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and are criminally pernicious, creating artificial fear, that remains unconquered by riper years.
How important, then, that first impressions, the preliminaries to a school education, should be as pure as the unsullied sheet on which they are imprinted, and that no foul blots deface its fair surface. How important that the mother and the nurse should be discreet, affectionate, kind, firm, intelligent, and pious. If all were so, we should have more Washingtons, who would bless their mothers and honour our country. Mothers, your responsibility to your children, and your country, is vast beyond conception. Your precepts and your examples, will tell through future time, for weal or for wo.
The great secret in teaching children, is, to gain so large a share of their love and confidence, as to direct their inclinations into the proper channel. Enlist their attention, convince them of the benefits in prospect, the rewards of application, and the degrading consequences of neglect. Treat them with kind and marked attention, uniform politeness and courtesy, but not with childish familiarity. Make them feel their importance as human beings, without inflaming their pride. Teach them the duties they owe to their parents, their teachers, their fellows, their country, and their God. Treat their inquisitiveness with patience and encouragement, and manifest a pleasure in their disposition to learn the reason of things. It is the germ of intellect, and if properly fostered, will ripen into the fruit of knowledge. A contrary course has blasted many a promising bud, like a killing frost, the tender vine. Curiosity in children, is the grand lever of nature, to raise them from the quarry of ignorance, and needs the fulcrum of a patient teacher, to render it efficient. It is the mainspring of improvement, and if suffered to rust from neglect, impairs the motion of the machinery of the mind. Indifference or rebuke, destroys its elasticityto answer all inquiries, is to lead the child up the hill of science, and prepare him for future usefulness.
Impress, deeply, upon the minds of your children, the importance of always speaking unvarnished, unprevaricated truth. Among the old pagan Persians, not a liar could be found.--In our Christian land, liars are more annoying, and as common as musquetoes in August, and may be found even in our churches. How great the contrast in morals! Some wicked parents teach this vice to their children purposely, as an adjunct of pilfering.–Some good fathers and mothers teach it through inadvertency. It is sometimes induced by too severe punishment for faults committed, causing the child to resort to falsehood, to avoid a castigation. Other parents teach it by practising deception on their children, which cannot long be concealed. In other instances, parents make promises to their children, only to break them, and thus inculcate this ill habit. Some parents wink and laugh at fibs in their little ones, as a mark of cunning and sagacity, instead of crushing the propensity in embryo. This is leading them into temptation, and not delivering them from evil. Some parents and teachers injure their children and pupils, by blunting their sense of shame, a powerful principle of human nature, that requires the most delicate and skilful hand to manage it to advantage. It is the hair-spring of the machine, and is operated upon by the least movement of the regulator, which, if turned too far, lets it out, and deranges the motion
of every wheel. Shame should be brought into action, only to correct the grosser errors. You may as well take the hair-spring from a watch, as to paralyze shame in a child, by over working it. The more delicate it is, the more readily will a rough hand destroy it
To balance, properly, HOPE and FEAR, in children is a matter of high importance, and of rare attain ment. Hope, without fear, engenders rashness-fear, without hope, destroys mental and physical energy. The former is the motive-power, the latter, the safetyvalve of human society and civil government. A family is a government in miniature.—What is proper for one, is proper for both, notwithstanding the greater often indulges in wrongs, for which it would punish the lesser.
Parents and teachers, before they are prepared to balance these two great principles in children, must effect an equilibrium in themselves, and pursue a consistent, uniform course, in precept and example. Excessive indulgence one day, and chilling severity the next, will soon cause a vibration in the best balanced mind of a child. Thus, a teacher, at school, may destroy the good work of a correct parent; and the bad management of a parent, may counteract the unwearied exertions of a judicious teacher. This subject requires more attention than it receives.
To produce an equilibrium of hope and fear in the minds of children, they must be taught the cause and the certainty of rewards and punishments. They must be made to fear to do wrong because it is a violation of right, as well as an exposure to punishment-and to hope for a reward when they act correctly, because the natural result of good actions; and that a good
character is their highest reward in life. They should be taught to shun evil because it is sin, and to do right for the sake of righteousness. Such hope is not selfish-such fear is not slavish. Let them have a reasonable share of rational, innocent, and healthful recreation, and a fixed time for receiving instruction, either from oral lessons or books. Impress on their minds, the importance and advantage of system in every thing. Let them learn and practise the motto-a time and a place for every thing, and every thing in its time and place. Finally, teach them the enormity of every vice, and the blessings of every virtue, that they may early learn to shun the former and practise the latter. Above all, teach them pure and undefiled religion. The subject may appear trifling-—it is so treated generally, and, because so treated, and because children are not properly trained, our county prisons and penitentiaries are crowded with felons, and our country with thousands more who ought to be there. Train up your children in the way they should go, and you will rob the penitentiary and the gallows of many a subject, and save souls from perdition.
This is an amiable, and, discreetly used, an advantageous quality. I have somewhere read of two goats that met midway, on a narrow pass, over a deep gulf. Neither could turn round to go back, without danger of falling off, and one very courteously laid down, and permitted the other to walk, not harshly, but gently over him, and both passed on in safety. This is not the first wise lesson I have learned from brute animals, who act much more consistently than some men, who claim reason for a guide, but seldom follow its directions.
In passing over the highway of life, it is often necessary to condescend to accommodate our fellow travellers, and put ourselves to mutual or individual inconvenience, to get along smoothly. By condescension, I mean not that any one shall yield a single thing that is not clearly right, or submit to any thing clearly wrong—but if we meet another in straitened circumstances, when he can neither go back or forward, without using us, gently, let him do it—do not be too particular which shall be walked over. The great social law of humanity requires, that we should grant all accommodations to our fellow travellers, that cannot essentially injure us, or that will not compromise the fixed principles of truth, justice, and righteousness.
If a more yielding disposition was exercised in things that tend to better and ameliorate the condition of man, and a more obstinate resistance made to injustice, vice, and immorality; peace and happiness would be promoted, and social order advanced.
In the domestic circle, obstinacy, and a want of mutual confidence, do much mischief. Instead of advising with each other, and profiting by mutual counsel, husbands and wives too often seek the advice of others, who have no interest, and perhaps less capacity, in giving safe counsel. Many a husband would have been saved from shipwreck, had he made a confidant of his wife in all his business, and taken her advice. No one can feel as deep an interest in his prosperity and happiness as she should, and does, if worthy to be a wife. Children should yield implicit obedience to