A high standard of conduct is best built by example. Alice Park puts it this way: "How can any parent have the opinion that children may be taught not to strike or hit others, by being themselves hit? ### How can parents or teachers who resort to physical violence, hold up the common rule of our so-called civilized society, 'never hit anybody smaller or weaker than you are, nor any one who is defenseless?"'
Stop bullying your children. Stop abusing them. Inspire them to love, trust and confide in you--not to fear you, or dread your approach.
I was walking, one day, along the street in one of New York City's better sections. A woman suddenly thrust her head out of a third-story window and shouted: "I'll fix you. You stop that and come in here right now. Do you hear me?"
Her son had long before learned that this was only an idle threat. He paid no heed to his mother's voice. He did not even trouble himself to reply to her. He continued playing and completely ignored the excited mother up in the window.
The mother became calm and settled down to watch the play. Her threat having failed to frighten her son, she became apparently satisfied. Her pretense of anger disappeared and she ceased her unnecessary noise.
This is no means of training children, common though the method is. It is never wise to threaten a child. There are always better reasons why children should or should not do things than the fear of threatening parents. But if you must threaten your children see that you never make idle threats. If you don't mean them, don't make them. Threats that are only "hot air" soon come to mean no more than that to a child. He learns that he can disobey and "get away with it."
The ideal method of rearing children is by education and not coersion. Neither cruelty nor threats of cruelty have any moralizing or uplifting influence. Threats of punishment that are never carried out breed "anarchy" and misbehavior. The psychological effects of threatening and scolding are distinctly anti- social and more or less ruinous. The child soon forms the idea that he can safely defy all law and order and "get away with it." It is bad in its moral tendencies. It were far better to allow the child to, like Topsy, "just grow up,"
I am taking the liberty of quoting the following by J. W. McEachron, entitled Just a Boy, published originally in the Farmer and reproduced in The Household Journal:
"Listen, son, I am saying this to you as you lie asleep, one little paw crumpled under your cheek and the blond curls stickily wet on your damp forehead. I have stolen into your room alone. Just a few minutes ago, as I sat reading my paper in the library, a hot stiffling wave of remorse swept over me. I could not resist it. Guiltly I came to your bedside.
"These are the things I was thinking of son. I have been cross to you. I scolded you because you gave your face merely a dab with the towel. I took you to task for not cleaning your shoes. I called out angrily when I found you had thrown some of your things on the floor.
"At breakfast I found fault, too. You spilled things. You gulped down your food. You put your elbows on the table. You spread butter too thick on your bread. And as you started off to play and I made for my train, you turned and waved a little hand and called 'Good-bye, Daddy!' and I frowned, and said in reply, 'Hold your shoulders back!'
"Then it began all over again in the late afternoon. As I came up the hill road I spied you, down on your knees playing marbles. There were holes in your stockings. I humiliated you before your friends by making you march ahead of me to the house. Stockings were expensive--and if you had to buy them you would be more careful! Imagine that, son, from a father! it was such stupid, silly logic.
"Do you remember, later when I was reading in the library, how you came in softly, timidly, with a sort of hurt, hunted food in your eyes? When I glanced up over my paper, impatient at the Interruption, you hesitated at the door, "What is it you want?' I snapped.
"You said nothing, but ran across, in one tempestuous plunge, and threw your arms around my neck and kissed me again and again, and your small arms tightened with an affection that God has set blooming in your heart, and which even neglect could not wither. And you were gone, pattering up the stairs.
"Well, son, it was shortly afterwards that my paper slipped from my hands and a terrible sickening fear came over me. Suddenly I saw myself as I really was, in all my selfishness, and I felt sick at heart.
"What has habit been doing to me? The habit of complaining, of finding fault, or reprimanding--all of these were my rewards to you for being a boy. It was not that I did not love you; it was that I expected so much of youth. I was measuring you by the gauge of my own years.
"It is feeble atonement. I know you would not understand these things if I told them to you during your waking hours, yet I must say what I am saying. I must burn sacrificial fires, alone, here in your bedroom, and make free confession. Tomorrow I will be a real daddy! I will chum with you, and suffer when you suffer, and laugh when you laugh.
And I am passing this 'confession' along to the fathers and mothers who may be priviliged to read it, and for the benefit of all the 'little fellers'--the growing earth--blessing little 'Jimmies' and "Billys" and 'Marys' and 'James' of this very good world of ours."
"It is not so much what you say, As the manner in which you say it; It is not so much the language you use, As the tones in which you convey it.
"'Come here,' I sharply said, And the baby cowered and wept;
'Come here,' I cooed; and he looked and smiled. And straight to my lap he crept.
"The words may be mild and fair, And the tones may pierce like
The words may be soft as the summer air, And the tones may break the heart.
"Whether you know it or not, Whether you mean it or care;
Gentleness, kindness, love and hate, Envy and anger are there.
"Then would you quarrel avoid, And in peace and love rejoice,
Keep anger not only out of your words, But keep it out of your voice."