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training up young animals for use, a colt, for instance. or one of the canine breed, much care is taken to break them betimes of their faults, and to render them docile, and such as we wish them to be at mature
Beeause experience teaches us, that if their faults are permitted to grow up with them, they will become inveterately fixed, and exceeding hard to cure. We know that if the one be suffered to kick, and the other to snarl and bite, at every body that comes near them, or if any other scurvy trick be permitted to “grow with their growth” ; it would be unreasonable to expect to fashion them aright in after-time, when age shall have matured and confirmed their ill habits, and redoubled their obstinacy. Rightly judging on this point, we are practical, because, forsooth, it would be a pity the young animal should be spoiled for want of attention to his breeding
How much less care in this respect, is ordinarily paid to the breeding of the human offspring ! Not that we are sparing of pains and expense for the purpose of imbuing the young mind with the rudiments of learning. But having done this, we unscrupulously leave undone a still more important part, namely, the care to settle those habits, without which the possession of learning can turn to no good account.
It is foolish to expect that children accustomed to do evil, will, in after-life, learn to do well ; no less foolish than to look for the growth of a fragrant flower in the spot where you had dropped only the seed of a thisile. For the generality of human beings are, throughout life, such, or nearly such, as early custom had fashioned them; no animal being more wilful, more obstinate in the wrong, or harder to be cured of the ill habits which carly custom had rivetted.
Consider it, ye, who are parents of young children.
If it be your choice that they should be idle men and women, rear them up in idleness. If
you would render them helpless all their days, never compel nor permit them to help themselves. If you wish them to be fastidious and squeamish about their food, feed them daily with dainties. If you would have them gormands, cram their little bodies well, from morn to eve. If you would entail upon their mature age various ill humor, as sullenness and obstinacy, mustiness and peevishness ; indulge and foster betimes these wayward propensities. If you admire a quarrelsome, a violent, a revengeful spirit, permit their little hands to strike, and their little tougues to lisp out rage ; it can do no harm, and is fine sport to see it! Again, if you would breed them
up for cheats and liars, laugh at their cunning tricks, their artful falsehoods and equivocations ; or, if you rebuke them, let them see withal that you are more pleased with their wit than displeased at the inbeptive marks of their depravity.
But if your desires and wishes be quite the reverse of all this ; why then, take care against learning your children, what it will be necessary for them to unlearn at a riper age. Take care to make such impressions on their tender infancies as you would wish should be permanent and lasting. Never let it be out of your memories, that “ habits woven into the very principles of their nature are unspeakably better than mere rules and lessons, which they so easily forget.”.
Of the advantages of the long-protracted weakness and
dependance of childhood.
THERE are none of the inferior animals that come into the world so helpless and continue helpless for so great a length of time, as the human progeny. The younglings of the lower part of the animal creation are endowed with strength and activeness, and, in many instances, with a sagacity that astonishes the beholder and sets his philosophy at defiance. Very shortly they quit the dam and become their own providers. But the infant is puling in the mother's arms for many months, and dependant on parental care for as many years.
Is this remarkable circumstance in the economy of our nature, meant to be a burden, or a blessing ? A blessing doubtless. Because, in the helpless condition of the infant, which continues so long dependant on others, is laid the groundwork of the social ties. We learn first to shew kindness at home. It is there that the social principles of our nature ordinarily are first put in exercise and drawn forth into practice.
The keystone of the fabric of society is laid in marriage, and the strong pillars of the superstructure are established in infancy. The helpless progeny–for a long while helpless—incessantly occupy the kind attentions of the parents, who are the more attached to their fondlings from the very circumstance of their impotent weakness and utter dependance. The mother in particular, how cheerfully she foregoes her accustomed amusements and pastimes, and how constantly she confines herself to the charge of her infantile brood, With what unspeakable tenderness does she nourish and cherish them, and watch over them, day and night. With what heartfelt joy does she perceive in them the dawnings of reason, and listen to their lisping prattle. And if too discreet to blaze abroad their little feats of activity, their pertinent questions, and their witty remarks so much beyond the ordinary condition of their &ge--yet all these she treasures up in her heart :-and in that fond heart are continually blooming new prosfects, new hopes, and new joys.
The affection of parents for their infantile progeny, is a species of affection that belongs to our universal nature. Whether in the civilized or in the savage state, in every clime, and among all the tribes of man, parents love their children. This primary human affection was exercised as soon as men began to multiply upon the earth. Ever since that period, it has been a ruling passion, every where, and under all the different modifications of society; and though, strictly speaking, it is not of itself a moral virtue, yet to be without it, is to be a monster.
On the other hand, the long term of the infantile, dependant, condition of children, is what chiefly generates filial affection, accompanied with respect, reverence, and obedient dispositions. What if the human offspring, like the young partridge or quail, could shift for themselves almost as soon as born ? What if they could presently become their own protectors and their own providers ? Small, if any, would be their regard for their parents : feeble, if any, would be the ties of filial love. But, by means of their long condition of dependance and tutelage, there are superinduced in their minds sentiments and habits of love, respect and submissiveness :-sentiments and habits, which seldom wear off in the succeeding periods of life, but are carried into society with unspeakable benefit.
On the same ground rests the whole fabric of education. The child, conscious of weakness and utmost dependance, finds none on earth to look to for protection, food and raiment, but the tender and ever attentive parents ; whe, of course, in his estimation, are of pre-eminent wisdom and worth. Hence he receives their instructions into willing ears, hearkens to their advice, and treasures up their precepts in his memory. In their hands he is capable, in some important respects, of being moulded like soft wax.
Thus every family is of itself a little government. Every family is, also, a little academy, in which education, good or ill, has its beginning. Clusters of families form a particular society; and clusters of societies form a commonwealth or nation, which is exalted by righteousness, or debased by vice, in proportion as the discipline of the general mass of the families that compose it, is good or bad.
Of the moral benefits accruing to parents by means of
the good instruction they give their children.
The benefits resulting to children from a due attention to their early instruction in the rudiments of learn. ing and virtue, have frequently been the subject of able pens. Both in prose and in verse they have been described so clearly and with so much fulness, that it would be dificult to add to what is written already.