We should labor to excite in children a detestation of all that is mean, cunning, or false; to inspire them with a spirit of openness, honor, and candor; making them feel how noble it is, always to speak the simple, unalterable truth – whether it tell for or against themselves. But to effect this, our example must uniformly concur with our instructions. Our whole behaviour to them should be fair and without artifice. We should never deceive them, never employ cunning to gain our ends, or to spare present trouble. For instance, to assure a child that the medicine he is about to take is pleasant, when it is not so. Artifice is generally detected even by children. There is much to the old proverb, “a cunning trick helps but once, and hinders ever after.”
Great caution is required in making promises; but when made, we should see that we are rigid in performing them; our word passed, must not be broken.
The meanness of tale-bearing and detraction should be strongly impressed upon the mind in early life; and children reminded, that not only duty, but a sense of honor, should lead them not to speak that of an absent person which they would not speak were he present.
If we have grounds to suppose a child guilty of misconduct, it is better to ascertain the truth by our own observation, or the evidence of others, than by a forced confession from himself. Yet sometimes it may be necessary to question him in order to find out the certainty. This must be done with great caution, not with that vehemence and hurry so commonly employed on such occasions; but with calmness and affection; cautioning him against answering in haste; reminding him of the importance of speaking the truth; of our willingness to forgive, if he freely confess his fault, and show himself upright and honorable in his conduct.
And to establish an habitual regard to the principle of honesty, children should not be permitted to pick up the smallest article, without inquiring to whom it belongs. This easy rule, and asking leave, even when very young, before they take any thing, will give them a strong regard to the property of others. To habituate children to ask permission, is equivalent to seeking advice in more advanced years.
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