resorted to; and if there exist that bond of confidence and affection which we have described, this discipline will be found efficient. For what are the natural consequences, say, of a theft? They are of two kinds direct and indirect. The direct consequence, as dictated by pure equity, is that of making restitution. An absolutely just ruler (and every parent should aim to be one) will demand that, wherever it is possible, a wrong act shall be undone by a right one; and in the case of theft this implies either the restoration of the thing stolen, or, if it is consumed, then the giving of an equivalent: which, in the case of a child, may be effected out of its pocket-money. The indirect and more serious consequence is the grave displeasure of parents—a consequence which inevitably follows among all peoples sufficiently civilized to regard theft as a crime; and the manifestation of this displeasure is, in this instance, the most severe of the natural reactions produced by the wrong action. “But," it will be said, "the manifestation of parental displeasure, either in words or blows, is the ordinary course in these cases: the method leads here to nothing new." Very true. Already we have admitted that, in some directions, this method is spontaneously pursued. Already we have shown that there is a more or less manifest tendency for educational systems to gravitate towards the true system. And here we may remark, as before, that the intensity of this natural reaction will, in the beneficent order of things, adjust itself to the requirements—that this parental displeasure will vent itself in violent measures during comparatively barbarous times, when the children are also comparatively barbarous; and will express itselfless cruelly in those more advanced social states in which, by implication, the children are amenable to milder treatment. But what it chiefly concerns us here to observe is, that the manifestation of strong parental displeasure, produced by one of these graver offenses, will be potent for good just in proportion to the warmth of the attachment existing between parent and child. Just in proportion as the discipline of the natural consequences has been consistently pursued in other cases, will it be efficient in this case.


8. Do not expect from a child any great amount of moral goodness. During early years every civilized man passes through that phase of character exhibited by the barbarous race from which he is descended. As the child's featuresflat nose, forward-opening nostrils, large lips, wide-apart eyes, absent frontal sinus, &c.-resemble for a time those of the savage, so, too, do his instincts. Hence the tendencies to cruelty, to thieving, to lying, so general among chil. dren-tendencies which, even without the aid of discipline, will become more or less modified just as the features do. The popular idea that children are "innocent," while it may be true in so far as it refers to evil knowledge, is totally false in so far as it refers to evil impulses, as half an hour's observation in the nursery will prove to any one. Boys when left to themselves, as at a public school, treat each other far more brutally than men do; and were they left to themselves at an earlier age their brutality would be still more conspicuous.

Not only is it unwise to set up a high standard for juvenile good conduct, but it is even unwise to use very urgent incitements to such good conduct, Already most people recognize the detrimental results of intellectual precocity; but there remains to be recognized the truth that there is a moral precocity which is also detrimental. Our higher moral faculties, like our higher intellectual ones, are comparatively complex. By consequence they are both comparatively late in their evolution. And with the one as with the other, a very early activity produced by stimulation will be at the expense of the future character. Hence the not uncommon fact that those who during childhood were instanced as models of juvenile goodness, by-and-by undergo some disastrous and seemingly inexplicable change, and end by being not above but below par; while relatively exemplary men are often the issue of a childhood by no means so promising.

Be content, therefore, with moderate measures and moderate results Con. stantly bear in mind the fact that a higher morality, like a higher intelligence, must be reached by a slow growth; and you will then have more patience with those imperfections of nature which your child hourly displays. You will be less prone to that constant scolding, and threatening, and forbidding, by which many parents induce a chronic domestic irritation, in the foolish hope that they will thus make their children what they should be.


9. By aiming in all cases to administer the natural reactions to your child's actions, you will put an advantageous check upon your own temper. The method of moral education pursued by many, we fear by most, parents, is little else than that of venting their anger in the way that first suggests itself. The slaps, and rough shakings, and sharp words, with which a mother commonly visits her offspring's small offenses (many of them not offenses considered intrinsically,) are very generally but the manifestations of her own ill-controlled feelings-result much more from the promptings of those feelings than from a wish to benefit the offenders. While they are injurious to her own character, these ebullitions tend, by alienating her children and hy decreasing their respect for her, to diminish her influence over them. But by pausing in each case of transgression to consider what is the natural consequence, and how that natural consequence may best be brought home to the transgressor, some little time is necessarily obtained for the mastery of yourself; the mere blind anger first aroused in you settles down into a less vehement feeling, and one not so likely to mislead you.

BE SPARING OF COMMANDS. 10. Be sparing of commands. Command only in those cases in which other means are inapplicable, or have failed. “In frequent orders the parents' advantage is more considered than the child's," says Richter. As in primitive societies a breach of law is punished, not so much because it is intrinsically wrong as because it is a disregard of the king's authority—a rebellion against him; so in many families, the penalty visited on a transgressor proceeds less from reprobation of the offense than from anger at the disobedience. Listen to the ordinary speeches—"How dare you disobey me?" "I tell you I'll make you do it, sir." "I'll soon teach you who is master”—and then consider what the words, the tone, and the manner imply. A determination to subjugate is much more conspicuous in them than an anxiety for the child's welfare. For the time being the attitude of mind differs but little from that of the despot bent on punishing a recalcitrant subject. The right-feeling parent, however, like the philanthropic legislator, will not rejoice in coercion, but will rejoice in dispensing with coercion. He will do without law in all cases where other modes of regulating conduct can be successfully employed; and he will regret the baving recourse to law when it is necessary. As Richter remarks—“The best rule in politics is said to be pas trop gouverner :' it is also true in education." And in spontaneous conformity with this maxim, parents whose lust of dominion is restrained by a true sense of duty, will aim to make their children control themselves wherever it is possible, and will fall back upon absolutism only as a last resort.


11. Whenever you do command, command with decision and consistency. If the case is one which really can not be otherwise dealt with, then issue your fiat, and having issued it, never afterwards swerye from it. Consider well

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