Soon after this George bade him good-night and went away. The next day he told Egbert not to be discouraged at his not having yet learned to obey. “There are a great many boys older than you,” he said, “who have not learned this lesson; but you will learn in time. I can’t go a-fishing with you, or undertake any other great expeditions, till I find I can trust you entirely to do exactly as I say in cases where I have a right to decide; but you will learn before long, and then we can do a great many things together which we can not do now.”
The Principles Illustrated.
Any one who has any proper understanding of the workings of the juvenile mind will see that George, by managing Egbert on these principles, would in a short time acquire complete ascendency over him, while the boy would very probably remain, in relation to his mother, as disobedient and insubordinate as ever. If the penalty annexed to the transgression is made as much as possible the necessary and natural consequence of it, and is insisted upon calmly, deliberately, and with inflexible decision, but without irritation, without reproaches, almost without any indications even of displeasure, but is, on the contrary, lightened as much as possible by sympathy and kindness, and by taking the most indulgent views, and admitting the most palliating considerations in respect to the nature of the offense, the result will certainly be the establishment of the authority of the parent or guardian on a firm and permanent basis.
There are a great many cases of this kind, where a child with confirmed habits of insubordination comes under the charge of a person who is not responsible for the formation of these habits. Even the mother herself sometimes finds herself in substantially this position with her own children; as, for example, when after some years of lax and inefficient government she becomes convinced that her management has been wrong, and that it threatens to bring forth bitter fruits unless it is reformed. In these cases, although the work is somewhat more difficult, the principles on which success depends are the same. Slight penalties, firmly, decisively, and invariably enforced—without violence, without scolding, without any manifestation of resentment or anger, and, except in extreme cases, without even expressions of displeasure—constitute a system which, if carried out calmly, but with firmness and decision, will assuredly succeed.
The real Difficulty.
The case would thus seem to be very simple, and success very easy. But, alas! this is far from being the case. Nothing is required, it is true, but firmness, steadiness, and decision; but, unfortunately, these are the very requisites which, of all others, it seems most difficult for mothers to command. They can not govern their children because they can not govern themselves.