IV.—DESPISING THE CHILDREN
Children should have the best of their Mothers.—Suppose that a mother may offend her child, how is it possible that she should despise him? “Despise: to have a low opinion of, to undervalue”—thus the dictionary; and, as a matter of fact, however much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children. If the mother did not undervalue her child, would she leave him to the
society of an ignorant nursemaid during the early years when his whole nature is, like the photographer’s sensitive plate, receiving momently indelible impressions? Not but that his nurse is good for the child. Very likely it would not answer for educated people to have their children always about them. The constant society of his parents might be too stimulating for the child; and frequent change of thought, and the society of other people, make the mother all the fresher for her children. But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while, at the same time, she is careful to choose her nurses wisely, train them carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery.
‘Nurse.’—Mere coarseness and rudeness in his nurse does the tender child lasting harm. Many a child leaves the nursery with his moral sense blunted, and with an alienation from his heavenly Father set up which may last his lifetime. For the child’s moral sense is exceedingly quick; he is all eyes and ears for the slightest act or word of unfairness, deception, shiftiness. His nurse says, “If you’ll be a good boy, I won’t tell”; and the child learns that things may be concealed from his mother, who should be to him as God, knowing all his good and evil. And it is not as if the child noted the slips of his elders with aversion. He knows better, it is true, but then he does not trust his own intuitions; he shapes his life on any pattern set before him, and with the fatal taint of human nature upon him he is more ready to imitate a bad pattern than a good. Give him a nurse who is coarse, violent, and tricky, and before the child is able to speak plainly he will have caught these dispositions.
Children’s Faults are Serious.—One of many ways in which parents are apt to have too low an opinion of their children is in the matter of their faults. A little child shows some ugly trait—he is greedy, and gobbles up his sister’s share of goodies as well as his own; he is vindictive, ready to bite or fight the hand that offends him; he tells a lie;—no, he did not touch the sugar-bowl or the jam-pot. The mother puts off the evil day: she knows she must sometime reckon with the child for those offences, but in the meantime she says, “Oh, it does not matter this time; he is very little, and will know better by-and-by.” To put the thing on no higher grounds, what happy days for herself and her children would the mother secure if she would keep watch at the place of the letting out of waters! If the mother settle it in her own mind that the child never does wrong without being aware of his wrong-doing, she will see that he is not too young to have his fault corrected or prevented. Deal with a child on his first offence, and a grieved look is enough to convict the little transgressor; but let him go on until a habit of wrong-doing is formed, and the cure is a slow one; then the mother has no chance until she has formed in him a contrary habit of well-doing. To laugh at ugly tempers and let them pass because the child is small, is to sow the wind.