“Early Training of Children” (from The Fireside Miscellany; and Young People’s Encyclopedia, February 1854; pp. 60-61)
Few persons are aware or consider, how very early in life the tempers of children begin to be formed, and consequently how soon that important part of the business of education, which consists in the training the mind to habits of discipline and submission, may be commenced.
“I wish,” said a lady, some years since, to the writer of a work on education, “I wish very much to consult you about the education of my little girl, who is now just three years old.” “Madam,” replied the author, “you are at least two years too late in applying to me on that subject.”
The first principle of education to instil into the mind of a child, is that of unhesitating obedience. The time for doing this is the moment at which it can be perceived that the child distinctly apprehends the nature of any command, no matter what, that is laid upon it. To ascertain this requires a little careful watching; but when it is ascertained, there should be no hesitation as to the course to be pursued. As soon as the infant clearly understands that the word “No!” signifies that it is not to do something which it desires to do, obedience to that command ought at all hazards, and under whatever inconvenience, to be enforced. In doing this, one or two collisions will generally occur between parent and child before the end of the first twelve or fourteen months, in which the patience and perseverance of the parent will be put to the test; these past, the habit of obedience is fixed in the child’s mind, for the rest of its life. Seeing that nothing is to be gained by resistance, it sinks down into submission as a matter of course.
While the foundation of parental authority is thus laid, how many other great lessons is the mind of the child imbibing! Every time that it refrains from doing some forbidden thing which it desires, it is practising self control, and self-denial, and is advancing a step towards the mastery of its passions.
Some people talk about the management of children as if it were a science, and read all the books they can find to instruct them in it. Nothing is, however in reality, more simple. Kindness, patience, undeviating firmness of purpose, and a strict regard to principle in all our dealings with them, (means which are within the reach of all,) will, under God’s blessing, accomplish all that can be done by early education towards regulating the heart and understanding. And thus they will be prepared to receive the seeds of those higher moral and religious principles by which, as heirs of immortality, they are to be educated for a better and an endless life.
The entire submission which we are entitled to require at the hands of our children, is a type of that obedience which we, on our part, owe to the Great Father of the universe. In terms sufficiently plain, he has made known to us his will. Does it become us to ask Him why his will is such as we find it to be? why he has
not done this thing or that thing different from the manner in which it is done? Just as reasonable is it in us to do this as it would be in our infant children to refuse obedience to our commands until their understandings should be sufficiently matured to enable them to comprehend the reasons for which they were given.