Advice Books

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 Religion

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 my peace."

 

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.


© 2010 W.W. Norton and Company :  Site Feedback  :  Help  :  Credits  :  Home  :  Top of page    
Home