From Study of Child Life by Marion Foster Washburne
As we shall see in the next section, Froebel meets this difficulty by substituting positive commands for prohibitions; that is, he tells the child to do instead of telling him not to do. Tiedemann says that example is the first great evolutionary teacher, and liberty is the second. In the overcoming of disobedience, no other teachers are needed. The method may be tedious; it may be many years before the erratic will is finally led to work in orderly channels; but there is no possibility of abridging the process. There is no short and sudden cure for disobedience, and the only hope for final cure is the steady working of these two great forces, example and liberty.
To illustrate the principles already indicated, we will consider some specific problems together with suggestive treatment for each.
All lies are not bad, nor all liars immoral. A young child who cannot yet understand the obligations of truthfulness cannot be held morally accountable for his departure from truth. Lying is of three kinds.
(1.) The imaginative lie. (2.) The evasive lie. (3.) The politic lie.
(1.) It is rather hard to call the imaginative lie a lie at all. It is so closely related to the creative instinct which makes the poet and novelist and which, common among the peasantry of a nation, is responsible for folk-lore and mythology, that it is rather an intellectual activity misdirected than a moral obliquity. Very imaginative children often do not know the difference between what they imagine and what they actually see. Their minds eye sees as vividly as their bodily eye; and therefore they even believe their own statements. Every attempt at contradiction only brings about a fresh assertion of the impossible, which to the child becomes more and more certain as he hears himself affirming its existence.
Punishment is of no use at all in the attempt to regulate this exuberance. The child’s large statements should be smiled at and passed over. In the meantime, he should be encouraged in every possible way to get a firm, grasp of the actual world about him. Manual training, if it can be obtained, is of the greatest advantage, and for a very young child, the performance every day of some little act, which demands accuracy and close attention, is necessary. For the rest, wait; this is one of the faults that disappear with age.
(2.) The lie of evasion is a form of lying which seldom appears when the relations between child and parents are absolutely friendly and open. However, the child who is very desirous of approval may find it difficult to own up to a fault, even when he is certain that the consequence of his offense will not be at all terrible. This is the more difficult, because the more subtle condition. It is obvious that the child who lies merely to avoid punishment can be cured of that fault by removing from him the fear of punishment. To this end, he should be informed that there will be no punishment whatever for any fault that he freely confesses. For the chief object of punishment being to make him face his own fault and to see it as something ugly and disagreeable, that object is obviously accomplished by a free and open confession, and no further punishment is required.
But when the child in spite of such reassurance still continues to lie, both because he cannot bear to have you think him capable of wrong-doing, and because he is not willing to acknowledge to himself that he is capable of wrong-doing, the situation becomes more complex. All you can do is to urge upon him the superior beauty of frankness; to praise him and love him, especially when he does acknowledge a fault, thus leading him to see that the way to win your approval—that approval which he desires so intensely—is to face his own shortcomings with a steady eye and confess them to you unshrinkingly.
The Politic Lie
(3.) The politic lie is of course the worst form of lying, partly because it is so unchildlike. This is the kind of fault that will grow with age; and grow with such rapidity that the mother must set herself against it with all the force at her command. The child who lies for policy’s sake, in order to achieve some end which is most easily achieved by lying, is a child led into wrong-doing by his ardent desire to get something or do something. Discover what this something is, and help him to get it by more legitimate means. If you point out the straight path, and show the goal well in view, at the end of it, he may be persuaded not to take the crooked path.
But there are occasionally natures that delight in crookedness and that even in early childhood. They would rather go about getting their heart’s desire in some crooked, intricate, underhanded way than by the direct route. Such a fault is almost certain to be an inherited one; and here again, a close study of the child’s relatives will often help the mother to make a good diagnosis, and even suggest to her the line of treatment.
In an extreme case, the family may unite in disbelieving the child who lies, not merely disbelieving him, when he is lying, but disbelieving him all the time, no matter what he says. He must be made to see, and, that without room for any further doubt, that the crooked paths that he loves do not lead to the goal his heart desires, but away from it. His words, not being true to the facts, have lost their value, and no one around him listens to them. He is, as it were, rendered speechless, and his favorite means of getting his own way is thus made utterly valueless. Such a remedy is in truth a terrible one. While it is being administered, the child suffers to the limit of his endurance; and it is only justified in an extreme case, and after the failure of all gentler means.
Article by Aadel Bussinger
Aadel has been married to her career Army man for 13 years and they have 2 daughters and a freshly made son. She is a homeschooling mom, volunteer, and online college student. Her hobbies include cooking, organic gardening, sewing, and crocheting. She blogs about their military, unschooling life at These Temporary Tents.
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