Great Indulgence in Cases not of vital Importance.
2. The authority of the parent being thus fully established in regard to all those things which, being of paramount importance in respect to the child’s present and future welfare, ought to be regulated by the comparative far-seeing wisdom of the parent, with little regard to the evanescent fancies of the child, it is on every account best, in respect to all other things, to allow to the children the largest possible indulgence. The largest indulgence for them in their occupations, their plays, and even in their caprices and the freaks of their fancy, means freedom of action for their unfolding powers of body and mind; and freedom of action for these powers means the most rapid and healthy development of them.
The rule is, in a word, that, after all that is essential for their health, the formation of their characters, and their progress in study is secured, by being brought under the dominion of absolute parental authority, in respect to what remains the children are to be indulged and allowed to have their own way as much as possible. When, in their plays, they come to you for permission to do a particular thing, do not consider whether or not it seems to you that you would like to do it yourself, but only whether there is any real and substantial objection to their doing it.
The Hearing to come before the Decision, not after it.
The courts of justice adopt what seems to be a very sensible and a very excellent mode of proceeding, though it is exactly the contrary to the one which many parents pursue, and that is, they hear the case first, and decide afterwards. A great many parents seem to prefer to decide first, and then hear—that is to say, when the children come to them with any request or proposal, they answer at once with a refusal more or less decided, and then allow themselves to be led into a long discussion on the subject, if discussion that may be called which consists chiefly of simple persistence and importunity on one side, and a gradually relaxing resistance on the other, until a reluctant consent is finally obtained.
Now, just as it is an excellent way to develop and strengthen the muscles of a child’s arms, for his father to hold the two ends of his cane in his hands while the child grasps it by the middle, and then for them to pull against each other, about the yard, until, finally, the child is allowed to get the cane away; so the way to cherish and confirm the habit of “teasing” in children is to maintain a discussion with them for a time in respect to some request which is at first denied, and then finally, after a protracted and gradually weakening resistance, to allow them to gain the victory and carry their point. On the other hand, an absolutely certain way of preventing any such habit from being formed, and of effectually breaking it up when it is formed, is the simple process of hearing first, and deciding afterwards.