Parenting

A Lesson for Today's Parents From Helen Keller's Teacher

Photograph of Helen Keller at age 8 with her tutor Anne Sullivan on vacation in Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts via Wikipedia

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the nature of mankind.

One believes that we are inherently good. Children, therefore, simply need the proper environment and then they will flourish into happy adults. The other thought is that mankind is basically sinful and in need of correction, guidance, and discipline.

I believe that the truth is somewhere in the middle — that we are made in the image of God, therefore every life is precious. Children by nature want to do good but often fail. And yes, they tend to be a bit selfish, just like adults.

If you don’t believe children are sinful by nature, then bad behavior, especially horrid, anti-social behavior, is viewed as a sign of some mental disorder. If a child fails to respond to reason, fails to think before he acts, medication is often prescribed.

It seems that we have forgotten the definition of immaturity. We want babies to sleep through the night from birth and two-year-olds to share their toys. While these things would make (and do make) the world of parenting much more pleasant when they happen, they’re not the norm.

Mothering becomes easier, not when things go perfectly, but when we have right expectations. Children are prone to mischief, lying, tantrums, outbursts, and impulses. Be prepared to help them learn how to bring these behaviors under control. Then, and only then, will their natural goodness and beauty emerge in a way that even other adults will see.

Helen Keller was like a wild animal. Among other things, she refused to eat with utensils, ravenously shoving food into her mouth. Besides being blind and deaf, she was violent.

She hit, scratched, and bit her parents. She often refused to bathe and fought having her hair washed or brushed. She was prone to fits of rage, breaking glass, and throwing things. Her parents feared for her siblings’ safety.

Finally, they were at wits’ end and brought in a woman named Annie to teach Helen. Annie required of Helen the same behavior she would of any child.

Annie blamed Helen’s parents for her bad behavior, saying their indulgence and pity handicapped her far more than did her physical disabilities.

The work Annie did with Helen made history. She never gave up on Helen and broke through to the blind, deaf, wild little girl. How did she do that? First, she taught her how to behave, and then gave her language. And a beautiful, intelligent, and articulate woman emerged who has been admired all around the world.

I can’t honestly tell you Annie’s form of discipline, but she was in charge. Helen became her best when she was no longer indulged and a standard of conduct was required of her.

Kindness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Is is kind to allow a child’s behavior to become so obnoxious that she can’t keep friends, is mean to her siblings, and disrespects her parents?

Some children just need a firm look, others a firm hand. It’s up to you to decide which will bring out the best in you child.