University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a web of many textures

collapse section 
expand section 


Page 104


With regard to the management of children, said the
philosopher, a few wholesome rules may not be amiss.
As Solomon said, “spare the rod and spoil the child,”
it is your duty, at the outset, to impress upon the
mind of your child the idea that force alone is to be
your measure of family discipline; but, as it may be
troublesome and require time to apply the switch, the
next best thing is tongue. The tongue is easily applied,
takes little time, and is very salutary. As soon as your
children are up in the morning, or get into the house
from school, begin to find fault with them, and blame
them about their looks, gait, and behavior. Speak to
them tartly, if you want them to mind you; there is
nothing like a good sharp parental voice in making a
child start quickly. It would be unbecoming weakness
to ask them to do what you wish, and a tone of displeased
authority is very efficacious in inspiring feelings
of respect. If they do not start quickly, — particularly
if a boy has his boot half on, or a girl her head
half combed, — threaten them with dismemberment, decapitation,
or any other equally trifling penalty, if they
do not jump, and the willing haste they will show in
minding will astonish you. If children are teasing
round you from hunger or whim, yell at them lustily,
and threaten them with whipping. No matter whether
you execute the threat or not, — persevere in threatening,
and after a while they may be led to believe you
will do it. It may take some time, but stick to it. It
will not do to gratify any little desire of theirs at once;
it will look too much like bending from parental dignity.
It is best always to refuse them at first, and work
their feelings to turbulence, and then to comply; this


Page 105
will give them a sense of their dependence, and yourself
an opportunity of throwing oil upon the troubled
waters. It is a fine experiment, when well managed;
and it is, besides, a practical application of the text,
“through much tribulation,” &c. If one of your children
cry, through the teasing propensity of another,
first look round, as if searching for something to throw
at the head of the culprit, then, with an angry eye, dart
upon and give him or her a rap. It will be remembered,
you may depend. Don't waste time in counsel. This
would derogate from the parental authority. If your
children are noisy, it is an ingenious expedient to feign
extreme distress, and threaten to go away or jump overboard;
by appealing to their affections thus for a few
times, they will get so as to believe it. If this fail, go
up stairs, or anywhere in the cold, under pretence
that your head is “splitting open” from their noise.
If a child is disposed to sing, check it at once; it is a
boisterous practice, and should be discouraged. As if
heaven had not given it more use for its lungs than a
bird! It is a good way to cry out “Stop that noise!”
It prevents the formation, by the child, of a too exalted
opinion of its own vocal ability. The same rule may
apply, if the child is disposed to dance. What can be
more ungainly than a little child capering about a room,
with no more consideration than a lamb? If a child is
disposed to be affectionate, don't return it; remember
that we should not love the creature more than the
Creator. Don't show that you love it too well; it is
best to repel petulantly all little acts of endearment;
to encourage a child in kissing is apt to lead to bad
results. If your children make mistakes, and are not
ready to learn, it is a beneficial plan to rail at them for
their stupidity, and present a microscopic view of their


Page 106
failings; this latter, particularly, if a neighbor or playmate
chance to be present. Disparaging comparisons
are very apt to encourage them to persevere. Be careful
and do not praise them for good qualities they may
possess; this would tend to make them vain, and vanity
is sin. Having yourself arrived at what you know by
intuition, or divine inspiration, of course it is of no use
to instruct your children how to do anything. Let
them find out as you did. You will get along a great
deal better in your management if you have some
grandparent or maiden-aunt to assist, especially if they
take views opposite to yourself in everything. The
balance is thus beautifully preserved. A good grumbler
is invaluable among a family of children; the
grumbler will prevent their dying from a surfeit of
jollity. Depend upon it, said the philosopher, the
advice I have given, if it be rightly understood and
rightly applied, may be made profitable. The interests
of time and eternity depend upon judicious family
training; and yet how few there are who know how to
bring up children in the way they should go! Almost
all read the Solomonian injunction, “Train up a child
and away he 'll go,” — and they go it.