« FöregåendeFortsätt »
years of mature judgment, he has been the victim. Thus Louis XIV. that imperious, vain-glorious monarch, mis-named “the Great," lamenting the defective education he had received, is said to have exclaimed, “Was there not birch enough to be found in all the forest of Fontainbleau?” The cruel kindness, that would “spare the rod, and spoil the child,” almost always meets with its reward in the ingratitude and reproaches of the object rendered miserable and useless, through its weakness.
Opinions, as to the mode of discipline proper to be adopted, are various; some advocating one method, some another. Some declaring corporal punishment to be indispensable, others deeming it iniquitous and unnecessary, and maintaining that by appealing to a child's reason, he may be led into habits of obedience. For my own part, I confess that, considering the question theoretically, I am averse to the former, and incline to the latter. I do not object to corporal punishment as some do, on the score of indignity; such an objection appears to me absurd. I contend, that if the fault has been of sufficient magnitude to deserve corporal chastisement, the child is already more disgraced by its commission, than he can be by its punishment. My objection to the measure is founded on a belief of its utter inutility. I cannot allow that it is one calculated to effect the regeneration of the heart; it has in it too much semblance of cruelty and revenge; and, consequently, par
PROPER TO BE ADOPTED.
takes too largely, in appearance, of human frailty, to operate beneficially on the mind of childhood. It is, also, most inevitably a means of loosening that cord of tender respect and affection, with which a child ought to regard his parent and instructor. Still, there may be extreme cases, in which it is necessary to resort to it. Many persons, more competent to judge than I pretend to be, contend that there are such.
“ It may be doubted, concerning whipping,” observes Locke, “when, as the last remedy, it comes to be necessary, at what times, and by whom it should be done; whether presently, upon the committing of the fault, whilst it is yet fresh and hot; and whether parents themselves should beat their children. As to the first, I think it should not be done presently, lest passion mingle with it, and so, though it exceed the just proportion, yet it lose its due weight; for even children discern when we do things in a passion. That has most weight with them that appears sedately to come from their parent's reason. But, as I said before, beating is the worst, and therefore the last means to be used in the correction of children; and that only in cases of extremity, after all gentler ways have been tried, and proved unsuccesful, which, if well observed, there will be very seldom any need of blows. It is not to be imagined that a child will often, if ever, dispute his father's present command, in any particular instance; and the father, not interposing his absolute authority in peremptory rules, concerning either childish or indifferent actions, wherein his son is to have his liberty, or concerning his learning or improvement, wherein there is no compulsion to be used, there remains the prohibition of some vicious actions, wherein a child is capable of obstinacy, and consequently can deserve beating; and so there will be very few occasions of that discipline to be used by any one who considers well, and orders his child's education as it should be. The necessity of such chastisement is usually the consequence of former indulgence or neglect. If vicious inclinations were watched from the beginning, and the first irregularities which they caused corrected by those gentler ways, we should seldom have to do with more than one disorder at once, which would be easily set right without any stir or noise.”
The testimony of Mr. and Miss Edgeworth, founded, as they declare upon extensive experience, perfectly agrees with the theory of Locke. “Punishments,” say they, “are the abrupt and brutal resources of ignorance, frequently to cure the effects of former negligence. With children who have been reasonably and affectionately educated, scarcely any punishments are necessary. As for corporal punishments, they may be necessary where boys are to be drilled, in a given time, into scholars; but the language of blows need seldom be used to reasonable creatures."
“Love is better than fear, gentleness than beating, to bring up a child rightly in learning,” says
PROPER TO BE ADOPTED.
Roger Ascham, the preceptor of two illustrious pupils, Queen Elizabeth and the incomparable Lady Jane Grey.
The grand secret in regard to discipline, there can be no doubt, is to begin early; and herein education is the most defective. The faults of infancy appear, to the fond mother, so trivial, that they call not for any notice, but will cure themselves in due time. Mistaken notion! To a parent thus short sighted, who would not have his child corrected for a perverse trick, but excused it, saying that it was a small matter, Solon, one of the seven sages of Greece, replied, “True, but custom is a great matter.”
Firmness is an essential quality both in parent and preceptor, whose decrees, like those of the Medes and Persians, ought to be unalterable. The government of children and servants is pretty much like the government of a state. If, in either case, the rulers prove themselves infirm of purpose, vacillating, and revoking, upon slight grounds, or through weakness or misplaced lenity, the laws themselves have promulgated, not only will the wisdom and justice of those laws be questioned, but the power to enforce them. There may be cases, when, upon the earnest and penitent prayers of children, punishments may be mitigated, or altogether suspended. To pardon, is to imitate, at a humble distance, indeed, but still to imitate, the clemency of the Deity.
The disciplining of childhood ought, I conceive, to answer, in a certain degree, the same end as a lesson in the school of adversity in after life; without which no person ever yet learnt properly either to know himself or his own position in the world relatively to others; an ordeal equally requisite to the attainment of that fortitude and resignation which makes us bear the ills of life, and that moderation which prevents our misusing prosperity.
Without agreeing with those philosophers who support the doctrine of the perfectability of human nature, and view the mind of a child as a blank sheet of paper, upon which we may write whatever we please; or with those other theorists who, pretending to derive their authority from the Scriptures, vilify human nature, declaring its best impulses and affections, and all its intellectual power, to be not only worthless, but sinful, and consequently hateful in the sight of God; I conceive the heart of a child to be a garden, in which the seeds both of excellent flowers and rank weeds have been implanted by nature, and that it is necessary to watch over, and with a discriminating care to cherish and cultivate the former, and to pluck up the latter by the roots as soon as they shew themselves, without which constant care, the weeds, as is their nature, will soon over-run and choke the flowers.
The practice of self-denial, in which children ought early to be exercised, will fortify their minds against the rebuffs of society, as free exercise in