This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
To come back to the point from which we started -- the management, namely, of young children--there is one thing to be laid down: let there be no divided rule in a house. Do not let children see that the father means one thing and the mother another in their bringing up. They see the difference in a moment, and when they do, farewell to all wholesome parental influence. The starting-point of ruined manhood or womanhood, in many cases, is just this diversity of parental control. That mother urges her child towards destruction who offers condolence to it, after reproof or correction by the father, no matter how harsh or cruel it may have been. Such matters must be corrected by conference, at which the children are not present. She is not to show any displeasure at the exercise of authority by the father in the presence of the child; if she does, the child's self-will is gratified by a mother's alliance, and a certain importance is given to the improper conduct of the child, which, in accordance with the human liability to err, is hard to resist. The parents in this respect must be the allies, not the children with the father and mother.
Husbands and mothers may talk too freely before their children, forgetful of their rising intelligence. And, indeed, nothing is more common than to get a wink from the head of the house, implying that you are to be on your guard before Johnny or Tommy, Kitty or Lucy, who are listening open-mouthed to your witty narrative, while they themselves in the next moment will offend against their own precautions in the most barefaced manner by plunging headlong into your domesetic controversy, in which, to speak metaphorically, knives are freely used on both sides. Again, parents should be extremely careful in commenting upon the conduct of their neighbors in the society of their children, or that self-same Tom will at the first opportunity acquaint neighbor Jones that, in the opinion of his father, "he is a confounded old fool;" or the same little Kitty will tell Mrs. Robinson that her mother says she is a "lazy, good-for-nothing woman." Trouncing Tommy or Kitty for such imprudence is hardly fair, when the fault lies at the door of the parents. At best, it gives children but a poor example, and instills within them a disrespect of the neighbors, which, probably, they do not deserve, and which may in later years possibly stand in the way of individual advancement. Parents, in rearing their children, have a greater trust than is commonly supposed, and they owe a double duty -- one to the child, and the other to society in general. If the child is inclined to vice, the fault lies in many cases with the parents, and the right to thrust upon society either a son or daughter who will constitute but a useless or vicious member thereof, is not properly one of the privileges of humanity. No man has the right to set at large a lot of ferocious animals, who, in the exercise of their ferocity, may do harm to his fellow-men; neither has that parent a moral right to send adrift in the world sons and daughters, who, in the exercise of the vicious culture they have received, prove annoying and harmful to their fellow-beings. There is no deeper stratum of thought in moral economy than this, and none that receives less attention.
It is to mothers that society and mankind are indebted for its morality and uprightness. By her efforts the only real work of reformation can be achieved. The training of children is mainly intrusted to her hands; if her duty is properly performed, the moral tone of society is to be placed to her credit; if carelessly and imprudently attended to, she is the one that is mainly accountable for its vices. It may seem a cruelty to add to the travails of maternity and to her household duties the further responsibility of rearing the moral structure of society; but who is to assume it, if she be not the proper person? The child is, to a certain age, mainly in her presence alone, and this association cannot be shirked or changed; for it is true to a natural law that the mother is to be the closest companion of her children. It is during this period of companionship that the foundation of the moral superstructure is to be laid, and the mother must be the artisan. She may be aided by her husband and others; but the chief duty to form and direct is her own, and the structure she rears, whether good or bad, is her work.
Her duty to her offspring commences at the moment of conception. While the product is yet hidden within the confines of her womb she must have its future welfare at heart, and lend her thoughts only upon that which is good and noble. She should in her mind select the career of the child, and that such a one that is characterized by all the noble qualities, and freedom from vices. Who can gainsay the fact that when the babe is assuming its physical character, while yet in the mysterious depth of the gravid womb, that the mother is not enabled by the purity of her thoughts and exalted character of her emotions to give it also the endowment of its moral character? Who will deny that the transmission of hereditary qualities give the original bias, which subsequent to birth is hard to overcome? The law of transmitting talent and virtue from mother to child is based on physiological principles, as demonstrable as material matter. I would then say to every expectant mother: Let your thoughts be good, your emotions pure, your imaginations morally exalted; be brave, be strong, be good, and centre all and only the purest feelings upon that helpless atom of humanity reposing in your womb, so that at the hour of your labor you are fortified against its agony by the consciousness that the babe you usher into the world is endowed with qualities, which, by subsequent development and culture, will enable it, when of proper years, to take its place among the good and noble of this earth.
Subsequent to birth the mother must continue her efforts. She must impose barriers against everything that has an unwholesome influence on the moral tone of her child. She must not intrust the training of her precious darlings to nurses or governesses. A mother who reposes the development of character of her children to salaried persons is prostituting the high estate of maternity, and sins against Nature and her God. It is she who must take the hand of the child while yet in the innocence, and lead it in the path of virtue and truth; her hand must remove all the lures and seductive temptations that beset its path, and she alone must assume the cultivation of its moral nature.
Men may build prisons, asylums, reformatories, create midnight missions, etc., but reformation by these means is uncertain, expensive, and at best very ineffectual. It is the hardened criminal they deal with -- one in whom vice has become the second nature. No real reformation is accomplished by any such means, none will ever ensue; and as long as mothers are not alive to the importance of properly training the pliant child, vice will increase and baffle every other mode of reformation. One wiser than myself has said -- "Train up a child in a way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." The truth of this is self-evident, and is supported by another, whose figurative language is equally truthful --
"As the twig is bent the tree's inclined."
It is, therefore, the mother who must nourish the truth in her arms, so that when it leaves them it will walk strongly forth alone, blessing and blest of all men.