Principles for training up children.
From the Vicar's Daughter By George Macdonald
The marvel to me is that so many children turn out so well. After all, I think there can be no harm in mentioning a few general principles laid down by my father. They are such as to commend themselves most to the most practical.
And first for a few negative ones.
1. Never give in to disobedience; and never threaten what you are not prepared to carry out.
2. Never lose your temper. I do not say never be angry. Anger is sometimes indispensable, especially where there has been anything mean, dishonest, or cruel. But anger is very different from loss of temper.
3. Of all things, never sneer at them; and be careful, even, how you rally them.
4. Do not try to work on their feelings. Feelings are far too delicate things to be used for tools. It is like taking the mainspring out of your watch, and notching it for a saw. It may be a wonderful saw, but how fares your watch? Especially avoid doing so in connection with religious things, for so you will assuredly deaden them to all that is finest. Let your feelings, not your efforts on theirs, affect them with a sympathy the more powerful that it is not forced upon them; and, in order to do this, avoid being too English in the hiding of your feelings. A man's own family a right to share in his good feelings.
5. Never show that you doubt, except you are able to convict. To doubt an honest child is to do what you can to make a liar of him; and to believe a liar, if he is not altogether shameless, is to shame him.
6. Instill no religious doctrine apart from its duty. If it have no duty as its necessary embodiment, the doctrine may well be regarded as doubtful.
7. Do not be hard on mere quarrelling, which, like a storm in nature, is often helpful in clearing the moral atmosphere. Stop it by a judgment between the parties. But be severe as to the kind of quarrelling, and the temper shown in it. Especially give no quarter to any unfairness arising from greed or spite. Use your strongest language with regard to that.
Now for a few of my father's positive rules.
1. Always let them come to you, and always hear what they have to say. If they
bring a complaint, always examine into it, and dispense pure justice, and nothing but justice.
2. Cultivate a love of giving fair-play. Every one, of course, likes to receive fair-play; but no one ought to be left to imagine, therefore, that he loves fair-play.
3. Teach from the very first, from the infancy capable of sucking a sugar-plum, to share with neighbors. Never refuse the offering a child brings you, except you have a good reason, — and give it. And never pretend to partake: that involves hideous possibilities in its effects on the child. The necessity of giving a reason for refusing a kindness has no relation to what is supposed by some to be the necessity of giving a reason with every command. There is no such necessity. Of course there ought to be a reason in every command. That it may be desirable, sometimes, to explain it, is all my father would allow.
4. Allow a great deal of noise, — as much as is fairly endurable; but, the moment they seem getting beyond their own control, stop the noise at once. . Also put a stop at once to all fretting and grumbling.
5. Favor the development of each in the direction of his own bent. Help him to develop himself, but do not push development. To do so is most dangerous.
6. Mind the moral nature, and it will take care of the intellectual. In other words, the best thing for the intellect is the cultivation of the conscience, not in casuistry, but in conduct. It may take longer to arrive; but the end will be the highest possible health, vigor, and ratio of progress.
7. Discourage emulation, and insist on duty, — not often, but strongly. Having written these out, chiefly from notes I had made of a long talk with my father.