I dearly love George MacDonald's fiction (despite his sometimes faulty theology, which I have found to be unnoticeable in the best of his good and beautiful children's works) , and within the past several years I have traveled through a lesser-known trilogy of his - Annals of A Quiet Neighborhood, The Seaboard Parish, and The Vicar's Daughter. I was pleasantly surprised to find at the end of the last book, a whole chapter on the bringing up of children. It is written by the fictional vicar's daughter herself, but I am sure reflects G.M.'s own principles of child-rearing quite well. I heartily agreed with just about all of it, even though I had never encountered some of the specific ideas articulated, and wanted to put it somewhere where I could access and share it easily. So here is most of the chapter, hunted up and copied from Gutenberg.org:
I think there can be no harm in mentioning a few general principles laid down by my father. They are such as to commend themselves most to the most practical.
And first for a few negative ones.
1. Never give in to disobedience; and never threaten what you are not prepared to carry out.
2. Never lose your temper. I do not say never be angry. Anger is sometimes indispensable, especially where there has been any thing mean, dishonest, or cruel. But anger is very different from loss of temper. [Footnote: My Aunt Millicent is always saying, "I am grieeeved with you." But the announcement begets no sign of responsive grief on the face of the stolid child before her. She never whipped a child in her life. If she had, and it had but roused some positive anger in the child, instead of that undertone of complaint which is always oozing out of every one of them, I think It would have been a gain. But the poor lady is one of the whiny-piny people, and must be in preparation for a development of which I have no prevision. The only stroke of originality I thought I knew of her was this; to the register of her children's births, baptisms, and confirmations, entered on a grandly-ornamented fly-leaf of the family Bible, she has subjoined the record of every disease each has had, with the year, month, and day (and in one case the hour), when each distemper made its appearance. After most of the main entries, you may read, "Cut his (or her) first tooth"—at such a date. But, alas for the originality! she has just told me that her maternal grandmother did the same. How strange that she and my father should have had the same father I If they had had the same mother, too, I should have been utterly bewildered.]
3. Of all things, never sneer at them; and be careful, even, how you rally them.
4. Do not try to work on their feelings. Feelings are far too delicate things to be used for tools. It is like taking the mainspring out of your watch, and notching it for a saw. It may be a wonderful saw, but how fares your watch? Especially avoid doing so in connection with religious things, for so you will assuredly deaden them to all that is finest. Let your feelings, not your efforts on theirs, affect them with a sympathy the more powerful that it is not forced upon them; and, in order to do this, avoid being too English in the hiding of your feelings. A man's own family has a right to share in his good feelings.
5. Never show that you doubt, except you are able to convict. To doubt an honest child is to do what you can to make a liar of him; and to believe a liar, if he is not altogether shameless, is to shame him.
The common-minded masters in schools, who, unlike the ideal Arnold, are in the habit of disbelieving boys, have a large share in making the liars they so often are. Certainly the vileness of a lie is not the same in one who knows that whatever he says will be regarded with suspicion; and the master, who does not know an honest boy after he has been some time in his class, gives good reason for doubting whether he be himself an honest man, and incapable of the lying he is ready to attribute to all alike.
This last is my own remark, not my father's. I have an honest boy at school, and I know how he fares. I say honest; for though, as a mother, I can hardly expect to be believed, I have ground for believing that he would rather die than lie. I know I would rather he died than lied.
6. Instil no religious doctrine apart from its duty. If it have no duty as its necessary embodiment, the doctrine may well be regarded as doubtful.
7. Do not be hard on mere quarrelling, which, like a storm in nature, is often helpful in clearing the moral atmosphere. Stop it by a judgment between the parties. But be severe as to the kind of quarrelling, and the temper shown in it. Especially give no quarter to any unfairness arising from greed or spite. Use your strongest language with regard to that.
Now for a few of my father's positive rules:
1. Always let them come to you, and always hear what they have to say. If they bring a complaint, always examine into it, and dispense pure justice, and nothing but justice.
2. Cultivate a love of giving fair-play. Every one, of course, likes to receive fair-play; but no one ought to be left to imagine, therefore, that he loves fair-play.
3. Teach from the very first, from the infancy capable of sucking a sugar-plum, to share with neighbors. Never refuse the offering a child brings you, except you have a good reason,—and give it. And never pretend to partake: that involves hideous possibilities in its effects on the child.
The necessity of giving a reason for refusing a kindness has no relation to what is supposed by some to be the necessity of giving a reason with every command. There is no such necessity. Of course there ought to be a reason in every command. That it may be desirable, sometimes, to explain it, is all my father would allow.
4. Allow a great deal of noise,—as much as is fairly endurable; but, the moment they seem getting beyond their own control, stop the noise at once. Also put a stop at once to all fretting and grumbling.
5. Favor the development of each in the direction of his own bent. Help him to develop himself, but do not push development. To do so is most dangerous.
6. Mind the moral nature, and it will take care of the intellectual. In other words, the best thing for the intellect is the cultivation of the conscience, not in casuistry, but in conduct. It may take longer to arrive; but the end will be the highest possible health, vigor, and ratio of progress.
7. Discourage emulation, and insist on duty,—not often, but strongly.
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org
|Shepherdess with Child by Jacob G. Kuyp|