THE POWER OF SUGGESTION
To see how powerful suggestion may be in a child’s life take this incident that every parent knows: The little one trips and tumbles. Mamma says, “Oh, did you fall? Well, never mind; come here, I’ll kiss it. There, now it’s well.” Immediately the child goes back to his play perfectly happy. One little fellow was taught that when he fell he should get up at once, rub the bump, and say, “That didn’t hurt.” All through his career the bumps and the hardships of life were met with the same pluck. On the other hand, a thoughtless caretaker will excitedly jump and catch up the slightly injured child, coddle it, rock it, pet it—and the crying continues indefinitely. This early training in meeting minor hurts and obstacles lasts throughout the lifetime. Pluck and grit are lacking. The behavior of the man in the face of difficulties is foreshadowed by the attitude of the child toward his petty trials and bumps.
Successful child training follows in the path of positive suggestion. Impatient words and careless threats of punishment can only contribute to the wrong training of the young mind.
When is the best time to suggest to the child? Catch the little fellow when he is happiest, when he is overjoyed and filled with glee; for it is at such times that the suggestions offered will meet with the least resistance.
Teach the children through the spirit of play and through the medium of the story. The boy or girl in the story always can have a clean face, always close the doors quietly, and otherwise so conduct himself or herself as to constitute a powerful positive suggestion for good. The story-child always says, “All right, Papa,” “All right, Mamma,” when corrected.
BEDTIME A GOOD TIME TO SUGGEST
The “going-to-bed time” is the time par excellence for suggestion in early childhood. After the play time, the study time, and the evening story, when all is quiet, in the peacefulness of the darkness, while you are seated in a low chair close beside the little bed, with your hand in his, repeat over and over again the positive suggestions which you desire to take root in the mind and bear fruit in the character. Again and again tell the little fellow that he is the noblest and bravest of boys, that he loves truth and hates deceit. No matter what disturbs him, if it is the lessons at school or a wrong habit, first think out exactly what you desire him to be or to do, and firmly, but quietly, tell it over and over to him.
As a concrete example: Suppose Henry, at three-and-a-half years of age has to be coaxed or almost forced to eat. Say to him: “Now, Henry, you are a good little boy. Papa and mamma love you dearly. If you are going to grow up to be a big man you must not forget to eat; so tomorrow when you go down to the table you will eat everything mamma or nurse puts before you. It won’t be necessary for papa to feed you at all; you will eat the potatoes, the gravy, the toast, and the cereal, and drink your milk. You will make mamma very happy, and papa will be proud of you; and then after dinner we will have a good romp, and you will soon grow up to be big enough to have a velocipede and a watch.” After two or three evenings of this suggestion you will be surprised to see there is a great difference in his eating.
Take the timid little girl who is unable to recite well at school, who is shy, and has great difficulty with her lessons. At the going-to-sleep time sit by the side of her bed and tell her that tomorrow she will have her lessons better, that she will not any more be afraid, that she will get up and recite without the least fear in her heart. By constantly repeating these suggestions she will be given confidence, and in most cases it will result in effecting the deliverance of the child from her bondage to fear. Never tell her that she is shy or that she cannot do things. Constantly tell her that she is a successful girl with a strong character, and that she is going to make a very useful and courageous woman. Hold high aims and ideals before her. Suggestion cannot atone for all the defects of character which may be inherited, but it can do much to help such unfortunate little ones gracefully bear their burdens.