Not long ago a woman applied to a New York district court to have her son Harold sent to a reformatory.
When questioned by the magistrate as to her reason for wishing her son sent to such an institution, the distressed mother replied that it was because the boy was so bad she couldn't do anything with him. Then turning to the boy, the magistrate asked him why he didn't behave like a man and treat his mother better. "Because she hits my dog," was the startling reply.
Further questioning revealed that a neighbor gave the lad a puppy, a little mongrel thing, three months old, which he had taught to beg, to carry things in his mouth, and to perform some little dog tricks. He had built a little house for the dog to sleep in, and had also earned enough money to buy a collar for him.
The mother acknowledged that she consid ered the dog a nuisance, and had often whipped him, as had the boy's older sisters. But she admitted that since the puppy had come to their home, Harold had not roved around the streets so much as before. The magistrate suggested that she try an experiment with the boy before sending him away from her, to respect his love for his pet, and not to abuse either of them.
The woman followed the kind-hearted magistrate's advice. After a while she began to see that the boy was kinder to the little mongrel dog than she had been to her son, and she began to encourage the boy and to sympathize with him, and instead of scolding and whipping the dog, she treated it kindly. The result is the boy is quite changed and beginning to do wonderfully well.
This is the sort of miracle love always effects when it is given a fair chance. Love is the great educator, the great unfolder of youth. As the sun is the only thing that will bring out the sweet juices and develop the luscious flavor, the exquisite beauty of fruits and flowers, so love is the only thing that will develop the sweetness and the beauty of the child. It is the only power that will call out the true, the beautiful side of its nature. It is only the hard, coarse, and unlovely qualities that are developed by force and repression.
How often would a little kindness and forbearance on the part of a parent or guardian, a little better knowledge of child nature, do wonders for a so-called "bad boy" who is considered "incorrigible," a fit subject for a reformatory!
Judge Lindsey, who has, perhaps, a better knowledge of the nature of the growing boy and girl than any psychologist or expert in child study, says: "The child is a wonderful creature, a divine machine. We have much to expect from him, but he has much to expect from us, and what he returns depends largely upon what we give."
Children instinctively admire the good and the beautiful. They are natural hero-worshipers, and they respond enthusiastically to stories of heroism, high endeavor, loyalty, chivalry, all the highest and best instincts of the race. The noblest qualities are inherent in the child. But wrong training - suppression, nagging, scolding, terrorizing, depriving the grow ing mind of the stimulus of good books, fine examples of living, the starving of its body through insufficient or improper food - all this may, and often does, turn what with proper training might have been a splendid boy or girl into a pitiable human wreck.
The destiny of the child hangs upon its early environment, its parents, teachers and associates. Upon these depend the qualities or characteristics that will be called out of its nature. There are seeds of all sorts of possibilities lying dormant in the boy and the girl. A bad mother, a bad teacher, by appealing to the bad in them, will call out the bad. A good mother, a good teacher, by appealing to the best in them, will call out the best. Evil responds to evil. Nobility responds to nobility.
If you want to get the most out of your child, you cannot do it by repressing, by cramping, by watching, or by criticizing him. I have known children to become so completely discouraged by being constantly denounced, scolded, perpetually reminded of their shortcomings, their weaknesses, by being told that they were stupid blockheads and would never amount to anything, that they completely lost confidence in themselves, and instead of progressing in a natural healthy way, they constantly fell behind in their studies, in their work, in every way.
How often we hear a parent talking to a boy after this fashion: "Now hurry up, you lazy good-for-nothing. What makes you so slow and stupid? I never saw such a blockhead! Why don't you get a move on you? You will never amount to anything, anyway!"
These denunciations so discourage a boy after a while that he doesn't care, and doesn't try, to do his best. Then, of course, his standards drop and he deteriorates.
The principle so effective in animal taming and training is just as effective in child training, in man and woman making. Children love to be praised and appreciated, just as horses and dogs and other animals do. Many children, especially those of a sensitive nature, live upon praise and appreciation, but the moment a high-spirited child is struck we naturally arouse his bitter resentment, his hatred, his antagonism.
I know a father who every time his boy commits any little fault flies into a rage and whips him unmercifully, and yet cannot understand why he does not make a confidant of him. He complains that his son goes to other people for advice rather than to him, and tells them all his ambitions and dreams for the future, and that he himself cannot draw any of these things out of him. Of course he cannot. And is it reasonable to expect that he could?
How would you feel toward a person, Mr. Parent, who treated you as you treat your boy? Would you be likely to unbosom yourself to him and make a confidant of him? He who is a friend must show himself friendly. You know how delicate a thing friendship is. You know you cannot be unkind or disagreeable to your friends and keep their friendship and admiration. Like attracts like. If you are brutal to your son, you can hardly expect to call out angelic qualities from him.