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of the child, while the parent is still angry, is the punishment that
the parent would deem the fitting one in his cooler, calmer moments,
can be better decided after the parent has looked at it in both frames
of mind, than before he has had the advantage of a view from the
standpoint of fuller deliberation.

“What?” inquired a surprised parent, in conversing with the present
writer on this very subject, “do you say that I must never punish my
boy while I’m angry with him? Why then I should hardly ever punish him
at all. It is while I am sitting up for him hour after hour, when I’ve
told him over and over again that he must come in early, evenings,
that I feel like taking hold of him smartly when he does come in. If I
should say nothing to him then, but should leave the matter until the
next morning, I should sleep off all my feeling on the subject, and he
wouldn’t be punished at all.” And that father, in that statement of the
case, spoke for many a parent, in the whole matter of the punishing of
a child while angry. The punishment which the child gets is the result
of the passion of the parent, not of the parent’s sense of justice; and
the child knows this to be the case, whether the parent does or not.

How many boxes of the ear, and shakings of the shoulders, and
slappings and strikings, and sentences of doom, which the children
now get from their parents, would never be given if only the parents
refrained from giving these while angry, but waited until they
themselves were calm and unruffled, before deciding whether to give
them or not! It is not by any means easy for a parent always to control
himself in his anger, so as to refrain from acting on the impulse which
his anger imparts; but he who has not control of himself is the last
person in the world to attempt the control of others. And not until a
parent has himself in perfect control ought he to take his child in
hand for the judicial investigation and treatment of his case as an

Of course, there are cases where instant action on the part of parents
in checking or controlling their children’s conduct is a necessity,
whether the parent be excited or calm; but in such cases the action,
however vigorous or severe, is not in the line of punishment, but of
conservation. A child may be thoughtlessly tugging away at the end of
a table-cloth, with the liability of pulling over upon his head all the
table crockery, including the scalding tea-pot; or he may be endangering
himself by reaching out toward a lighted lamp, or an open razor. No
time is to be lost. If the child does not respond to a word, he must be
dealt with promptly and decisively. A sharp rap on the fingers may be
the surest available means of saving him from a disaster.

So, again, a wayward child may be aiming a missile at a costly mirror,
or at a playmate’s head, in a fit of temper. Not a moment can then
be wasted. Angry or not angry, the parent may have to clutch at the
child’s lifted arm to save property or life. In such a case, wise
action is called for, regardless of the frame of mind of him who acts.
But this is the action of the peacekeeper rather than of the minister
of justice. The parent fills for the moment the place of the policeman
on his beat, rather than of the judge on his bench. The question of
punishment for the child’s action is yet to be considered; and that,
again, must be delayed until there is no anger in the parent’s mind.

Anger, in the sense of hot indignation, may, indeed, as has already
been said, be, upon an occasion, a fitting exhibit of parental feeling;
but this is only in those utterly exceptional cases in which a child
transcends all ordinary limits of misdoing, and is guilty of that
which he himself knows to be intolerable. As Dr. Bushnell says at
this point, “There are cases, now and then, in the outrageous and
shocking misconduct of some boy, where an explosion is wanted; where
the father represents God best by some terrible outburst of indignant
violated feeling, and becomes an instant avenger, without any counsel
or preparation whatever.” But this is apart from all questions of
punishment as punishment.

A child knows when punishment is administered to him in anger, and
when it is administered to him in a purely judicial frame of mind;
and a child puts his estimate accordingly on him who administers the
punishment. In a city mission-school, many years ago, there was a wild
set of boys who seemed to do all in their power to anger and annoy
their teachers. Cases of discipline were a necessity there; for again
and again a boy attempted violence to a teacher, and force was required
to save the teachers from serious harm. But love swayed those teachers
even when force on their part was a necessity; and the boys seemed to
understand this fully.

There came a time, however, when the young superintendent of that
school, who had often held a scholar in check by force, was made public
sport of in such way, with the rude linking of a lady teacher’s name
with his in ridicule, that his self-control failed him for the moment,
and he evidently showed this as he took hold of the offender with
unwonted warmth. Instantly the boy started back in surprise, with the
reproachful exclamation: “Trumbull, you’re mad; and that’s wicked.”
Those words taught a lesson to that young superintendent which he has
never forgotten. They showed him that his power over those rough boys
was a moral power, and that it pivoted on his retaining power over
himself. It was theirs to get him angry if they could; but if they
succeeded he was a failure, and they knew it. And that lesson is one
that parents as well as superintendents could learn to advantage.

When a parent punishes a child only in love, and without being
ruffled by anger, the child is readier to perceive the justice of the
punishment, and is under no temptation to resent passion with passion.
A child who had been told by her father, that if she did a certain
thing he must punish her for it, came to him, on his return home, and
informed him that she had transgressed in the thing forbidden. He
expressed sincere regret for this. “But you said, papa, that you would
punish me for it,” she added. “Yes, my dear child, and I must keep my
word,” was his answer. Then, as he drew her lovingly to him, he told
her just why he must punish her. Looking up into his face with tearful
trust, she said: “You don’t like to punish me,—do you, papa?” “Indeed I
don’t, my darling,” he said, in earnestness. “It hurts you more than
it hurts me,—doesn’t it, papa?” was her sympathetic question, as if she
were more troubled for her father than for herself. “Yes, indeed it
does, my darling child,” was his loving rejoinder. And the punishment
which that father gave and that daughter received under circumstances
like these, was a cause of no chafing between the two even for the
moment, while it brought its gain to both, as no act of punishment in
anger, however just in itself, could ever bring, in such a case.

As a rule, a child ought not to be punished except for an offense that,
at the time of its committal, was known by the child to be an offense
deserving of punishment. It is no more fair for a parent to impose a
penalty to an offense after the offense is committed, than it is for a
civil government to pass an _ex post facto_ law, by which punishment is
to be awarded for offenses committed before that law was passed. And if
a child understands, when he does a wrong, that he must expect a fixed
punishment as its penalty, there is little danger of his feeling that
his parent is unjust in administering that punishment; and, certainly,
there is no need of the parent hastening to administer that punishment
while still angry.

Punishment received by a child from an angry parent is an injury to
both parent and child. The parent is the worse for yielding to the
temptation to give way to anger against a child. The child is harmed by
knowing that his parent has done wrong. A child can be taught to know
that he deserves punishment. A child needs no teaching to know that his
parent is wrong in punishing him while angry. No parent ought to punish
a child except with a view to the child’s good. And in order to do good
to a child through his punishing, a parent must religiously refrain
from punishing him while angry.



Many a father who will not strike his child feels free to scold him.
And a scolding mother is not always deemed the severest and most unjust
of mothers. Yet, while it is sometimes right to strike a child, it is
at no time right to scold one. Scolding is, in fact, never in order, in
dealing with a child, or in any other duty in life.

To “scold” is to assail or revile with boisterous speech. The word
itself seems to have a primary meaning akin to that of barking or
howling. From its earliest use the term “scolding” has borne a bad
reputation. In common law, “a common scold” is a public nuisance,
against which the civil authority may be invoked by the disturbed
neighborhood. This is a fact at the present time, as it was a fact in
the days of old. And it is true to-day as it was when spoken by John
Skelton, four centuries ago, that

“A sclaunderous tunge, a tunge of a skolde,
Worketh more mischiefe than can be tolde.”

Scolding is always an expression of a bad spirit and of a loss of
temper. This is as truly the case when a lovely mother scolds her
child for breaking his playthings wilfully, or for soiling his third
dress in one forenoon by playing in the gutter which he was forbidden
to approach, as when one apple-woman yells out her abuse of another
apple-woman in a street-corner quarrel. In either case the essence of
the scolding is in the multiplication of hot words in expression of
strong feelings that, while eminently natural, ought to be held in
better control. The words themselves may be very different in the two
cases, but the spirit and method are much alike in both. It is scolding
in the one case as in the other; and scolding is never in order.

If a child has done wrong, a child needs talking to; but no parent
ought to talk to a child while that parent is unable to talk in a
natural tone of voice, and with carefully measured words. If the parent
is tempted to speak rapidly, or to multiply words without stopping to
weigh them, or to show an excited state of feeling, the parent’s first
duty is to gain entire self-control. Until that control is secured,
there is no use of the parent’s trying to attempt any measure of
child-training. The loss of self-control is for the time being an utter
loss of power for the control of others. This is as true in one sphere
as in another.

Mr. Hammond’s admirable work on “Dog-Training,” already referred to in
these pages, says on this very point, to the dog-trainer: “You must
keep perfectly cool, and must suffer no sign to escape of any anger or
impatience; for if you cannot control your temper, you are not the one
to train a dog.” “Do not allow yourself,” says this instructor, “under
any circumstances to speak to your pupil in anything but your ordinary
tone of voice.” And, recognizing the difficulties of the case, he
adds: “Exercise an unwearied patience; and if at any time you find the
strain upon your nerves growing a little tense, leave him at once, and
wait until you are perfectly calm before resuming the lesson.” That is
good counsel for him who would train a dog—or a child; for in either
dog-training or child-training, scolding—loud and excited talking—is
never in order.

In giving commands, or in giving censure, to a child, the fewer and
the more calmly spoken words the better. A child soon learns that
scolding means less than quiet talking; and he even comes to find a
certain satisfaction in waiting silently until the scolder has blown
off the surplus feeling which vents itself in this way. There are
times, indeed, when words may be multiplied to advantage in explaining
to a child the nature and consequences of his offense, and the reasons
why he should do differently in the future; but such words should
always be spoken in gentleness, and in self-controlled earnestness.
Scolding—rapidly spoken censure and protest, in the exhibit of strong
feeling—is never in order as a means of training and directing a child.

Most parents, even the gentler and kindlier parents, scold their
children more or less. Rarely can a child say, “My parents never scold
me.” Many a child is well trained in spite of his being scolded. Many
a parent is a good parent notwithstanding the fact that he scolds his
children. But no child is ever helped or benefited by any scolding that
he receives; and no parent ever helps or benefits his child by means
of a scolding. Scolding is not always ruinous, but it is always out of

If, indeed, scolding has any good effect at all, that effect is on
the scolder, and not on the scolded. Scolding is the outburst of
strong feeling that struggles for the mastery under the pressure of
some outside provocation. It never benefits the one against whom it
is directed, nor yet those who are its outside observers, however it
may give physical relief to the one who indulges in it. If, therefore,
scolding is an unavoidable necessity on the part of any parent, let
that parent at once shut himself, or herself, up, all alone, in a room
where the scolding can be indulged in without harming any one. But let
it be remembered that, as an element in child-training, scolding is
never, never, in order.



The best child in the world is liable to be full of fears; and the
child who is full of fears deserves careful handling, in order that his
fears may not gain permanent control of him. Fears are of a child’s
very nature, and every child’s training must be in view of the fact
that he has fears. How to deal wisely, firmly, and tenderly with a
child’s fears is, therefore, one of the important practical questions
in the training of a child.

To begin with, it should be understood that a child’s fears are no sign
of a child’s weakness, but that, as a rule, the stronger a child is in
the elements of a well-balanced and an admirable character, the more
fears he will have to contend with in the exercise of his character.
Hence a child’s fears are worthy of respect, and call for tenderness
of treatment, instead of being looked at as a cause of ridicule or of
severity on the part of those who observe them.

“Fear” is not “cowardice.” Fear is a keen perception of dangers, real
or imaginary. Cowardice is a refusal to brave the dangers which the
fears recognize. Fear is the evidence of manly sensitiveness. Cowardice
is the exhibit of unmanly weakness. Fear is a moral attribute of
humanity. Cowardice is a moral lack. A child, or a man, who is wholly
free from cowardice, may have more fears than the veriest coward
living. The one struggles successfully against his many fears; the
other yields in craven submission to the first fear that besets him.

It is by no means to a child’s credit that it can be said of him, “He
doesn’t know what fear is.” A child ought to know what fear is. He
is pitiably ignorant if he does not. The same is true of the bravest
man. It is not the soldier who does not know fear but it is the
soldier who will not yield to the fears he feels, who is the truly
courageous man. Without a fine perception and a quick apprehension
of dangers on every side, no soldier could be fully alive to the
necessities of his position and to the demands of his duty; and it
is, in a sense, peculiarly true, that the best soldier is likely to
be the most fearful. It is the Braddocks who are “not afraid” that
needlessly suffer disaster; while the Washingtons who have timely fears
are prepared to act efficiently in the time of disaster. There is a
suggestion of this truth in the words of the Apostle, “Let him that
thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall;” or, as it might be said,
Let him who has no fears have a care lest he fail from his lack of

A child’s fears are on various planes, and because of this they must be
differently dealt with. A child has fears which are reasonable, fears
which are unreasoning, and fears which are wholly imaginary; fears
which are the result of a process of reasoning, fears which are apart
from any reasoning process, and fears which are in the realm of fancy
and imagination. In one child one phase of these fears is the more
prominent, and in another child another phase. But in every child there
is a measure of fear on all three of these planes.

A child who has once fallen in trying to stand or walk, or from coming
too near the top of a flight of stairs, is liable to be afraid that he
will fall again if he makes another effort in the same direction. “A
burnt child dreads the fire.” That is a reasonable fear. Again, a child
comes very early to an instinctive shrinking from trusting himself to a
stranger; he recoils from an ill-appearing person or thing; he trembles
at a loud noise; he is fearful because of the slamming of shutters,
even when he knows that the wind does it; he is afraid of thunder as
well as of lightning, apart from any question of harm to him from the
electric bolt. This is without any process of reasoning on his part,
even while there is a basis of reality in the causes of his fear. Yet
again, a child is afraid of being alone in the darkness; or he is
afraid of “ghosts” and “goblins,” about which he has been told by
others. It is his imagination that is at work in this case.

That all these different fears should call for precisely the same
treatment is, of course, an absurdity. How to deal with each class of
fears by itself, is an important element in the question before the
parent who would treat wisely the fears of his children.

A child would be obviously lacking in sense, if he were never afraid
of the consequences of any action to which he was inclined. If he had
no fear of falling, no fear of fire or water, no fear of edged tools
or machinery, no fear of a moving vehicle, it would be an indication
of his defectiveness in reasoning faculties. Yet that there is a wide
difference among children in the measure of their timidity in the
presence of personal danger, no one will deny.

One child inclines to be unduly cautious, while another inclines to be
unduly venturesome. Moreover, that the timidest child can be brought to
overcome, in large measure, his fears of physical harm, is apparent in
view of the success of primitive peoples in training their children
to swim before they can walk, or to climb as soon as they can stand;
and of circus managers in bringing the children of civilized parents
to feats of daring agility. How to train a child to the mastery of
his fears in this line, without the brutal disregard of his feelings
that too often accompanies such training by savages or professional
athletes, is a point worthy of the attention of every wise parent.

Because these fears are within the realm of the reasoning faculties,
they ought to be removed by means of a process of reasoning. A child
ought not to be beaten or threatened or ridiculed into the overcoming
of his fears, but rather encouraged and directed to their overcoming,
through showing him that they ought to, and that they can, be overcome.
His fears are not unworthy of him; therefore he ought neither to be
punished nor to be made sport of because he has them. The meeting and
surmounting of his fears, within bounds, is also worthy of a child;
therefore he ought to be helped to see this fact, and kindly cheered
and sympathized with in his efforts accordingly.

Many a child has been trained to intelligent fearlessness, so far as
he ought to be fearless, through the wise and tender endeavors of his
parents to show him his power in this direction, and to stimulate him
to the exercise of this power. And many a child has been turned aside
from the overcoming of his fears, through the untimely ridicule of him
for his possession of those fears. Because he must be a laughing-stock
while struggling to master his fears, he decides to evade the struggle
in order to evade the ridicule. Tenderness in pointing out to a child
the wiser way of meeting his fears, is better than severity on the one
hand, or ridicule on the other.

Unreasoning or instinctive fears are common to both the brightest and
the dullest children. They are among the guards which are granted to
humanity, in its very nature, for its own protection. It would never
do for a child to make no distinction between persons whom he could
trust implicitly, and persons whom he must suspect, or shrink from. It
is right that he should be won or repelled by differences in form and
expression. He needs to be capable of starting at a sudden sound, and
of standing in awe of the great forces of nature. The proper meeting of
these instinctive fears by a child must be through his understanding
of their reasonable limits, and through the intelligent conforming of
his action to that understanding. It is for the parent to train his
child to know how far he must overcome these fears, and how far they
must still have play in his mind. And this is a process requiring
tenderness, patience, and wisdom.

When a child shows fear at the moaning of the wind about the house, and
at its rattling of the shutters on a winter’s night, it is not fair to
say to him, “Oh, nonsense! What are you afraid of? That’s nothing but
the wind.” There is no help to the child in that saying; but there is
harm to him in its suggestion of the parent’s lack of sympathy with
him. If, however, the parent says, at such a time, “Does that sound
trouble you? Let me tell you how it comes;” and then goes on to show
how the wind is doing God’s work in driving away causes of sickness,
and how it sometimes makes sweet music on wires that are stretched out
for it to play upon,—the child may come to have a new thought about the
wind, and to listen for its changing sounds on the shutters or through
the trees.

One good mother sought to overcome her little boy’s fear of thunder by
simply telling him that it was God’s voice speaking out of the heavens;
but that was one step too many for his thoughts to take as yet. The
thunder just as it was, was what gave him trouble, no matter where it
came from; so when the next peal sounded through the air, the little
fellow whimpered out despairingly, “Mamma, baby doesn’t like God’s
voice.” And that mother was too wise and tender to rebuke her child for
his unreadiness for that mode of revelation from above.

On the other hand, an equally wise and tender father, whose little
daughter was afraid of the thunder, took his child into his arms, when
a thunder-storm was raging, and carried her out on to the piazza, in
order, as he said, to show her something very beautiful. Then he told
her that the clouds were making loud music, and that the light always
flashed from the clouds before the music sounded, and he wanted her to
watch for both light and music. His evident enthusiasm on the subject,
and his manifest tenderness toward his child, swept the little one
away from her fears, out toward the wonders of nature above her; and
soon she was ready to believe that the thunder was as the very voice
of God, which she could listen to with reverent gratitude. If there
were more of such loving wisdom exercised in parental dealing with
children’s fears, there would be less trouble from the unmastered fears
of children on every side.

The hardest fears to control are, however, the fears which are purely
of the imagination; and no other fears call for such considerate
tenderness of treatment as these, in the realm of child-training. It
is the more sensitive children, children of the finest grain, and of
the more active and potent imaginings, who are most liable to the sway
of these fears, and who are sure to suffer most from them. Persons who
are lacking in the imaginative faculty, or who are cold-blooded and
matter-of-fact in their temperament and nature, are hardly able to
comprehend the power of these fears over those who feel them at their
fullest. Hence it is that these fears in a child’s mind are less likely
than any others to receive due consideration from parents generally,
even while they need it most.

Because these fears are not of the reason, they are not to be removed
by reason. Because they are of the imagination, the imagination must be

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Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 9 of 13)