Sep 2, 2011

Raising children in 1859

What do you do when you are waiting somewhere outside and forgot to bring a book to tide you over? Simple, read an e-book downloaded on your phone! Mind you, I don't buy e-books because I find old classics from Project Gutenberg and copy them in .txt format on to my phone. I occasionally download some books from the nonfiction category too - especially books about the domestic scenes of the times.

The current e-book I'm reading is Trials and Confessions of a Housekeeper by T. S. Arthur. It's a collection of essays pertaining to domestic matters in nineteenth century USA. After several interesting essays about horrible servants, bargain purchases, false economy and such, I came across one regarding the "sacred duties of motherhood". Most of the ideas in there would be dismissed as totally anti-feminist in the present-day world. There is some sound advice like being consistent in disciplining children, how to deal with the whining habit and how only practising what you preach is the only way to inculcate values. What piqued me was the following passage regarding how to deal with a lying child...

"But, impress the child with the truth that a Being is watching these actions, and that though done with the greatest cunning, they cannot be committed with impunity, and it is more than probable that they will never be committed at all ... That child may eagerly pant to perform the forbidden action, or to partake of the forbidden pleasure; but he will not be able to rid himself of the feeling that it cannot be done without being observed. He will stand in a state of anxiety, and steal a glance around, in order to see the Being he feels is looking upon him, and every breeze that murmurs will be a voice to chide him, and every leaf that whistles will seem a footstep, and never will he be able to break the restraint; for wherever he goes and whatever he does, he will feel that his actions are watched by one who will punish the bad and reward the good."

 Hmmm... is that a good idea? In this age of advanced consciousness, I think this is one piece of advice that I would gladly dispense with. Come to think of it, my mom's favorite disciplining tactic was to tell me "Ambotti Kalambum" (meaning God will be displeased) for things ranging from not eating vegetables to being naughty. According to Dr. David Hawkins, thinking of God as a punitive being is equal to having a very low level of consciousness. I wouldn't want my children to be scared of a Big Brothery being peeking at him at all times. When they don't eat veggies, I tell them that unless they do, they are not gonna be as strong as Chotta Bheem/
Superman/Spiderman/whichever hero they are enamored with at that time! :-) For more weighty matters, I try my best to reason it out. When my second grader complains that his friend who copied on his test got full marks, I explain that a test is not a race, that it is only a means to evaluate how much you have learned and to know where you can improve. I also tell him that only real knowledge and not trumped up marks will help in later life and it doesn't matter what you get in tests if you haven't really learned anything. Then I cross my fingers and pray that it is enough. For isn't that what we can really do? We can model good behavior, tell them good things ad nauseam, but how they will behave in the outer world is really out of our control.

What do you tell your children about God? How do you go about disciplining them? Tell me, I really want to know...

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