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not only the danger to struggle with, but their own fears. Why do the intoxicated proverbially escape ? Because they are guarded by instinct, left undisturbed by apprehension. As we cannot give children the prudence of manly reason, let us not take from them the advantages of youthful instinct. Before such writers as Miss Edgeworth and Mrs. Barbauld condescended to enlighten the nursery, a popular little volume, with terrific engravings, warned us against all animals, foreign and domestic, in terms calculated to excite the most lively apprehensions. The motto to each dreadful tale had an oracular and imposing sound in the ears of children, and was imprinted on their minds by frequent recurrence, with a slight variation.
“When you play with a horse, take care of his heels.'' “When you play with a bull, take care of his horns.”
And so on, through the whole animal creation. There are many who can trace to this book the birth of fears, which materially diminish their independence, and their pleasure in rural walks.
The cultivation of courage, as of every desirable quality, cannot commence too soon. A mother, irritable or nervous, must resign the pleasure of being a nurse. She will find full scope for maternal care, in the watchfulness her substitute will probably require. Sudden noise, dazzling light, violent motion, whatever can excite in an infant strong sensations, should be carefully avoided*. A placid, gentle disposition in a nurse, is on this account more desirable than that turbulent gaiety so often and so injudiciously required, which adds nothing to the cheerfulness of a healthy child, and depresses the spirits of such as are weak. When an infant wakens, let it be addressed with particular mildness; and if it be ever necessary to disturb its slumbers, this should be done in the most quiet way, with every precaution to avoid surprise. Surprise is sometimes nearly akin to fear, in young or uncultivated minds; therefore, when anything visibly astonishes an infant, let us not treat it worse than we should a starting horse. Let us lead it gently to consider the object, and, if possible, to discover the cause of any singular effect. An intelligent child, fifteen months old, showed some apprehension, one night, at observing strongly-marked shadows on a white wall, which probably had been pointed out to him in an injudicious manner. We have known artful nurses take such advantage of similar circumstances, in exciting vague fears, as to give those intrusted to their care much present and future pain, in the hope of governing them with greater ease. It were well if such artifices were confined to nurses. By a little address, the child was induced to approach these shadows; and, on seeing that they could be produced, at will, by his mother's hands and his own, he soon became amused, by what might have been converted into a source of terror.
* This sentiment has been before expressed in this little work, yet its introduction here seems necessary.See page 13.
Those who have strong talents for description, are dangerous companions to the young, unless remarkably discreet. When a child begins to prattle, let us avoid all tragical stories : no Little Red Ridinghood; no Bluebeard; no horrible murders or cruel punishments, till the blossom is knit, and the mind has a sufficient variety of ideas, to save it from dwelling too much on one. Indiscriminate reading, for a thousand reasons, must never be permitted. A few scenes in Macbeth, or Richard the Third, with some of the horrid murders in the Gentleman's Magazine, may baffle all our cares in this point, if read at too early a period. The cultivation of firmness is chiefly negative: we are rather called upon to avoid and prevent mischief, than to act.
The custom, once prevalent, of terrifying young minds with stories of ghosts, is now universally reprobated, in consequence of the increasing stock of national good sense. But many yet living can place fears of supernatural agency, and of darkness, among the real miseries of childhood; and have had reason, through life, to lament the effect of such feelings, on their nerves and health. It is useful to observe the consequences of exploded errors, that we may be stimulated to avoid others of the same tendency.
A child scratches its finger, or its nose happens to bleed. If mamma or nurse show signs of disgust and horror at sight of blood, and repeat this whenever a similar accident occurs, an association of ideas is formed, which reason finds it difficult afterwards to dissolve; if, on the contrary, they amuse the child at this moment; if they remark how beautiful and bright the colour of blood appears, on the little one's frock or handkerchief, he will not afterwards feel that vague horror at its appearance, confessed by many, and often evinced by swooning, sickness, and other painful emotions.
- The sense of pain is most in apprehension;" therefore, when it is necessary to speak of bodily pain, (a topic to be in general avoided with children,) let it be mentioned simply, without exaggeration, and, if possible, compared to something they have already suffered. What we imagine, impresses far more terror than what we recollect.
I knew a person who was cured of extreme fear of every insect of the bee kind, by being accidentally stung. Her apprehensions had been instilled by a nurse, who, to prevent her from what she called “ meddling with flowers” in her garden-walks, represented bees as their powerful, intelligent, and vindictive guardians.
Extracting a firm tooth, gives all children much the same pain* ; but observe the difference
* It is important, however, to observe, that among children brought up in the same way, and with equally good