Tantrumism by S. M. Hutchens

Quodlibet

Tantrumism 

by S. M. Hutchens

Young children are natural "expressivists"—perhaps one could also call them "tantrumists"—before they are broken (like horses) by responsible parents who demonstrate their love by teaching them (forcibly, for foolishness is bound in the heart of a child) the superiority of the mind to the viscera and by insisting on consistent reasonableness. One of the most interesting features of parenthood is observing how each child reacts to this insistence, and one of the best services a parent can perform for his child is to relieve him of excessive pain in life by teaching him the futility of resistance, and with it the lifelong comfort of a reasoned existence. I was blessed with two daughters who were quick learners, and so therefore also with a happy and peaceful home.

The challenge a reasoned child must face once he leaves the parents' home is to resist abusing the higher faculty in which he has been established—essentially a reprise of his original struggle, but one in which a developed reason may now be used to justify the old splanchnic urges, especially the will to power. Failure here gives life to the old maxim corruptio optimi pessima, which Lewis expressed in his observation, "it's not out of bad mice or bad fleas you make demons, but out of bad archangels," and which Tolkien expressed by making Sauron a fallen member of the Maiar. The greatest mortal enemies Christians therefore face are not in the media (fleas), or even in the universities (mice), but among those who speak as masters from within the Church itself.

I think, perhaps, this should be added: One does not "go at" one's children with the intent of "breaking" them, but that is what it looks like, especially to the excessively tenderhearted, when the necessary correctives—no more and no less—are applied. The husbandry of children and the taming of the higher animals do contain some irresistible analogies.

S. M. Hutchens is a Touchstone senior editor.

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