Character Building - Obedience
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
OBEDIENCE is the first principle of training in social life; and it must be insisted upon in children by parents, not because they are their parents, or have any inborn authority over them personally-for there is no such thing-but because it is for the child's good and for the safety of society. The parents having added a prospective citizen to the state become responsible that, so far as they can effect it, he shall become a law-abiding one.
The propriety of obedience, at first unquestioning, and afterwards at least respectful, as long as dependence endures and judgment is immature, is not in doubt; but there is less agreement as to the methods of securing a prompt and willing compliance with the commands of their parents or of others, such as teacher or nurse, to whom parental authority has been temporarily delegated.
One great obstacle to solving the problem will be cleared away when both parent and child (as it grows old enough) comprehend what has been stated above, namely, that obedience to a parent is not subjection to a natural master, with a divine right to order, and irresponsible power to enforce his decrees, but is the proper submission of a weak and ignorant person to the guidance of one who is stronger and wiser in the ways of the world, and is naturally appointed to that office by the circumstances of generation and love. In other words, a good reason for a required action, apart from the parents say-so, ought always to be given where it is feasible; then obedience to it will rarely be refused, or given unwillingly or dishonestly. Otherwise any submission gained is merely a captive's or slave's fear of the lash, and is not to be trusted.
Of course there are times-especially with the very young-when complete obedience must come first and explanations afterward; but a wise and loving parent will so manage it that the child will feel that there must be good reason for the command, although he may not then know it. The parent who acts upon this view of the relation of authority between him and his off-spring will rarely have reason to complain of serious disobedience.
We suggest the reading of "Mabel on Midsummer Day" in Volume I of the Library, and then the little myth, "The Twelve Months, " in Volume II, both of which will be appreciated by even the youngest readers. In Volume III "The Fruits of Disobedience" and "Oyster Patties" deal with the subject of children obeying their parents. "Equality at Sea," in Volume IV, is another side of the question, and will appeal to boys. "The Wreck of the `Birkenhead' in Volume VII is recommended to all readers, and in Volume X the article "Disagreeable Children" should give parents a few helpful suggestions.