(From “The Christian Mother”, 1833)
Obedience is absolutely essential to proper family government. Without this, all other efforts will be in vain. You may pray with, and for your children; you may strive to instruct them in religious truth; you may be unwearied in your efforts to make them happy, and to gain their affection. But if they are in habits of disobedience, your instructions will be lost, and your toil in vain. And by obedience, I do not mean languid and dilatory yielding to repeated threats–but prompt and cheerful acquiescence to parental commands. Neither is it enough that a child should yield to your arguments and persuasions. It is essential that he should submit to your authority.
The first thing therefore to be aimed at, is to bring your child under total subjection. Teach him that he must obey you. Sometimes give him your reasons; withhold them at other times. But let him perfectly understand that he is to do as he is told. Accustom him to immediate and cheerful acquiescence to your will. This is obedience. And this is
absolutely essential to good family government. Without this, your family will present one continued scene of noise and confusion–the toil of rearing up your children will be almost intolerable–and, in all probability, your heart will be broken by their future licentiousness or ingratitude.
Never give a command, which you do not intend shall be obeyed! There is no more effectual way of teaching a child disobedience, than by giving commands which you have no intention of enforcing. A child is thus habituated to disregard its mother; and in a short time the habit becomes so strong, and the child’s contempt for the mother so confirmed, that entreaties and threats are alike unheeded.
“Mary, let that book alone,” says a mother to her little daughter, who is trying to pull the book from the table.
Mary stops for a moment, and then takes hold of the book again.
Pretty soon the mother looks up and sees that Mary is still playing with the book. “Did not you hear me tell you to let that book alone?” she exclaims: “Why don’t you obey?”
Mary takes away her hand for a moment, but is soon again at her forbidden amusement. By and by, down comes the book upon the floor. Up jumps the mother, and hastily giving the child a passionate correction, exclaims, “There then, obey me next time!” The child screams, and the mother picks up the book, saying, “I wonder why my children do not obey me better?”
This is not a very interesting family scene, but every one listening will admit that it is not an uncommon one. And is it strange that a child, thus managed, should be disobedient? No! She is actually led on by her mother to insubordination–she is
actually trained to pay no heed to her directions. Even the improper punishment, which sometimes follows transgression, is not inflicted on account of her disobedience, but for the accidental consequences. In the case above described, had the book not fallen, the disobedience of the child would have passed unpunished. Let it be an immutable
principle in family government–that your word is law!
The principle of government is simple and plain. It is to begin with enforcing obedience to every command. It is to establish the principle that a mother’s word is never to be disregarded. Every judicious mother will, indeed, try to gratify her children in their reasonable wishes. She will study to make them happy; but she will never allow them to gratify themselves in contradiction to her wishes.