Posted by: Democratic Thinker | July 8, 2014

Weekly Story: Parents, Keep a Steady Hand

Weekly Story

Charles Miner, a pioneer Pennslvania editor, observes his neighbors.

Parents, Keep a Steady Hand.

Essay from the Desk of Poor Robert the Scribe.


If your children you’d command
Parents, keep a steady hand.

OUR parson used to say, “Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined,” and therefore every little fellow of us—rag-tag and bobtail—used to be obliged to say our chatechism every Saturday afternoon. And methinks I can trace the influence of the serious lessons in the conduct and opinions of every man who was brought up under the venerable pastor.

The government as well as education of children is a matter of the most momentuous concern.

Mrs. Hasty is as good a dispositioned woman as you will find in an hundred, but she “dont keep a steady hand” with her children. Tommy, said she, let that clock case alone. Tommy turned round, whistled for half a minute, and went to work at the clock again. Tommy, said she angrily, if you dont let that clock alone I certainly will whip you. I never did see such a boy, said the mother, he dont mind a word I say. She continued her knitting while Tom continued at the clock case till over it tumbled and dashed the clock and case to pieces. The mother up with the tongs and knocked poor Tomb sprawling among the ruins. Tom roared like Bedlam, and the kind woman took him up in her lap—was sorry she had hurt him, but then he should learn to mind his mother, and giving him a piece of cake to stop his crying picked up the ruins of the clock. What was the consequence? Why, Tom, who with “a steady hand” to govern him, would have became a man of worth, turned out a hasty, ill-natured villain.

My neighbour Softly, good woman, don’t whip her poor dear little children, however bad they may conduct, for they cry so loud and so long she is afraid they will go into fits. Yet she keeps a rod hanging up over the mantlepiece, threatening them every hour in the day.

Old Captain Testy swore his children should be well governed. So he laid by a good hickory, and for every trifling offence, thrashed his children till they were beaten into hardihood and shamelessness. When they appeared on the theatre of life, they were only fit for robbery and the whipping-post.

How different was the government of my old friend Aimwell, and his wife. If one corrected a child, the other never interfered. When the first ray of knowledge began to dawn in their infant minds, they commenced a steady course of proceeding.

They never directed what was improper to be done, or misunderstood, but so long as the child resisted through temper they continued to punish until the temper yielded. A second whipping was rearly necessary. A steady hand, a mild but firm manner of issuing their commands, were always sure to produce obedience. It was an invariable rule with them when they were in a passion; never to punish their children. Never to promise the minutest thing to them without performing. And yet their children loved them most tenderly, wantoned and played their little gambols around them with the utmost freedom. Yet at any time a look would awe them into silence, and a word was sure to be followed by the strictest obedience. If it was convenient they came to the table; if not, without a murmur they waited. They grew up patterns of filial obedience and affection, and added to society the most correct, useful and respectable members.

Listen to old Robert; Never strike a child while you are in anger. Never interfere with your husband or wife in the correction of a child in its presence. The parents must be united or there is an end to government. Never make light promises to children of rewards or punishments; but scrupulously fulfill what you do promise. Begin early with your children. Break their temper if it is high while young, it may cost you and them a pang but it will save you both fifty afterwards; and then be steady in your government. Use the rod sparingly, it is better and easier to command from their love and respect than by fear. Keep these rules and my word for it, your children will be a happiness to you while young and an honour to you when they grow up.

Charles Miner (1811).