In a word, it is with the unfolding of the mental faculties of the young as it is with the development of their muscles and the improvement of their bodily powers; and just as the way to teach a child to walk is not to drag him along hurriedly and forcibly by the arm faster than he can himself form the necessary steps, but to go slowly, accommodating your movements to those which are natural to him, and encouraging him by letting him perceive that his own efforts produce appreciable and useful results—so, in cultivating any of their thinking and reasoning powers, we must not put at the outset too heavy a burden upon them, but must call them gently into action, within the limits prescribed by the degree of maturity to which they have attained, standing a little aside, as it were, in doing so, and encouraging them to do the work themselves, instead of taking it out of their hands and doing it for them.
WISHES AND REQUESTS.
In respect to the course to be pursued in relation to the requests and wishes of children, the following general rules result from the principles inculcated in the chapter on Judgment and Reasoning, or, at least, are in perfect accordance with them—namely:
Absolute Authority in Cases of vital Importance.
1. In respect to all those questions in the decision of which their permanent and essential welfare are involved, such as those relating to their health, the company they keep, the formation of their characters, the progress of their education, and the like, the parent should establish and maintain in the minds of the children from their earliest years, a distinct understanding that the decision of all such questions is reserved for his own or her own exclusive jurisdiction. While on any of the details connected with these questions the feelings and wishes of the child ought to be ascertained, and, so far as possible, taken into the account, the course to be pursued should not, in general, be discussed with the child, nor should their objections be replied to in any form. The parent should simply take such objections as the judge takes the papers in a case which has been tried before him, and reserve his decision. The principles by which the parent is governed in the course which he pursues, and the reasons for them, may be made the subject of very free conversation, and may be fully explained, provided that care is taken that this is never done when any practical question is pending, such as would give the explanations of the parent the aspect of persuasions, employed to supply the deficiency of authority too weak to enforce obedience to a command. It is an excellent thing to have children see and appreciate the reasonableness of their parents’ commands, provided that this reasonableness is shown to them in such a way that they are not led to imagine that their being able to see it is in any sense a condition precedent of obedience.