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and to bury its straggling roots, who shall say it will not flourish ? And we can calculate upon the foundation of a house, and think nothing on the principles of a child? We can pronounce the fall or decay of a young tree , which is not set in a deep bed, and yet have no concern respecting the culture of habit, whether we fix it as a strong generous root, or leave it to spread over the mind and body as a noxious weed ? Low indeed is our estimation, if we, the beings designed for immortality, are of no higher worth than an inanimate object of creation. But such is not the case : we are of higher price; and the parent who does think, and acts not as if she thought thus, deserves not to be, neither is she, a joyful mother of children.
But to proceed to discrimination, which is the second essential to a mother, and by which she is enabled to seize the right moment for opposition, when chance or circumstance has thrown improper objects in the child's way, or has excited him to a wrong pursuit.
When the first of these happens, that the child has roused
all the ardour of his soul to seize on some dangerous or forbidden object, such as a knife, scissars, glass, or needle, and that he is in the very act of leaning over to grasp it, discrimination will teach us that this is not the moment to say, “ Come, sit still; you must not have that ; it is very improper for you," whilst at the same time no care is either taken to remove the desired thing, or to bring forward another as shewy, but more proper. Children are volatile and capricious, and provided we exert our own senses and
powers of judgment in substituting other amusements for those which we condemn, are often very well satisfied. But hat a child should sit in view of a forbidden object with all eagerness to possess it, and be told he must not do so, without any consolation or equivalent ; that all his little powers should be braced for action, and he be yet tantalized by prohibition, and that he should nevertheless submit without any displeasure, is past belief. In almost all cases of probibition, action is better than words. Instead of saying to a child, "put that down,” “ let this alone,” either of which commands he will not, or really does not hear, and then pursuing our employment whilst the child continues his pursuit with impunity, which after a time requires another, “Why don't you do as I bid you, naughty child ?" which also is disobeyed, and calls forth a “Well, I shall get up to you in a minute, and make you obey me," instead of all this idle talk, how much better is it to get up at once and go to the child who is fixing his attention on something forbidden, to say nothing whatever, but to search instantly, and bring forward a harmless object and advance it near to his sight. Attention will soon be divided, as the eye is attracted, and if we find him wavering in his choice, we may say a word in praise of the new thing, adhering to truth, however; “ This, my love, is as pretty, or as strong, or as good, as that; and you may have it in your hands.” This last clause determines the balance; the article is accepted, whilst the prohibited one is gently slipped away and hidden, and all this without a struggle. Whereas, if, as the child is fixing his attention, we snatch the ob
ject suddenly from him, or drag him from it, we certainly must expect his passions to rise, and break forth in loud and boisterous excess. The very homely proverb says, “ Do not throw away sullied water until clean be at hand.” I add, “ Nor wrest from a child one source of amusement until we 'have found him another." There are times, too, when, if we carefully observe a child as we are going to oppose him, we shall see that his attention is fatigued, and his powers of curiosity exhausted, and that if let alone for a few moments, he will of himself quit the pursuit, when by ill-timed interference and unnecessary arguing, we actually make him attach a new importance to the matter, and awaken a curiosity which was inclined to repose.
From such causes, and a thousand others, whether of mismanagement on our part, or of unbounded desires and wishfulness on the part of the child, we see his passions rise and rage with fierceness according to his temperament. One bad passion drags along with it many others; and all these, if not quickly checked and eradicated, take root. If the growth of weeds be rapid, so is that of irregular passion. Anger and indignation, which are regular passions, may, if not kept with care within their due bounds, degenerate to rage, fury, sullenness, revenge. Emulation and ambition, which spring from noble desire, will sink to envy and avarice; and curiosity, which is an upiversal and generous passion, may be inflated to the most dishonourable excesses, if it be not cautiously guarded and con
fined by admonition, persuasion, or force, to its limits; for confined all passion must be, if the child is not to be for ever miserable.
A mother who will admit that the passions are to be regulated in her child, but not smothered, stands on dangerous ground. She allows that, which many who direct the education of children will not. “ How!" say these, “ acknowledge that a child may have passions with impunity? that all are not to be subdued in him ? that pride, anger, and resentment may pass through his breast ?”
But in reply I ask, what sort of anger, and pride, and resentment is understood ? What meaning would be conveyed by the assertion, “ that plants would thrive in gardens ?" The inquiry would follow, “ What plants ?" for some, we know, must perish in the open air. Suppose it were declared, that grasses were not food for man. The observation would be, that of three hundred kinds of grasses, many, as wheat, rye, barley, &c., produce the food best suited to man. Passions are as indefinite in signification as the word plants ; and we can no more aver that plants will all thrive in gardens, than we can affirm that passions should be all rooted from the human heart and action. Is it our fault, if language is so circumscribed in its expression as to annex a great number of meanings and applications to one single symbol? And as, in the human character, and eager action, evil is often seen to preponderate, is it our fault if the exuberance of the thing be called the thing itself? That the passion, distorted and distrained
to culpable excess, be called by the regular name, instead of changing its name along with its character ?
Were education a mere theory, I should say, make children perfection ; do not allow a single fault, error, or human frailty. But of what utility would be such theory? Teachers would read in disgust, and mothers in despondence: and if the experiment were tried on an unfortunate child, his spirit would either be broken under it, or his little breast, by repeated remonstrance, would be hard as marble. No treatise or system is really useful, unless it can be proved by practice; and, above all, is this true with respect to education.
Let me now shape my proposition in another form.
I will suppose the parents of a young and lovely maid have received from her equal in birth and fortune, proposals of marriage, which are approved by the parties and accepted. After a succession of visits the wedding day is fixed; when by some extraordinary loss, or a failure in his banker, the father of the young lady is much reduced in circumstances, her own fortune greatly diminished, and in consequence the alliance is declined by the young gentleman. What is it which hinders the maiden from shewing the whole circle of her friends, and especially her lover, should she meet him, how deeply her feelings are wounded, and how keenly she feels the injury ? It is pride. There are several unworthy kinds of pride; God forbid that one of them should be tolerated in childhood, or any age; but that to which I allude is the regular passion.