Bertha Meyer, in her Family Government, says: "A parent who does not know how to govern a child without whipping it ought to surrender the care of that child to some wiser person. Sportsmen once thought it necessary to lash their dogs in training them for the field. They now know that the whip should never be used. Horsemen once thought it was necessary to whip colts to teach them to start and stop at the word, and pull steadily. They now know that an apple is better than a lash and a caress better than a blow. If dogs and horses can be thus educated without punishment, what is these in our children that makes it necessary to slap and pound them? Have they less intelligence? Have they colder hearts? Are they lower in the scale of being?
"We have heard many old people say: 'If we were to bring up another child we would never whip it.' They are wise, but a little too late. Instead of God doing so little for little children that they must be whipped into goodness, He has done so much for them that even whipping can't ruin them--that is, as a rule. Many children are of such quality that a blow makes them cowardly, or reckless, or deceitful, or permanently ugly. Whipping makes children lie, Whipping makes them steal. Whipping breaks their spirit. Whipping makes them hate their parents. Whipping makes home distasteful; makes the boys run away; makes the girls seek happiness anywhere and anyhow. Whipping is barbarous Don't whip."
Whipping is not barbarous. No barbaric people was ever guilty of such crimes against childhood. This crime came into Europe during the middle ages as a part of the doctrine of total depravity.
There is another very old, very popular and very ruinous method of scaring children into the desired ruts of conduct. I refer to the methods of frightening small children with bugaboo stories. The "black man" the dogs, the booga man, the dark and other things, real or imaginary, are used to frighten children and force them to obey. "Come back here, or the black man will get you," "Be quiet or the dogs will get you;"--these and similar threats destroy the peace of mind of children and injure their health.
When the writer was a small boy he would often jump up suddenly in bed and let out a scream that would awaken the whole household and sometimes some of the neighbors. At other times he would pull the covet down over his head and hold it with both hands while scarcely dating to breathe. The cause of this was frightful dreams of bears, devils, goblins, booga men and other objects of terror that had been used during the day to dampen his childish spirits. A fear of the dark was developed that was not overcome until maturity was reached.
Children thus frightened become clinging cowards and timid dependents. The natural courage, freedom and independence of normal childhood give way to cowardice and timidity. They become afraid of the dark, afraid of the slightest noise at night, are subject to frightful dreams that disturb their sleep and, it is probable that the shocks to their sensitive nervous system are never fully overcome. Nervousness, ill-health, and premature death often result from this thoughtless cruelty. In many ways this form of cruelty is worse for children than whipping. As a means of frightening children into goodness or morality it is open to the same objections as all other methods of creating cowards and liars.
I was walking down a certain street in New York City once. Suddenly I heard a mother command: "Come back here! There comes a cop!" She repeated this twice. The little boy was running away from her. She sought to frighten him and, by this means, to force him to return to her. Controlling children by fright is an exceedingly evil means of control; whether we tell them the cops will get them or tell them that the dogs, or the bogie man, or the black man will get them, makes no difference. The effects on the child are the same.
These effects are far reaching and difficult to eradicate. They effect the body and mind and character of the child. Besides, this is the worst means of controlling children. Like other means of fright and pressure, it is effective only so long as the child is young enough to think that perhaps a cop might "get him." When he learns that the cry of, "there comes a cop" is only bluff, he boldly goes on doing as he pleases. Fear of a thing controls child or adult only so long as he fears it.
My oldest boy as a little child, had no fear of the dark. He went and came at leisure in the dark rooms of the house and gave no thought to the fact that it was dark. His mother and I may have been three or four rooms away, but the little fellow felt no concern for his safety. No one had ever scared him. Then one day a young man visited my office, while little Bernarr was present. While he was in the outer office, he told the child of ghosts and bogie men. He pictured them as staying in dark places and as doing vicious deeds. The boy was frightened. The impression made on his young mind was profound and lasting. His mother and I worked for a full year before we succeeded in largely eradicating the fear of ghosts and bogie men from his mind. A crime had been committed against that child. Such crimes should be punishable. People who scare children, who frighten them with imaginary and unreal dangers, are usually ignorant and thoughtless, but they should be dealt with.
Frightening them to control them, as the above mentioned ignorant mother did, or, frightening them merely for the "fun" of telling ghost stories, as the above mentioned ignorant young man did--its all the same in its effects on the mind of the child.