Indeed, besides the bearing of these views on the happiness of the children, it is not at all improbable that the question of health may be seriously involved in them. For, however certain we may be of the immateriality of the soul in its essence, it is a perfectly well established fact that all its operations and functions, as an animating spirit in the human body, are fulfilled through the workings of material organs in the brain; that these organs are in childhood in an exceedingly immature, tender, and delicate condition; and that all sudden, sharp, and, especially, painful emotions, greatly excite, and sometimes cruelly irritate them.
When we consider how seriously the action of the digestive organs, in persons in an ordinary state of health, is often interfered with by mental anxiety or distress; how frequently, in persons subject to headaches, the paroxysm is brought on by worryings or perplexities endured incidentally on the preceding day; and especially how often violent and painful emotions, when they are extreme, result in decided and sometimes in permanent and hopeless insanity—that is, in an irreparable damage to some delicate mechanism in the brain—we shall see that there is every reason for supposing that all sudden shocks to the nervous system of children, all violent and painful excitements, all vexations and irritations, and ebullitions of ill-temper and anger, have a tendency to disturb the healthy development of the cerebral organs, and may, in many cases, seriously affect the future health and welfare, as well as the present happiness, of the child.
It is true that mental disturbances and agitations of this kind can not be wholly avoided. But they should be avoided as far as possible; and the most efficient means for avoiding them is a firm, though calm and gentle, establishment and maintenance of parental authority, and not, as many mothers very mistakingly imagine, by unreasonable indulgences, and by endeavors to manage their children by persuasions, bribings, and manoeuvrings, instead of by commands. The most indulged children, and the least governed, are always the most petulant and irritable; while a strong government, if regular, uniform, and just, and if administered by gentle measures, is the most effectual of all possible instrumentalities for surrounding childhood with an atmosphere of calmness and peace.
In a word, while the mother is bound to do all in her power to render submission to her authority easy and agreeable to her children, by softening as much as possible the disappointment and hardship which her commands sometimes occasion, and by connecting pleasurable ideas and sensations with acts of obedience on the part of the child, she must not at all relax the authority itself, but must maintain it under all circumstances in its full force, with a very firm and decided, though still gentle hand.