Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mother at Home - Chapter 3 - Maternal Authority Part 2

Abbott makes some other suggestions of importance regarding maternal authority.  He encourages mothers to be strong.  Each of our children is diverse in their natural dispositions.  “Some are very tender in their feelings and others are naturally independent and self-willed.”  Nevertheless, it is never safe to give up and let the child win on a contest of wills, notably with strong-willed children.  When a child has an unpleasant disposition, (is just ‘having one of those days) and, for example, hits sister and is not sorry and declines obeying, Abbott recommends that we handle this differently but do not overlook the fault.  He gives an example:   “My son, you have been doing very wrong ; you are ill-humored and must not stay with us any longer. I will carry you to bed.” Just before leaving him for the night she tells him in a kind but sorrowful tone, how much she is displeased with his conduct. Kneels by him and prays that God will forgive him. Leaves him to his reflections. He is thus punished because he hears his brothers and sisters happy down-stairs and feels how much wiser and better it is to be a good boy. “

Abbott explains that we are all disposed to ‘those days’.  As a result, we must learn forbearance and sympathy with children. A mother must use all in her power to soothe and calm.  He encourages us to “study the moods and feelings of your children and vary discipline to meet these changes.  When a child is in an excited state, remove him as much as possible from the power of temptation. Calculate a punishment to soothe him, like placing him in a comfortable chair with a pleasing book. “
Another bit of good advice Abbott gives is to never punish when the child when he has not intentionally done wrong.   We must learn to distinguish between accident and crime.   We all make mistakes; I do daily, sometimes minutely…  Our children should not be punished for an accident, however, we may need to punish for carelessness, which is a fault.  “Children ought to be taught not to do what will expose property to injury. Example, child crawls on the table and is punished for dropping & breaking the glass bowl that was on the table. The child should have been taught not to climb on the table.   Nevertheless, allowance must be made for ignorance of the child.

Abbott explains that we should not fall into the belief that your child is too young to obey.  We are ingenious at framing excuses for neglecting our duty…. Too young, no nap, too sick.  He gives a quote from a very judicious mother. “It is my practice to obey my child for the first year of their life, but ever after I expect him to obey me. “  The authority of the mother is to be established when a child is able to understand a command or prohibition expressed by looks and gestures. This is at a much earlier period that most parents imagine.

We are, however, to guard against too much severity.  When we discipline with composure and solemnity; occasions for punishment will be very infrequent.   We are encouraged to be affectionate and mild with our children.   When they have done wrong, we should feel not irritated, but sad; and punish them in sorrow, but not in anger.  Therefore, in all cases, children should be governed by kindness.   However, when kindness fails, and disobedience ensues, do not hesitate for a moment to fall back upon her last resort, and punish as severely as necessary.  Abbott explains a few such cases will teach almost any child how much better it is to be obedient than disobedient.   This does not mean it is prudent to be harsh, unfeeling and forbidding in our intercourse with our children.  “The most efficient family government may be almost entirely administered by affection, if it be distinctly understood that disobedience cannot pass unpunished.  Every effort should be to make home the most desirable place; to gather around it associations of delight. “

This is where our house rules have really become a tool in our discipline.  When my 5 year old asks to do something and I say no, he has, at times shot back with “I am going to do _________ anyway”, or throw some sort of fit.”  To this, I am able to calmly respond, you may absolutely do _____, it is your choice to disobey, but what is the discipline for not giving right away obedience?”  He responds, “black out”.  I reinforce, “okay, so if you choose, to do _____ you will be blacked out.  It is your choice; I believe it is a poor one, but yours nevertheless.”  This exchange is gentle, does not excite their mood, and also empowers them to make the decision.  With as much as my children despise blackout, to date, my 5 year old has never (in this situation) chosen the bad behavior.

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