Befuddled: Dear Sir Peabody, I know I came into your
lovely Emporium with a great deal of concern for my son Thomas. However,
looking at the situation now, I think to myself: is it not possible, at
only two years old, he will merely outgrow this fitful stage of life?
Peabody: Why Madame, that is a most exquisite
question, unfortunately, unless carefully guided most children do not.
If you are to continue granting Thomas his every wish, as you have so
already done, the situation will grow only worse.
As good Sir Samuel Pickering says, “when a child is accustomed to
having all it asks for, it soon becomes unreasonable in its demands.”8
Children must be appropriately directed from their first breath.
Keeping this in mind, it is important to remember that children learn
best from example; they are natural copiers and imitate almost everything they
see. Parent’s cannot simply tell
their children to act one way then themselves behave another.
If a mother wishes her child to have self-knowledge, duty and virtue--all
very desirable traits--she should herself exhibit these qualities.
Likewise, obedience, love of truth, innocence, courage--these do not come
with birth. They come with loving nurture, example and guidance.8
Befuddled: By guidance, Sir Peabody, what exactly do
you mean? I would like to properly
show Thomas the way, but I do not know the exact way how.
Peabody: Guidance is simple and difficult at the
same time. First, when Thomas is misbehaving, take his toys away or show
him a facial expression that lets him know he was in the wrong. Whipping your child is not appropriate. Your aim should be to teach reason. As said above, children learn by example.
If you yourself are in a passion and enter into whipping, you are not
engaging in reason. Reason
and passion work never together. Your child may learn his lesson,
but it will be by fear. He will not
understand why the behavior was wrong.
Befuddled: Well, as long as he never behaves in that
manner again, what is the difference?
Peabody: The difference is that if your child
understands why his behavior is wrong, it is possible for him to use that
knowledge and apply it to similar incorrect behavior.
If he has gotten in trouble for lying, through reason he will be able to conclude
that stealing is also wrong, for it also involves deceit.
However, if a child is never explained why an activity is inappropriate,
he might never make a connection between the various deceits and could find
himself stumbling into each of their snares one at a time.
Befuddled: I certainly do not want to see Thomas getting into so much folly,
attempting each crime because I have not explained to him the destructive,
unhealthy aspects of such behavior. I
shall certainly follow your advice on this account.
Peabody: It is my hope you will follow my advice on many accounts.
In addition to what I have already said, it is important that you do not
show your child any extremes of passion, never demonstrating intense anger or
excessive fondness. Also, do not
bribe your children. Offering candy
in exchange for good behavior is simple bribery; reason and understanding have
no place there.
On that note, I will show you James Nelson’s An Essay on the Government of Children7 and offer you an abridged list of the essentials leading to good manners and the misleading vice that sometimes block their path.