But all this is a digression, though it seemed proper to allude to the subject of these contests here, since it is on these occasions, perhaps, that parents are most frequently led, or, as they think, irresistibly impelled, to the infliction of bodily punishments as the last resort, when they would, in general, be strongly inclined to avoid them.
The Infliction of Pain sometimes the speediest Remedy.
There are, moreover, some cases, perhaps, in the ordinary exigencies of domestic life, as the world goes, when some personal infliction is the shortest way of disposing of a case of discipline, and may appear, for the time being, to be the most effectual. A slap is very quickly given, and a mother may often think that she has not time for a more gentle mode of managing the case, even though she may admit that if she had the time at her command the gentle mode would be the best. And it is, indeed, doubtless true that the principles of management advocated in this work are such as require that the parents should devote some time and attention, and, still more essentially, some heart to the work; and they who do not consider the welfare and happiness of their children in future life, and their own happiness in connection with them as they advance towards their declining years, as of sufficient importance to call for the bestowment of this time and attention, will doubtless often resort to more summary methods in their discipline than those here recommended.
The Sting that it leaves behind.
Indeed, the great objection, after all, to the occasional resort to the infliction of bodily pain in extreme cases is, as it seems to me, the sting which it leaves behind; not that, which it leaves in the heart of the child who may suffer it—for that soon passes away—but in the heart of the parent who inflicts it. The one is, or may be, very evanescent; the other may very long remain; and what is worse, the anguish of it may be revived and made very poignant in future years.
This consideration makes it specially imperative on every parent never, for any cause, to inflict punishment by violence when himself under the influence of any irritation or anger awakened by the offense. For though the anger which the fault of the child naturally awakens in you carries you through the act of punishing well enough, it soon afterwards passes away, while the memory of it remains, and in after years, like any other sin, it may come back to exact a painful retribution. When the little loved one who now puts you out of patience with her heedlessness, her inconsiderateness, and, perhaps, by worse faults and failings—all, however, faults which may very possibly, in part or in whole, be the result of the immature and undeveloped condition of her mental or bodily powers—falls sick and dies, and you follow her as she is borne away, and with a bursting heart see her laid in her little grave, it will be a great comfort to you then to reflect that you did all in your power, by means of the gentlest measures at your command, to train her to truth and duty, that you never lost patience with her, and that she never felt from your hand any thing but gentle assistance or a loving caress.