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Martha B Mosher.

Child culture in the home. A book for mothers online

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away temptation, and the outward, formal, obe-
dience must be gradually trained to become a
voluntary conformity the will power must be
strengthened by an enlightened insight. Will
or determination is a valuable quality to possess
because it is the carrying power, the executive
force of the other faculties. It constitutes the
backbone of all virtue and is indispensable to
a perfect development. The parent is so desir-
ous of having the right thing done that he
compels the child to obey, although his will



64 Child Culture

power is not strengthened by such compulsory
yielding to the parent's will. To become the
strong faculty it should be, it must be exercised,
must proceed from within. This training of
the will takes time and is a slow evolution. In
the meantime, obedience must not wait on this
training, but must be required, and the child
must not be permitted to yield to his caprices
or humors while his impulses are strong and his
reason feeble. The rational judgment of the
mother must prevail until the child's will is
sufficiently grown in the right direction. And
right here we have the most difficult problem
in the entire education of the child how to
compel obedience which it were unwise not to
do, and at the same time give the child's will
opportunity to develop itself spontaneously,
into voluntary obedience. This training can be
assisted in two ways: by appeals to his reason,
and by appeals to his sympathy with the right.
The law by which the will power is developed
is the law of recognition.

The child's will may be directed toward the
right by various incentives : one of the most
powerful is the appeal to the opinion of some
individual whom he respects, or to public opin-
ion. If the response to this appeal proceed
from a real reverence for the better judgment
of the most worthy people, and if he respect it
for its soundness, then the recognition is a



The Training of the Will 65

worthy one. If on the contrary the response
simply show a desire for approbation regardless
of the value of the praise, then it is vanity and
an unworthy motive. The mother has also the
instruments of her own praise and censure with
which to move the child's will. Praise and
censure are joint powers, and he who cannot
praise deservedly cannot censure justly, for he
lacks the brighter half of justice. Right-will
and love are both engendered by judicious
praise of meritorious effort, and it is a commend-
able power. If the mother is consistent in
her standard, always commending every effort
toward it, and censuring every deviation from
it, this standard will become the child's ideal
and inspire his will. The foregoing motives and
the child's natural affection for his parents will
aid him as much as external motive can in a
determination toward the right, and if at the
same time his insight is awakened whereby he
sees into the justice and wisdom of divine law,
then, when he gains a reverence for the
eternal right as such, he has made all the intel-
lectual and moral recognition a man can.

There is also the recognition of the heart
which moves the child to feel toward the right.
This recognition maybe urged by relating stories
or facts, wherein true, generous, noble deeds
are presented in such attractive forms that the
child at once desires to follow them. Ideals



66 Child Culture

are created in the depths of intellectual ab-
straction or emotional enthusiasm, and to
arouse the enthusiasm by citing illustrative fact
or fiction, gives the child an ideal toward
which he may strive. Froebel's games are full
of such attractive ideals, which appeal to the
child's heart. When the child is old enough to
understand heroic deeds of history, or the
imaginary heroes of myth and legend, point
out to him the traits which ennobled each, and
also the statues which commemorate the vir-
tuous dead, that he may appreciate wherein
true greatness consists, and cherish only worthy
ideals. Miss Harrison says in this regard:
" Where we see little Arabs of our large cities,
ragged, dirty and hungry, smoking cigarettes
or cigars with a triumphant air of having at-
tained a much envied distinction, we know that
their standard of manhood is measured by the
length of the cigar or size of the pipe which a
man can smoke. We know that high ideals
have never been given to their little souls, and
that they have reached out for some standard
by which to measure their growing manliness,
and have taken this external distinction as the
test."

A child may be perfectly obedient, never
transgress a law, and yet have no power of
self-government, for his controlling force may
be fear instead of desire, and only when the



The Training of the Will $

false pressure is raised and his acts are volun-
tary, can one know what his own power is.
Sustain the child's efforts at self-control by a
lavish affection, letting this affection be a re-
ward for his conduct, and let encouragement
always come before despondency sets in, for
only Titanic strength of character can endure
against constant discouragement and failure.

We make the great mistake of expecting too
much of our children. Beware of hothouse
morality. The detrimental results of intel-
lectual precocity are already apparent. The
moral faculties evolve slowly, and over-stimu-
lation will have reaction. A boy of eight or
ten years; who never transgresses, never needs
correction, is lacking in physical or mental vi-
tality.

The spirit of analysis, or reasoning about the
parent's orders should be discouraged. It is
sometimes kind and wise of the parent in re-
fusing a request to give a reason for so doing,
and it would be commendable if it did not in-
vite an argument, thereby lessening the child's
respect for parental authority. There ought to
be associated with the child's affection a per-
fect confidence in the parent's good judgment.
" It cannot, however, be wondered at in this
age of independent criticism," says Kate Doug-
las Wiggin, " when the ubiquitous interro-
gation point is levelled against everything, that



68 Child Culture

it should also be held against parental judgment.
Freedom of thought and speech are republican
virtues. If they sometimes prove its vices also
we must bear them as patiently as possible " ;
but with children it might be insisted that
sometimes their interest blinds their insight,
and they must trust their parents' love and
have faith in the rationality of their conclu-
sions.

Of all errors in education the worst is incon-
sistency, and an immense increase of trans-
gression results from an irregular application
of rules. If a child is sent from the table nine
times for personal untidiness and permitted to
remain the tenth time, he is by the one over-
sight encouraged to persist in the offence. " A
weak mother," says Spencer, " who perpetually
threatens and never performs who makes
rules in haste and repents them at leisure who
treats the same offence now with severity and
now with leniency, as the passing hour dictates,
is laying up misery for herself and her children.
She is making herself contemptible in their
eyes. Better even a barbarous form of govern-
w, ment, carried out consistently, than a humane
^ ' one inconsistently carried out." Some parents'
orders remind one of the harlequin who ap-
peared on the stage with a bundle of papers
under each arm, and who answered, when asked
what was under his right arm, " Orders," and



The Training of the Will 69

when asked what was under his left arm,
" Counter-orders."

Parents should be well assured of the justice
and wisdom of their regulations and then ad-
here to them ; if, however, on further con-
sideration their views are modified, or changed,
there is no reason why the child should not
have the benefit of the better judgment. Ob-
stinacy in clinging to a mistaken judgment is
firmness perverted.

Weak will is the ruin of as many souls as de-
liberate evil, and is often the road to it. The
prisons, jails and reformatories are full of well-
meaning men who are there, not because they
are wicked, but because they are weak. There
are few persons who would not choose to do
right if choosing accomplished it, but they lack
the moral courage to resist the temptation at
first, and the oftener they yield, the more in-
sensible to the wrong are they likely to become.

When we begin to compromise we begin to
die, and the child has learned the most valuable
lesson of his life when he appreciates the ad-
vantage of not giving entrance or consideration
to the thought that can lead him astray. The
longer one contemplates the temptation, the
more irresistible it becomes. The parents
should give the child every aid in its efforts at
self-control. He may desire the right course
very earnestly and have no practical ideas of



yo Child Culture

how to attain it, his feelings overcoming his will
constantly. This is a frequent difficulty with
intense natures, and on investigation it may be
found that the weakness consists in letting the
mind dwell on the luring thought, and that to
banish it as often as it presents itself is the only
hope of success. The best aid in a struggle
against temptation is to make the child capable
of filling his mind with other thoughts unre-
lated to the tempting one.

The man who holds up his head firmly and
securely through a period of poverty or unde-
served disgrace is exercising his power of firm-
ness as vigorously as the general on the battle-
field, and his conflict with his shaken self-
esteem and baffled hopes is as great as the con-
flict with the enemy. Such a man will have
the sympathy of all right-minded people.

No one can guide and train a little one to his
best possibilities who has not by love and right
living retained his own child heart ; he must
become as one of them before he can wisely
direct the life of a little child. Yet these little
ones are subjected very often to cruelties and
humiliations which are never intended, but are
the result of thoughtlessness and carelessness.
What can we think of a woman who nicknames
her daughter, because she is a girl of slender
proportions, * 4 Slim." I once knew such a one.
It is no rare thing to hear mothers tease and



The Training of the Will 71

joke, and, I regret to say, even scold their little
children about some physical peculiarity which
can be in no way remedied, and of which they
thus become painfully conscious. Such words
are as cruel as the taunt which made Byron's
mother so famous.

Again, parents after punishing a child for a
misdemeanor will relate it to others in the
child's presence and laugh at the naughtiness
which they a short time before severely re-
buked. Fathers are prone to regale their fam-
ilies with certain transgressions of their boy-
hood, with great relish for the heroic parts they
took. These tales, though likely to prove very
tempting to the son, are, however, supposed to
excite no parallel propensities in him. All these
things are done without thought of the disas-
trous effect they may have on the child, and
only serve to show how guarded parents should
be before their children.

Inconsistency is quite as frequent as thought-
lessness, though the following may be an ex-
treme case. A child presented himself at school
so often in so soiled a state that the teacher
remonstrated with him, requesting him to in-
vite his mother's inspection before leaving
home in the morning. The little fellow re-
plied : " My mother has no time for such
things. She is writing a book on How to
Rear a Perfect Child/ "



72 Child Culture

It is also unwise to reprimand a child before
others, as the hurt his pride sustains neutral-
izes any effect the words might otherwise have ;
a child's self-respect should be marred as seldom
as possible, and always reinstated as soon after
as possible. Self-respect is a motive so strong,
that it alone is often sufficient to hold to the
path of rectitude. When the child is old
enough to understand, if the parent will trace
back to its source the fault to which he seems
most predisposed and analyze his weak point
for him, the analysis will be of great assistance
to him in overcoming the fault.

It is wise sometimes to overlook small faults,
particularly if one has occasion already for
much reproof, as too frequent censure lessens
the child's sensibilities thereto ; the entire in-
fluence should be levelled against the graver
defects, and when they have been corrected,
attention may be given to the lesser ones. Her-
bert Spencer's theory of discipline is most wisely
suggestive of the course to pursue. He says :
" Let the history of your domestic rule typify
in little the history of our political rule ; at the
outset autocratic control where control is really
needful; by and by an incipient constitution-
alism, in which the liberty of the subject gains
some express recognition ; successive exten-
sion of this liberty of the subject gradually
ending in parental abdication." The best



The Training of the Will 73

teacher is one who guides rather than governs,
suggests rather than dogmatizes, and who in-
spires the listener with a desire to teach him- \.
self, for after all is said and done, a man must
make himself. He can be assisted and devel- ,
oped to a given point only, and beyond that
his inspiration must emanate from himself.



VI

PUNISHMENT AND REWARD

LONG before the child's will has developed
sufficiently to wisely direct and sustain him in
good conduct, it is necessary that he should
conform to some authority, as obedience and
right doing cannot wait on the full growth of
the will. If the child, however, rebels or disre-
gards this authority as well as his sense of
right, and can by no appeal to his reason or
sympathy be urged to comply, how shall the
parental authority be exercised ?

Obedience may be urged by four different
motives: First, Affection. Second, Insight,
the recognition of right, moral respect. Third,
The Habit of Submission. Fourth, Fear. Af-
fection and recognition of right are the highest
motives.

It must now be ascertained to what extent it
is right to let the elements of hope and fear
enter into the child's discipline. Much of the
mismanagement of children is due to a mis-
apprehension of the aim of punishment. Pun-
ishment is not only an atonement for trans-
gression, but should be so directly a conse-
quence of it, as to fix in the child's mind the
74



Punishment and Reward 75

relation between them the act and its conse-
quence, and thereby aid him in avoiding a
repetition of both. He must first know definitely
what is right and what is wrong, and have the
power of choosing between the two. It is very
difficult to ascertain in a young child how fur
his consciousness is developed ; childhood is so
very unconscious. His attitude after the com-
mission of a deed may reveal the degree of his
conscious guilt. In doubtful cases he should
be given the benefit of the doubt ; in cases that
show conclusively both consciousness and de-
liberate evil, or wilfulness, he should learn that
"the way of the transgressor is hard." The
very best punishments are those which can be
linked with the misdeed the retributive pun-
ishments. They appeal to his sense of justice,
are more impersonal in that they do not afford
special indulgence to parental displeasure, and
appear to him as the direct consequence of his
deed. For instance : if the child has been given
a distinct task and has shirked it, and afterward
an opportunity for pleasure arises, he should
not be allowed to take part, because the en-
forced task still awaits his attention. He must
recognize that the omission of his duty brought
the unpleasant result. It is the law of cause
and effect, as a man sows, so will he reap.

A series of such disagreeable consequences
will impress him with the inevitableness of the



76 Child Culture

relation, unless the weak parent intervenes and,
by permitting him to forego the after effects,
spoils the lesson, or punishes him by some
means unrelated to the act. The consequences
are often as unpleasant for the parent as for
the child, and the temptation to weaken is very
great ; but if one cannot be consistent and firm,
it is impossible to train the child as he should
be trained, and the consequences that are de-
feated now are only retarded, for every wrong
is punished or atoned for sooner or later.

In. the Divine Comedy, Dante inflicts on the
lost souls of the Inferno the punishments that
fit their sins. The soul which had been arro-
gant in life is there in filth and mire disguised.
The man who had been remarkable for the ex-
treme irascibility of his temper turns on him-
self his avenging fangs. The heretics are pun-
ished in the city of Dis in tombs burning with
intense fire. The souls of tyrants, who were
given to blood and rapine, in the seventh circle
rail aloud their merciless wrongs. The hypo-
crites are punished by being compelled to pace
around the gulf under the pressure of caps and
hoods that are gilt on the outside but leaden
within. The selfish, they who have betrayed
their benefactors, are wholly covered with ice
in the lower stratum of the Inferno, for selfish-
ness is the most ineradicable of sins.

In training the child to orderly habits this



Punishment and Reward 77

method is also most efficacious ; if the disorder
he creates is left for another to restore, he is
encouraged to continue it, whereas if the res-
toration falls on him, he will soon discontinue
the habit; the, greater the inconvenience he
suffers in consequence of his neglect, the more
it will impress him, and his sense of justice will
suffer no violation by such treatment. If the
child who leaves his clothes on the floor at
night on retiring is awakened and compelled to
arise and arrange them properly, the neglect
will not occur often. In this method of punish-
ment, however, regularity and perseverance are
imperative.

Cases occur in which it is impossible to mete
out the after effects of the deed, and some form
of punishment is in demand. The child might
be deprived of some pleasure or indulgence, or
indeed, almost any form of punishment may
then be resorted to, except such as the child
may feel to be a pure gratification of the par-
ent's displeasure, which induces a sense of in-
justice.

Corporal punishment is never inflicted except
in cases where one has some physical advan-
tage, and it seems cowardly to use one's supe-
rior strength on a weaker body. " Do you know
why I whip you ? " asked a father of his little
boy. " Yes, sir, because you are the biggest,"
replied the latter ; and too often in such pun-



78 Child Culture

ishments there is an excitement of the animal
nature, insensible alike to the claims of right
and reason. One is apt to act impulsively in
such administrations of justice, whereas a little
delay, a little more thorough examination of
the child's defence, or of the circumstances,
might render the chastisement unnecessary, and
grant a juster decision.

As to the proper treatment of specific cases
there can be no rigid, unvarying rule suited to
all, or even to the same child at all times ; chil-
dren differ so in their sensibilities and in the
degree of their amenability to punishment.
Some there are, who in childhood were victims
of frequent whippings, yet who seem to recall
them with relish and a feeling that they were
well deserved and most beneficial ; while in
others the remembrance arouses almost as great
indignation and rebellion as the actual admin-
istration aroused. The inference is, that for
the former a milder punishment would not
have sufficed, whereas for the latter the sever-
ity was unnecessary. Very good effects seem
to have resulted from both modes, so one can
formulate no data therefrom. The sentiment
of fear can only be effective by making a cow-
ard of the child. He follows the right only be-
cause he has not the courage to bear the pain
that would follow the course he wishes to fol-
low, and if he submits he still harbors a rebel-



Punishment and Reward 79

lious spirit ; both results do injury to his char-
acter.

If corporal punishment may enter into the
sentiment of moral authority it should not have
too much prominence, nor be permitted to en-
croach on other forms of punishment. In no
case should the parent show brutal anger to the
child, or he also will feel justified in being pas-
sionate and brutal. Indignation and not anger
should be the accompanying sentiment. The
justification of corporal punishment lies in its
application to cases of such serious nature that
they cannot be temporized with, but must be
met with the greatest severity possible, and in
the certainty that such acts, if not checked,
will cause the child to suffer later in life much
ruder consequences. The connection between
cause and effect can be explained to him, the
logical sequence of wrong giving it the stamp
of justice, and if one wishes the child to be
just, one must deal justly with him. Scoldings
and whippings should not be of frequent occur-
rence, as the child will become insensible to
them, and experience teaches that children
who are whipped for every offence are the most
unmanageable of all, and their parents are al-
ways at their wits' end to know what to do
with them. A child should never be punished
for accidents or inadvertencies in which there
is no conscious or intentional guilt. He must



8o Child Culture

be thoroughly instructed in the nature of
wrong, and even after conscious sins that are
the result of impulse, it would be most disas-
trous to punish him for the misdeed if his re-
morse is already awakened, for repentance and
reformation are all that punishment is to effect.
Consequently, if they already exist, the inflic-
tion is not only superfluous but destroys what
genuine repentance he has felt. In this respect
the administration of justice in the home differs
from the civic administration ; the former, be-
ing educative, individual, and more for the
moral effect and development than for atone-
ment and the protection of society, greater
elasticity is permissible. To be effectual, cor-
poral punishment should be reserved for excep-
tional cases of rare occurrence, and open dis-
obedience. The essentially exceptional char-
acter of it makes it formidable and a powerful
means of impressing the child's mind.

As the object of punishment is to awaken
remorse, a moral color should pervade it, and
as the child matures, moral pain be substi-
tuted for physical pain. If the same offence is
repeated for which the child has once or twice
been whipped, that form of punishment should
not be continued, nor should he be punished
frequently for other grievous offences, for the
moral effect is soon exhausted, and frequency
makes the child accustomed to being punished,



Punishment and Reward 81

deplorable result. It is better to change
the punishment; and even not to notice the
offence for awhile is sometimes advisable.
It is doubtful whether such chastisement is
ever inflicted by a thoughtful parent without
an after sentiment of regret and shame from
the feeling that after all it was only a vic-
tory of brute force, because he was the
stronger. It should never be administered ex-
cept where the parent is calm and dispassion-
ate, at which time it will be so distasteful
to him that he will suffer as much as the
child.

Let each reward be of the character of the
meritorious act ; spiritual effort should not be
rewarded by material gain. The child's self-
control should not be moved by appeals to his
physical gratification and pleasure, as it en-
courages that in him which is already too
prominent. How can a child develop true un-
selfishness, when the selfishness that already
exists is used to destroy another form of it ; it
only substitutes one form of error for another.
If the mother says to her child " Give your
little brother some of your apple and I will buy
you another, or a finer one/' his selfish spirit
alone is incited, aud though he thereupon share
his fruit, the act has not an element of merit,
for there was no unselfishness in it, nothing



82 Child Culture

but pure gain having prompted him. Higher
ideals should inspire him, such as love, desire
of another's respect, his own self-respect, the
impossibility of attaining peace and happiness
without goodness. By receiving right forms of
reward and punishment he will soon realize
that by well doing alone does contentment
come to him, that only by integrity and up-
rightness can he command the respect of his


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Online LibraryMartha B MosherChild culture in the home. A book for mothers → online text (page 4 of 13)