Saturday, November 6, 2010

Some Child Rearing Advice from John Ploughman

You May Bend the Sapling, But Not the Tree
by C.H. Spugeon as John Ploughman

LADDER, and pole, and cord will be of no use to straighten  the  bent  tree;  it should  have  been looked after much earlier. Train trees when they are saplings and young lads before the down comes on their chins. If you want a bullfinch to pipe, whistle to him while he is young; he will scarcely catch the tune after he has learnt the wild bird's note. Begin early to teach, for children begin early to sin. Catch them young and you may hope to keep them.

 Ere your boy has reached to seven,
Teach him well the way to heaven;
Better still the work will thrive,
If he learns before he's five.

What is learned young is learned for life. What we hear at the first we remember to the last. The bent twig grows up a crooked tree. Horse-breakers say

"The tricks a colt getteth at his first backing,
Will whilst he continueth never be lacking."

When a boy is rebellious, conquer him, and do it well the first time, that there may be no need to do it again. A child's first lesson should be obedience, and after that you may teach it what you please: yet the young mind must not be laced too tight, or you may hurt its growth and hinder its strength. They say a daft nurse makes a wise child, but I do not believe it: nobody needs so much common sense as a mother or a governess. It does not do to be always thwarting; and yet re­member if you give a child his will and a whelp his fill, both will surely turn out ill. A child's back must be made to bend, but it must not be broken. He must be ruled, but not with a rod of iron. His spirit must be conquered, but not crushed.

Nature does sometimes overcome nurture, but for the most part the teacher wins the day. Children are what they are made: the pity is that so many are spoiled in the bringing up. A child may be rocked too hard; you may spoil him either by too much cuffing or too much kissing. I knew two boys who had a Christian mother, but she always let them have their own way. The consequence was that when they grew up they took to drinking and low company and soon spent the fortune their father left them. No one controlled them and they had no control over themselves, and so they just rattled along the broad road like butcher boys with runaway horses, and there was no stopping them. A birch or two worn out upon them when they were little would have been a good use of timber.

Still, a child can be treated too hardly, and especially he can be shut up too many hours in school, when a good run and a game of play would do him more good. Cows don't give any the more milk for being often milked, nor do children learn any more because of very long hours in a hot room.

A boy can be driven to learn till he loses half his wits: forced fruits have little flavour; a man at five is a fool at fifteen. If you make veal of the calf he will never turn to beef. Yet learning may be left so long that the little dunce is always behindhand.

There's a medium in everything and he is a good father who hits upon it, so that he governs his family with love, and his family loves to be governed by him. Some are like Eli, who let his sons sin and only chided them a little; these will turn out to be cruel parents in the long run: others are too strict, and make home miserable, and so drive the youngsters to the wrong road in another way. Tight clothes are very apt to tear, and hard laws are often broken: but loose garments tear too, and where there are no laws at all, things are sure to go amiss. So you see it is easy to err on either side, and hard to dance the tight-rope of wisdom. Depend on it, he who has a wife and bairns will never be short of care to carry. See what we get when we come to marry, yet many there are who will not tarry.

In these days children have a deal too much of their own way, and often make their mothers and fathers their slaves. It has come to a fine pass when the goslings teach the geese, and the kittens rule the cat: it is the upsetting of everything, and no parent ought to put up with it. It is as bad for the boys and girls as it is for the grown folk, and it brings out the worst side of their characters. I would sooner be a cat on hot bricks, or a toad under a harrow, than let my own children be my masters. No, the head must be the head, or it will hurt the whole body.
For children out of place
Are a father's disgrace,
If you rule not you'll rue,
For they'll quickly rule you. 

by C.H. Spugeon as John Ploughman in John Ploughman's Pictures

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