Faults and Errors
Abbott recommends that we not talk about children in their presence, neither positive nor negative. If they are spoken about negatively, a child hears his conduct spoken of, and feels applauded. The little person is far more interested in the narration, the impression upon his mind is stronger. This child, unfortunately, was taught a lesson of disobedience.
Humility is a virtue that is essential for us all, but can and should be taught at an early age. We as mother’s can affect this greatly in how we approach our children. If our children are spoken about positively, such as parents speaking to one another of those innumerable little occurrences which are gratifying them, in the presence of the child and applauded, its little heart is puffed up with vanity. Abbott suggests that we must guard against the possibility of his supposing that he does and says remarkable things, and is superior to other children. “It is a Mother’s duty to approve children when they do right, and to disapprove when they do wrong. Great caution should be used to preserve a child from hearing anything which will destroy that most lovely trait of character – a humble spirit. He further stresses that we not make exhibitions of our children’s attainments; again, the danger of exciting vanity. The plaudits which the child receives in such cases puff it up in its own thoughts, and send it out into the world stuffed with pride and insolence, which must and will be extracted from it by one means or another. Now parents have no right thus to indulge their own feelings at the risk of the happiness of their children.
Abbott points out some extremes in exposing our children to others. One extreme is secluding children altogether from society. How can we expect them to improve, or to become acquainted with the proprieties of life? They must listen to the conversation and observe the manners of their superiors, that their minds and manners may be improved. Uncultivated manners and uncultivated minds will lead to awkward and clownish children.
The Other extreme is over exposure, wearying our friends by their presence and their ceaseless talk. These mothers deprive themselves and visitors of all enjoyment, and their children of all benefit. We do not like, even in imagination, to encounter the deafening clamor of such a scene.
Children must be taught not to interrupt when company is present, and not to interrupt his father. I learned a great tip from my friend Tina: When I am engaged in conversation with my husband or a friend, and one of my children needs my attention, they approach me, silently, and place their hand upon my hand. To acknowledge them, I place my hand upon theirs, they know I will address them at the next logical pause and I do so. It is beautiful. My conversation was not interrupted; the person with whom I am conversing has no idea that my child even requested my attention and my child is addressed at a proper time. He also recommends, in the presence of company, that children be taught to sit in silence and be able to listen. Above all, they should not be thrust forward upon the attention of visitors, to exhibit their attainments, and receive flattery as profusely as your friends may be pleased to deal it out.
Conversely, we should not be continually finding fault in them either. It is at times necessary to censure and to punish, but very much may be done by encouraging children when they do well. Abbott points out that there are great motives for influencing human actions: hope and fear. Both are at times necessary, but who would not prefer to have her child influenced to good conduct by the desire of pleasing, rather than by the fear of offending. Nothing can do more to discourage a child than a spirit of incessant faultfinding, on the part of its parent. The results are discouragement and unhappiness.
Let a mother approve of her child’s conduct whenever she can. Let him show that his good behavior makes her sincerely happy. Let her reward him for his efforts to please, by smiles and affection.