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CORRECTION





AMONG the many things that are good for children and that parents are
in duty bound to supply is--the rod! This may sound old-fashioned, and
it unfortunately is; there is a new school of home discipline in vogue
nowadays.

Slippers have outgrown their usefulness as implements of persuasion,
being now employed exclusively as foot-gear. The lissom birch thrives
ungarnered in the thicket, where grace and gentleness supply the whilom
vigor of its sway. The unyielding barrel-stave, that formerly occupied
a place of honor and convenience in the household, is now relegated, a
harmless thing, to a forgotten corner of the cellar, and no longer
points a moral but adorns a wood-pile. Disciplinary applications of the
old type have fallen into innocuous desuetude; the penny now tempts,
the sugar candy soothes and sugar-coated promises entice when the rod
should quell and blister. Meanwhile the refractory urchin, with no fear
to stimulate his sluggish conscience, chuckles, rejoices and is glad,
and bethinks himself of some uninvented methods of devilment.

Yes, it is old-fashioned in these days to smite with the rattan as did
the mighty of yore. The custom certainly lived a long time. The author
of the Proverbs spoke of the practise to the parents of his generation,
and there is no mistaking the meaning of his words. He spoke with
authority, too; if we mistake not, it was the Holy Ghost that inspired
his utterances. Here are a few of his old-fashioned sayings: "Spare the
rod and spoil the child; he who loves his child spares not the rod;
correction gives judgment to the child who ordinarily is incapable of
reflection; if the child be not chastised, it will bring down shame and
disgrace upon the head of its parent." It is our opinion that authority
of this sort should redeem the defect of antiquity under which the
teaching itself labors. There are some things "ever ancient, ever new;"
this is one of them.

The philosophy of correction may be found in the doctrine of original
sin. Every child of Adam has a nature that is corrupted; it is a soil
in which pride in all its forms and with all its cortege of vices takes
strong and ready root. This growth crops out into stubbornness,
selfishness, a horror of restraint, effort and self-denial; mischief,
and a spirit of rebellion and destruction. In its native state,
untouched by the rod of discipline, the child is wild. Now, you must
force a crooked tree to grow straight; you must break a wild colt to
domesticate it, and you must whip a wild boy to make him fit for the
company of civilized people. Being self-willed, he will seek to follow
the bent of his own inclinations; without intelligence or experience
and by nature prone to evil, he will follow the wrong path; and the
habits acquired in youth, the faults developed he will carry through
life to his own and the misery of others. He therefore requires
training and a substitute for judgment; and according to the Holy
Ghost, the rod furnishes both. In the majority of cases nothing can
supply it.

This theory has held good in all the ages of the world, and unless the
species has "evolved" by extraordinary leaps and bounds within the last
fifty years, it holds good to-day, modern nursery milk-and-honey
discipline to the contrary notwithstanding. It may be hard on the
youngster--it was hard on us!--but the difficulty is only temporary;
and difficulty, some genius has said, is the nurse of greatness, a
harsh nurse, who roughly rocks her foster-children into strength and
athletic proportions.

The great point is that this treatment be given in time, when it is
possible to administer it with success and fruit. The ordinary child
does not need Oft-repeated doses; a firm hand and a vigorous
application go a long way, in most cases. Half-hearted, milk-and-water
castigation, like physic, should be thrown to the dogs. Long
threatenings spoil the operation; they betray weakness which the child
is the first to discover. And without being brutal, it is well that the
chastisement be such as will linger somewhat longer in the memory than
in the sensibility.

The defects that deserve this corrective especially are
insubordination, sulkiness and sullenness; it is good to stir up
the lazy; it is necessary to instil in the child's mind a saving
sense of its own inferiority and to inculcate lessons of humility,
self-effacement and self-denial. It should scourge dishonesty and lying.
The bear licks its cub into shape; let the parent go to the bear,
inquire of its ways and be wise. His children will then have a moral
shape and a form of character that will stand them in good stead in
after life; and they will give thanks in proportion to the pain
inflicted during the process of formation.





Next: JUSTICE AND RIGHTS

Previous: SOME WEAK POINTS IN THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM



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