Two Sorts Of Impertinence
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
YOUTHFUL impertinence is a fault for which parents should blame themselves mainly, for it rarely appears in a household where mutual respect and politeness prevail. Little children may, it is true, say very saucy things, yet quite innocently. Gentle reproof, and an explanation of how such words hurt mamma's feelings, and therefore are naughty, will prevent their repetition, so that, with watchfulness, a child will no more think of impudence toward the elders of its acquaintance than of stealing their property. Note, however, that in such families the elders are equally free from impertinence to the youngsters. This, like so many others of the rules governing relations between members of the same household, is a rule that works both ways or not at all. If, on the other hand, a careless father looks upon childish "sauce" as cute and laughable and encourages rather than checks it, he must not be surprised at mortifying disrespect and impudence in later years. As for the shocking rudeness displayed back and forth in many an ill-regulated family, a single hearing will be enough to warn any thoughtful young parent against letting such a state of things grow up in his home!
Another kind of impertinence, by young people to each other, is a dangerous habit of speech to fall into, since it is liable to cause distress and harm which are not only needless but are not really intended. Girls are more guilty of this than boys-perhaps because they feel denied the use of rougher methods-yet seem prompted in most cases not by a really impudent or cruel spirit so much as by a fondness for saying "smart" things, and seeing the victim squirm. To be witty in a personal way, yet not sting, is a fine art hardly to be expected of a school-girl; and her attempts often do sting sorely. It is bad enough when she hits at some sensitive companion of her own sex and class; it is worse when she darts at an unoffending lad some acid sarcasm as unjust as it is humiliating. If he is a gentleman the boy has no means of reply or defense in kind, and the hurt may remain long, or a good friendship be killed on the spot. Perhaps the girl did not mean what she said, or intend it to be taken seriously, and is both surprised and saddened (in secret) by the result of her reckless fling. If her suffering teaches her that a lady will treat her companions with respect in the midst of the gayest badinage, and keep her tongue within kind as well as polite limits, she will gain a lesson worth its cost. If not, she is likely to become that most disagreeable of women and dreadful of wives-the termagant.