There is only one way in which either parent or teacher
can really obtain effective influence over a child and
draw out all the best that is in him-- and that is by
enfolding him in the pure fire of a warm, constant,
personal love, and thereby winning his love and confidence
in return. More than any other qualification is this insisted
upon in Alcyone's wonderful book Education as Service --
a book which every parent and teacher should read, for the
sake of the sweet spirit which it breathes, and the valuable
hints which it contains.
It is true that obedience may be extorted and discipline preserved by inspiring fear, but rules enforced by such a method are kept only so long as he who imposes them (or some one representing him) is present, and are invariably broken when there is no fear of detection; the child keeps them because he must, and not because he wishes to do so; and meantime the effect upon his character is of the most disastrous description.
If, on the other hand, his affection has been invoked, his will at once ranges itself on the side of the rule; he wishes to keep it, because he knows that in breaking it he would cause sorrow to one whom he loves; and if only this feeling be strong enough, it will enable him to rise superior to all temptation, and the rule will be binding, no matter who may be present or absent. Thus the object is attained not only much more thoroughly, but also much more easily and pleasantly both for teacher and pupil, and all the best side of the child' s nature is called into activity, instead of all the worst. Instead of rousing the child' s will into sullen and persistent opposition, the teacher arrays it on his own side in the contest against distractions or temptations; the danger of deceit and secretiveness is avoided, and thus results are achieved which could never be approached on the other system.
It is of the utmost importance always to try to understand the child, and to make him feel certain that he has one' s friendliness and sympathy. All appearance of harshness must be carefully avoided, and the reason of all instructions given to him should always be fully explained. It must indeed be made clear to him that sometimes sudden emergencies arise in which the older person has no time to explain his instructions, and he should understand that in such a case he should obey, even though he may not fully comprehend; but even then the explanation should be always given afterwards.
Unwise parents or teachers often make the mistake of habitually exacting obedience without understanding-- a most unreasonable demand; indeed, they expect from the child at all times and under all conditions an angelic patience and saintliness which they are far indeed from possessing themselves. They have not yet realised that harshness towards a child is always not only wicked, but absolutely unreasonable and foolish as well, since it can never be the most effective way of obtaining from him what is desired.
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A child' s faults are often the direct results of the unnatural way in which he is treated. Sensitive and nervous to a degree, he constantly finds himself misunderstood and scolded or ill-treated for offences whose turpitude he does not in the least comprehend; is it wonderful that, when the whole atmosphere about him reeks with the deceit and falsehood of his elders, his fears should sometimes drive him into untruthfulness also? In such a case the karma of the sin will fall most heavily upon those who by their criminal harshness have placed a weak and undeveloped being in a position where it was almost impossible for him to avoid it.
If we expect truth from our children, we must first of all practise it ourselves; we must think truth as well as speak truth and act truth, before we can hope to be strong enough to save them from the sea of falsehood and deceit which surrounds us on every side. But if we treat them as reasonable beings-- if we explain fully and patiently what we want from them, and show them that they have nothing to fear from us, because "perfect love casteth out fear"-- then we shall find no difficulty about truthfulness.
A curious but not uncommon delusion-- a relic, perhaps, of the terrible days when, for its sins, this unhappy country of England groaned under the ghastly tyranny of puritanism-- is, that children can never be good unless they are unhappy, that they must be thwarted at every turn, and never by any chance allowed to have their own way in anything, because when they are enjoying themselves they must necessarily be in a condition of desperate wickedness! Absurd and atrocious as this doctrine is, various modifications of it are still widely prevalent, and it is responsible for a vast amount of cruelty and unnecessary misery, wantonly inflicted upon little creatures whose only crime is that they are natural and happy. Undoubtedly Nature intends that childhood shall be a happy time, and we ought to spare no efforts to make it so, for in that respect, as in all others, if we thwart Nature we do so at our peril. A hymn tells us:
God would have us happy, happy all the day, and in this case as in all others it is our duty and our privilege to be fellow-workers together with Him.
It will help us much in our dealings with children if we remember that they
also are egos, that their small and feeble physical bodies are but the accident
of the moment, and that in reality we are all about the same age; so that we
owe them respect as well as affection, and we must not expect to impose our
will or individuality upon theirs. Our business in training them is to develop
only that in their lower vehicles which will co-operate with the ego-- which
will make them better channels for the ego to work through. Long ago, in the
golden age of the old Atlantean civilisation, the importance of the office of
the teacher of the children was so fully recognised that none was permitted to
hold it except a trained clairvoyant, who could see all the latent qualities
and capabilities of his charges, and could, therefore, work intelligently with
each, so as to develop what was good in him and to amend what was evil.
In the distant future of the sixth root-race that will be so once more; but that time is, as yet, far away, and we have to do our best under less favourable conditions. Yet unselfish affection is a wonderful quickener of the intuition, and those who really love their children will rarely be at a loss to comprehend their needs; and keen and persistent observation will give them, though at the cost of much more trouble, some approach to the clearer insight of their Atlantean predecessors. At any rate, it is well worth the trying, for when once we realise our true responsibility in relation to children we shall assuredly think no labour too great which enables us to discharge it better. Love is not always wise, we know; but at least it is wiser than carelessness, and parents and teachers who truly love will be thereby spurred on to gain wisdom for the sake of the children.
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