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the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” And he who is greatest through
being most child-like, will be readiest to recognize the individuality
and the glorious possibilities of each and every child committed to
his charge. Even while training a child, he will learn from the child;
and so he and his child will grow together toward the measure of the
stature of the fulness of Christ.




IX.

_LETTING ALONE AS A MEANS OF CHILD-TRAINING._


Not doing is always as important, in its time and place, as doing;
and this truth is as applicable in the realm of child-training as
elsewhere. Child-training is a necessity, but there is a danger of
over-doing in the line of child-training. The neglect of child-training
is a great evil. Over-doing in the training of a child may be even
a greater evil. Both evils ought to be avoided. In order to their
avoidance, their existence and limits as evils must be recognized.

Peculiarly is it the case that young parents who are exceptionally
conscientious, and exceptionally desirous of being wise and faithful
in the discharge of their parental duties, are liable to err in the
direction of over-doing in the training of their children. It is not
that they are lacking in love and tenderness toward their little ones,
or that they are naturally inclined to severity as disciplinarians;
but it is that their mistaken view of the methods and limitations of
wise child-training impels them to an injudicious course of watchful
strictness with their children, even while that course runs counter to
their affections and desires as parents. Their very love and fidelity
cause them to harm their children by over-doing in their training, even
more than the children of parents less wise and faithful are harmed
by a lack of systematic training. It is, in fact, because they are so
desirous of well-doing, that these parents over-do in the line of their
best endeavors for their children.

A young father who was an earnest student of methods of child-training,
and who sincerely desired to be faithful in the training of his
first child at any cost to his feelings of loving tenderness toward
that child, made a mistake in this direction, and received a lesson
accordingly. His child was as full of affection as she was of life
and spirit. She had not yet learned what she might do and what she
might not do, but she was rapidly developing impulses and tastes in
various directions; and her strength of personal character was showing
itself in her positiveness of purpose in the line of her tastes and
impulses for the hour. Her father had heard much about the importance
of parental training and discipline, but had heard nothing about the
danger of over-doing in this line; hence he deemed it his duty to be
constantly directing or checking his child, so as to keep her within
the limits of safety and duty as he saw it.

To his surprise and regret, the father found that, while his little
daughter was not inclined to waywardness or disobedience, she was
steadily coming into a state of chronic resistance to his attempts
at her stricter governing. This resistance was passive rather than
active, but it was none the less real for that. She would not refuse
to obey, but she would not be ready or prompt to obey. She would not
be aroused to anger or show any open sign of disrespect, but she would
seem unable or unwilling to act as she was told to. Kind words and
earnest entreaties were of no avail at this point, neither were they
ever resented or explicitly rejected. If punishment was attempted, she
submitted to it with a good grace, but it seemed to have no effect in
the way of removing the cause of original trouble. The father never,
indeed, lost his temper, or grew less loving toward his child; he
prayed for guidance, and he gave his best thoughts to the problem
before him; but all to no apparent purpose. The matter grew more and
more serious, and he was more and more bewildered.

One day, after a serious struggle with his little daughter over a
matter that would have been a trifling one except as it bore on the
question of her character and welfare, the father left his house
with a heavy heart, and almost in despair over this question of wise
child-training. At the door he met a friend, much older than himself,
with whom he had been a co-worker in several spheres of Christian
activity. Seeing his troubled face, that friend asked him the cause of
his evident anxiety, and the young father opened his heart, and told
the story of his trouble. “Isn’t the trouble, that you are over-doing
in the training of your child?” asked the listener; and then he went
on to give his own experience in illustration of the meaning of this
question.

“My first child was my best child,” he said; “and I harmed her for
life by over-doing in her training, as I now see, in looking back over
my course with her. I thought I must be training her all the time,
and I forced issues with her, and took notice of little things, when
I would have done better to let her alone. So she was checked unduly,
and shut up within herself by my course with her; and she grew up in a
rigid and unnatural constraint which ought not to have been hers. I saw
my mistake afterwards, and I allowed my other children more freedom,
by letting them alone except when they must be interfered with; and
I’ve seen the benefit of this course. My rule with all my children,
since my first, has been to avoid an issue with them on a question of
discipline whenever I could do so safely. And the less show of training
there is, in bringing up a child, the better, as I see it.”

This was a revelation to that young father. He determined at once to
try to act on its suggestions, since the opposite course had been such
a signal failure in his hands. When again in his home, an opportunity
for an experiment was soon before him. His little daughter came into
the room, through a door which she had been repeatedly told to push to,
after she had passed it. Without any special thought on the subject,
the father, who sat writing at his desk, said, as often before: “Push
the door to, darling.” And, as often before, the child stood quiet and
firm, as if in expectation of a new issue on that point. The counsel
of the morning came into the father’s mind, and he said gently, “You
needn’t shut the door to, darling, if you don’t want to. Papa will do
it,” and at once he stepped and closed the door, returning afterwards
to his desk, without a word of rebuke to his child.

This was a new experience to the poor overtaxed child. She stood in
perplexed thought for a few minutes. Then she came lovingly to her
father, and, asking to be taken up on his knee, she clasped her arms
about his neck, and said: “Dear papa, I’m sorry I didn’t shut that
door. I will next time. Please forgive me, dear papa.” And that was the
beginning of a new state of things in that home. The father had learned
that there was a danger of over-doing in the work of child-training,
and his children were afterwards the gainers by his added knowledge of
the needs and tastes of childhood.

In the case of this father, the trouble had been that he made too many
direct issues with his child on questions of authority and obedience,
and that thus he provoked conflicts which might have been wisely
avoided. After this new experience he was very cautious at this point,
and he soon found that his child could be trained to obey without
so often considering the possibility of resisting or questioning
parental authority. When, in any case, an issue had to be accepted,
the circumstances were so well considered that the child as well as
the parent saw that its right outcome was the only outcome. The error
of this father had been the error of a thoughtful and deliberate
disciplinarian, who was as yet but partially instructed; but there are
also thoughtless and inconsiderate parents who harm, if they do not
ruin, their children’s dispositions by over-doing in what they call
child-training. And this error is even worse than the other.

There are many parents who seem to suppose that their chief work in the
training of a child is to be incessantly commanding or prohibiting;
telling the child to do this or to do that, and not to do this, that,
or the other. But this nagging a child is not training a child; on
the contrary, it is destructive of all training on the part of him
who is addicted to it. It is not the driver who is training a horse,
but one who neither is trained nor can train, who is all the time
“yanking” at the reins, or “thrapping” them up and down. Neither
parent nor driver, in such a case, can do as much in the direction of
training by doing incessantly, as by letting alone judiciously. “Don’t
be always don’t-ing,” is a bit of counsel to parents that can hardly
be emphasized too strongly. Don’t be always directing, is a companion
precept to this. Both injunctions are needful, with the tendency of
human nature as it is.

Of course, there must be explicit commanding and explicit prohibiting
in the process of child-training; but there must also be a large
measure of wise letting alone. When to prohibit and when to command, in
this process, are questions that demand wisdom, thought, and character;
and more wisdom, more thought, and more character, are needful in
deciding the question when to let the child alone. The training of
a child must go on incessantly; but a large share of the time it
will best go on by the operation of influences, inspirations, and
inducements, in the direction of a right standard held persistently
before the child, without anything being said on the subject to the
child at every step in his course of progress. Doing nothing, as a
child-trainer, is, in its order, the best kind of doing.




X.

_TRAINING A CHILD TO SELF-CONTROL._


An inevitable struggle between the individual and the several powers
that go to make his individuality, begins in every child at his very
birth, and continues so long as his life in the flesh continues. On
the outcome of this struggle depends the ultimate character of him
who struggles. It is, to him, bondage or mastery, defeat or triumph,
failure or success, as a result of the battling that cannot be evaded.
And, as a matter of fact, the issue of the life-long battle is
ordinarily settled in childhood.

A child who is trained to self-control—as a child may be—is already
a true man in his fitness for manly self-mastery. A man who was not
trained, in childhood, to self-control, is hopelessly a child in his
combat with himself; and he can never regain the vantage-ground which
his childhood gave to him, in the battle which then opened before
him, and in the thick of which he still finds himself. It is in a
child’s earlier struggles with himself that help can easiest be given
to him, and that it is of greatest value for his own developing of
character. Yet at that time a child has no such sense of his need in
this direction as is sure to be his in maturer years; hence it is that
it rests with the parent to decide, while the child is still a child,
whether the child shall be a slave to himself, or a master of himself;
whether his life, so far, shall be worthy or unworthy of his high
possibilities of manhood.

A child’s first struggle with himself ought to be in the direction of
controlling his impulse to give full play to his lungs and his muscles
at the prompting of his nerves. As soon as the nerves make themselves
felt, they prompt a child to cry, to thrash his arms, to kick, and to
twist his body on every side, at the slightest provocation,—or at
none. Unless this prompting be checked, the child will exhaust himself
in aimless exertion, and will increase his own discomfort by the very
means of its exhibit. A control of himself at this point is possible to
a child, at an age while he is yet unable to speak, or to understand
what is spoken to him. If a parent realizes that the child _must_ be
induced to control himself, and seeks in loving firmness to cause the
child to realize that same truth, the child will _feel_ the parent’s
conviction, and will yield to it, even though he cannot comprehend the
meaning of his parent’s words as words. The way of helping the child
will be found, by the parent who wills to help him. To leave a child to
himself in these earliest struggles with himself, is to put him at a
sad disadvantage in all the future combats of his life’s warfare; while
to give him wise help in these earliest struggles, is to give him help
for all the following struggles.

As soon as a child is able to understand what is said to him, he ought
to be taught and trained to control his impulse to cry and writhe
under the pressure of physical pain. When a child has fallen and hurt
himself, or has cut his finger, or has burned his hand, or has been hit
by an ill-directed missile, it is natural for him to shriek with pain
and fright, and it is natural for his tender-hearted mother to shrink
from blaming him just then for indulging in this display of grief.
But even at such a time as this, a mother has an unmistakable duty of
helping her child to gain a measure of control over himself, so as to
repress his cries and to moderate his exhibit of disturbed feeling.

A child can come to exercise self-control under such circumstances as
these. His mother can enable him to do this. It is better for both
child and mother that he should have her help accordingly. Because of
the lack of help just here, many a child is a sufferer through life in
his inability to control himself under physical pain. And because of
this inability many a person has actually lost his life, at a time when
calmness of mind was essential to that endurance of physical suffering
which was the only hope of prolonged existence. Because he was not
trained to control his nerves, he is hopelessly controlled by his
nerves.

Coaxing and rewarding a child into quiet at such a time is not what is
needed; but it is the encouraging a child into an intelligent control
of himself, that is to be aimed at by the wise parent. It is only a
choice between evils that substitutes a candy-paid silence for a noisy
indulgence of feeling on a child’s part. A good illustration of the
unwise way of inducing children to seem to have control of themselves,
is given in the familiar story of the little fellow throwing himself
on the floor and kicking and yelling, and then crying out, “Grandma,
grandma, I want to be pacified. Where are your sugar-plums?”

Dr. Bushnell, protesting against this method of coaxing a child out
of a state of irritation, in a fit of ill-nature, by “dainties that
please the taste,” says forcefully, “It must be a very dull child
that will not cry and fret a great deal, when it is so pleasantly
rewarded. Trained, in this manner, to play ill-nature for sensation’s
sake, it will go on rapidly, in the course of double attainment, and
will be very soon perfected in the double character of an ill-natured,
morbid sensualist, and a feigning cheat besides. By what methods, or
means, can the great themes of God and religion get hold of a soul
that has learned to be governed only by rewards of sensation, paid to
affectations of grief and deliberate actings of ill-nature?”

That control of himself which is secured by a child in his intelligent
repression of an impulse to cry and writhe in physical pain, is of
advantage to the child in all his life-long struggle with himself; and
he should be trained in the habit of making his self-control available
to him in this struggle. “I buffet my body [or give it a black eye] and
bring it into bondage; lest by any means, after that I have preached
to others, I myself should be rejected,” says the Apostle Paul; as
if in recognition of the fact that a man’s battle with his body is a
vital conflict, all his life through. Every child needs the help of his
parents in gaining control over his body, instead of allowing his body
to gain the control of him. The appetites and passions and impellings
of the outer man are continually striving for the mastery over the
inner man; and unless one is trained to master these instead of being
mastered by them, he is sure to fail in his life-struggle.

A parent ought to help his child to refrain from laughing when he ought
not to laugh; from crying when he ought not to cry; from speaking when
he ought not to speak; from eating that which he ought not to eat,
even though the food be immediately before him; from running about
when it is better for him to remain quiet; and to be ready to say and
to do just that which it is best for him to say and do, at the time
when it needs to be said and done. Self-control in all these things is
possible to a child. Wise training on the parent’s part can secure it.
The principle which is operative here, is operative in every sphere of
human existence. By means of self-control a child is made happier, and
is fitted for his duties, while a child and ever after, as otherwise
he could not be. Many a man’s life-course is saddened through his
hopeless lack of that self-control to which he could easily have been
helped in childhood, if only his parents had understood his needs and
been faithful accordingly.




XI.

_TRAINING A CHILD NOT TO TEASE._


A child who never “teases” is a rarity; yet no child ought to tease.
If a child does tease, the blame of his teasing properly rests on his
parents, rather than on himself. The parent who realizes this fact,
will have an added stimulus to the work of training his child not to
tease; and no phase of the work of child-training is simpler, or surer
of its result, than this one.

“To tease” is “to pull,” “to tug,” “to drag,” “to vex [or carry] with
importunity.” A child teases when he wants something from his parents,
and fails to get it at the first asking. He pulls and tugs at his
parents, in the hope of dragging them to his way of thinking, or to
a consent to his having what he wants in spite of their different
thinking. He hopes to vex or carry them into the line of his desires
by means of his importunities, whatever their view of the case may have
been, to begin with. If a child could have what he wanted at his first
asking, he would not tease; for there would be no room for his teasing.
If a child never secured anything through teasing, he would not come
into the habit of teasing; for there would be no inducement to him to
tease. When, therefore, a child is accustomed to tease, it is evident
that he has been trained by his parents to tease, instead of being
trained by them not to tease; and they are to bear the responsibility
and blame of his teasing.

Many a child does not expect to get what he wants, if it is out of the
ordinary line of his daily needs, unless he teases for it; therefore
he counts teasing a part of his regular duty in life, as truly as
“beating down” the city shop-keeper on his prices is supposed to be
the duty of a shopper from the country. If a child asks for a slice
of bread-and-butter, or a bit of meat, at the family table, or for
a glass of water between meals, he expects to get it at the first
asking. Teasing for that is not in his mind as a necessity. But if
he wants to stay at home from school without any reason for it, or to
start off with some of his schoolmates on a long and hazardous tramp
on a Saturday, or to sit up an hour later than usual at night, or to
have a new sled or velocipede or bicycle, or to go to the circus or to
hear the minstrels, “like all the other fellows,”—he is not so sure
of gaining his request at the first asking. So, when the answer “No”
comes back to him, in such a case, he meets it with the appeal, “Do let
me. Oh, do!” and then he enters upon a nerve struggle for the mastery
over his parents at this point, with the idea in his mind that it is a
single question of who shall be most persistent in adhering to his side
of the conflict.

There are few children who always succeed in carrying their point by
teasing; but there are fewer who never succeed by this means. Most
parents give way, sooner or later, in some of these conflicts with
their children. It may be that they are less determined than their
children, and that they are simply tired out by the teasing. It may be
that they are moved by their children’s earnestness in the matter, and
that they yield because of their tenderness toward the little pleaders.
It may be that their first answer to the appeal is a thoughtless one,
and that their fuller considering of the matter leads them to see it to
be right to reverse their impulsive decision. Whatever be the parents’
reason for their course in such a case, if they give a negative answer
to their children’s first request, and an affirmative one in response
to more or less teasing on the children’s part, they train their
children so far to believe that teasing is an important factor in a
child’s progress in life; and of course they are responsible for their
children’s continuance in the habit of teasing.

It is a misfortune to a child to suppose that teasing is essential to
his gaining a point that he ought to gain. A result of such a view in
his mind is, that he looks not to his parents’ wisdom and judgment, but
to his own positiveness and persistency, as the guide of his action
in any mooted case of personal conduct; not to principles which are
disclosed to him by one who is in authority, but to impulses which are
wholly in his own bosom. Such a view is inimical to all wise methods
of thinking and doing on a child’s part. And it is even more of a
misfortune to the parent than to the child, for a child to have the
idea that the parent’s decision is a result of the child’s teasing,
rather than of the parent’s understanding of what is right and best in
a given case. No parent can have the truest respect of a child, while
the child knows that he can tease that parent into compliance with the
child’s request, contrary to the parent’s real or supposed conviction.
For the child’s sake, therefore, and also for the parent’s, every
child ought to be trained not to tease, and not to expect any possible
advantage from teasing.

Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, was accustomed
to say, of her children, that they all learned very early that they
were not to have anything that they cried for, and that so they soon
learned not to cry for a thing that they wanted. Who will doubt that
John and Charles Wesley were stronger men, for this training, than
they could have been if they were trained to look upon crying as a
means of securing what was best for them? Who will doubt that Susannah
Wesley was more of a woman, and more respected by her sons because of
her unvarying firmness at this point, than would have been possible
if she had frequently yielded to the pressure of their piteous crying
for that which it was against her judgment to give to them? Any parent
who would apply this rule of Susannah Wesley to the matter of teasing,
might be sure of a corresponding result in the children’s estimate of
the practical value of teasing. Any child who finds that he is never
to have anything for which he teases, will quickly quit teasing. How
simple this rule, for this department of child-training!

Simple as it seems, however, to be uniformly positive in refusing
to give to a child anything for which he teases, it is not an easy
thing to adhere to this rule, unvaryingly, and to do it wisely. And
the trouble in the case is not with the child, but with the parent.
In order to give promptly, to a child’s request, an answer that can
rightly be insisted upon against all entreaties, a parent must do his
thinking before he gives that answer, rather than afterwards. Too often
a parent denies a child’s request at the start without considering the
case in all its bearings; and then, when the child presses his suit,
the parent sees reasons for granting it which had not been in his mind
before. The child perceives this state of things, and realizes that the
question is to be settled by his teasing, rather than by his parent’s
independent judgment; and that, therefore, teasing is the only means of
securing a correct decision in the premises.

Training a child not to tease, is a duty incumbent upon every parent;
but, as a prerequisite to this training of the child, the parent
must himself be trained. When a child asks a favor of a parent, the
parent must not reply hastily, or thoughtlessly, or without a full
understanding of the case in all its involvings. If necessary, he may


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