The ingenious mother will find various modes analogous to this, of leading her children forward into what is right, without at all disturbing their minds by censure of what is wrong—a course which it is perfectly safe to pursue in the case of all errors and faults which result from inadvertence or immaturity. There is, doubtless, another class of faults—those of willful carelessness or neglect—which must be specially pointed out to the attention of the delinquents, and a degree of discredit attached to the commission of them, and perhaps, in special cases, some kind of punishment imposed, as the most proper corrective of the evil. And yet, even in cases of carelessness and neglect of duty, it will generally be found much more easy to awaken ambition, and a desire to improve, in a child, by discovering, if possible, something good in his work, and commending that, as an encouragement to him to make greater exertion the next time, than to attempt to cure him of his negligence by calling his attention to the faults which he has committed, as subjects of censure, however obvious the faults may be, and however deserving of blame.
The advice, however, made in this chapter, to employ commendation and encouragement to a great extent, rather than criticism and fault-finding, in the management and instruction of children, must, like all other general counsels of the kind, be held subject to all proper limitations and restrictions. Some mother may, perhaps, object to what is here advanced, saying, “If I am always indiscriminately praising my child’s doings, he will become self-conceited and vain, and he will cease to make progress, being satisfied with what he has already attained.” Of course he will, and therefore you must take care not to be always and indiscriminately praising him. You must exercise tact and good judgment, or at any rate, common sense, in properly proportioning your criticism and your praise. There are no principles of management, however sound, which may not be so exaggerated, or followed with so blind a disregard of attendant circumstances, as to produce more harm than good.
It must be especially borne in mind that the counsels here given in relation to curing the faults of children by dealing more with what is good in them than what is bad, are intended to apply to faults of ignorance, inadvertence, or habit only, and not to acts of known and willful wrong. When we come to cases of deliberate and intentional disobedience to a parent’s commands, or open resistance to his authority, something different, or at least something more, is required.