Quodlibet

More on Children

by S. M. Hutchens

Many people do not like their children and bear a great deal of guilt for it. For when love is equated with mere affection, difficulty in summoning that feeling must be perceived as lack of love—and parents should love their children. When one observes the offspring of such people, moreover, what is invariably seen is selfish, demanding, ill-behaved, and rude—reasonable to dislike—hence, in the modern confusion of terms, unlovable. This is normally the fault of the parents for permitting their children, through lack of effective discipline, to become this way, and in a deeper sense of the authorities who have misled them by feigning knowledge in these matters. The truth lies not in the ridiculous and utterly unempirical notion that people are naturally good, and therefore require by way of spiritual nurture the encouragement of indeterminate "natural" growth.

The guiding wisdom is found in the older, harder, and more realistic texts: "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction will drive it far from him," and "He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him." My own rule of thumb has been, "Train your children so you enjoy their company. If you do, others will, too, and the children, seeing fondness for them reflected in others, will experience the happiness of thinking well of themselves in that qualified way that makes for mental and spiritual health."

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor.

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more on family from the online archives

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