How Teach Children Obedience
Unless taught in earliest infancy, obedience cannot be taught, or very imperfectly, and with tenfold difficulty. The following scene, from Grace Aguilar's book, affords an illustration of the lessons which there are frequent opportunities of inculcating in every young family.
Mrs. Hamilton is a young mother, and the little boy is her only child. Eleanor, Mrs. Hamilton's sister, thinks that firmness with so young a child unnecessary severity.
The day before Eleanor's intended departure, the sisters were sitting together, and little Percy, who now ran firmly without any falls, was playing about the room. He had already displayed a high spirit and passionate temper, with their general accompaniment, self-will, even in trifles, that Mrs. Hamilton felt would render her task a trying one; but she was as firm as she was gentle, and faced the pain of contradicting her darling bravely.
"Do not touch that, Percy, love," she said, as her little boy stretched out his hand towards a beautiful but fragile toy, that stood with other nick-nacks on a low table. The child looked laughingly towards her and withdrew his hand, but did not move from the table.
"Come here, Percy, you have not played with these pretty things for a long time;" and she took from her work-box some gayly-colored ivory balls, which had been his favorite playthings, but just at present they had lost their charm, and the young gentleman did not move.
Mrs. Hamilton knelt down by him, and said quietly, "My Percy will not disobey mamma, will he?"
"Me want that," he replied, in the pretty, coaxing tone of infancy; and he entwined his little round arms caressingly around her neck.
Mrs. Hamilton felt very much tempted to indulge him, but she resisted.
"But that is not a proper plaything for you, love; besides it is not mine, and we must not touch what is not ours. Come and see if we cannot find something just as pretty, that you may have."
And after some minutes' merry play in her lap, his mother hoped he had forgotten it; but the little gentleman was not to be so governed. The forbidden plaything was quietly grasped, and he seated himself on the ground in silent but triumphant glee.
Surprised at his sudden silence, Mrs. Hamilton looked towards him. It was his first act of decided disobedience, and she knew she must not waver. As young as he was, he had already learned to know when she was displeased, and when she desired him very gravely to give her the toy, he passionately threw it down, and burst into a violent fit of crying. His nurse took him struggling from the room, and Mrs. Hamilton quietly resumed her work; but there was such an expression of pain in her countenance, that Eleanor exclaimed,
"Emmeline! I have been watching you for the last half-hour, and I cannot comprehend you. Do explain yourself."
"I will if I can;" and Mrs. Percy looked up and smiled.
"Why would you not let that poor little Percy have that toy?"
"Because it would have been encouraging his touching or taking everything he sees, whether proper for him or not."
"But he could not understand that."
"Not now, perhaps; but I wish him to know that when I speak — he must obey one. It is, I think, a mistaken doctrine, that we ought to give children a reason for all we want them to do. Obedience can then never be prompt, as it ought to be. And in fact, if we wait until they are old enough to understand the reasons for a command, the task will be much more difficult, from the ascendency which wilfulness may already have obtained."
"But then why were you so cruel as to send the poor child upstairs? Was it not enough to take the toy from him?"
"Not quite, for him to remember that he must not touch it again."
"And do you really think he will not?"
"I can only hope so, Eleanor; but I must not be disheartened if he does. He is an infant still, and I cannot expect him to learn such a difficult lesson as obedience in one, two, or six lessons."
"And will he love you as much as if you had given it to him?"
"Not at the moment, perhaps, but when he is older he will love me more. And it is that hope which reconciles me to the pain which refusing to indulge him costs me now," replied the young mother.
"And voluntarily you will bear the pain which had almost brought tears into the eyes of the severe and stoic Mrs. Hamilton!" exclaimed Eleanor.
"It was a foolish weakness, my dear Eleanor, for which my husband would have chidden me; but there must be pain to a mother if called upon to exert authority, when inclination so strongly points to indulgence."
"Well, if ever I have anything to do with children, I certainly shall not be half as particular as you are, Emmeline. I really cannot imagine what harm gratifying yourself and Percy could possibly have done."
"If ever you have children, my dear Eleanor, may you have strength of mind and self-control sufficient to forget self, and refuse the gratification of the present moment, for the welfare of future years!"
And so it came to pass. The contrast afforded by the domestic history of the families of the two sisters, as developed in Grace Aguilar's beautiful narrative, affords abundant illustration of the truth, that lessons of obedience must be commenced at life's earliest dawning. The good fruit is, usually, not long in appearing. A few years' patient and kind firmness — will be rewarded by habitual, cheerful, and instant obedience.