The Nervous Child eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 153 pages of information about The Nervous Child.

CHAPTER IX

MANAGEMENT IN LATER CHILDHOOD

In the early days in the nursery the actions of the infant, for the most part, follow passively the traction exercised by nurses and mothers, sometimes consciously, but more often unconsciously.  We have now to consider a period when the child becomes possessed of a driving force of his own, and moves in this direction or that of his own volition.  In this new intellectual movement through life he will not avoid tumbles.  He will feel the restraints of his environment pressing upon him on all sides, and he will often come violently in contact with rigid rules and conventions to which he must learn to yield.  From time to time we read in the papers of some terrible accident in a picture-palace, or in a theatre.  Although there has been no fire, there has been a cry of fire, and in the panic which ensues lives are lost from the crowding and crushing.  Yet all the time the doors have stood wide open, and through them an orderly exit might have been conducted had reason not given place to unreason.  It is the task of those responsible for the children’s education to guide them without wild struggling along the paths of well-regulated conduct towards the desired goal, influenced not by the emotions of the moment, but only by reason and a sense of right; not ignorant of the difficulties to be met, but practised and equipped to overcome them.

It is easy thus to state in general terms the objects of education, and the need for discipline.  To apply these principles to the individual is a task, the immeasurable difficulty of which we are only beginning to appreciate with the failure of thirty years of compulsory education before us.  A recent writer[2] gives it as his opinion that the aim of education is to equip a child with ideals, and that this task should not be difficult, because the lower savages successfully subject all the members of their tribe to the most ruthless discipline.  Their lives, he says, “are lived in fear, in restraint, in submission, in suffering, subject to galling, unreasoning, unnecessary, arbitrary prohibitions and taboos, and to customary duties equally galling, unreasoning, unnecessary, and arbitrary.  They endure painful mutilations, they submit to painful sacrifices....  How are these wild, unstable, wayward, impulsive, passionate natures brought to submit to such a rigorous and cruel discipline?  By education; by the inculcation from infancy of these ideals.  In these ideals they have been brought up, and to them they cling with the utmost tenacity.”  One might as well contend that it was easy to teach all men to live the self-denying life of earnest Christians because some savage tribe was successful in maintaining among its members a universal and orthodox worship of idols.  The ideals set before the child are too high and too complex to be inculcated by physical force, or even by force of public opinion.  A

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The Nervous Child from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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