MOST mothers know that it is better for the baby to put him into his crib and let him go quietly to sleep by himself, than to rock him to sleep or put him to sleep in his mother’s arms.
Most mothers know also the difficulty of getting the baby into the right habit of going to sleep; and the prolonged crying that has to be endured by both mother and baby before the habit is thoroughly established.
Many a mother gets worn out in listening to her crying child, and goes to bed tired and jaded, although she has done nothing but sit still and listen. Many more, after listening and fretting for a while, go and take up the baby, and thus they weaken him as well as their own characters.
A baby who finds out, when he is two months old, that his mother will take him up if he cries, is also apt to discover, if be cries or teases enough, that his mother will let him have his own way for the rest of his life.
The result is that the child rules the mother, rather than the mother the child; and this means sad trouble and disorder for both.
Strong, quiet beginnings are a most valuable help to all good things in life, and if a young mother could begin by learning how to sit quietly and restfully and let her baby cry until he quieted down and went to sleep, she would be laying the foundation for a very happy life with her children.
The first necessity, after having seen that nothing is hurting him and that he really needs nothing, is to be willing that he should cry. A mother can make herself willing by saying over and over to herself, “It is right that he should cry; I want him to cry until he has learned to go to sleep quietly by himself He will be a stronger and a more healthy man for getting into all good habits as a child.”
Often the mother’s spirit is willing, or wants to be willing, but her nerves rebel if, while she is teaching herself to listen quietly, she will take long, quiet breaths very steadily for some time, and will occupy herself with interesting work, she will find it a great help toward dropping nervous resistance.
Children are much more sensitive than most people know, and readily respond to the mother’s state of mind; and even though the mother is in the next room, if she is truly dropping her nervous resistance and tension, the baby will often stop his crying all the sooner, and besides, his mother will feel the good effects of her quiet yielding in her care of the baby all day long. She will be rested instead of tired when the baby has gone to sleep. She will have a more refreshing sleep herself, and she will be able to care for the baby more restfully when they are both awake.
It is a universal rule that the more excited or naughty the children are, the more quiet and clear the mother should be. A mother who realizes this for the first time, and works with herself until she is free from all excited and strained resistance, discovers that it is through her care for her children that she herself has learned how to live. Blessed are the children who have such a mother, and blessed is the mother of those children!
It is resistance — resistance to the naughtiness or disobedience in the child that not only hurts and tires the mother, but interferes with the best growth of the child.
“What!” a mother may say, “should I want my child to be naughty? What a dreadful thing!”
No, we should not want our children to be naughty, but we should be willing that they should be. We should drop resistance to their naughtiness, for that will give us clear, quiet minds to help them out of their troubles.
All vehemence is weak; quiet, clear decision is strong; and the child not only feels the strength of the quiet, decisive action, but he feels the help from his mother’s quiet atmosphere which comes with it. If all parents realized fully that the work they do for their children should be done in themselves first, there would soon be a new and wonderful influence perceptible all about us.
The greatest difficulty often comes from the fact that children have inherited the evil tendencies of their parents, which the parents themselves have not acknowledged and overcome. In these cases, most of all, the work to be done for the child must first be done in the parents.
A very poor woman, who was living in one room with her husband and three children, once expressed her delight at having discovered how to manage her children better: “I see!” she said, , the more I hollers, the more the children hollers; now I am not going to holler any more.”
There is “hollering” of the voice, and there is “hollering” of the spirit, and children echo and suffer from both.
The same thing is true from the time they are born until they are grown up, when it should be right for them to be their own fathers and mothers, so far as their characters are concerned, that they can receive the greatest possible help from their parents through quiet non-resistance to their naughtiness, combined with firm decision in demanding obedience to law, — a decision which will derive its weight and influence from the fact that the parents themselves obey the laws to which they require obedience.
Thus will the soul of the mother be mother to the soul of her child, and the development of mother and child be happily interdependent.
It is, of course, not resisting to be grieved at the child’s naughtiness, — for that grief must come as surely as penitence for our own wrongdoing.
The true dropping of resistance brings with it a sense that the child is only given to us in trust, and an open, loving willingness leaves us free to learn the highest way in which the trust may be fulfilled.