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This education of the heart must begin in the cradle. The principles which are to guide our lives, ought to be implanted in the nursery: they will otherwise be too weak, however acknowledged by the understanding, to operate as restraints during the perilous and impassioned hours of youth. If reserved to be taught in the later years of childhood, they may certainly be imprinted in our hearts, and we may return to their guidance after having wandered far astray; but the ideas impressed on infancy, these—and, in most cases, these alone, enable us to do our part, and co-operate with the assistance from above, in resisting strong and urgent temptation, at that season when the imagination and senses are in their fullest vigour—while the energies of our intellect, and clearness of our judgment, have not acquired half their strength.
Much depends on the choice of a nurse, or the conduct of those valuable mothers who, when it is possible, undertake that endearing office. A nurse of a serene temper is preferable to those noisy, laughter-loving, loquacious dames, so often applauded by parents for their high spirits. Equanimity and gentle cheerfulness are delightful to infants, from the first dawning of apprehension; and Raphael was true to nature, as well as to taste, when he gave his Madonna that soft and subdued tenderness of aspect, which we cannot gaze upon without feeling ourselves harmonized and improved. The effects of the disposition of a nurse on our future temper, has been often observed; and it would be well if mothers would lay down a few simple rules for her moral management of an infant, giving her the reasons for them. This will, in general, render her obedience more willing and intelligent; for obedient she must be, as the authority of a parent should supersede every other. Mildness, patience, truth, and self-denial, (virtues absolutely necessary to the performance of her duties,) she must be taught by the example as well as precepts of her mistress. Without the first of these virtues, all the rest will be useless; and she must learn, that meekness and gentleness are much more compatible with steadiness and courage, than either noise or violence.
To resign is our last moral lesson: it ought also to be our first. In this great preparatory school, called human life, we are continually required to practise the virtues of patience and self-denial. From the dawn of observation, in our very cradles, the temper may equally be spoiled by neglect, severity, or a timid, slavish indulgence. The real wants of an infant should be satisfied, the moment they are known. To supply them before they are announced by tears and cries, will often wholly prevent those whimpering and noisy habits, so injurious to children, and so distressing to their parents. The writer is so fortunate as to know a little group who have scarcely ever been heard to cry, and it may partly be attributed to a careful observance of this rule. They have not found tears and clamour necessary to the attainment of their wishes.
An infant should ever be addressed with mild cheerfulness, and treated with that uniform kindness of which it appears conscious: I dare not say how soon. Those who have observed infancy, know it well: those who have not, will listen with a smile of incredulity. But we must accustom even infants to resign immediately
whatever we do not wish them to retain, and to be refused whatever is unfit for us to grant. At the same time, we ought not to seek occasions for practising this rule: there are more than enough in the natural course of things. Nay, we ought to diminish these occasions; and affectionate intelligence is often necessary, in order to turn the attention of a child from an object of earnest desire, by exciting some other interest or inclination. The power of narrating, with simplicity and good sense, is invaluable: it almost saves the trouble of refusing. Most children will accept a story, without knowing it to be so intended, as a substitute for any other pleasure. When, however, we must refuse, our denial ought to be good-humoured, prompt, and decisive. We ought not to excite false hope, or create suspense: we ought not to associate the idea of our displeasure with that of privation. But, “let your No be as a wall of brass, which the child, with all his endeavours, shall not be able to shake.”
Your child is prepared to walk, and longs to play in your garden. If he bear with patience being prevented by a storm, but fall into a pas
sion of tears at losing his amusement by your refusal, it is your own fault; you have either taught him to use tears as weapons of conquest, or to consider your denials as sometimes the fruits of harshness or caprice. Were your conduct to him always unalterable as the law of necessity,-gentle as the law of kindness,—the chief source of infantine sorrow would be dried up.
Parents who spoil their children by self-indulgence, (for so it may properly be called,) often refuse them in an humble and deprecating manner; nay, sometimes atone for their presumption by a bribe, or else express their denial with the utmost peevishness. Their temper is not unfrequently ruffled by being forced to act in a way contrary to habit and inclination; and this often vents itself on the little petitioner, thus doubly a sufferer: unused to a refusal, and refused with a degree of harshness which habitual indulgence has rendered him peculiarly unfit to bear.
We are sometimes a little angry with those. whom we refuse, as well as with those who refuse us. Courtiers are aware of this; and