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Gentle Measures in the Management and Training of the Young by Jacob Abbott

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whenever they come into a room, make so much noise in opening and shutting
the door that it is very disagreeable. If you go on improving as you have
begun, you will soon come in as still as any gentleman."

The next time that Georgie comes in, he takes the utmost pains to open and
shut the door as silently as possible.

He makes his request. His mother shows herself unusually ready to grant it.

"You opened and shut the door like a gentleman," she says. "I ought to do
every thing for you that I can, when you take so much pains not to disturb
or trouble me."

_Another Method_.

Charlie's mother, on the other hand, acts on a different principle. Charlie
comes in sometimes, we will suppose, in a quiet and proper manner. His
mother takes no notice of this. She considers it a matter of course.
By-and-by, however, under the influence of some special eagerness, he makes
a great noise. Then his mother interposes. She breaks out upon him with,

"Charlie, what a noise you make! Don't you know better than to slam the
doer in that way when you come in? If you can't learn to make less noise in
going in and out, I shall not let you go in and out at all."

Charlie knows very well that this is an empty threat. Still, the utterance
of it, and the scolding that accompanies it, irritate him a little, and the
only possible good effect that can be expected to result from it is to make
him try, the next time he comes in, to see how small an abatement of the
noise he usually makes will do, as a kind of make-believe obedience to his
mother's command. He might, indeed, honestly answer his mother's angry
question by saying that he does _not_ know better than to make such a
noise. He does not know why the noise of the door should be disagreeable
to his mother. It is not disagreeable to _him_. On the contrary, it
is agreeable. Children always like noise, especially if they make it
themselves. And although Charlie has often been told that he must not make
any noise, the reason for this--namely, that though noise is a source of
pleasure, generally, to children, especially when they make it themselves,
it is almost always a source of annoyance and pain to grown persons--has
never really entered his mind so as to be actually comprehended us
a practical reality. His ideas in respect to the philosophy of the
transaction are, of course, exceedingly vague; but so far as he forms any
idea, it is that his mother's words are the expression of some mysterious
but unreasonable sensitiveness on her part, which awakens in her a spirit
of fault-finding and ill-humor that vents itself upon him in blaming him
for nothing at all; or, as he would express it more tersely, if not so
elegantly, that she is "very cross." In other words, the impression made
by the transaction upon his moral sense is that of wrong-doing on his
_mother's part_, and not at all on his own.

It is evident, when we thus look into the secret workings of this method
of curing children of their faults, that even when it is successful in
restraining certain kinds of outward misconduct, and is thus the means
of effecting some small amount of good, the injury which it does by its
reaction on the spirit of the child may be vastly greater, through the
irritation and ill-humor which it occasions, and the impairing of his
confidence in the justice and goodness of his mother. Before leaving this
illustration, it must be carefully observed that in the first-mentioned
case--namely, that of Georgie--the work of curing the fault in question is
not to be at all considered as _effected_ by the step taken by his mother
which has been already described. That was only a beginning--a _right_
beginning, it is true, but still only a beginning. It produced in him a
cordial willingness to do right, in one instance. That is a great thing,
but it is, after all, only one single step. The work is not complete until
a _habit_ of doing right is formed, which is another thing altogether, and
requires special and continual measures directed to this particular end.
Children have to be _trained_ in the way they should go--not merely shown
the way, and induced to make a beginning of entering it. We will now try
to show how the influence of commendation and encouragement may be brought
into action in this more essential part of the process.

_Habit to be Formed_.

Having taken the first step already described, Georgie's mother finds
some proper opportunity, when she can have the undisturbed and undivided
attention of her boy--perhaps at night, after he has gone to his crib or
his trundle-bed, and just before she leaves him; or, perhaps, at some time
while she is at work, and he is sitting by her side, with his mind calm,
quiet, and unoccupied.

"Georgie," she says, "I have a plan to propose to you."

Georgie is eager to know what it is.

"You know how pleased I was when you came in so still to-day."

Georgie remembers it very well.

"It is very curious," continued his mother, "that there is a great
difference between grown people and children about noise. Children _like_
almost all kinds of noises very much, especially, if they make the noises
themselves; but grown people dislike them even more, I think, than children
like them. If there were a number of boys in the house, and I should tell
them that they might run back and forth through the rooms, and rattle and
slam all the doors as they went as loud as they could, they would like it
very much. They would think it excellent fun."

"Yes," says Georgie, "indeed, they would. I wish you would let us do it
some day."

"But grown people," continues his mother, "would not like such an amusement
at all. On the contrary, such a racket would be excessively disagreeable to
them, whether they made it themselves or whether somebody else made it. So,
when children come into a room where grown people are sitting, and make a
noise in opening and shutting the door, it is very disagreeable. Of course,
grown people always like those children the best that come into a room
quietly, and in a gentlemanly and lady-like manner."

As this explanation comes in connection with Georgia's having done right,
and with the commendation which he has received for it, his mind and heart
are open to receive it, instead of being disposed to resist and exclude it,
as he would have been if the same things exactly had been said to him in
connection with censure and reproaches for having acted in violation of the

"Yes, mother," says he, "and I mean always to open and shut the door as
still as I can."

"Yes, I know you _mean_ to do so," rejoined his mother, "but you will
forget, unless you have some plan to make you remember it until the _habit
is formed_. Now I have a plan to propose to help you form the habit. When
you get the habit once formed there will be no more difficulty.

"The plan is this: whenever you come into a room making a noise, I will
simply say, _Noise_. Then you will step back again softly and shut the
door, and then come in again in a quiet and proper way. You will not go
back for punishment, for you would not have made the noise on purpose, and
so would not deserve any punishment. It is only to help you remember, and
so to form the habit of coming into a room in a quiet and gentlemanly

Now Georgie, especially if all his mother's management of him is conducted
in this spirit, will enter into this plan with great cordiality.

"I should not propose this plan," continued his mother, "if I thought that
when I say _Noise_, and you have to go out and come in again, it would
put you out of humor, and make you cross or sullen. I am sure you will be
good-natured about it, and even if you consider it a kind of punishment,
that you will go out willingly, and take the punishment like a man; and
when you come in again you will come in still, and look pleased and happy
to find that you are carrying out the plan honorably."

Then if, on the first occasion when he is sent back, he _does_ take it
good-naturedly, this must be noticed and commended.

Now, unless we are entirely wrong in all our ideas of the nature and
tendencies of the infantile mind, it is as certain that a course of
procedure like this will be successful in curing the fault which is the
subject of treatment, as that water will extinguish fire. It cures it, too,
without occasioning any irritation, annoyance, or ill-humor in the mind
either of mother or child. On the contrary, it is a source of real
satisfaction and pleasure to them both, and increases and strengthens the
bond of sympathy by which their hearts are united to each other.

_The Principle involved_.

It must be understood distinctly that this case is given only as an
illustration of a principle which is applicable to all cases. The act
of opening and shutting a door in a noisy manner is altogether too
insignificant a fault to deserve this long discussion of the method of
curing it, were it not that methods founded on the same principles, and
conducted in the same spirit, are applicable universally in all that
pertains to the domestic management of children. And it is a method, too,
directly the opposite of that which is often--I will not say generally, but
certainly very often--pursued. The child tells the truth many times, and
in some cases, perhaps, when the inducement was very strong to tell an
untruth. We take no notice of these cases, considering it a matter of
course that he should tell the truth. We reserve our action altogether for
the first case when, overcome by a sudden temptation, he tells a lie, and
then interpose with reproaches and punishment. Nineteen times he gives up
what belongs to his little brother or sister of his own accord, perhaps
after a severe internal struggle. The twentieth time the result of the
struggle goes the wrong way, and he attempts to retain by violence what
does not belong to him. We take no notice of the nineteen cases when the
little fellow did right, but come and box his ears in the one case when he
does wrong.

_Origin of the Error_.

The idea on which this mode of treatment is founded--namely, that it is
a _matter of course_ that children should do right, so that when they do
right there is nothing to be said, and that doing wrong is the abnormal
condition and exceptional action which alone requires the parent to
interfere--is, to a great extent, a mistake. Indeed, the _matter of course_
is all the other way. A babe will seize the plaything of another babe
without the least compunction long after it is keenly alive to the
injustice and wrongfulness of having its own playthings taken by any other
child. So in regard to truth. The first impulse of all children, when they
have just acquired the use of language, is to use it in such a way as to
effect their object for the time being, without any sense of the sacred
obligation of making the words always correspond truly with the facts. The
principles of doing justice to the rights of others to one's own damage,
and of speaking the truth when falsehood would serve the present purpose
better, are principles that are developed or acquired by slow degrees, and
at a later period. I say developed _or_ acquired--for different classes of
metaphysicians and theologians entertain different theories in respect to
the way by which the ideas of right and of duty enter into the human mind.
But all will agree in this, that whatever may be the origin of the moral
sense in man, it does not appear as a _practical element of control for the
conduct_ till some time after the animal appetites and passions have begun
to exercise their power. Whether we regard this sense as arising from a
development within of a latent principle of the soul, or as an essential
element of the inherited and native constitution of man, though remaining
for a time embryonic and inert, or as a habit acquired under the influence
of instruction and example, all will admit that the period of its
appearance as a perceptible motive of action is so delayed, and the time
required for its attaining sufficient strength to exercise any real and
effectual control over the conduct extends over so many of the earlier
years of life, that no very material help in governing the appetites and
passions and impulses can be reasonably expected from it at a very early
period. Indeed, conscience, so far as its existence is manifested at all in
childhood, seems to show itself chiefly in the form of the simple _fear of
detection_ in what there is reason to suppose will lead, if discovered, to
reproaches or punishment.

At any rate, the moral sense in childhood, whatever may be our philosophy
in respect to the origin and the nature of it, can not be regarded as a
strong and settled principle on which we can throw the responsibility of
regulating the conduct, and holding it sternly to its obligations. It
is, on the contrary, a very tender plant, slowly coming forward to the
development of its beauty and its power, and requiring the most gentle
fostering and care on the part of those intrusted with the training of the
infant mind; and the influence of commendation and encouragement when the
embryo monitor succeeds in its incipient and feeble efforts, will be far
more effectual in promoting its development, than that of censure and
punishment when it fails.

_Important Caution_.

For every good thing there seems to be something in its form and semblance
that is spurious and bad. The principle brought to view in this chapter has
its counterfeit in the indiscriminate praise and flattery of children by
their parents, which only makes them self-conceited and vain, without at
all promoting any good end. The distinction between the two might be easily
pointed out, if time and space permitted; but the intelligent parent, who
has rightly comprehended the method of management here described, and the
spirit in which the process of applying it is to be made, will be in no
danger of confounding one with the other.

This principle of noticing and commending, within proper limits and
restrictions, what is right, rather than finding fault with what is wrong,
will be found to be as important in the work of instruction as in the
regulation of conduct. We have, in fact, a very good opportunity of
comparing the two systems, as it is a curious fact that in certain things
it is almost the universal custom to adopt one method, and in certain
others, the other.

_The two Methods exemplified_.

There are, for example, two arts which children have to learn, in the
process of their mental and physical development, in which their faults,
errors, and deficiencies are never pointed out, but in the dealings of
their parents with them all is commendation and encouragement. They are the
arts of walking and talking.

The first time that a child attempts to walk alone, what a feeble,
staggering, and awkward exhibition it makes. And yet its mother shows,
by the excitement of her countenance, and the delight expressed by her
exclamations, how pleased she is with the performance; and she, perhaps,
even calls in persons from the next room to see how well the baby can
walk! Not a word about imperfections and failings, not a word about the
tottering, the awkward reaching out of arms to preserve the balance, the
crookedness of the way, the anxious expression of the countenance, or
any other faults. These are left to correct themselves by the continued
practice which encouragement is sure to lead to.

It is true that words would not be available in such a case for
fault-finding; for a child when learning to walk would be too young to
understand them. But the parent's sense of the imperfections of the
performance might be expressed in looks and gestures which the child would
understand; but he sees, on the contrary, nothing but indications of
satisfaction and pleasure, and it is very manifest how much he is
encouraged by them. Seeing the pleasure which his efforts give to the
spectators, he is made proud and happy by his success, and goes on making
efforts to improve with alacrity and delight.

It is the same with learning to talk. The mistakes, deficiencies, and
errors of the first rude attempts are seldom noticed, and still more seldom
pointed out by the parent. On the contrary, the child takes the impression,
from the readiness with which its words are understood and the delight it
evidently gives its mother to hear them, that it is going on triumphantly
in its work of learning to talk, instead of feeling that its attempts are
only tolerated because they are made by such a little child, and that they
require a vast amount of correction, alteration, and improvement, before
they will be at all satisfactory. Indeed, so far from criticising and
pointing out the errors and faults, the mother very frequently meets the
child half way in its progress, by actually adopting the faults and errors
herself in her replies. So that when the little beginner in the use of
language, as he wakes up in his crib, and stretching out his hands to his
mother says, "I want _to get up_" she comes to take him, and replies, her
face beaming with delight, "My little darling! you shall _get up_;" thus
filling his mind with happiness at the idea that his mother is not only
pleased that he attempts to speak, but is fully satisfied, and more than
satisfied, with his success.

The result is, that in learning to walk and to talk, children always
go forward with alacrity and ardor. They practise continually and
spontaneously, requiring no promises of reward to allure them to effort,
and no threats of punishment to overcome repugnance or aversion. It might
be too much to say that the rapidity of their progress and the pleasure
which they experience in making it, are owing wholly to the commendation
and encouragement they receive--for other causes may co-operate with these.
But it is certain that these influences contribute very essentially to the
result. There can be no doubt at all that if it were possible for a mother
to stop her child in its efforts to learn to walk and to talk, and explain
to it, no matter how kindly, all its shortcomings, failures, and mistakes,
and were to make this her daily and habitual practice, the consequence
would be, not only a great diminution of the ardor and animation of the
little pupil, in pressing forward in its work, but also a great retardation
in its progress.

_Example of the other Method_.

Let us now, for the more full understanding of the subject, go to the other
extreme, and consider a case in which the management is as far as possible
removed from that above referred to. We can not have a better example
than the method often adopted in schools and seminaries for teaching
composition; in other words, the art of expressing one's thoughts in
written language--an art which one would suppose to be so analogous to
that of learning to talk--that is, to express one's thoughts in _oral_
language--that the method which was found so eminently successful in the
one would be naturally resorted to in the other. Instead of that, the
method often pursued is exactly the reverse. The pupil having with infinite
difficulty, and with many forebodings and anxious fears, made his first
attempt, brings it to his teacher. The teacher, if he is a kind-hearted and
considerate man, perhaps briefly commends the effort with some such dubious
and equivocal praise as it is "Very well for a beginner," or "As good a
composition as could be expected at the first attempt," and then proceeds
to go over the exercise in a cool and deliberate manner, with a view of
discovering and bringing out clearly and conspicuously to the view, not
only of the little author himself, but often of all his classmates and
friends, every imperfection, failure, mistake, omission, or other fault
which a rigid scrutiny can detect in the performance. However kindly he
may do this, and however gentle the tones of his voice, still the work is
criticism and fault-finding from beginning to end. The boy sits on thorns
and nettles while submitting to the operation, and when he takes his marked
and corrected manuscript to his seat, he feels mortified and ashamed, and
is often hopelessly discouraged.

_How Faults are to be Corrected_.

Some one may, perhaps, say that pointing out the errors and faults of
pupils is absolutely essential to their progress, inasmuch as, unless they
are made to see what their faults are, they can not be expected to correct
them. I admit that this is true to a certain extent, but by no means to
so great an extent as is often supposed. There are a great many ways of
teaching pupils to do better what they are going to do, besides showing
them the faults in what they have already done.

Thus, without pointing out the errors and faults which he observes, the
teacher may only refer to and commend what is right, while he at the same
time observes and remembers the prevailing faults, with a view of adapting
his future instructions to the removal of them. These instructions, when
given, will take the form, of course, of general information on the art of
expressing one's thoughts in writing, and on the faults and errors to be
avoided, perhaps without any, or, at least, very little allusion to those
which the pupils themselves had committed. Instruction thus given, while it
will have at least an equal tendency with the other mode to form the pupils
to habits of correctness and accuracy, will not have the effect upon their
mind of disparagement of what they have already done, but rather of aid and
encouragement for them in regard to what they are next to do. In following
the instructions thus given them, the pupils will, as it were, leave the
faults previously committed behind them, being even, in many instances,
unconscious, perhaps, of their having themselves ever committed them.

The ingenious mother will find various modes analogous to this, of leading
her children forward into what is right, without at all disturbing their
minds by censure of what is wrong--a course which it is perfectly safe to
pursue in the case of all errors and faults which result from inadvertence
or immaturity. There is, doubtless, another class of faults--those of
willful carelessness or neglect--which must be specially pointed out to the
attention of the delinquents, and a degree of discredit attached to the
commission of them, and perhaps, in special cases, some kind of punishment
imposed, as the most proper corrective of the evil. And yet, even in cases
of carelessness and neglect of duty, it will generally be found much
more easy to awaken ambition, and a desire to improve, in a child, by
discovering, if possible, something good in his work, and commending that,
as an encouragement to him to make greater exertion the next time, than
to attempt to cure him of his negligence by calling his attention to the
faults which he has committed, as subjects of censure, however obvious the
faults may be, and however deserving of blame.

The advice, however, made in this chapter, to employ commendation and
encouragement to a great extent, rather than criticism and fault-finding,
in the management and instruction of children, must, like all other general
counsels of the kind, be held subject to all proper limitations and
restrictions. Some mother may, perhaps, object to what is here advanced,
saying, "If I am always indiscriminately praising my child's doings, he
will become self-conceited and vain, and he will cease to make progress,
being satisfied with what he has already attained." Of course he will, and
therefore you must take care not to be always and indiscriminately praising
him. You must exercise tact and good judgment, or at any rate, common
sense, in properly proportioning your criticism and your praise. There
are no principles of management, however sound, which may not be
so exaggerated, or followed with so blind a disregard of attendant
circumstances, as to produce more harm than good.

It must be especially borne in mind that the counsels here given in
relation to curing the faults of children by dealing more with what is good
in them than what is bad, are intended to apply to faults of ignorance,
inadvertence, or habit only, and not to acts of known and willful wrong.
When we come to cases of deliberate and intentional disobedience to
a parent's commands, or open resistance to his authority, something
different, or at least something more, is required.

_The Principle of Universal Application._

In conclusion, it is proper to add that the principle of influencing human
character and action by noticing and commending what is right, rather than
finding fault with what is wrong, is of universal application, with the
mature as well as with the young. The susceptibility to this influence is
in full operation in the minds of all men everywhere, and acting upon it
will lead to the same results in all the relations of society. The way
to awaken a penurious man to the performance of generous deeds is not
by remonstrating with him, however kindly, on his penuriousness, but by
watching his conduct till we find some act that bears some semblance of
liberality, and commending him for that. If you have a neighbor who is
surly and troublesome--tell him that he is so, and you make him worse
than ever. But watch for some occasion in which he shows you some little
kindness, and thank him cordially for such a good neighborly act, and he
will feel a strong desire to repeat it. If mankind universally understood
this principle, and would generally act upon it in their dealings with
others--of course, with such limitations and restrictions as good sense
and sound judgment would impose--the world would not only go on much more
smoothly and harmoniously than it does now, but the progress of improvement
would, I think, in all respects be infinitely more rapid.



A great portion of the errors and mistakes, and of what we call the
follies, of children arise from simple ignorance. Principles of philosophy,
whether pertaining to external nature or to mental action, are involved
which have never come home to their minds. They may have been presented,
but they have not been understood and appreciated. It requires some tact,
and sometimes delicate observation, on the part of the mother to determine
whether a mode of action which she sees ought to be corrected results from
childish ignorance and inexperience, or from willful wrong-doing. Whatever
may be the proper treatment in the latter case, it is evident that in the
former what is required is not censure, but instruction.


A mother came into the room one day and found Johnny disputing earnestly
with his Cousin Jane on the question which was the tallest--Johnny very
strenuously maintaining that he was the tallest, _because he was a boy_.
His older brother, James, who was present at the time, measured them, and
found that Johnny in reality was the tallest.

Now there was nothing wrong in his feeling a pride and pleasure in the
thought that he was physically superior to his cousin, and though it was
foolish for him to insist himself on this superiority in a boasting way,
it was the foolishness of ignorance only. He had not learned the
principle--which half mankind do not seem ever to learn during the whole
course of their lives--that it is far wiser and better to let our good
qualities appear naturally of themselves, than to claim credit for them
beforehand by boasting. It would have been much wiser for Johnny to have
admitted at the outset that Jane might possibly be taller than he, and then
to have awaited quietly the result of the measuring.

But we can not blame him much for not having learned this particular wisdom
at five years of age, when so many full-grown men and women never learn it
at all.

Nor was there any thing blameworthy in him in respect to the false logic
involved in his argument, that his being a boy made him necessarily taller
than his cousin, a girl of the same age. There was a _semblance_ of proof
in that fact--what the logicians term a presumption. But the reasoning
powers are very slowly developed in childhood. They are very seldom aided
by any instruction really adapted to the improvement of them; and we ought
not to expect that such children can at all clearly distinguish a semblance
from a reality in ideas so extremely abstruse as those relating to the
logical connection between the premises and the conclusion in a process of

In this case as in the other we expect them to understand at once, without
instruction, what we find it extremely difficult to learn ourselves; for
a large portion of mankind prove themselves utterly unable ever to
discriminate between sound arguments and those which are utterly
inconsequent and absurd.

In a word, what Johnny requires in such a case as this is, not ridicule to
shame him out of his false reasoning, nor censure or punishment to cure him
of his boasting, but simply instruction.

And this instruction it is much better to give _not_ in direct connection
with the occurrence which indicated the want of it. If you attempt to
explain to your boy the folly of boasting in immediate connection with some
act of boasting of his own, he feels that you are really finding fault with
him; his mind instinctively puts itself into a position of defense, and the
truth which you wish to impart to it finds a much less easy admission.

If, for example, in this case Johnny's mother attempts on the spot to
explain to him the folly of boasting, and to show how much wiser it is for
us to let our good qualities, if we have any, speak for themselves, without
any direct agency of ours in claiming the merit of them, he listens
reluctantly and nervously as to a scolding in disguise. If he is a boy well
managed, he waits, perhaps, to hear what his mother has to say, but it
makes no impression. If he is badly trained, he will probably interrupt his
mother in the midst of what she is saying, or break away from her to go on
with his play.

_A right Mode of Treatment._

If now, instead of this, the mother waits until the dispute and the
transaction of measuring have passed by and been forgotten, and then takes
some favorable opportunity to give the required _instruction_, the result
will be far more favorable. At some time, when tired of his play, he comes
to stand by her to observe her at her work, or perhaps to ask her for a
story; or, after she has put him to bed and is about to leave him for the
night, she says to him as follows:

"I'll tell you a story about two boys, Jack and Henry, and you shall tell
me which of them came off best. They both went to the same school and were
in the same class, and there was nobody else in the class but those two.
Henry, who was the most diligent scholar, was at the head of the class, and
Jack was below him, and, of course, as there were only two, he was at the

"One day there was company at the house, and one of the ladies asked the
boys how they got along at school. Jack immediately said, 'Very well. I'm
next to the head of my class.' The lady then praised him, and said that
he must be a very good scholar to be so high in his class. Then she asked
Henry how high he was in his class. He said he was next to the foot.

"The lady was somewhat surprised, for she, as well as the others present,
supposed that Henry was the best scholar; they were all a little puzzled
too, for Henry looked a little roguish and sly when he said it. But just
then the teacher came in, and she explained the case; for she said that the
boys were in the same class, and they were all that were in it; so that
Henry, who was really at the head, was next but one to the foot, while
Jack, who was at the foot, was next but one to the head. On having this
explanation made to the company, Jack felt very much confused and ashamed,
while Henry, though he said nothing, could not help feeling pleased.

"And now," asks the mother, in conclusion, "which of these boys do you
think came off the best?"

Johnny answers that Henry came out best.

"Yes," adds his mother, "and it is always better that people's merits, if
they have any, should come out in other ways than by their own boasting of

It is true that this case of Henry and Jack does not correspond
exactly--not even nearly, in fact--with that of Johnny and his cousin. Nor
is it necessary that the instruction given in these ways should logically
conform to the incident which calls them forth. It is sufficient that there
should be such a degree of analogy between them, that the interest and turn
of thought produced by the incident may prepare the mind for appreciating
and receiving the lesson. But the mother may bring the lesson nearer if she

"I will tell you another story," she says. "There were two men at a fair.
Their names were Thomas and Philip.

"Thomas was boasting of his strength. He said he was a great deal stronger
than Philip. 'Perhaps you are,' said Philip. Then Thomas pointed to a big
stone which was lying upon the ground, and dared Philip to try which could
throw it the farthest. 'Very well,' said Philip, 'I will try, but I think
it very likely you will beat me, for I know you are very strong.' So they
tried, and it proved that Philip could throw it a great deal farther than
Thomas could. Then Thomas went away looking very much incensed and very
much ashamed, while Philip's triumph was altogether greater for his not
having boasted."

"Yes," says Johnny, "I think so."

The mother may, if she pleases, come still nearer than this, if she wishes
to suit Johnny's individual case, without exciting any resistance in his
heart to the reception of her lesson. She may bring his exact case into
consideration, provided she changes the names of the actors, so that
Johnny's mind may be relieved from the uneasy sensitiveness which it is so
natural for a child to feel when his own conduct is directly the object
of unfavorable comment. It is surprising how slight a change in the mere
outward incidents of an affair will suffice to divert the thoughts of the
child from himself in such a case, and enable him to look at the lesson to
be imparted without personal feeling, and so to receive it more readily.

Johnny's mother may say, "There might be a story in a book about two boys
that were disputing a little about which was the tallest. What do you think
would be good names for the boys, if you were making up such a story?"

When Johnny has proposed the names, his mother could go on and give an
almost exact narrative of what took place between Johnny and his cousin,
offering just such instructions and such advice as she would like to offer;
and she will find, if she manages the conversation with ordinary tact and
discretion, that the lessons which she desires to impart will find a ready
admission to the mind of her child, simply from the fact that, by divesting
them of all direct personal application, she has eliminated from them the
element of covert censure which they would otherwise have contained. Very
slight disguises will, in all such cases, be found to be sufficient to veil
the personal applicability of the instruction, so far as to divest it of
all that is painful or disagreeable to the child. He may have a vague
feeling that you mean him, but the feeling will not produce any effect of
irritation or repellency.

Now, the object of these illustrations is to show that those errors and
faults which, when we look at their real and intrinsic character, we see to
be results of ignorance and inexperience, and not instances of willful
and intentional wrong-doing, are not to be dealt with harshly, and made
occasions of censure and punishment. The child does not deserve censure
or punishment in such cases; what he requires is instruction. It is the
bringing in of light to illuminate the path that is before him which he has
yet to tread, and not the infliction of pain, to impress upon him the evil
of the missteps he made, in consequence of the obscurity, in the path
behind him.

Indeed, in such cases as this, it is the influence of pleasure rather than
pain that the parent will find the most efficient means of aiding him; that
is, in these cases, the more pleasant and agreeable the modes by which he
can impart the needed knowledge to the child--in other words, the more
attractive he can make the paths by which he can lead his little charge
onward in its progress towards maturity--the more successful he will be.

_Ignorance of Material Properties and Laws._

In the example already given, the mental immaturity consisted in imperfect
acquaintance with the qualities and the action of the mind, and the
principles of sound reasoning; but a far larger portion of the mistakes
and failures into which children fall, and for which they incur undeserved
censure, are due to their ignorance of the laws of external nature, and of
the properties and qualities of material objects.

A boy, for example, seven or eight years old, receives from his father a
present of a knife, with a special injunction to be careful of it. He
is, accordingly, very careful of it in respect to such dangers as he
understands, but in attempting to bore a hole with it in a piece of wood,
out of which he is trying to make a windmill, he breaks the small blade.
The accident, in such a case, is not to be attributed to any censurable
carelessness, but to want of instruction in respect to the strength of such
a material as steel, and the nature and effects of the degree of tempering
given to knife-blades. The boy had seen his father bore holes with a
gimlet, and the knife-blade was larger--in one direction at least, that is,
in breadth--than the gimlet, and it was very natural for him to suppose
that it was stronger. What a boy needs in such a case, therefore, is not a
scolding, or punishment, but simply information.

A girl of about the same age--a farmer's daughter, we will suppose--under
the influence of a dutiful desire to aid her mother in preparing the table
for breakfast, attempts to carry across the room a pitcher of milk which is
too full, and she spills a portion of it upon the floor.

_The Intention good_.

[Illustration: THE INTENTION GOOD.]

The mother, forgetting the good intention which prompted the act, and
thinking only of the inconvenience which it occasions her, administers at
once a sharp rebuke. The cause of the trouble was, simply, that the child
was not old enough to understand the laws of momentum and of oscillation
that affect the condition of a fluid when subjected to movements more or
less irregular. She has had no theoretical instruction on the subject,
and is too young to have acquired the necessary knowledge practically, by
experience or observation.

It is so with a very large portion of the accidents which befall children.
They arise not from any evil design, nor even any thing that can properly
be called carelessness, on their part, but simply from the immaturity of
their knowledge in respect to the properties and qualities of the material
objects with which they have to deal.

It is true that children may be, and often, doubtless, are, in fault for
these accidents. The boy may have been warned by his father not to attempt
to bore with his knife-blade, or the girl forbidden to attempt to carry the
milk-pitcher. The fault, however, would be, even in these cases, in the
disobedience, and not in the damage that accidentally resulted from it. And
it would be far more reasonable and proper to reprove and punish the fault
when no evil followed than when a damage was the result; for in the
latter case the damage itself acts, ordinarily, as a more than sufficient

_Misfortunes befalling Men_.

These cases are exactly analogous to a large class of accidents and
calamities that happen among men. A ship-master sails from port at a time
when there are causes existing in the condition of the atmosphere, and in
the agencies in readiness to act upon it, that must certainly, in a few
hours, result in a violent storm. He is consequently caught in the gale,
and his topmasts and upper rigging are carried away. The owners do not
censure him for the loss which they incur, if they are only assured that
the meteorological knowledge at the captain's command at the time of
leaving port was not such as to give him warning of the danger; and
provided, also, that his knowledge was as advanced as could reasonably be
expected from the opportunities which he had enjoyed. But we are very much
inclined to hold children responsible for as much knowledge of the sources
of danger around them as we ourselves, with all our experience, have been
able to acquire, and are accustomed to condemn and sometimes even to punish
them, for want of this knowledge.

Indeed, in many cases, both with children and with men, the means of
knowledge in respect to the danger may be fully within reach, and yet
the situation may be so novel, and the combination of circumstances so
peculiar, that the connection between the causes and the possible evil
effects does not occur to the minds of the persons engaged. An accident
which has just occurred at the time of this present writing will illustrate
this. A company of workmen constructing a tunnel for a railway, when they
had reached the distance of some miles from the entrance, prepared a number
of charges for blasting the rock, and accidentally laid the wires connected
with the powder in too close proximity to the temporary railway-track
already laid in the tunnel. The charges were intended to be fired from an
electric battery provided for the purpose; but a thunder-cloud came up, and
the electric force from it was conveyed by the rails into the tunnel and
exploded the charges, and several men were killed. No one was inclined to
censure the unfortunate men for carelessness in not guarding against a
contingency so utterly unforeseen by them, though it is plain that, as
is often said to children in precisely analogous cases, they _might have

_Children's Studies_.--_Spelling_.

There is, perhaps, no department of the management of children in which
they incur more undeserved censure, and even punishment, and are treated
with so little consideration for faults arising solely from the immaturity
of their minds, than in the direction of what may be called school studies.
Few people have any proper appreciation of the enormous difficulties which
a child has to encounter in learning to read and spell. How many parents
become discouraged, and manifest their discouragement and dissatisfaction
to the child in reproving and complaints, at what they consider his slow
progress in learning to spell--forgetting that in the English language
there are in common, every-day use eight or ten thousand words, almost all
of which are to be learned separately, by a bare and cheerless toil of
committing to memory, with comparatively little definite help from the
sound. We have ourselves become so accustomed to seeing the word _bear_,
for example, when denoting the animal, spelt _b e a r_, that we are very
prone to imagine that there is something naturally appropriate in those
letters and in that collocation of them, to represent that sound when used
to denote that idea. But what is there in the nature and power of
the letters to aid the child in perceiving--or, when told, in
remembering--whether, when referring to the animal, he is to write _bear_,
or _bare_, or _bair_, or _bayr_, or _bere_, as in _where_. So with the word
_you._ It seems to us the most natural thing in the world to spell it _y
o u_. And when the little pupil, judging by the sound, writes it _y u_, we
mortify him by our ridicule, as if he had done something in itself absurd.
But how is he to know, except by the hardest, most meaningless, and
distasteful toil of the memory, whether he is to write _you_, or _yu_, or
_yoo,_ or _ewe_, or _yew_, or _yue_, as in _flue_, or even _yo_ as in
_do_, and to determine when and in what cases respectively he is to use
those different forms?

The truth is, that each elementary sound that enters into the composition
of words is represented in our language by so many different combinations
of letters, in different cases, that the child has very little clue from
the sound of a syllable to guide him in the spelling of it. We ourselves,
from long habit, have become so accustomed to what we call the right
spelling--which, of course, means nothing more than the customary one--that
we are apt to imagine, as has already been said, that there is some natural
fitness in it; and a mode of representing the same sound, which in one case
seems natural and proper, in another appears ludicrous and absurd. We smile
to see _laugh_ spelled _larf,_ just as we should to see _scarf_ spelled
_scaugh_, or _scalf_, as in _half_; and we forget that this perception of
apparent incongruity is entirely the result of long habit in us, and has no
natural foundation, and that children can not be sensible of it, or have
any idea of it whatever. They learn, in learning to talk, what sound serves
as the name by which the drops of water that they find upon the grass in
the morning is denoted, but they can have no clue whatever to guide them
in determining which of the various modes by which precisely that sound is
represented in different words, as _dew, do, due, du, doo_, and _dou_,
is to be employed in this case, and they become involved in hopeless
perplexity if they attempt to imagine "_how it ought to be spelled_;" and
we think them stupid because they can not extricate themselves from the
difficulty on our calling upon them to "think!" No doubt there is a
reason for the particular mode of spelling each particular word in the
language--but that reason is hidden in the past history of the word and in
facts connected with its origin and derivation from some barbarous or dead
language, and is as utterly beyond the reach of each generation of spellers
as if there were no such reasons in existence. There can not be the
slightest help in any way from the exercise of the thinking or the
reasoning powers.

It is true that the variety of the modes by which a given sound may be
represented is not so great in all words as it is in these examples, though
with respect to a vast number of the words in common use the above are
fair specimens. They were not specially selected, but were taken almost at
random. And there are very few words in the language the sound of which
might not be represented by several different modes.

Take, for example, the three last words of the last sentence, which, as the
words were written without any thought of using them for this purpose,
may be considered, perhaps, as a fair specimen of words taken actually
at random. The sound of the word _several_ might be expressed in perfect
accordance with the usage of English spelling, as _ceveral, severul,
sevaral, cevural_, and in many other different modes. The combinations
_dipherant, diferunt, dyfferent, diffurunt_, and many others, would as
well represent the sound of the second word as the usual mode. And so with
_modes_, which, according to the analogy of the language, might as well
be expressed by _moads, mowdes, moades, mohdes_, or even _mhodes_, as in

An exceptionally precise speaker might doubtless make some slight
difference in the sounds indicated by the different modes of representing
the same syllable as given above; but to the ordinary appreciation of
childhood the distinction in sound between such combinations, for
example, as _a n t_ in _constant_ and _e n t_ in _different_ would not be

Now, when we consider the obvious fact that the child has to learn
mechanically, without any principles whatever to guide him in discovering
which, out of the many different forms, equally probable, judging simply
from analogy, by which the sound of the word is to be expressed, is the
right one; and considering how small a portion of his time each day is or
can be devoted to this work, and that the number of words in common use,
all of which he is expected to know how to spell correctly by the time that
he is twelve or fifteen years of age, is probably ten or twelve thousand
(there are in Webster's dictionary considerably over a hundred thousand);
when we take these considerations into account, it would seem that a
parent, on finding that a letter written by his daughter, twelve or
fourteen years of age, has all but three or four words spelled right,
ought to be pleased and satisfied, and to express his satisfaction for the
encouragement of the learner, instead of appearing to think only of the
few words that are wrong, and disheartening and discouraging the child by
attempts to make her ashamed of her spelling.

The case is substantially the same with the enormous difficulties to be
encountered in learning to read and to write. The names of the letters, as
the child pronounces them individually, give very little clue to the sound
that is to be given to the word formed by them. Thus, the letters _h i
t_, as the child pronounces them individually--_aitch, eye, tee_--would
naturally spell to him some such word as _achite_, not _hit_ at all. And as
for the labor and difficulty of writing, a mother who is impatient at the
slow progress of her children in the attainment of the art would be
aided very much in obtaining a just idea of the difficulties which they
experience by sitting upon a chair and at a table both much too high for
her, and trying to copy Chinese characters by means of a hair-pencil, and
with her left hand--the work to be closely inspected every day by a stern
Chinaman of whom she stands in awe, and all the minutest deviations from
the copy pointed out to her attention with an air of dissatisfaction and

_Effect of Ridicule_.

There is, perhaps, no one cause which exerts a greater influence in
chilling the interest that children naturally feel in the acquisition of
knowledge, than the depression and discouragement which result from having
their mistakes and errors--for a large portion of which they are in no
sense to blame--made subjects of censure or ridicule. The effect is still
more decided in the case of girls than in that of boys, the gentler sex
being naturally so much more sensitive. I have found in many cases,
especially in respect to girls who are far enough advanced to have had a
tolerably full experience of the usual influences of schools, that the fear
of making mistakes, and of being "thought stupid," has had more effect in
hindering and retarding progress, by repressing the natural ardor of the
pupil, and destroying all alacrity and courage in the efforts to advance,
than all other causes combined.


How ungenerous, and even cruel, it is to reproach or ridicule a child for
stupidity, is evident when we reflect that any supposed inferiority in
his mental organization can not, by any possibility, be _his_ fault. The
question what degree of natural intelligence he shall be endowed with, in
comparison with other children, is determined, not by himself, but by his
Creator, and depends, probably, upon conditions of organization in his
cerebral system as much beyond his control as any thing abnormal in the
features of his face, or blindness, or deafness, or any other physical
disadvantage. The child who shows any indications of inferiority to others
in any of these respects should be the object of his parent's or his
teacher's special tenderness and care. If he is near-sighted, give him, at
school, a seat as convenient as possible to the blackboard or the map.
If he is hard of hearing, place him near the teacher; and for reasons
precisely analogous, if you suspect him to be of inferior capacity, help
him gently and tenderly in every possible way. Do every thing in your power
to encourage him, and to conceal his deficiencies both from others and from
himself, so far as these objects can be attained consistently with the
general good of the family or of the school.

And, at all events, let those who have in any way the charge of children
keep the distinction well defined in their minds between the faults which
result from evil intentions, or deliberate and willful neglect of known
duty, and those which, whatever the inconvenience they may occasion, are in
part or in whole the results of mental or physical immaturity. In all our
dealings, whether with plants, or animals, or with the human soul, we
ought, in our training, to act very gently in respect to all that pertains
to the embryo condition.



In order rightly to understand the true nature of that extraordinary
activity which is so noticeable in all children that are in a state of
health, so as to be able to deal with it on the right principles and in a
proper manner, it is necessary to turn our attention somewhat carefully to
certain scientific truths in respect to the nature and action of force in
general which are now abundantly established, and which throw great
light on the true character of that peculiar form of it which is so
characteristic of childhood, and is, indeed, so abundantly developed by
the vital functions of almost all young animals. One of the fundamental
principles of this system of scientific truth is that which is called the
persistence of force.

_The Persistence of Force_.

By the persistence of force is meant the principle--one now established
with so much certainty as to command the assent of every thinking man who
examines the subject--that in the ordinary course of nature no force is
either ever originated or ever destroyed, but only changed in form.
In other words, that all existing forces are but the continuation or
prolongation of other forces preceding them, either of the same or other
forms, but precisely equivalent in amount; and that no force can terminate
its action in any other way than by being transmuted into some other force,
either of the same or of some other form; but still, again, precisely
equivalent in amount.

It was formerly believed that a force might under certain circumstances
be _originated_--created, as it were--and hence the attempts to contrive
machines for perpetual motion--that is, machines for the _production_
of force. This idea is now wholly renounced by all well-informed men as
utterly impossible in the nature of things. All that human mechanism can do
is to provide modes for using advantageously a force previously existing,
without the possibility of either increasing or diminishing it. No existing
force can be destroyed. The only changes possible are changes of direction,
changes in the relation of intensity to quantity, and changes of form.

The cases in which a force is apparently increased or diminished, as well
as those in which it seems to disappear, are all found, on examination, to
be illusive. For example, the apparent increase of a man's power by the use
of a lever is really no increase at all. It is true that, by pressing upon
the outer arm with his own weight, he can cause the much greater weight
of the stone to rise; but then it will rise only a very little way in
comparison with the distance through which his own weight descends. His own
weight must, in fact, descend through a distance as much greater than that
by which the stone ascends, as the weight of the stone is greater than his
weight. In other words, so far as the balance of the forces is concerned,
the whole amount of the _downward motion_ consists of the smaller weight
descending through a greater distance, which will be equal to the whole
amount of that of the larger one ascending through a smaller distance; and,
to produce a preponderance, the whole amount of the downward force must be
somewhat greater. Thus the lever only _gathers_ or _concentrates_ force, as
it were, but does not at all increase it.

It is so with all the other contrivances for managing force for the
accomplishment of particular purposes. None of them, increase the force,
but only alter its form and character, with a view to its better adaptation
to the purpose in view.

Nor can any force be extinguished. When a bullet strikes against a solid
wall, the force of its movement, which seems to disappear, is not lost; it
is converted into heat--the temperature of both the bullet and of that part
of the wall on which it impinges being raised by the concussion. And it is
found that the amount of the heat which is thus produced is always in exact
proportion to the quantity of mechanical motion which is stopped; this
quantity depending on the weight of the bullet, and on the velocity with
which it was moving. And it has been ascertained, moreover, by the most
careful, patient, and many times repeated experiments and calculations,
that the quantity of this heat is exactly the same with that which, through
the medium of steam, or by any other mode of applying it, may be made to
produce the same quantity of mechanical motion that was extinguished in the
bullet. Thus the force was not destroyed, but only converted into another

And if we should follow out the natural effects of this heat into which the
motion of the bullet was transferred, we should find it rarefying the air
around the place of concussion, and thus lifting the whole mass of the
atmosphere above it, and producing currents of the nature of wind, and
through these producing other effects, thus going on forever; the force
changing its form, but neither increasing or diminishing its quantity
through a series of changes without end.

_The Arrest and temporary Reservation of Force_.

Now, although it is thus impossible that any force should be destroyed, or
in any way cease to exist in one form without setting in action a precisely
equal amount in some other form, it may, as it were, pass into a condition
of _restraint_, and remain thus suspended and latent for an indefinite
period--ready, however, to break into action again the moment that the
restraint is removed. Thus a perfectly elastic spring may be bent by a
certain force, and retained in the bent position a long time. But the
moment that it is released it will unbend itself, exercising in so doing
precisely the degree of force expended in bending it. In the same manner
air may be compressed in an air-gun, and held thus, with the force, as it
were, imprisoned, for any length of time, until at last, when the detent is
released by the trigger, the elastic force comes into action, exercising in
its action a power precisely the same as that with which it was compressed.

Force or power may be thus, as it were, stored up in a countless variety of
ways, and reserved for future action; and, when finally released, the whole
amount may be set free at once, so as to expend itself in a single impulse,
as in case of the arrow or the bullet; or it may be partially restrained,
so as to expend itself gradually, as in the case of a clock or watch. In
either case the total amount expended will be precisely the same--namely,
the exact equivalent of that which was placed in store.

_Vegetable and Animal Life_.

There are a vast number of mechanical contrivances in use among men for
thus putting force in store, as it were, and then using it more or less
gradually, as may be required. And nature, moreover, does this on a scale
so stupendous as to render all human contrivances for this purpose utterly
insignificant in comparison. The great agent which nature employs in this
work is vegetation. Indeed, it may truly be said that the great function
of vegetable life, in all the infinitude of forms and characters which it
assumes, is to _receive and store up force_ derived from the emanations of
the sun.

Animal life, on the other hand, exists and fulfills its functions by
the _expenditure_ of this force. Animals receive vegetable productions
containing these reserves of force into their systems, which systems
contain arrangements for liberating the force, and employing it for the
purposes it is intended to subserve in the animal economy.

The manner in which these processes are performed is in general terms as
follows: The vegetable absorbs from the earth and from the air substances
existing in their natural condition--that is, united according to their
strongest affinities. These substances are chiefly water, containing
various mineral salts in solution, from the ground, and carbonic acid from
the air. These substances, after undergoing certain changes in the vessels
of the plant, are exposed to the influence of the rays of the sun in the
leaves. By the power of these rays--including the calorific, the luminous,
and the actinic--the natural affinities by which the above-mentioned
substances were united are overcome, and they are formed into new
combinations, in which they are united by very weak affinities. Of course,
they have a strong tendency to break away from the new unions, and fall
back into the old. But, by some mysterious and incomprehensible means,
the sun has power to lock them, so to speak, in their new forms, so as to
require a special condition of things for the releasing of them. Thus
they form a reserve of force, which can be held in restraint until the
conditions required for their release are realized.

The process can be illustrated more particularly by a single case. Water,
one of the substances absorbed by plants, is composed of oxygen and
hydrogen, which are united by an affinity of prodigious force. It is the
same with carbon and oxygen, in a compound called carbonic acid, which is
also one of the principal substances absorbed by plants from the air. Now
the heat and other emanations from the sun, acting upon these substances in
the leaves, forces the hydrogen and the carbon away from their strong bond
of union with oxygen, and sets the oxygen free, and then combines the
carbon and hydrogen into a sort of unwilling union with each other--a union
from which they are always ready and eager to break away, that they may
return to their union with the object of their former and much stronger
attachment--namely, oxygen; though they are so locked, by some mysterious
means, that they can not break away except when certain conditions
necessary to their release are realized.


The substances thus formed by a weak union of carbon with hydrogen are
called hydrocarbons. They comprise nearly all the highly inflammable
vegetable substances. Their being combustible means simply that they have
a great disposition to resume their union with oxygen--combustion being
nothing other than a more or less violent return of a substance to a union
with oxygen or some other such substance, usually one from which it had
formerly been separated by force--giving out again by its return, in the
form of heat, the force by which the original separation had been effected.

A compound formed thus of substances united by very weak affinities, so
that they are always ready to separate from each other and form new unions
under the influence of stronger affinities, is said to be in a state of
_unstable equilibrium._ It is the function of vegetable life to create
these unstable combinations by means of the force derived from the sun; and
the combinations, when formed, of course hold the force which formed them
in reserve, ready to make itself manifest whenever it is released. Animals
receive these substances into their systems in their food. A portion of
them they retain, re-arranging the components in some cases so as to form
new compounds, but still unstable. These they use in constructing the
tissues of the animal system, and some they reserve for future use. As
fast as they require the heat and the force which are stored in them they
expend, them, thus recovering the force which was absorbed in the formation
of them, and which now, on being released, re-appears in the three forms of
_animal heat, muscular motion_, and _cerebral_ or _nervous energy_.

There are other modes besides the processes of animal life by which the
reserved force laid up by the vegetable process in these unstable compounds
may be released. In many cases it releases itself under ordinary exposures
to the oxygen of the atmosphere. A log of wood--which is composed chiefly
of carbon and hydrogen in an unstable union--lying upon the ground will
gradually _decay_, as we term it--that is, its elements will separate from
each other, and form new unions with the elements of the surrounding air,
thus returning to their normal condition. They give out, in so doing, a low
degree of heat, which, being protracted through a course of years, makes
up, in the end, the precise equivalent of that expended by the sun in
forming the wood--that is, the power expended in the formation of the wood
is all released in the dissolution of it.

This process may be greatly accelerated by heat. If a portion of the wood
is raised in temperature to a certain point, the elements begin to combine
with the oxygen near, with so much violence as to release the reserved
power with great rapidity. And as this force re-appears in the form of
heat, the next portions of the wood are at once raised to the right
temperature to allow the process of reoxidation to go on rapidly with them.
This is the process of combustion. Observations and experiments on decaying
wood have been made, showing that the amount of heat developed by the
combustion of a mass of wood, though much more intense for a time, is
the same in _amount_ as that which is set free by the slower process of
re-oxidation by gradual decay; both being the equivalent of the amount
absorbed by the leaves from the sun, in the process of deoxidizing the
carbon and hydrogen when the wood was formed.

The force imprisoned in these unstable compounds may be held in reserve for
an unlimited period, so long as all opportunity is denied them of returning
the elements that compose them to their original combinations. Such a case
occurs when large beds of vegetable substances are buried under layers
of sediment which subsequently become stone, and thus shut the
hydrocarbonaceous compounds beneath them from all access to oxygen. The
beds of coal thus formed retain their reserved force for periods of immense
duration; and when at length the material thus protected is brought to
the surface, and made to give up its treasured power, it manifests its
efficiency in driving machinery, propelling trains, heating furnaces, or
diffusing warmth and comfort around the family fireside. In all these
cases the heat and power developed from the coal is heat and power derived
originally from the sun, and now set free, after having lain dormant
thousands and perhaps millions of years.

This simple case of the formation of hydrocarbons from the elements
furnished by carbonic acid and water is only adduced as an illustration of
the general principle. The modes by which the power of the sun actually
takes effect in the decomposition of stable compounds, and the formation
of unstable ones from the elements thus obtained, are innumerable, and
the processes as well as the combinations that result are extremely
complicated. These processes include not only the first formation of the
unstable compounds in the leaf, but also an endless series of modifications
and re-arrangements which they subsequently undergo, as well in the other
organs of the plant as in those of the animal when they are finally
introduced into an animal system. In all, however, the general result is
substantially the same--namely, the forcing of elements into unnatural
combinations, so to speak, by the power of the sun acting through the
instrumentality of vegetation, in order that they may subsequently, in the
animal system, give out that power again by the effort they make to release
themselves from the coercion imposed upon them, and to return to the
natural unions in which they can find again stability and repose.

One of the chief elements employed in the formation of these
weakly-combined substances is _nitrogen_--its compounds being designated as
nitrogenous substances, and noted, as a class, for the facility with which
they are decomposed. Nitrogen is, in fact, the great _weak-holder_ of
nature. Young students in chemistry, when they learn that nitrogen is
distinguished by the weakness of its affinities for other elements, and its
consequent great _inertness_ as a chemical agent, are often astonished
to find that its compounds--such as nitric acid, nitre, which gives its
explosive character to gunpowder, nitro-glycerine, gun-cotton, and various
other explosive substances which it helps to form--are among the most
remarkable in nature for the violence and intensity of their action, and
for the extent to which the principle of vitality avails itself of them as
magazines of _force_, upon which to draw in the fulfillment of its various


But this is really just what should be expected. It is the very _weakness
of the hold_ which nitrogen maintains upon the elements combined with it
that facilitates their release, and affords them the opportunity to seize
with so much avidity and violence on those for which they have a strong

It is as if a huntsman should conduct a pack of ferocious dogs into a field
occupied by a flock of sheep, quietly grazing, holding the dogs securely
by very strong leashes. The quiet and repose of the field might not be
seriously disturbed; but if, on the other hand, a child comes in, leading
the dogs by threads which they can easily sunder, a scene of the greatest
violence and confusion would ensue.

In the same manner, when nitrogen, holding the particles of oxygen with
which it is combined in the compounds above named by a very feeble control,
brings them into the presence of other substances for which they have a
very strong affinity, they release themselves at once from their weak
custodian, and rush into the combinations which their nature demands with
so much avidity as to produce combustions, deflagrations, and explosions of
the most violent character.

The force which the elements display in these reunions is always--and this
is one aspect of the great discovery of modern times in respect to the
_persistence_ or _constancy_ of force which has already been referred
to--precisely the same in amount as that which was required for dissevering
them from their original combinations with such substances at some previous
time. The _processes of vegetation_ are the chief means employed for
effecting the original separations, by the power of the sun, and for
forming the unstable compounds by which this power is held in reserve. The
_animal system_, on the other hand, takes in these compounds, remodels them
so far as is required to adapt them to its structure, assimilates them, and
then, as occasion requires quires, it releases the concealed force, which
then manifests itself in the forms of _animal heat_, of _muscular motion_,
and of _cerebral and nervous power_.

In what way, and to what extent, the knowledge of these truths should
influence us in the management and training of children in respect to their
extraordinary activity, is the question we have next to consider.

_Practical Applications of these Principles_.

If we watch a bird for a little while hopping along upon the ground, and up
and down between the ground and the branches of a tree, we shall at first
be surprised at his incessant activity, and next, if we reflect a little,
at the utter aimlessness and uselessness of it. He runs a little way along
the path; then he hops up upon a twig, then down again upon the ground;
then "makes believe" peck at something which he imagines or pretends that
he sees in the grass; then, canting his head to one side and upward, the
branch of a tree there happens to strike his eye, upon which he at once
flies up to it. Perching himself upon it for the moment, he utters a burst
of joyous song, and then, instantly afterwards, down he comes upon the
ground again, runs along, stops, runs along a little farther, stops again,
looks around him a moment, as if wondering what to do next, and then flies
off out of our field of view. If we could follow, and had patience to watch
him so long, we should find him continuing this incessantly changing but
never-ceasing activity all the day long.

We sometimes imagine that the bird's movements are to be explained by
supposing that he is engaged in the search for food in these evolutions.
But when we reflect how small a quantity of food his little crop will
contain, we shall be at once convinced that a large proportion of his
apparent pecking for food is only make-believe, and that he moves thus
incessantly not so much on account of the end he seeks to attain by it, as
on account of the very pleasure of the motion. He hops about and pecks,
not for the love of any thing he expects to find, but just for the love of
hopping and pecking.

The real explanation is that the food which he has taken is delivering up,
within his system, the force stored in it that was received originally from
the beams of the sun, while the plant which produced it was growing. This
force must have an outlet, and it finds this outlet in the incessant
activity of the bird's muscles and brain. The various objects which attract
his attention without, _invite_ the force to expend itself in _certain
special directions_; but the impelling cause is within, and not without;
and were there nothing without to serve as objects for its action, the
necessity of its action would be none the less imperious. The lion, when
imprisoned in his cage, walks to and fro continuously, if there is room for
him to take two steps and turn; and if there is not room for this, he moves
his head incessantly from side to side. The force within him, which his
vital organs are setting at liberty from its imprisonment in his food, must
in some way find issue.

Mothers do not often stop to speculate upon, and may even, perhaps, seldom
observe the restless and incessant activity of birds, but that of their
children forces itself upon their attention by its effects in disturbing
their own quiet avocations and pleasures; and they often wonder what can be
the inducement which leads to such a perpetual succession of movements
made apparently without motive or end. And, not perceiving any possible
inducement to account for it, they are apt to consider this restless
activity so causeless and unreasonable as to make it a fault for which the
child is to be censured or punished, or which they are to attempt to cure
by means of artificial restraints. They would not attempt such repressions
as this if they were aware that all this muscular and mental energy of
action in the child is only the outward manifestation of an inward force
developed in a manner wholly independent of its will--a force, too, which
must spend itself in some way or other, and that, if not allowed to do this
in its own way, by impelling the limbs and members to outward action, it
will do so by destroying the delicate mechanism within. We see this in the
case of men who are doomed for long periods to solitary confinement. The
force derived from their food, and released within their systems by the
vital processes, being cut off by the silence and solitude of the dungeon
from all usual and natural outlets, begins to work mischief within, by
disorganizing the cerebral and other vital organs, and producing insanity
and death.

_Common Mistake_.

We make a great mistake when we imagine that children are influenced in
their activity mainly by a desire for the objects which they attain by it.
It is not the ends attained, but the pleasurable feeling which the action
of the internal force, issuing by its natural channels, affords them, and
the sense of power which accompanies the action. An end which presents
itself to be attained invites this force to act in one direction rather
than another, but it is the action, and not the end, in which the charm

Give a child a bow and arrow, and send him out into the yard to try it, and
if he does not happen to see any thing to shoot at, he will shoot at random
into the air. But if there is any object which will serve as a mark in
sight, it seems to have the effect of drawing his aim towards it. He shoots
at the vane on the barn, at an apple on a tree, a knot in a fence--any
thing which will serve the purpose of a mark. This is not because he has
any end to accomplish in hitting the vane, the apple, or the knot, but only
because there is an impulse within him leading him to shoot, and if there
happens to be any thing to shoot at, it gives that impulse a direction.

It is precisely the same with the incessant muscular activity of a child.
He comes into a room and sits down in the first seat that he sees. Then he
jumps up and runs to another, then to another, until he has tried all the
seats in the room. This is not because he particularly wishes to try the
seats. He wishes to _move_, and the seats happen to be at hand, and they
simply give direction to the impulse. If he were out of doors, the same
office would be fulfilled by a fence which he might climb over, instead of
going through an open gate close by; or a wall that he could walk upon with
difficulty, instead of going, without difficulty, along a path at the foot
of it; or a pole which he could try to climb, when there was no motive for
climbing it but a desire to make muscular exertion; or a steep bank where
he can scramble up, when there is nothing that he wishes for on the top of

In other words, the things that children do are not done for the sake of
the things, but for the sake of the _doing_.

Parents very often do not understand this, and are accordingly continually
asking such foolish questions as, "George, what do you wish to climb over
that fence for, when there is a gate all open close by?" "James, what good
do you expect to get by climbing up that tree, when you know there is
nothing on it, not even a bird's nest?" and, "Lucy, what makes you keep
jumping up all the time and running about to different places? Why can't
you, when you get a good seat, sit still in it?"

The children, if they understood the philosophy of the case, might answer,
"We don't climb over the fence at all because we wish to be on the other
side of it; or scramble up the bank for the sake of any thing that is on
the top of it; or run about to different places because we wish to be in
the places particularly. It is the internal force that is in us working
itself off, and it works itself off in the ways that come most readily to

_Various Modes in which the Reserved Force reappears_.

The force thus stored in the food and liberated within the system by
the vital processes, finds scope for action in several different ways,
prominent among which are, First, in the production of animal heat;
Secondly, in muscular contractions and the motions of the limbs and members
resulting from them; and Thirdly, in mental phenomena connected with the
action of the brain and the nerves. This last branch of the subject is yet
enveloped in great mystery; but the proof seems to be decisive that the
nervous system of man comprises organs which are actively exercised in the
performance of mental operations, and that in this exercise they consume
important portions of the vital force. If, for example, a child is actually
engaged at play, and we direct him to take a seat and sit still, he will
find it very difficult to do so. The inward force will soon begin to
struggle within him to find an issue. But if, while he is so sitting, we
begin to relate to him some very surprising or exciting story, to occupy
his _mind_, he will become motionless, and very likely remain so until the
story is ended. It is supposed that in such cases the force is drawn off,
so to speak, through the cerebral organs which it is employed in keeping in
play, as the instruments by which the emotions and ideas which the story
awakens in the mind are evolved. This part of the subject, as has already
been remarked, is full of mystery; but the general fact that a portion of
the force derived from the food is expended in actions of the brain and
nervous system seems well established.

Indeed, the whole subject of the reception and the storing up of force from
the sun by the processes of vegetable and animal life, and the subsequent
liberation of it in the fulfillment of the various functions of the animal
system, is full of difficulties and mysteries. It is only a very simple
view of the _general principle_ which is presented in these articles. In
nature the operations are not simple at all. They are involved in endless
complications which are yet only to a very limited extent unravelled. The
general principle is, however, well established; and if understood, even as
a general principle, by parents and teachers, it will greatly modify their
action in dealing with the incessant restlessness and activity of the
young. It will teach them, among other things, the following practical

_Practical Rules_.

1. Never find fault with children for their incapacity to keep still. You
may stop the supply of force, if you will, by refusing to give them food;
but if you continue the supply, you must not complain of its manifesting
itself in action. After giving your boy his breakfast, to find fault with
him for being incessantly in motion when his system has absorbed it, is
simply to find fault with him for being healthy and happy. To give children
food and then to restrain the resulting activity, is conduct very analogous
to that of the engineer who should lock the action of his engine, turn all
the stop-cocks, and shut down the safety-valve, while he still went on all
the time putting in coal under the boiler. The least that he could expect
would be a great hissing and fizzling at all the joints of his machine; and
it would be only by means of such a degree of looseness in the joints as
would allow of the escape of the imprisoned force in this way that could
prevent the repression ending in a frightful catastrophe.

Now, nine-tenths of the whispering and playing of children in school, and
of the noise, the rudeness, and the petty mischief of children at home, is
just this hissing and fizzling of an imprisoned power, and nothing more.

In a word, we must favor and promote, by every means in our power, the
activity of children, not censure and repress it. We may endeavor to turn
it aside from wrong channels--that is, to prevent its manifesting itself in
ways injurious to them or annoying to others. We must not, however, attempt
to divert it from these channels by damming it up, but by opening other
channels that will draw it away in better directions.

2. In encouraging the activity of children, and in guiding the direction
of it in their hours of play, we must not expect to make it available for
useful results, other than that of promoting their own physical development
and health. At least, we can do this only in a very limited degree. Almost
all useful results require for their attainment a long continuance of
efforts of the same kind--that is, expenditure of the vital force by the
continued action of the same organs. Now, it is a principle of nature
that while the organs of an animal system are in process of formation and
growth, they can exercise their power only for a very brief period at a
time without exhaustion. This necessitates on the part of all young animals
incessant changes of action, or alternations of action and repose. A farmer
of forty years of age, whose organs are well developed and mature, will
chop wood all day without excessive fatigue. Then, when he comes home at
night, he will sit for three hours in the evening upon the settle by his
fireside, _thinking_--his mind occupied, perhaps, upon the details of the
management of his farm, or upon his plans for the following day. The vital
force thus expends itself for many successive hours through his muscles,
and then, while his muscles are at rest, it finds its egress for several
other hours through the brain. But in the _child_ the mode of action must
change every few minutes. He is made tired with five minutes' labor. He
is satisfied with five minutes' rest. He will ride his rocking-horse, if
alone, a short time, and then he comes to you to ask you to tell him a
story. While listening to the story, his muscles are resting, and the force
is spending its strength in working the mechanism of the brain. If you make
your story too long, the brain, in turn, becomes fatigued, and he feels
instinctively impelled to divert the vital force again into muscular

If, instead of being alone with his rocking-horse, he has company there,
he will _seem_ to continue his bodily effort a long time; but he does not
really do so, for he stops continually, to talk with his companion, thus
allowing his muscles to rest for a brief period, during which the vital
force expends its strength in carrying on trains of thought and emotion
through the brain.

He is not to be blamed for this seeming capriciousness. These frequent
changes in the mode of action are a necessity, and this necessity evidently
unfits him for any kind of monotonous or continued exertion--the only kind
which, in ordinary cases, can be made conducive to any useful results.

3. Parents at home and teachers at school must recognize these
physiological laws, relating to the action of the young, and make their
plans and arrangements conform to them. The periods of confinement to any
one mode of action in the very young, and especially mental action, must
be short; and they must alternate frequently with other modes. That rapid
succession of bodily movements and of mental ideas, and the emotions
mingling and alternating with them, which constitutes what children call
play, must be regarded not simply as an indulgence, but as a necessity for
them. The play must be considered as essential as the study, and that not
merely for the very young but for all, up to the age of maturity. For older
pupils, in the best institutions of the country, some suitable provision is
made for this want; but the mothers of young children at home are often at
a loss by what means to effect this purpose, and many are very imperfectly
aware of the desirableness, and even the necessity, of doing this. As for
the means of accomplishing the object--that is, providing channels for the
complete expenditure of this force in the safest and most agreeable manner
for the child, and the least inconvenient and troublesome for others, much
must depend upon the tact, the ingenuity, and the discretion of the mother.
It will, however, be a great point gained for her when she once fully
comprehends that the _tendency_ to incessant activity, and even to
turbulence and noise, on the part of her child, only shows that he is
all right in his vital machinery, and that this exuberance of energy is
something to be pleased with and directed, not denounced and restrained.



The reader may, perhaps, recollect that in the last chapter there was
an intimation that a portion of the force which was produced, or rather
liberated and brought into action, by the consumption of food in the vital
system, expended itself in the development of thoughts, emotions, and other
forms of mental action, through the organization of the brain and of the

_Expenditure of Force through the Brain._

The whole subject of the expenditure of material force in maintaining those
forms of mental action which are carried on through the medium of bodily
organs, it must be admitted, is involved in great obscurity; for it is only
a glimmering of light which science has yet been able to throw into
this field. It is, however, becoming the settled opinion, among all
well-informed persons, that the soul, during the time of its connection
with a material system in this life, performs many of those functions
which we class as mental, through the medium, or instrumentality, in some
mysterious way, of material organs, just as we all know is the case with
the sensations--that is, the impressions made through the organs of sense;
and that the maintaining of these mental organs, so to speak, in action,
involves a certain expenditure of some form of physical force, the source
of this force being in the food that is consumed in the nourishment of the

There is certainly no apparent reason why there should be any antecedent
presumption against the supposition that the soul performs the act of
remembering or of conceiving an imaginary scene through the instrumentality
of a bodily organ, more than that it should receive a sensation of light or
of sound through such a channel. The question of the independent existence
and the immateriality of the thinking and feeling principle, which takes
cognizance of these thoughts and sensations, is not at all affected by any
inquiries into the nature of the instrumentality by means of which, in a
particular stage of its existence, it performs these functions.

_Phenomena explained by this Principle_.

This truth, if it be indeed a truth, throws great light on what would
be otherwise quite inexplicable in the playful activity of the
mental faculties of children. The curious fantasies, imaginings, and
make-believes--the pleasure of listening to marvellous and impossible
tales, and of hearing odd and unpronounceable words or combination of words
--the love of acting, and of disguises--of the impersonation of inanimate
objects--of seeing things as they are not, and of creating and giving
reality to what has no existence except in their own minds--are all the
gambollings and frolics, so to speak, of the embryo faculties just becoming
conscious of their existence, and affording, like the muscles of motion, so
many different issues for the internal force derived from the food. Thus
the action of the mind of a child, in holding an imaginary conversation
with a doll, or in inventing or in relating an impossible fairy story, or
in converting a switch on which he pretends to be riding into a prancing
horse, is precisely analogous to that of the muscles of the lamb, or the
calf, or any other young animal in its gambols--that is, it is the result
of the force which the vital functions are continually developing within
the system, and which flows and must flow continually out through whatever
channels are open to it; and in thus flowing, sets all the various systems
of machinery into play, each in its own appropriate manner.

In any other view of the subject than this, many of the phenomena of
childhood would be still more wonderful and inexplicable than they are.
One would have supposed, for example, that the imagination--being, as
is commonly thought, one of the most exalted and refined of the mental
faculties of man--would be one of the latest, in the order of time, to
manifest itself in the development of the mind; instead of which it is,
in fact, one of the earliest. Children live, in a great measure, from the
earliest age in an ideal world--their pains and their pleasures, their joys
and their fears being, to a vast extent, the concomitants of phantasms and
illusions having often the slightest bond of connection with the realities
around them. The realities themselves, moreover, often have far greater
influence over them by what they suggest than by what they are.

Indeed, the younger the child is, within reasonable limits, the more
susceptible he seems to be to the power of the imagination, and the more
easily his mind and heart are reached and influenced through this avenue.
At a very early period the realities of actual existence and the phantasms
of the mind seem inseparably mingled, and it is only after much experience
and a considerable development of his powers, that the line of distinction
between them becomes defined. The power of investing an elongated bag of
bran with the attributes and qualities of a thinking being, so as to make
it an object of solicitude and affection, which would seem to imply a high
exercise of one of the most refined and exalted of the human faculties,
does not come, as we might have expected, at the end of a long period of
progress and development, but springs into existence, as it were, at once,
in the very earliest years. The progress and development are required to
enable the child to perceive that the rude and shapeless doll is _not_ a
living and lovable thing. This mingling of the real and imaginary worlds
shows itself to the close observer in a thousand curious ways.

The true explanation of the phenomenon seems to be that the various embryo
faculties are brought into action by the vital force at first in a very
irregular, intermingled, and capricious manner, just as the muscles are
in the endless and objectless play of the limbs and members. They develop
themselves and grow by this very action, and we ought not only to indulge,
but to cherish the action in all its beautiful manifestations by every
means in our power. These mental organs, so to speak--that is, the organs
of the brain, through which, while its connection with the body continues,
the mind performs its mental functions--grow and thrive, as the muscles do,
by being reasonably kept in exercise.

It is evident, from these facts, that the parent should be pleased with,
and should encourage the exercise of these embryo powers in his children;
and both father and mother may be greatly aided in their efforts to devise
means for reaching and influencing their hearts by means of them, and
especially through the action of the imagination, which will be found, when
properly employed, to be capable of exercising an almost magical power
of imparting great attractiveness and giving great effect to lessons of
instruction which, in their simple form, would be dull, tiresome, and
ineffective. Precisely what is meant by this will be shown more clearly by
some examples.

_Methods exemplified_.

One of the simplest and easiest modes by which a mother can avail herself
of the vivid imagination of the child in amusing and entertaining him,
is by holding conversations with representations of persons, or even of
animals, in the pictures which she shows him. Thus, in the case, for
example, of a picture which she is showing to her child sitting in her
lap--the picture containing, we will suppose, a representation of a little
girl with books under her arm--she may say,

"My little girl, where are you going?--I am going" (speaking now in a
somewhat altered voice, to represent the voice of the little girl) "to
school.--Ah! you are going to school. You don't look quite old enough to
go to school. Who sits next to you at school?--George Williams.--George
Williams? Is he a good boy?--Yes, he's a very good boy.--I am glad you have
a good boy, and one that is kind to you, to sit by you. That must be very
pleasant." And so on, as long as the child is interested in listening.

Or, "What is your name, my little girl?--My name is Lucy.--That's a pretty
name! And where do you live?--I live in that house under the trees.--Ah! I
see the house. And where is your room in that house?--My room is the
one where you see the window open.--I see it. What have you got in your
room?--I have a bed, and a table by the window; and I keep my doll there. I
have got a cradle for my doll, and a little trunk to keep her clothes in.
And I have got--" The mother may go on in this way, and describe a great
number and variety of objects in the room, such as are calculated to
interest and please the little listener.

It is the pleasurable exercise of some dawning faculty or faculties acting
through embryo organs of the brain, by which the mind can picture to
itself, more or less vividly, unreal scenes, which is the source of the
enjoyment in such cases as this.

A child may be still more interested, perhaps, by imaginary conversations
of this kind with pictures of animals, and by varying the form of them in
such a way as to call a new set of mental faculties into play; as, for

"Here is a picture of a squirrel. I'll ask him where he lives. 'Bunny!
bunny! stop a minute; I want to speak to you. I want you to tell me where
you live.--I live in my hole.--Where is your hole?--It is under that big
log that you see back in the woods.' Yes" (speaking now to the child), "I
see the log. Do you see it? Touch it with your finger. Yes, that must be
it. But I don't see any hole. 'Bunny' (assuming now the tone of speaking
again to the squirrel), 'I don't see your hole.--No, I did not mean that
any body should see it. I made it in a hidden place in the ground, so as
to have it out of sight.--I wish I could see it, and I wish more that I
could look down into it and see what is there. What is there _in_ your
hole, bunny?--My nest is there, and my little bunnies.--How many little
bunnies have you got?'"--And so on, to any extent that you desire.

It is obvious that conversations of this kind may be made the means of
conveying, indirectly, a great deal of instruction to young children on a
great variety of subjects; and lessons of duty may be inculcated thus in a
very effective manner, and by a method which is at the same time easy and
agreeable for the mother, and extremely attractive to the child.

This may seem a very simple thing, and it is really very simple; but any
mother who has never resorted to this method of amusing and instructing her
child will be surprised to find what an easy and inexhaustible resource for
her it may become. Children are always coming to ask for stories, and the
mother often has no story at hand, and her mind is too much preoccupied to
invent one. Here is a ready resort in every such emergency.

"Very well," replies the mother to such a request, "I'll tell you a story;
but I must have a picture to my story. Find me a picture in some book."

The child brings a picture, no matter what. There is no possible picture
that will not suggest to a person possessed of ordinary ingenuity an
endless number of talks to interest and amuse the child. To take an extreme
case, suppose the picture is a rude pencil drawing of a post, and nothing
besides. You can imagine a boy hidden behind the post, and you can call to
him, and finally obtain an answer from him, and have a long talk with him
about his play and who he is hiding from, and what other way he has of
playing with his friend. Or you can talk with the post directly. Ask him
where he came from, who put him in the ground, and what he was put in the
ground for, and what kind of a tree he was when he was a part of a tree
growing in the woods; and, following the subject out, the conversation may
be the means of not only amusing the child for the moment, but also
of gratifying his curiosity, and imparting a great amount of useful
information to him which will materially aid in the development of his

Or you may ask the post whether he has any relatives, and he may reply that
he has a great many cousins. He has some cousins that live in the city, and
they are called lamp-posts, and their business is to hold lamps to light
people along the streets; and he has some other cousins who stand in a long
row and hold up the telegraph-wire to carry messages from one part of the
world to another; and so on without end. If all this may done by means of a
rude representation of a simple post, it may easily be seen that no picture
which the child can possibly bring can fail to serve as a subject for such

Some mothers may, perhaps, think it must require a great deal of ingenuity
and skill to carry out these ideas effectively in practice, and that is
true; or rather, it is true that there is in it scope for the exercise of
a great deal of ingenuity and skill, and even of genius, for those who
possess these qualities; but the degree of ingenuity required for a
commencement in this method is very small, and that necessary for complete
success in it is very easily acquired.

_Personification of Inanimate Objects_.

It will at once occur to the mother that any inanimate object may be
personified in this way and addressed as a living and intelligent being.
Your child is sick, I will suppose, and is somewhat feverish and fretful.
In adjusting his dress you prick him a little with a pin, and the pain
and annoyance acting on his morbid sensibilities bring out expressions of
irritation and ill-humor. Now you may, if you please, tell him that he must
not be so impatient, that you did not mean to hurt him, that he must not
mind a little prick, and the like, and you will meet with the ordinary
success that attends such admonitions. Or, in the spirit of the foregoing
suggestions, you may say,

"Did the pin prick you? I'll catch the little rogue, and hear what he has
to say for himself. Ah, here he is--I've caught him! I'll hold him fast.
Lie still in my lap, and we will hear what he has to say.

"'Look up here, my little prickler, and tell me what your name is.--My name
is pin.--Ah, your name is pin, is it? How bright you are! How came you to
be so bright?--Oh, they brightened me when they made me.--Indeed! And how
did they make you?--They made me in a machine.--In a machine? That's very
curious! How did they make you in the machine? Tell us all about it!--They
made me out of wire. First the machine cut off a piece of the wire long
enough to make me, and then I was carried around to different parts of the
machine to have different things done to me. I went first to one part to
get straightened. Don't you see how straight I am?--Yes, you are very
straight indeed.--Then I went to another part of the machine and had my
head put on; and then I went to another part and had my point sharpened;
and then I was polished, and covered all over with a beautiful silvering,
to make me bright and white.'"

And so on indefinitely. The mother may continue the talk as long as the
child is interested, by letting the pin give an account of the various
adventures that happened to it in the course of its life, and finally call
it to account for pricking a poor little sick child.

Any mother can judge whether such a mode of treating the case, or the more
usual one of gravely exhorting the child to patience and good-humor, when
sick, is likely to be most effectual in soothing the nervous irritation of
the little patient, and restoring its mind to a condition of calmness and

The mother who reads these suggestions in a cursory manner, and contents
herself with saying that they are very good, but makes no resolute and
persevering effort to acquire for herself the ability to avail herself of
them, will have no idea of the immense practical value of them as a means
of aiding her in her work, and in promoting the happiness of her children.
But if she will make the attempt, she will most certainly find enough
encouragement in her first effort to induce her to persevere.


She must, moreover, not only originate, herself, modes of amusing the
imagination of her children, but must fall in with and aid those which
_they_ originate. If your little daughter is playing with her doll, look up
from your work and say a few words to the doll or the child in a grave and
serious manner, assuming that the doll is a living and sentient being. If
your boy is playing horses in the garden while you are there attending to
your flowers, ask him with all gravity what he values his horse at, and
whether he wishes to sell him. Ask him whether he ever bites, or breaks out
of his pasture; and give him some advice about not driving him too fast up
hill, and not giving him oats when he is warm. He will at once enter into
such a conversation in the most serious manner, and the pleasure of his
play will be greatly increased by your joining with him in maintaining the

There is a still more important advantage than the temporary increase to
your children's happiness by acting on this principle. By thus joining with
them, even for a few moments, in their play, you establish a closer bond
of sympathy between your own heart and theirs, and attach them to you more
strongly than you can do by any other means. Indeed, in many cases the most
important moral lessons can be conveyed in connection with these illusions
of children, and in a way not only more agreeable but far more effective
than by any other method.

_Influence without Claim to Authority_.

Acting through the imagination of children--if the art of doing so is once
understood--will prove at once an invaluable and an inexhaustible resource
for all those classes of persons who are placed in situations requiring
them to exercise an influence over children without having any proper
authority over them; such, for example, as uncles and aunts, older brothers
and sisters, and even visitors residing more or less permanently in a
family, and desirous, from a wish to do good, of promoting the welfare and
the improvement of the younger members of it. It often happens that such
a visitor, without any actual right of authority, acquires a greater
influence over the minds of the children than the parents themselves; and
many a mother, who, with all her threatenings and scoldings, and even
punishments, can not make herself obeyed, is surprised at the absolute
ascendency which some inmate residing in the family acquires over them by
means so silent, gentle, and unpretending, that they seem mysterious and
almost magical. "What is the secret of it?" asks the mother sometimes in
such a case. "You never punish the children, and you never scold them, and
yet they obey you a great deal more readily and certainly than they do me."

There are a great many different means which may be employed in combination
with each other for acquiring this kind of ascendency, and among them the
use which may be made of the power of the imagination in the young is one
of the most important.

_The Intermediation of the Dolls again_.

A young teacher, for example, in returning from school some day, finds the
children of the family in which she resides, who have been playing with
their dolls in the yard, engaged in some angry dispute. The first impulse
with many persons in such a case might be to sit down with the children
upon the seat where they were playing, and remonstrate with them, though
in a very kind and gentle manner, on the wrongfulness and folly of such
disputings, to show them that the thing in question is not worth disputing
about, that angry feelings are uncomfortable and unhappy feelings, and that
it is, consequently, not only a sin, but a folly to indulge in them.

Now such a remonstrance, if given in a kind and gentle manner, will
undoubtedly do good. The children will be somewhat less likely to become
involved in such a dispute immediately after it than before, and in process
of time, and through many repetitions of such counsels, the fault may
be gradually cured. Still, at the time, it will make the children
uncomfortable, by producing in their minds a certain degree of irritation.
They will be very apt to listen in silence, and with a morose and sullen
air; and if they do not call the admonition a scolding, on account of the
kind and gentle tones in which it is delivered, they will be very apt to
consider it much in that light.

Suppose, however, that, instead of dealing with the case in this
matter-of-fact and naked way, the teacher calls the imagination of the
children to her aid, and administers her admonition and reproof indirectly,
through the dolls. She takes the dolls in her hand, asks their names, and
inquires which of the two girls is the mother of each. The dolls' names are
Bella and Araminta, and the mothers' are Lucy and Mary.

"But I might have asked Araminta herself," she adds; and, so saying, she
holds the doll before her, and enters into a long imaginary conversation
with her, more or less spirited and original, according to the talent and
ingenuity of the young lady, but, in any conceivable case, enough so to
completely absorb the attention of the children and fully to occupy their
minds. She asks each of them her name, and inquires of each which of the
girls is her mother, and makes first one of them, and then the other, point
to her mother in giving her answer. By this time the illusion is completely
established in the children's minds of regarding their dolls as living
beings, responsible to mothers for their conduct and behavior; and the
young lady can go on and give her admonitions and instructions in respect
to the sin and folly of quarrelling to them--the children listening. And it
will be found that by this management the impression upon the minds of the
children will be far greater and more effective than if the counsels were
addressed directly to them; while, at the same time, though they may even
take the form of very severe reproof, they will produce no sullenness or
vexation in the minds of those for whom they are really intended. Indeed,
the very reason why the admonition thus given will be so much more
effective is the fact that it does _not_ tend in any degree to awaken
resentment and vexation, but associates the lesson which the teacher wishes
to convey with amusement and pleasure.

"You are very pretty"--she says, we will suppose, addressing the
dolls--"and you look very amiable. I suppose you _are_ very amiable."

Then, turning to the children, she asks, in a confidential undertone, "Do
they ever get into disputes and quarrels?"

"_Sometimes,_" says one of the children, entering at once into the idea of
the teacher.

"Ah!" the teacher exclaims, turning again to the dolls. "I hear that you
dispute and quarrel sometimes, and I am very sorry for it. That is very
foolish. It is only silly little children that we expect will dispute and
quarrel. I should not have supposed it possible in the case of such young
ladies as you. It is a great deal better to be yielding and kind. If one of
you says something that the other thinks is not true, let it pass without
contradiction; it is foolish to dispute about it. And so if one has any
thing that the other wants, it is generally much better to wait for it than
to quarrel. It is hateful to quarrel. Besides, it spoils your beauty. When
children are quarrelling they look like little furies."

The teacher may go on in this way, and give a long moral lecture to the
dolls in a tone of mock gravity, and the children will listen to it with
the most profound attention; and it will have a far greater influence upon
them than the same admonitions addressed directly to _them_.

So effectually, in fact, will this element of play in the transaction open
their hearts to the reception of good counsel, that even direct admonitions
to _them_ will be admitted with it, if the same guise is maintained; for
the teacher may add, in conclusion, addressing now the children themselves
with the same mock solemnity:

"That is a very bad fault of your children--very bad, indeed. And it is one
that you will find very hard to correct. You must give them a great deal
of good counsel on the subject, and, above all, you must be careful to set
them a good example yourselves. Children always imitate what they see in
their mothers, whether it is good or bad. If you are always amiable and
kind to one another, they will be so too."

The thoughtful mother, in following out the suggestions here given, will
see at once how the interest which the children take in their dolls, and
the sense of reality which they feel in respect to all their dealings with
them, opens before her a boundless field in respect to modes of reaching
and influencing their minds and hearts.

_The Ball itself made to teach Carefulness_.

There is literally no end to the modes by which persons having the charge
of young children can avail themselves of their vivid imaginative powers
in inculcating moral lessons or influencing their conduct. A boy, we will
suppose, has a new ball. Just as he is going out to play with it his father
takes it from him to examine it, and, after turning it round and looking at
it attentively on every side, holds it up to his ear. The boy asks what his
father is doing. "I am listening to hear what he says." "And what does he
say, father?" "He says that you won't have him to play with long." "Why
not?" "I will ask him, why not?" (holding the ball again to his ear). "What
does he say, father?" "He says he is going to run away from you and hide.
He says you will go to play near some building, and he means, when you
throw him or knock him, to fly against the windows and break the glass, and
then people will take your ball away from you." "But I won't play near any
windows." "He says, at any rate you will play near some building, and when
you knock him he means to fly up to the roof and get behind a chimney, or
roll down into the gutter where you can't get him." "But, father, I am not
going to play near any building at all." "Then you will play in some place
where there are holes in the ground, or thickets of bushes near, where he
can hide." "No, father, I mean to look well over the ground, and not play
in any place where there is any danger at all." "Well, we shall see; but
the little rogue is determined to hide somewhere." The boy takes his ball
and goes out to play with it, far more effectually cautioned than he could
have been by any direct admonition.

_The Teacher and the Tough Logs_

A teacher who was engaged in a district school in the country, where the
arrangement was for the older boys to saw and split the wood for the fire,
on coming one day, at the recess, to see how the work was going on, found
that the boys had laid one rather hard-looking log aside. They could not
split that log, they said.

"Yes," said the teacher, looking at the log, "I don't wonder. I know that
log. I saw him before. His name is Old Gnarly. He says he has no idea
of coming open for a parcel of boys, even if they _have_ got beetle and
wedges. It takes a man, he says, to split _him_."

The boys stood looking at the log with a very grave expression of
countenance as they heard these words.

"Is that what he says?" asked one of them. "Let's try him again, Joe."

"It will do no good," said the teacher, "for he won't come open, if he can
possibly help it. And _there's_ another fellow (pointing). His name is
Slivertwist. If you get a crack in him, you will find him full of twisted
splinters that he holds himself together with. The only way is to cut them
through with a sharp axe. But he holds on so tight with them that I don't
believe you can get him open. He says he never gives up to boys."

So saying, the teacher went away. It is scarcely necessary to say to any
one who knows boys that the teacher was called out not long afterwards to
see that Old Gnarly and Old Slivertwist were both split up fine--the
boys standing around the heaps of well-prepared fire-wood which they had
afforded, and regarding them with an air of exultation and triumph.

_Muscles reinvigorated through the Action of the Mind_.

An older sister has been taking a walk, with little Johnny, four years old,
as her companion. On their return, when within half a mile of home, Johnny,
tired of gathering flowers and chasing butterflies, comes to his sister,
with a fatigued and languid air, and says he can not walk any farther, and
wants to be carried.

"I can't carry you very well," she says, "but I will tell you what we will
do; we will stop at the first tavern we come to and rest. Do you see that
large flat stone out there at the turn of the road? That is the tavern, and
you shall be my courier. A courier is a man that goes forward as fast as he
can on his horse, and tells the tavern-keeper that the traveller is coming,
and orders supper. So you may gallop on as fast as you can go, and,
when you get to the tavern, tell the tavern-keeper that the princess is
coming--I am the princess--and that he must get ready an excellent supper."

The boy will gallop on and wait at the stone. When his sister arrives
she may sit and rest with him a moment, entertaining him by imagining
conversations with the inn-keeper, and then resume their walk.

"Now," she may say, "I must send my courier to the post-office with a
letter. Do you see that fence away forward? That fence is the post-office.
We will play that one of the cracks between the boards is the letter-box.
Take this letter (handing him any little scrap of paper which she has
taken from her pocket and folded to represent a letter) and put it in the
letter-box, and speak to the postmaster through the crack, and tell him to
send the letter as soon as he can."

Under such management as this, unless the child's exhaustion is very great,
his sense of it will disappear, and he will accomplish the walk not only
without any more complaining, but with a great feeling of pleasure. The
nature of the action in such a case seems to be that the vital force, when,
in its direct and ordinary passage to the muscles through the nerves, it
has exhausted the resources of that mode of transmission, receives in some
mysterious way a reinforcement to its strength in passing round, by a new
channel, through the organs of intelligence and imagination.

These trivial instances are only given as examples to show how infinitely
varied are the applications which may be made of this principle of
appealing to the imagination of children, and what a variety of effects may
be produced through its instrumentality by a parent or teacher who once
takes pains to make himself possessed of it. But each one must make himself
possessed of it by his own practice and experience. No general instructions
can do any thing more than to offer the suggestion, and to show how a
beginning is to be made.



The duty of telling the truth seems to us, until we have devoted special
consideration to the subject, the most simple thing in the world, both to
understand and to perform; and when we find young children disregarding it
we are surprised and shocked, and often imagine that it indicates something
peculiar and abnormal in the moral sense of the offender. A little
reflection, however, will show us how very different the state of the case
really is. What do we mean by the obligation resting upon us to tell the
truth? It is simply, in general terms, that it is our duty to make our
statements correspond with the realities which they purport to express.
This is, no doubt, our duty, as a general rule, but there are so many
exceptions to this rule, and the principles on which the admissibility
of the exceptions depend are so complicated and so abstruse, that it is
wonderful that children learn to make the necessary distinctions as soon as
they do.

_Natural Guidance to the Duty of telling the Truth_.

The child, when he first acquires the art of using and understanding
language, is filled with wonder and pleasure to find that he can represent
external objects that he observes, and also ideas passing through his mind,
by means of sounds formed by his organs of speech. Such sounds, he finds,
have both these powers--that is, they can represent realities or fancies.
Thus, when he utters the sounds _I see a bird_, they may denote either a
mere conception in his mind, or an outward actuality. How is he possibly to
know, by any instinct, or intuition, or moral sense when it is right for
him to use them as representations of a mere idea, and when it is wrong for
him to use them, unless they correspond with some actual reality?

The fact that vivid images or conceptions may be awakened in his mind by
the mere hearing of certain sounds made by himself or another is something
strange and wonderful to him; and though he comes to his consciousness of
this susceptibility by degrees, it is still, while he is acquiring it, and
extending the scope and range of it, a source of continual pleasure to him.
The necessity of any correspondence of these words, and of the images which
they excite, with actual realities, is a necessity which arises from the
relations of man to man in the social state, and he has no means whatever
of knowing any thing about it except by instruction.

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