The Contrary Child
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
HE presents a problem for the present and a source of anxiety for the future. It may be because of heredity and natural disposition; it may be on account of environment and training that he carries an attitude of constant belligerency. Whatever is suggested, his first reaction is against it.
Occasionally a fond parent (usually male) will point with a curious sort of pride at the red-faced Contrary Child, as he shakes his fist at his small world, and say, "He wilt stand up for his rights. No one will impose upon him."
In a flash comes to us a picture of the Contrary Child grown into the Contrary Man, and shaking his fist at the world at large. We see him in meetings, political and religious, rising to object. We see him rousing antagonism in his home, and making tranquillity in his business impossible. We see him placated by those near of kin, disliked by business associates, avoided by all who can do so, and merely tolerated by those who can't. We see him ridiculed, abused, rarely loved. Unfair? Perhaps, for he is neither dishonest, immoral nor cruel; but inevitable, for he ostracizes himself by placing himself always in opposition.
We would save you from such a future, Contrary Child. You are little now, and susceptible, and transparent. Our easiest course is to "get along" with you by means of a system of deceit and manipulation. We suggest, perhaps, the exact opposite of the thing we want done, and then apparently comply with your objection. We camouflage our desires so that they appear to be your own. But in this we mortgage your future happiness at the expense of our present peace.
What, then, shall we meet fire with fire, and bend you to our will? In so doing we shall merely replace contrariness with sullenness, and breed secretiveness.
No; our task is to cultivate in you good-will and the expectation of it in others. We shall take pains to suggest an act to you at a time when interest has made you forget yourself. Although we shall insist upon your doing some things we ask against your will, we realize that joy must be associated with action often enough to counteract your constitutional tendency to opposition. We shall plan helpful deeds for others so fascinating as to create the spirit of good-will in both giver and receiver.
We shall be firm with you, Contrary Child, but never antagonistic, for we are striving to quench the flame of rage, not to fan it. We shall stretch out a sympathetic, strong hand to you and by our attitude say, "Life is a charming adventure, with happiness for all. Come! let us carry her book to grandmother, and steal away so she will not know who brought it. Listen! there are the footsteps of somebody bringing our share of happiness to us. Let us show him our pleasure."
On such a quest the chip is bound to fall from the shoulder of the Contrary Child. In consideration of others he forgets protection of his own rights, and thus gains for himself the right of good-fellowship and happiness and love. Never born to be a weak man, as his father dimly realizes, he is on the road to become a man of opinions but not opinionated, and to find in the world the friendship he gives it.