Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 48.djvu/178

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166
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
STUDIES OF CHILDHOOD.

XIII. — UNDER LAW.

By JAMES SULLY, M. A., LL. D.,

GROTE PROFESSOR OF THE PHILOSOPHY OF MIND AND LOGIC AT THE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE, LONDON.

{b) ON THE SIDE OF LAW.

IN the previous chapters we studied the child as the antagonist of law. It is evident, however, that his [relation to law presents another aspect. Thus a good deal of the early criticism of parental government, so far from implying rejection of all rule, plainly implies its acceptance. Some of the earliest and bitterest protests against interference are directed against what looks to the child exceptional or irregular. He is allowed, for example, for some time to use a pair of scissors as a plaything, and is then suddenly deprived of it, his mother having now first discovered the unsuitability of the plaything. In such a case the passionate outburst, the long, bitter protest, attest the sense of injustice, the violation of custom and unwritten law. Again, the keen, resentful opposition of the child to the look of anything like unfairness and partiality in parental government shows that he has a jealous feeling of regard for the universality and the inviolateness of law. Much, too, of the criticism dealt with above reveals a fundamental acknowledgment of law — at least for the purposes of the argument. Thus the very attempt to establish an excuse, a justification, may be said to be a tacit admission that if the action had been done as alleged it would have been naughty and deserving of punishment. In truth, the small person's challengings of the modus operandi of his mother's rule just because they are often in a true sense ethical, clearly start from the assumption of rules, and of the distinction of right and wrong.

This of itself shows that there are compliant as well as noncompliant tendencies in the child toward law and toward authority so far as this is lawful. We may now pass to other parts of a child's behavior which help to make more clear the existence of such law-abiding impulses.

And here we may set out with those reactions of something like remorse which often follow disobedience and punishment in the first tender years. These may at the outset be little more than physical reactions due to the exhaustion of the passionate outburst. But they soon begin to show traces of other feelings. A child in disgrace, before he has a clear moral feeling of shame, suffers through a sense of estrangement, of loneliness, of self-restriction. If the habitual relation between mother and child is a