But if his mother says, “Johnny, you obeyed me at once when I called you. It must be hard, when you are after a butterfly and think you have almost caught him, to stop immediately and come back to your mother when she calls you; but you did it,” Johnny will be led by this treatment to feel a desire to come back more promptly still the next time.
Of course there is an endless variety of ways by which you can show your children that you notice and appreciate the efforts they make to do right. Doubtless there is a danger to be guarded against. To adopt the practice of noticing and commending what is right, and paying no attention whatever to what is wrong, would be a great perversion of this counsel. There is a danger more insidious than this, but still very serious and real, of fostering a feeling of vanity and self-conceit by constant and inconsiderate praise. These things must be guarded against; and to secure the good aimed at, and at the same time to avoid the evil, requires the exercise of the tact and ingenuity which has before been referred to. But with proper skill and proper care the habit of noticing and commending, or even noticing alone, when children do right, and of even being more quick to notice and to be pleased with the right than to detect and be dissatisfied with the wrong, will be found to be a very powerful means of training children in the right way.
Children will act with a great deal more readiness and alacrity to preserve a good character which people already attribute to them, than to relieve themselves of the opprobrium of a bad one with which they are charged. In other words, it is much easier to allure them to what is right than to drive them from what is wrong.
2. There is, perhaps, nothing more irksome to children than to listen to advice given to them in a direct and simple form, and perhaps there is nothing that has less influence upon them in the formation of their characters than advice so given. And there is good reason for this; for either the advice must be general, and of course more or less abstract, when it is necessarily in a great measure lost upon them, since their powers of generalization and abstraction are not yet developed; or else, if it is practical and particular at all, it must be so with reference to their own daily experience in life—in which case it becomes more irksome still, as they necessarily regard it as an indirect mode of fault-finding. Indeed, this kind of advice is almost certain to assume the form of half-concealed fault-finding, for the subject of the counsel given would be, in almost all cases, suggested by the errors, or shortcomings, or failures which had been recently observed in the conduct of the children. The art, then, of giving to children general advice and instruction in respect to their conduct and behavior, consists in making it definite and practical, and at the same time contriving some way of divesting it entirely of all direct application to themselves in respect to their past conduct. Of course, the more we make it practically applicable to them in respect to the future the better.