“IT’S no use to talk; I can’t do it. The idea of punishing a child in cold blood makes me shiver all over. I certainly think that, in the mind of any one who can do it, there must be a latent vein of cruelty.”
This remark was made by Mrs. Stanley to her friend and visiter Mrs. Noland.
“I have known parents,” she continued, “who would go about executing some punishment with a coolness and deliberation that to me was frightful. No promise, no appeal, no tear of alarm or agony, from the penitent little culprit, would have the least effect. The law must be fulfilled even to the jot and tittle.”
“The disobedient child, doubtless, knew the law,” remarked Mrs. Noland.
“Perhaps so. But even if it did, great allowance ought to be made for the ardor with which children seek the gratification of their desires, and the readiness with which they forget.”
“No parent should lay down a law not right in itself; nor one obedience to which was not good for the child.”
“But it is very hard to do this. We have not the wisdom of Solomon. Every day, nay, almost every hour, we err in judgment; and especially in a matter so little understood as the management of children.”
“Better, then, have very few laws, and them of the clearest kind. But, having them, implicit obedience should be exacted. At least, that is my rule.”
“And you punish for every infraction?”
“Certainly. But, I am always sure that the child is fully aware of his fault, and let my punishment be graduated according to the wilfulness of the act.”
“And you do this coolly?”
“Oh, yes. I never punish a child while I am excited with a feeling of indignation for the offence.”
“If I waited for that to pass off, I could never punish one of my children.”
“Do you find, under this system, that your children are growing up orderly and obedient?”
“No, indeed! Of course I do not. Who ever heard of orderly and obedient children? In fact, who would wish their children to be mere automatons? I am sure I would not. They are, by nature, restless, and impatient of control. It will not do to break down their young spirits. As for punishments, I don’t believe much in them, any how. I have an idea that the less they are brought into requisition the better. They harden children. Kindness, long suffering, and forbearance will accomplish a great deal more, and in the end be better for the child.”
At this moment a little fellow came sliding into the parlour, with a look that said plainly enough, “I know you don’t want me here.”
“Run out, Charley, dear,” said Mrs. Stanley, in a mild voice.
But Charley did not seem to notice his mother’s words, for he continued advancing toward her, until he was by her side, when he paused and looked the visiter steadily in the face.
“Charley, you must run out, my dear,” said Mrs. Stanley, in a firmer and more decided voice.
But Charley only leaned heavily against his mother, not heeding in the smallest degree her words. Knowing how impossible it would be to get the child out of the room, without a resort to violence, Mrs. Stanley said no more to him, but continued the conversation with her friend. She had only spoken a few words, however, before Charley interrupted her by saying–
“Mother!–Mother!–Give me a piece of cake.”
“No, my son. You have had cake enough this afternoon,” replied Mrs. Stanley.
“Oh yes, do, mother, give me a piece of cake.”
“It will make you sick, Charley.”
“No, it won’t. Please give me some.”
“I had rather not.”
“Yes, mother. Oh do! I want a piece of cake.”
“Go ‘way, Charles, and don’t tease me.”
There was a slight expression of impatience in the mother’s voice. The child ceased his importunities for a few moments, but just as Mrs. Stanley had commenced a sentence, intended to embody some wise saying in regard to the management of children, the little boy broke in upon her with–