Page images
[ocr errors]

therefore, the child will pursue his own inclinations; and will generally counteract his parent's pleasure, whenever his own safety will permit. Such a government prompts the wickedness of chil. dren ten times, where it restrains it once.

The government of Retaliation is the government of revenge ; and, therefore, not the government of a parent, but that of an enemy. In this manner it will be regularly regarded by the child. Accordingly, he will, as far as possible, prevent its effects by concealing his faults in every way, which his ingenuity, or circumstances, can suggest. In pursuit of this object, he will practise every trick, and fetch, and fraud, which his cunning can devise; and ultimately utter every equivocation, and every direct falsehood, which the necessity of extricating himself may require. Nor will it be long, before he will consider his parent as one party, and himself as the other. He will then begin to retaliate in turn. In this manner, a controversy will be instituted, in which it will be the business of each to provoke, and injure, the other. The child will not, indeed, be able to meet his antagonist in the open field; but he will endeavour to supply this defect by watching, every opportunity to do mischief secretly, and by making up in cunning what he wants in power. A species of Indian hostilities will thus be carried on by him; and frequently for such a length of time, as to embitter the peace of the parent, and to ruin the character of the child.

The government, which is employed merely in making a child subservient to the Caprice, and Convenience, of a parent, is too obviously selfish, and sordid, ever to be misunderstood: and it needs only to be understood, to be detested. From parents, certainly, if from any human beings, we look for disinterestedness; especially in the management of their children. But there are parents, *ho regard their children, as hard masters regard their slaves; and value them, only as they hope to derive profit from their labour, or convenience from their subserviency to their selfish wishes. No words are necessary to show, that such views, feelings, and conduct, are contradictions to the parental character, and duties, alike. Equally hostile are they to the good of the child ; and are calculated, only to destroy all his tendencies towards becoming a useful man. Persons, who act in either of these modes, have never set before their eyes the true End of parental government; and have no conceptions of the real nature of that great duty, to which they have been called by their Maker. A little attention to this subject would convince them, that all their government is to be administered under the controlling influence of kindness only; kindness, directed solely to the good of their children. They are, indeed, to reprove, and to punish, them: but this is to be done only for their good; and never to gratify the resentment, nor to promote the selfish purposes, of the parent. It is to be done, because their faults are to be repressed, and because these

come so.

are the proper means of repressing them ; because it is necessary, that the children should be sober, discreet, virtuous, and useful; and because these are the proper means of preparing them to be

As such means, only, is all discipline to be used. In every other view the nature of discipline is subverted.' Reproof becomes reproach, advice contumely, and correction an assault. Instead of rendering the child what he ought to be, the parent will, in this way, destroy all the worth, which he at present possesses ; and prevent that, which he might acquire.

Among the modes of exhibiting kindness in governing our children, Calmness and Moderation in reproving, and correcting, are indispensable. He, to whom this office falls, ought, more than in almost any other case, to be in perfect possession of himself. Every thing, which he does, or says, ought to prove, that he is so. His countenance ought then to be mild; his accent gentle; his words free from all unkindness; and his conduct such, as to prove, that he is compelled to this unwelcome office by duty only.

With this spirit, parents will naturally be led not to govern their children too much. Like certain Mohammedans, who estimate the degree of their devotion by the number of prayers, which they utter, some persons suppose their duty of governing their children to be performed meritoriously, merely because they reprove and punish their children very often; and accordingly make it their business to find fault with them from morning to night, and to punish them from week to week. In this way, both reproof and punishment lose all their power; and only serve to case-harden the child against his duty. Children are as easily injured by too much government, as by too little. Children ought always to be watched with attention and tenderness, but not to be harassed.

Another important office of kindness is to administer reproof, and punishment, Privately. Children sometimes commit their faults before others, when the parent is present; and necessity may then demand, that they should be reproved on the spot, and in the presence of those, who witness the fault. Whenever this is not the case, it will, in almost every instance, be desirable to administer the proper discipline in private. In this case the child will feel, that his character is saved ; and will be solicitous, in future, to preserve his own character by good conduct. He will feel also, that he is treated kindly; and will be grateful for the kindness. His mind will be left free for the undivided exercise of veneration for his parent. The parent at the same time, will enjoy the best possible opportunity for reproving him freely, largely, pungently, and solemnly; without that embarrassment, which will necessarily arise from the presence of others. In the presence of others, the child will feel his pride wounded, his character sacrificed, and himself disgraced; and all this without any visible necessity. He will, therefore, be angry, stubborn, pert, and not improbably disposed to repeat his former faults, and to perpetrate others. These

[ocr errors]


emotions and these designs, he will, not unnaturally, disclose to his companions; and they, not less unnaturally, will enhance and encourage them. Thus the whole force of the parental administration will always be weakened, and most frequently destroyed.

4. The Government of Children should always be accompanied by Proofs of its reasonableness and Equity.

Many parents err through too much indulgence; and many through too little. Both extremes are unhappy, as well as unreasonable. Every child ought clearly to see, that his parent's censures are not unkind; and that his indulgence is not foolish.

To this end, he ought regularly, and as soon as his capacity will admit, to be taught the reasons, on which the conduct of his parent, from time to time, is founded : not as a piece of respect to him, which he may demand; but as wisely-directed information, which will be eminently useful to both parent and child. To the parent it will be useful, by establishing his character in the eyes of his child, a ruler whose measures are all originated, and directed, by solid reasons and sound wisdom, steady equity and unfailing kindness : as a ruler, whose government is to be reverenced, whose commands are to be obeyed, and whose wishes are to be accorded with, from their reasonableness, as well as their authority; from the benefit, as well as the duty, of obeying; and from the pleasure, universally experienced in conforming to the will of such a ruler. In this case the parent is secured of the obedience of the child, when he is absent, (as for the greater part of the time he must necessarily be,) no less than when he is present; and is assured also, that his obedience will be voluntary, and exact, and on both these accounts, delightful. To the child this information will be highly advantageous, because it will early accustom him to obey from the reasonableness of obedience; and will insensibly lead him to examine, feel, and submit to, predominating reasons ; not only in cases of filial duty, but in all others. Thus he will haoitually grow up to a general accordance with the dictates of reason, and the representations of conscience; will sustain a far more elevated and desirable character, than a child governed by mere authority; and, when absent abroad, or arrived at the years of self-direction, will be incomparably more safe. The family, in this case, will exhibit the delightful spectacle of rational beings, governed by rational beings; and not the humiliating one of slaves, struggling under the domination of a master.

5. The government of children should be Self-consistent.

Every parent ought to possess himself of a scheme of governing his children, before he commences the practice. In this scheme the same things should be uniformly aimed at; the same things required ; and the same things prohibited. The character of the parent, also, as displayed in the execution of this scheme, should invariably be the same; and that should be the character, formed of reason and principle only. In all the parent's measures

the child should see, uniformly and irresistibly, that the parent hates vice above all things, and above all things loves virtue. This hatred to vice, and love to virtue, ought to appear to be inwrought in the very constitution of the parent's mind; to be inseparable from his habitual views and feelings ; and to be the first, the unvarying, and, as far as may be, the only, movements of his soul, with respect to these great subjects. Of course, all his conduct ought to present the unquestionable proof which practice and example furnish, that this is his real character.

In consequence of this consistency, children will uniformly expect the same parental opposition to their faults, and the same countenance to their virtuous conduct. Few motives will operate more powerfully, than such expectations, either to persuade them to virtue, or to restrain them from sin. Fewer crimes will, therefore, be committed by them; and of course the parent will have fewer transgressions to reprove, or punish. In this manner, a great part of the parent's labour will be prevented; and not a small part of his pain. What remains to be done will be incomparably more pleasant. His encouragement to proceed will, also, bc unspeakably greater. To see the efficacy of our endeavours is the most animating of all earthly inducements to continue them.

Besides, children will, in this case, regard their parents with far more veneration than any other. Consistency of character is essential to all dignity. A changing man, even when not a faulty one, is almost necessarily regarded as a trifler. A man, on the contrary, exhibiting uniform views, and principles, in a life, uniformly directed by them, governed, and governing, by the same rules, and an unchanging regard to them, is always possessed of dignity; and, when seen to be steadily opposed to sin and folly, and aitached to wisdom and virtue, is possessed of high dignity. This character, seen in a parent, will invariably engage the highest filial veneration.

When children become satisfied, that the restraints and correc tions, which they experience from their parents, spring only from a conviction, that they are right, and necessary; their consciences will almost always acquiesce. What is remarkable, and would, were it not common, be surprising; they love the parent, who ad. ministers them, much more, than him who neglects them. Between parental government, conducted in this manner, and that which is passionate, desultory, and fraught with inconsistencies, the difference can scarcely be calculated.

At a general conclusion of my observations concerning the education of Children, I add that all the efforts of the parent ought to be accompanied with Prayer to God for his blessing. It is the indispensable duty of mankind to pray always with all prayer. Few, very few, are those employments in human life, which so loudly call for the faithful performance of this duty, as that, which has

The parent,

been under discussion. Wisdom, patience, faithfulness, kindness, and constancy, are rarely demanded of man in any concern, either so unceasingly, or in so great a degree, as in this. All these qualifications are indispensable to our success; and we need them indis pensably from the Father of lights who alone can furnish these and all other good gifts. If we possessed them all; we should equally need his blessings to give an efficacious and happy issue to our exertions. Both the qualifications, and the blessings, then, are to be asked of God who giveth liberally unto all; and who hath assured us, that every one who asketh shall receive. who educates his children with the greatest care, and yet fails to invoke the blessing of God upon his labours, has done but half his duty; and is entitled to no promise of success.

M. I shall now make a few observations concerning the Settle ment of Children.

The parent's duty with respect to this subject will be principally concerned with the following things.

1. The choice of that Business, in which he is to spend, principally, his life.

In selecting this object, a parent is bound to regard the state of his own circumstances; the reasonable expectations of his child; his talents; his inclinations; the probability of his obtaining a competent subsistence, the prospect of his usefulness; and the security of his virtue. It will be easily seen, that all these are discretionary things ; to be judged of as well as we are able, and reducible to no precise general rule. Where children are not peculiarly froward, and parents not peculiarly prejudiced, the advantage of the child will, in ordinary cases, be sufficiently consulted. The principal difficulty, here, will usually be, to determine how far regard is to be had to his inclinations. A degree of indulgence is always to be given them. When they direct to a prudent and profitable employment, there can be no controversy; nor when they direct to a dangerous one. All the real perplexity will spring from cases of a doubtful nature. Here the child's inclinations are supposed to lean one way, and the judgment of the parent another. If the parent apprehends the bias of the child to be invincible; it will be both prudent, and right, to yield his own inclinations : If not; he may lawfully require the child to make an experiment of the business, which he has preferred. The child is then bound to submit quietly to the choice of the parent; and to endeavour faithfully to subdue his own opposing inclinations. If, after a fair trial, he finds them unconquerable; the parent is, in my view, bound to yield the contested point. The happiness of the child ought, here, to be the commanding object; and no child can be happy, who is prevented from following the business which he loves, and compelled to pursue that which he hates.

Universally, the parent's duty demands of him to place his child, so far as the case will permit, in that employment, which up

« EelmineJätka »