John Dod, from A Plain
and Familiar Exhortation of the Ten Commandments,
with a Methodical Short Catechism, Containing
Briefly All the Principal Grounds of the Christian
In the course of his 1604 expositions
of the Ten Commandments, the Puritan clergyman
John Dod takes up the duties of parents to
children. He emphasizes especially the duty
of physical correction, in line with the
common belief that it was necessary to break
the child's propensity to an evil will
(from original sin) if he or she were to
grow up a civilized member of society and
a moral person. Nonetheless, he also stresses
the need to be moderate in such punishment
and the greater value of setting a good example.
His firm insistence that mothers should nurse
their own children seeks to counter the very
widespread practice in families of the upper
or middle stations to hire a wet-nurse for
the child for perhaps the first two years.
Women of stature did, occasionally, nurse
their own children, or think they should.
Elizabeth Clinton, Countess of Lincoln, in The
Countess of Lincoln's Nursery (1622),
urged women to breast-feed, as a thing ordained
by God as proper to womanly nature and biological
function. The vehemence of Clinton's
argument is explained when she admits that
she herself did not suckle her eighteen children,
having been "overruled by another's
authority." She suffered much personal
grief over this, Clinton declares, and now
writes to expiate that sin and "redeem
First, let it [correction] be seasonable,
and done in time: pass it not over too long.
* * * For, indeed, a small twig and a few
blows, when he is yet a child, and not hardened
in sin, will do more good than many rods
and abundances of stripes afterwards, if
this season be let slip. For if the child
be not mastered when he is young, he will
master his parents when he groweth elder.
Secondly, it must be done in great compassion
and mercy, not in bitterness to ease oneself
with the pain of the child. * * * For if
the child be curst and froward,
>> note 1 is
it not because he hath seen the parents
brawling and contentious? If he lie, hath
not his father given him a pattern of dissembling?
And if he swear being young, are not oaths
too rife in the family among elder folks?
If he rail and speak evil, was not his
parents' dealing a precedent to him?
Thirdly, it must be done with prayer, that
God would give them wise hearts to give most
due and seasonable correction; and their
children also soft hearts, to receive it
with patience and to their profit. Be it
that the child do well deserve it, yet to
fly upon him in a passion bewrayeth
>> note 2 more
than a beast-like affection, for a sheep
will not rush upon her lamb in fury, nor
a cow upon her calf. And indeed this doth
but harden the child's heart and embitter
him, making him most stubborn and fierce.
Thus much of the common duties which both
the parents should jointly perform to their
children in their tender years. Now followeth
the special duty of the mother, which is,
to nurse up her own child, if God have given
her ability thereunto. * * * [Women say]
that, being nursed by them, it would hinder
their sleep in the night. Why then should
you put it to others, to break their sleep?
Ought you not to love your neighbor as your
self? Are you so impatient, to bear the troubles
of it, that ought so tenderly to love it?
And do you think that they will not grudge
at it, that have no such cause to affect
it? And do only entertain it, in hope of
the hire, and not for love of the child?
But they say further that it hindreth them
from their liberty and keepeth them from
many journey, which much delight them.
Those women, therefore, that have failed
in this duty, must be humbled for it, as
having omitted a good work and service that
God requireth at their hands. And those that
have done it, must do it still.