In order to give a more clear idea of what I mean by forming habits of obedience in children by methods other than those connected with a system of rewards and punishments, I will specify some such methods, introducing them, however, only as illustrations of what is intended. For, while in respect to rewards and punishments something like special and definite rules and directions may be given, these other methods, as they depend on the tact, ingenuity, and inventive powers of the parents for their success, depend also in great measure upon these same qualities for the discovery of them. The only help that can be received from without must consist of suggestions and illustrations, which can only serve to communicate to the mind some general ideas in respect to them.
Recognizing the Right.
1. A very excellent effect is produced in forming habits of obedience in children, by simply noticing their good conduct when they do right, and letting them see that you notice it. When children are at play upon the carpet, and their mother from time to time calls one of them—Mary, we will say—to come to her to render some little service, it is very often the case that she is accustomed, when Mary obeys the call at once, leaving her play immediately and coming directly, to say nothing about the prompt obedience, but to treat it as a matter of course. It is only in the cases of failure that she seems to notice the action. When Mary, greatly interested in what for the moment she is doing, delays her coming, she says, “You ought to come at once, Mary, when I call you, and not make me wait in this way.” In the cases when Mary did come at once, she had said nothing.
Mary goes back to her play after the reproof, a little disturbed in mind, at any rate, and perhaps considerably out of humor.
Now Mary may, perhaps, be in time induced to obey more promptly under this management, but she will have no heart in making the improvement, and she will advance reluctantly and slowly, if at all. But if, at the first time that she comes promptly, and then, after doing the errand, is ready to go back to her play, her mother says, “You left your play and came at once when I called you. That was right. It pleases me very much to find that I can depend upon your being so prompt, even when you are at play,” Mary will go back to her play pleased and happy; and the tendency of the incident will be to cause her to feel a spontaneous and cordial interest in the principle of prompt obedience in time to come.
Johnny is taking a walk through the fields with his mother. He sees a butterfly and sets off in chase of it. When he has gone away from the path among the rocks and bushes as far as his mother thinks is safe, she calls him to come back. In many cases, if the boy does not come at once in obedience to such a call, he would perhaps receive a scolding. If he does come back at once, nothing is said. In either case no decided effect would be produced upon him.