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Character Building - Submission

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

TO the average mother there may seem to be but little difference between submission and obedience; but submission is the forerunner of that obedience which must be the result of development and training. The learned Dr. Samuel Johnson defines obedience as compliance with law and duty, and submission as an acknowledgment of inferiority. The little helpless babe in the cradle, depending upon its mother for life and sustenance, is certainly not equal to its parents, and it should be made to realize this inequality from the very start. And just in proportion as the babe has been accustomed to adjust itself to circumstances will it find it an easy matter to take the next step in baby ethics, which is obedience to authority.

In modem maternity hospitals a crying baby is placed in the center of a large, soft, and comfortable bed and left alone to cry itself asleep. Very distressing to the mother and the neighbors; but the little one soon finds its true level, will give up the habit of crying, and not wait for the bottle or the bribe of a lump of sugar. Just as soon as the mother appeals to her infant through its appetites, and neglects to appeal to it through its moral feelings, she lowers the ideal in the child mind.

Of course, great care must be taken to ascertain whether the cry is one of downright naughtiness or that of pain from one cause or another. The spoiled child is one who has never been brought under authority, and consequently when it reaches the age of reason and intelligence it will not be amenable to law and order, having never acquired the primary principles of submission. A mother should bear in mind that even in the cradle a healthy and well-developed child will soon show more or less contempt for the mother or the nurse whom it finds it can absolutely rule. The mother who allows little acts of disobedience to pass unnoticed for fear of lessening the child's affections is really doing the very thing to bring about the results that she so much dreads.

Submission must not be enforced by sternness, for the authority of a mother can be asserted and upheld much more effectually by those gentle and winsome measures which only the instincts of a woman can inspire. But the mother must at once decide who is to rule, and having decided the case in favor of herself she must stick to it. This submission of the baby child must be secured first and completely, and then, as the child-life grows and develops, it may be advisable in some instances to make an appeal to its reasoning and moral powers.

Sometimes the imperious and self-asserting tendencies of the child are but the too evident signs of heredity; in which case the troubled mother should endeavor by patient continuance to correct those faults which she well knows the little unconscious baby has been taking in with its mother's milk.

Whether or not the mother may have the power to make this fight in the cradle, there is no question that a baby accustomed to submit itself to circumstances will all the more easily take the next step, which is obedience.

"Cinderella," in Volume I, has points on the true worth of submission; also the poem "Mabel on Midsummer Day" in that volume. There are two good tales in Volume II, "Orpheus" and "The Twelve Months." "Griselda," in Volume III, is a classic on the subject. Akin to it are "Fruits of Disobedience" and "The Oyster Patties" in the same book. "The Start and the Goal," in Volume IX, gives advice. In Volume X read "Disagreeable Children," and in Volume XI turn to "Contentment" and Milton's great sonnet " On His Blindness."

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