The mother, instead of finding fault with them for being so capricious and changeable in their plans, says, “I think you are right. Fishes look pretty enough when they are swimming in the brook, but flowers are much prettier to transport and take care of. But first go and fill up the hole you made for the pond with the earth that is in the wheelbarrow; and when you have made your garden and moved the flowers into it, I advise you to get the watering-pot and give them a good watering.”
It may be said that children ought to be brought up in habits of steadiness and perseverance in what they undertake, and that this kind of indulgence in their capriciousness would have a very bad tendency in this respect. The answer is, that there are times and seasons for all the different kinds of lessons which children have to learn, and that when in their hours of recreation they are amusing themselves in play, lessons in perseverance and system are out of place. The object to be sought for then is the exercise and growth of their bodily organs and members, the development of their fancy and imagination, and their powers of observation of nature. The work of training them to habits of system and of steady perseverance in serious pursuits, which, though it is a work that ought by no means to be neglected, is not the appropriate work of such a time.
Summary of Results.
The general rules for the government of the parent in his treatment of his children’s requests and wishes are these: In all matters of essential importance he is to decide himself and simply announce his decision, without giving any reasons for the purpose of justifying it, or for inducing submission to it.
And in all matters not of essential importance he is to allow the children the greatest possible freedom of action.
And the rule for children is that they are always to obey the command the first time it is given, without question, and to take the first answer to any request without any objection or demurring whatever.
It is very easy to see how smoothly and happily the affairs of domestic government would go on if these rules were established and obeyed. All that is required on the part of parents for their complete establishment is, first, a clear comprehension of them, and then a calm, quiet, and gentle, but still inflexible firmness in maintaining them. Unfortunately, however, such qualities as these, simple as they seem, are the most rare. If, instead of gentle but firm consistency and steadiness of action, ardent, impulsive, and capricious energy and violence were required, it would be comparatively easy to find them. How seldom do we see a mother’s management of her children regulated by a calm, quiet, gentle, and considerate decision that thinks before it speaks in all important matters, and when it speaks, is firm; and yet, which readily and gladly accords to the children every liberty and indulgence which can do themselves or others no harm. And on the other hand, how often do we see foolish laxity and indulgence in yielding to importunity in cases of vital importance, alternating with vexatious thwartings, rebuffs, and refusals in respect to desires and wishes the gratification of which could do no injury at all.