If worry merely affected the one who worries it might be easier, in many cases, to view worry with equanimity and calmness. But, unfortunately, in the disagreeable features of life, far more than the agreeable, the aphorism of the apostolic writer, "No man liveth unto himself," seems to be more than ordinarily true. It is one proof of the selfishness of the "worrier"—whether consciously or unconsciously I do not say—that he never keeps his worry to himself. He must always "out with it." The nervous mother worrying about her baby shows it even to the unconscious child at her breast. When the child is older she still shows it, until the little one knows as well as it knows when the sun is shining that "mother is worrying again." The worrying wife does not keep her worry to herself; she pours it out to, or upon, her husband. The worrying husband is just the same. If it is the wife that causes him to worry—or to think so—he pours out his worry in turbulent words, thus adding fuel to a fire already too hot for comfort.
It is one of the chief characteristics of worry that it is seldom confined to the breast of its victim. It loses its power, too often, when shut up. It must find expression in looks, in tone of voice, in sulkiness, in dumps, in nagging or in a voicing of its woes.
It is in this voicing of itself that worry demonstrates its inherent selfishness. If father, mother, wife, friends, neighbors, anybody can give help, pleasure, joy, instruction, profit, their voices are always heard with delight. If they have reasonable cautions to give to those they love, who seem to them to be thoughtless, regardless of danger which they see or fear, or even foolhardy, let them speak out bravely, courageously, lovingly, and they will generally be listened to. But to have them voice their fretful, painful, distressing worries no one is benefitted, and both speaker and the one spoken to are positively harmed.
For an unnecessary fear voiced is strengthened; it is made more real. If one did not feel it before, it is now planted in his mind to his serious detriment, and once there, it begins to breed as disease germs are said to breed, by millions, and one moment of worry weds another moment, and the next moment a family of worries is born that surround, hamper and bewilder. Is this kindly, is it helpful, is it loving, is it unselfish? The questions answer themselves. The planting of worry in the mind of another is heartless, cruel, unkind and selfish.
Another question naturally arises: If this course of action is selfish, and the worrier really desires to be unselfish, how can he control his worry, at least so as not to communicate it to another? The answer also is clear.
Let him put a guard upon his lips, a watch upon his actions. Let him say to himself: Though I do not, for my own sake, care to control the needless worries of my life, I must not, I dare not curse other lives with them. Hence I must at least keep them to myself—I must not voice them, I must not display them in face, eyes or tone.
Then there is the mother who worries over her child's clothing. She is never ceasing in her cautions. It is "don't, don't, don't," from morning to night, and whether this seems "nagging" to her or not, there would be a unanimous vote on the subject were the child consulted as to his feelings. Of course the boy, the girl, must be taught to take care of his, her, clothes, but this is never done by nagging.
A far better plan would be to fit a punishment which really belongs to the evil or careless habit of the child. For instance, if a boy will persist in throwing his hat anywhere, instead of hanging it up, let the parent give him one caution, not in a threatening or angry way, but in just as matter of fact a fashion as if she were telling him of some news: "John, the next time you fail to hang your hat in its proper place I shall lock it up for three days!" Then, if John fails, take the hat and lock it up, and let it stay locked-up, though the heavens fall. The same with a child's playthings, tennis racquets, base-balls, bats, etc. As a rule one application of the rule cures. This is immeasurably more sensible than nagging, for it produces the required result almost instantly, and there is little irritation to either person concerned, while nagging is never effective, and irritates both all the time.
Other parents worry considerably over their children getting in the dirt.
In an article which recently appeared in Good Housekeeping Dr. Woods Hutchinson says some sensible things on "Children as Cabbages." He starts out by saying: "It is well to remember that not all dirt is dirty. While some kinds of dirt are exceedingly dangerous, others are absolutely necessary to life." If your children get into the dirty and dangerous dirt, spend your energies in getting them into the other kind of dirt, rather than in nagging. Fall into the habit of doing the wise, the rational, the sane thing, because it produces results, rather than the foolish, irrational, insane thing which never produces a result save anger, irritation, and oftentimes, alienation.
In a little book written by J.J. Bell, entitled Wee MacGregor, there is a worrying mother. Fortunately she is sweet-spirited with it all, or it would have been unbearable.
She and her husband John, and the baby, wee Jeannie, with Macgregor were going out to dinner at "Aunt Purdie's," who was "rale genteel an' awfu' easy offendit." The anxious mother was counselling her young son regarding his behavior at the table of that excellent lady: 'An' mind, Macgreegor, ye're no' to be askin' fur jeely till ye've ett twa bits o' breed-an'-butter. It's no' mainners; an' yer Aunt Purdie's rale partecclar. An' yer no' to dicht yer mooth wi' yer cuff—mind that. Ye're to tak' yer hanky an' let on ye're jist gi'ein' yer nib a bit wipe. An' ye're no' to scale yer tea nor sup the sugar if ony's left in yer cup when ye're dune drinkin'. An' if ye drap yer piece on the floor ye're no' to gang efter it; ye're jist to let on ye've ett it. An' ye're no'— 'Deed, Lizzie,' interposed her husband, 'ye're the yin to think aboot things.' 'Weel, John, if I dinna tell Macgreegor hoo to behave hissel', he'll affront me,' etc., etc., etc.
Who has not thus seen the anxious mother? And who ever saw her worrying and anxiety do much if any good? Train your child by all means in your own home, but let up when you are going out, for your worry worries him, makes him selfconscious, brings about the very disasters you wish to avoid, and at the same time destroys his, your, and everyone's else, pleasure who observes, feels, or hears the expressions of worry.
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