DISCIPLINE, THE RIGHTFUL HERITAGE OF THE CHILD
‘Rejoice Not in Ungodly Children’
We Americans are justly proud of what our forefathers so dearly purchased, the “right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” We are appreciative, yes. But are we safeguarding these priceless gifts for posterity? Only in so far as we are seeing that the children are not deprived of the absolute means to the preservation of these gifts. That means is discipline. That rights be sustained, there must be never-failing, strong, character-building discipline.
Submission to authority, respect for the property and rights of fellow men – these are the elements imposed upon all. Rightminded adults fully realize this and generously submit to discipline. The child rarely submits unless a force, mild or strong, is made to bear upon him. This force divinely and naturally is entrusted to parents and to others legally having charge of children. It is most necessary, therefore, that those in authority have a working knowledge of the manner and reasonableness of discipline worthy of the name.
Discipline is a much abused word, and especially in reference to practices towards children. Barbarity, cruelty and harshness are graced by the term discipline, as are likewise foolish persuasion, actual beseeching, and molly-coddling methods. The latter are the fruit of what I may term the “new deal” for juveniles, started about two decades ago. Cultivation of children calls for discipline. Cultivation is possible and profitable only when discipline has not only laid the foundation, but continues to be used directly or indirectly by those in authority. In this little book the word discipline is used in reference to such means as are used to correct naughtiness, misbehaviour, and that constant inclination to follow the line of least resistance which often leads to the undesirable and even to destruction. As used by me it spells, not brute force, but intelligent force.
Why force? The very young child does little reflecting. Any real psychologist will tell us that it is of no use for those in authority to try to reason with a baby. His very life, his future liberty, and his happiness, all depend on discipline in the nature of force and force working through discipline, and very often these getting results through punishment.
I am not losing sight of the fact that there are bookshelves filled with works denouncing force and punishment in the training of children. Yet, to say that children of tender age can work out most of their problems is sheer nonsense. The young of the human species is the most helpless of all of the higher organisms. Not for a few months, but for several years, are these little rational animals dependent on natural or foster parents, for their very life. All other animals follow parents or instinct as naturally and faithfully as water seeks its level. The young human animal is inclined towards innumerable things which will spell for him destruction unless force in the hands of adults protects him. The reason for this is matter for discussion by the moralist or scientist. It is not within the scope of this concise volume on common sense discipline.
As already stated, discipline sustains the very vital spark of the child, protects his future liberty, and saves him from heading towards a house of correction or, in adult age, prison. Discipline gives him opportunities for legitimate pleasure, pleasure not possible to the law-breaker or unrestrained child. The happiest child is the disciplined child. Much happiness comes his way because he has been guided aright by force, direct or indirect.
All mankind admit that with us there is something – call it evil, constant inclination towards the undesirable, disharmony, or other name. It is with us and in us all during life. Adults rightly using reason to control it. Very young children will not control it unless forced to do so. The contrary claim is playing havoc, and making our children dislikeable and a source of constant annoyance.
Great efforts are being made to “educate” adults in authority against the use of force in the control and direction of children, even mere babies. In my mind real education is, the advising and encouraging of young women to practice force, and that through positive punishment, through deliberate pain.
There seems to be no limit to the unwholesome advice advanced by those who favour persuasion without force. The latest attack is on the parents who justly feel proud of the way their children readily obey. I just finished reading such adverse criticism. The flimsy argument, as usual, is that the direct command and exacting of obedience, retard initiative, and weaken the will. To me it is a mystery how any man or woman with even ordinary knowledge of child nature, of past history and law and order, can remain so ignorant of the power and fruits of obedience. Obedience in child and adult only increases freedom by curbing licence and assisting in the control of dangerous impulses. As practically already stated in matter on discipline, life, liberty and happiness will not, cannot exist without constant obedience to force wilful or from nature which is guided by intelligent power. It may be objected, “the very term force in connection with obedience supposes coercion and coercion means stultification of will.” I distinguish: coercion carries with it injustice and necessarily unjust force. Force that is meant to result in welfare for individual or society is not unjust. Very many of our laws exist and are enforced for the very protection of individual and society. Officers of the law, every moment of the day, are forcing us to keep out of ruination. Does this mean a weakening of our wills, or a retarding of our initiative?
Again it is useless for the persuasivists to waste time and energy on an over emphasis of the power inherent in child nature. “Man is prone to evil from his childhood,” and nothing less than the virtue of obedience will guide him aright. as his mental faculties develop he will obey more willingly and more intelligently, but not unless obedience to proper authority has been instilled into his mind from the beginning.
The wholesale condemnation of punishment is two-fold in its evil fruit: It leaves millions of children undisciplined and branded “spoiled brats,” and millions mistreated because young mothers are not educated as to how to punish humanely, yet forceably. One with a wide experience in the field of child culture has this to say: “I am convinced that if one percent of the effort, time and money now used in telling parents not to punish, not to force the children, were used in telling them how and why to punish and use a certain amount of force, juvenile delinquency would drop at a surprising degree and once more the children would be respectful, obedient, and considerate – in a word, loveable.”
That child psychology it now the butt of ridicule and fruitful material for the comic sheet is traceable to the door of those who have tried to make it out a panacea for all the ills common to child life. They who have snatched from the hands of parents, tried and true methods of correction have substituted intricate suggestions in many cases most impractical in the field of child control. In all of my studies and investigations I have found few so arbitrary and narrow as so called child psychologists who flood the book stores with innumerable “don’ts,” and scathing denunciation of discipline which accomplishes in a few hours what the molly-coddling ideas cannot accomplish in a lifetime. No sane artist or artizan throws away his brush or tool until he has proved that what is offered as a substitute is at least equally as good as the old instrument. One of the gravest mistakes in the annals of history was made when our mothers and teachers were advised, exhorted, and forced to
throw paddles into the discard and substitute mistaken kindness and persuasion. To me it is inconceivable how truthful and sincere men and women dare to assert that the child’s will is broken, his spirit weakened by moderate punishment which carries with it pain. Such an assertion is an insult to our ancestors. I am convinced that if ten percent of the time, energy, and money were spent on educating our young mothers and teachers as to how to properly use pain as a means to correction, our children would be the cream of the world’s juveniles, not a sad reflection on our country.
Just what is child culture? In the minds of many it means the bringing out of the finer things of the child mind. It is this and more. Child culture means rearing of children and rearing is not to be confused with merely raising, which is applied to brute and to vegetable creation. Child culture embraces the physical, the mental, and the moral. If any of these is neglected the term child culture is misused. For each of these, discipline is indispensable. Unfortunately very many of those who have the privilege of caring for children divorce discipline from culture and look upon positive discipline as a “necessary evil” or at best, as a very unpleasant task. The right kind of discipline is not an evil. Neither need its application be unpleasant except perhaps momentarily. The trouble is that people insist on confusing the necessary action, punishment, as evil, when in reality it is a lawful factor, necessary for the sake of the disciplinarian’s conscience and the child’s proper correction. Any woman who neglects to discipline children under her care fails in an essential of child culture. Yet on all sides we find women who consider themselves wonderful because they can say that they never punish. They are flattered when referred to as “very indulgent mothers.”
History tells the tragic story of countless numbers of men, women, and children who have come to disgrace through indulgent parents and governesses. “As the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined.” Scarcely ever is heard from great men and women complaint of too much strictness or too severe punishment from parents. Yet this ungodly illogical adverse criticism of punishment is gaining day by day.
The question is will we moderns meet with common sense, a modern enemy of children and of society? Personally I believe that the pendulum will swing back.
Let us remember that it is not only a question of the welfare and general moral advancement of children but justice to and happiness for adults. It is the adults who are hearing the burden of child support. child comfort and the maintenance of all things conducive to right living. Why must they be continually annoyed and have their troubles multiplied by the conduct of ill raised children? Children who should be lovable and render joy to parents, relations, and friends are disliked and their very presence dreaded. On the contrary a well disciplined child is a source of happiness to all. I know whereof I speak as children under my care are welcome and admired. This is not due just to spanking, but to the assistance that this form of discipline renders to the general training of all children entrusted to me.
It required very little practical experience with naughty babies to convince the author that positive punishment is a factor and in many cases a real necessity for control and training. After practical experience and a conscientious study of children and the problem confronting those over them, I am, as we Americans say, “sold one hundred per cent” on two things: that there is a real necessity of some form of corporal punishment for the correction of young children, and that of all forms there is but one that approaches the ideal.
Strong as is the denunciation of punishment in general, it is nothing to the attack on corporal punishment. Yet what does history tell us? The vast majority of all mankind, and this includes the noblest of men and women, experienced some form of such punishment from parents and teachers. And harshness and cruelty played but a small part in the majority of cases among civilized nations. Examples such as found in David Copperfield were but exceptions.
I consider as an insult to our parents and ancestors – who were loving, solicitous and self-sacrificing in their dealings with their offspring – the language used by many of the modern educators relative to the barbarity of even spankings, The editor of one of our woman’s magazines maintains that no one has yet shown that the discipline of generations past was inferior to the substitutes now held forth as so far surpassing the ideas of our ancestors. He sees in the sturdy characters of the past, ample proof that there must have been much good in a discipline that called on punishment as an able assistant, a discipline that gave children to understand that pain would be the result of disobedience, disrespect and other disorders of the social field. All in all, our parents and ancestors, those of the “old school,” made more mistakes through other forms of discipline than through that of abuse of corporal punishment. Even here such mistakes were made not so often in the disciplining of babies but in that of children past the age of reason and towards adolescence. The moderns are to be commended in so far as they have shown how parents and children can work together in problems common to both and problems common to juveniles only.
What has the persuasive, non-spanking method gained for our children and for society? Here is what appeared as the opening lines of an editorial read all over our country: “Millions of American parents are raising their children to be spoiled brats. Investigation would prove that this is traceable to the unhealthy propaganda published and broadcast…
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