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Character Building - Respect

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

BY respect we understand that careful behavior, based on the feeling of consideration for others, which should be plainly enjoined, and even wisely enforced, upon the child mind. Riches and rank have no necessary connection with genuine gentlemanly qualities. The poor man may be a true gentleman.

Let us first weigh the importance of teaching children respect for parents. It is related of Louis Pasteur, the eminent French scientist, that when he was a boy at school he neglected his studies; but at last he recognized that his father had made great sacrifices for him in order that he might continue his education, and it was his respect for his father's memory that made him the great man he eventually became. Mohammed, in the Koran, enjoins respect for parents: "Ye shall be kind to your parents, and not grumble, but speak to them in generous speech." "Children, obey your parents" is a Christian commandment. When differences exist between father and mother, they should, as far as possible, keep them from the knowledge of the children, as they are likely to create strife.

Sir Richard Steele said: "Fidelia, on her part, as accomplished as she is, with all her beauty, art, air, and mien, employs her whole time in care and attendance on her father. How I have been charmed to see one of the most beauteous of women which the age has produced on her knees helping on the old man's slippers! "

Nothing sits so gracefully upon children and makes them so lovely as habitual respect and dignity of deportment toward their parents.

Next let us speak of respect for position. Nothing is more evident than the inequality of birth, of rank, and of station. Some are born in ease and comfort, others in poverty. But these conditions need not make even a child hopelessly dis-satisfied with his lot. They may help him early to learn the necessity of showing respect to those whom circumstances have placed over him. First a boy should learn the meaning of respect of the child for the parent; then may follow respect of the office-boy for the head of the business; respect of the citizen for the magistrate; respect for the responsibilities of service in any public official capacity. In the ordinary walks of life the boy who is respectful is usually, respected. Respect is the foundation of conscientious fidelity in private relations, upon which in turn rests the sense of honor in the citizen that makes him faithful in the discharge of duties to his town or city, to his State, or to the nation.

In the next place we observe that the child should learn to show respect for age. In Oriental countries respect for the aged is a religion. It was taught as such by ancient sages of the Eastern lands, and their precepts are observed by their followers to this day. Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, who lived more than five hundred years before Christ, said that we should respect our elders, and wise teachers have repeated such sayings from age to age. How impressively does Elihu Burritt, the "Learned Blacksmith," speak when he says: "Bow low thy head, my boy, and reverence the old man who was once young like you. Bow down your head as you would be reverenced in your old age."

Finally, let us consider respect for law and authority. Children should be taught that the policeman on his rounds represents the seat of justice, as far as children are concerned, just as much as the chair of the Chief Justice at Washington. It is not to be expected that a mere child should be able to reason out the principles of law and equity, but he should be taught to reverence and respect all duly established law. "Law," said Daniel Webster, " has honored us, and we should honor the law." Rightly developed in this particular, a boy or girl will grow up with character and habits befitting not only the natural relations of family and society, but also those of public service, in which the sense of official honor should be keen and ever active.

If a mother neglects this line of instruction to her little children, it may perhaps be seen in after years that a law-breaker was first educated in her nursery. But persistence in the right direction will make law-abiding citizens out of children.

"Beauty and the Beast" and "Toads and Diamonds," in Volume I, teach respect for elders; so does "The Twelve Months" in Volume II. Parts of the "Odyssey" in Volume III have a similar bearing. Self-respect is demonstrated in "The Sore Tongue," Volume III. Despite all its wild fun, "A Plot of Gunpowder," also in that volume, teaches what should be the proper attitude of the young toward old persons. "Equality at Sea" in Volume IV is good. In Volume VII respect for law and political principles may be appreciated from a reading of "Patriotism and Politics." Respect for literary achievement may be gained by close attention to "Study of the Novel" and "The Study of Poetry" in Volume X. The feeling of respect for honest labor can be in-stilled by having a child learn "A Modest Wit" and "The Laborer" in Volume XI.

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