Character Building - Reasonableness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
REASONABLENESS is a degree of intelligence which lifts the little child into a world above that occupied by a full-grown animal. The animal is guided by instinct, the child by intelligence. Reason opens a door for the child into a new world.
" For smiles from reason flow, To brute denied."
In attempting to teach reasonableness, the mother should often "sprinkle cool patience" on her heated brain. The world was not made in a day; it is not yet finished.
A child develops like a flower and needs soil, sunshine, shower, and a full season. The mother's work is chiefly in assisting natural development. A very efficient service is frequently overlooked by mothers. It is the work of taking out the tangles. Not long since we saw two little lads well-nigh in despair over a kite-string that they had succeeded in getting into a seemingly hopeless tangle. "Let's give it up and take it to mother," cried one at last; "she can always get tangles out that are too much for us." There are many tangles incident to the development of reasonableness.
How early in a child's life can a mother teach it to under-stand a reason for "do" and "don't"? Reason is a power of the mind with which some children at birth are more amply endowed than are others. The training of a child, according to Dr. Holmes, should begin a hundred years before it is born. There are two words of Greek origin which mothers will meet in their reading, "eugenics" and "euthenics." The first has reference to what a child inherits at birth; the second, to what it receives after birth. Some mothers will find comfort in the fact that Burbank can take a plant of poor heredity and develop a flower of great beauty.
"Mama," " papa," and "no" are the first words in an infant's vocabulary. The first two words belong to the language of love and are readily learned and understood by the child. The last word of the three belongs to the language of duty and is more difficult for the child to apprehend. The little word "no" runs counter to the child's desire and demands a reason. A reasonable reason is the method of turning the current of desire from a wrong into a right channel. It is a custom to throw old shoes after a bride. There is a reason for this queer custom. It came into vogue when parents were in the habit of using their slippers to keep their girls obedient and good. There may be times as the child grows older when a very light slipper can be used to hold "no" in place until the current of a wrong desire is turned into the right channel. The slipper represents a power that guides the child before reasonableness is sufficiently developed. That power is authority. A mother is the child's first God. The mother's breast is the child's first world, and her eyes are the stars first seen from earth. Her love is the infant's heaven, and her voice the divine authority. The most sacred moment in a mother's life is when she teaches the child to hold her right hand with its left hand and then to stretch out its little right hand to God to be guided by his love, authority, and reasonableness. To accomplish this the mother must be able to give a reason for the hope that is in her as she develops reasonableness in her child. Is there any rule to help the mother in this most important work?
A prominent educator has recently written "that education should follow three paths: First, the imparting of knowledge; second, the repetition for practice; and third, the development of ability to reason." The third branch, he writes, is the most important. "During his education the modern child is like a keg with a funnel in its bung-hole to receive the liquid poured into it. He is in a passively receptive state, taking no active part in the proceedings, except that he supports the funnel. Between the first lesson, "Baby, no, no touch stove! Burny, burny!" and Tennyson's lesson, "They who will not be ruled by the rudder will, in the end, be ruled by the rock," is one of mother's greatest educational opportunities for developing reasonableness.
Every mother should therefore learn the rules for clear and practical reasoning. Locke's four rules, translated into simple language, are: First, the finding out of proofs. When the mother tells the child that a candle will burn the fingers that try to grasp the flame, she must sooner or later give the child some proofs. Second, these proofs should be placed in a regular and clear order. The mother can readily find the one, two, three, and four order of events-the flame, the touch, the burn, and the pain. Third, understanding and imparting the relation between cause and effect. When the child sees or feels the connection between flame and pain the flame will spell "don't." Fourth, making a right conclusion. Blowing out the flame, or setting the candle out of the child's reach, would not be a right conclusion. Reason will prompt the child to take itself away from the candle. This is the beginning of reasonableness.
Two stories in Volume I under humorous guise are very pat-" The Husband who Was to Mind the House" and "The Fisherman and His Wife." Even the littlest child cannot fail to find the fundamental point of reasonableness in them. Older boys and girls will learn much from Volume VIII in articles on science. In Volume X read "Hints for Happiness" and "Cheerfulness in the Home." Several of the poems in Volume XI are applicable, but none more so than Lincoln's favorite "O Why Should the Spirit of Mortal Be Proud?"