Mind Pictures and Their Power
A child’s character is molded largely by the pictures presented to its mind
Women and their Work
IF, FROM out the myth-encrusted tombs of ancient lore, the goddess of good fortune could come forth and offer to us the priceless gift of the understanding of the ways and habits of children, what a changed world this would be ...”
The speaker went on, but one member of his audience heard only this. To understand the ways of children! Why they do this incomprehensible thing and that, why they say ‘I won’t’ when by all the rules of common sense they eagerly should say, T will,’ Why, oh the innumerable ‘why’s’ that form the daily food of those who have to do with these embryo adults.
And how many heartaches for the children themselves, could be avoided! Sometimes, not knowing themselves just why they did this or said that it would be of infinite comfort to have a sympathetic understanding by their most nearly-i elated adults.
What grown-up who cannot recall at least one occasion when, as a child, he felt himself cruelly misunderstood, when he planned a reprisal in the form of a secret run-away, and how he would return years later, rich and well-dressed, and magnanimously forgive all. Or if ‘he’ were a girl, she slipped away to some secret nook and amid bitter tears pictured herself dying in an heroic effort to save a little sister, and how lovely she would look when dead, with all the beautiful flowers around her, and how sorry they would all be for the way they had treated her.
In after years, these pictures seem very melodramatic, but, to the girl or the boy they are real life indeed.
‘Mother thinks I told a lie about that, but I didn’t,’ is, perhaps one of the bitterest cries of a grief-stricken child.
And what mother has not. at some time, said, in a most weary and anxious voice,
“I simply cannot understand that child at all. I am sure I never acted like that when I was a child.’
Pictures for the Child Mind
HE WHO controls the mind pictures of a child, controls his every thought and action; he who understands the mind pictures of a child understands his every thought and action. And the price of understanding is close and intent study and much thought.
Before a child performs any act, he first pictures that action in his mind. A child is essentially egotistical. He relates everything to himself. He sees another boy riding a bicycle and immediately pictures himself riding it, or one like it. The result, in action, depends on his stock-in-trade of mind pictures.
Then he who would understand why a boy would steal a bicycle, must give some thought to those things which surround that boy, daily, and supply to him his mind-pictures.
Of the strange power of mind pictures, over the body as well as over the mind, a teacher in a down-town school, had, one day, a striking example.
She was reading a Memory Gem to her class,
“A little spring had lost its way,
Amid the grass and fern.
A passing stranger scooped a well, Where weary men might turn . . .”
Slowly, and with careful emphasis, the teacher read the simple little verses, but, they brought no smile of interest, nor even the slightest symptom of animation to the pudgy faces before her.
Theirs was not the happy lot, which renders familiar springs and ferns; they knew pavements, and cops, and banana-carts; but springs, had something to do with beds—sometimes—and the Memory Gem was simply another of those jumbles of words which ‘didn’t mean nuthin.’
So the teacher tried to feed her mentally-starved children with a picture of it all.
She spoke of the great white rock of the summer playground. She told them of the little stream of water, clear,
THOSE who have to do with children may be divided into three classes. First, those who are very successful but are guided by instinct. They simply have ‘the knack,’ they know just what to say and do to get their desired results, but they cannot take it apart and tell how it is done!’ Their heaven born instinct is their salvation, and they get fine results. These are they who use the power of sug gestion but know not that they use it, nor how. They can say just the right things to give the desired pictures to the minds of the children but they do not know how they really manage it.
Then there is the class who really understand the power of suggestion over the actions of children, and put this knowledge to good use. These people are rare and of inestimable value to the citizens of to-morrow; they may make or mar at their will.
And the rest are those who should never have anything to do with the guidance or direction of children, at all. They may mean well enough, but they simply cannot get along with them. They rub them the wrong way and then wonder why they scratch. They put wrong pictures in their minds and then wonder why they act so queerly; they shout at them, and then resent their shouting back; they treat
sparkling, like bits of glass in the sunshine, which wends its way gurgling joyously, down from the great, white rock, through the cool, green grasses and waving ferns, on its way to the big, blue lake below. She tried to give them that background which children, who read but little of any value, sadly lack.
As she talked, seven little, grimy hands shot up and waved frantically, to attract her attention. Without answering anyone, she asked each one, in turn, what he wanted.
To her unbounded surprise, five, of the seven, asked, ‘Please, may I get a drink?’
It was not a hot day, the children had had their usual recess period, there seemed no apparent cause for this sudden general desire for drinks, so the teacher did some thinking.
Her mind picture of the clear sparkling, spring had been too vivid; from the mere mental picture the children had acquired an intense physical desire. It was the working of the greatest of forces, in the control of the actions of children, the power of suggestion.
Children have marvellous imaginations. If they read a story they see themselves as the heroines or heroes; anything is possible with them, they can picture things so readily. Mention a violin to a group of children, and some little wag begins to play one on his arm. Mention something to eat, and there is an instantaneous movement of small, but eager hands, in a rotary movement around that portion of their anatomy which they believe to contain their stomachs. They can picture anything for which they have the background.
So he who controls the mental pictures of a child, holds that child’s thoughts and actions in the hollow of his hand.
Understanding the Power of Suggestion
children with great rudeness and blame the poor little rascals if they fail to show the most finished courtesy in return. They tamper with the TNT of all the forces which control the actions of children, and then wonder why the explosion took place.
Most of us are probably members of all three classes at different times. Sometimes we can ‘understand’ and sometimes we have not the time. Snap judgments, where children are concerned, are wrong about as often as snap judgments are, anywhere. And the affairs of this life keep most of us a little too busy to do justice to some of the duties that lie in our path way.
The valuable words, in our language, are the picture words, those which when spoken make an image in the mind. If you say ‘cat’ to a small boy, and he begins to imitate its meow under his breath, you know he has formed a picture of a cat in his mind. Speak to him of ‘running,’ ‘playing ball’ or a ‘bad boy’ and he immediately forms a mental picture of these things, which conforms with his former mental images.
But one word, frequently mentioned in conversation with children, which forms no mental picture, is the word ‘not.’ Tell a boy not to write his name on the wall and he immediately pictures himself in the action of writing it on the wall. Of course if the fear of disastrous results is sufficiently great he may withhold himself from so doing, for the time being at least, but the mental picture is there, waiting for an opportunity. Just as in the familiar classic of the woman who, on leaving her children to mind themselves for an afternoon, said, “Now be good children and do not put any beans up your noses.”
The children had never, at any time, thought of such a performance, but the suggestion was so novel and, hence, so alluring, that they immediately forgot the negative and proceeded to try out the idea, with disastrous results.
Few adults are of such perverted dispositions as to deliberately present wrong pictures to the unfolding minds of children, but many of them do so unintentionally.
A little girl was walking home from school with her teacher, one day. “There was an awful bad girl in my sister’s room, this morning,” she said in an awe-stricken voice, “she stole some chalk from the teacher, and she said she didn’t, and the teacher said she would have to write a note to her mother. And I told my father all about it at noon,” she continued.
“And what did your father say?” the teacher asked, rather absent-mindedly.
“He said, ‘If I ever catch you doing such a thing I will give you a good licking!” And the little girl laughed at the improbability of such a happening.
But the picture made by the father was all wrong, the little girl had now pictured herself as stealing something, when she probably had not done so before. This picture might lie veiled, in her mind, for a long time, then it might become the inspiratipii ' of some wrong act, and her father would be the last person in the world,.to attribute the cause to himself.
Supposing, instead, he had said, ‘I am glad that I have an honest little girl, who makes her father feel proud of her.’ She would then picture herself as being honest, not in the act of stealing something.
A master in a boys’ school, who was of an inquiring mind, tried a number of experiments with mind pictures, on a class of boys of about twelve years.
First he used the negative plan and when he wanted quiet work he demanded, ‘No talking.’ When he wished to improve the writing he picked up a book here and there and said, in effect; ‘This is poor. I do not wish to see any more of this kind of work. We do not want bad writing in this room.’
So it went on, ‘Don’t make a noise in the hall.’ ‘Don’t forget your homework books.’ And the results were exceedingly
discouraging; except when the fear of disaster prevailed, all those things were done.
Then he tried the reverse. His requests were given in such words as, ‘Quiet work, please,’ ‘This is a fine, neat book, I hope to find more like it.’ ‘Each boy will please remember his book.’ He watched very closely for results.
They were soon quite apparent. When he said, ‘Quiet work, please,’ it actually seemed to soothe the whole atmosphere, each boy seemed to picture himself as ‘quiet’ and then unconsciously became so. It was the working out of the power of suggestion.
When he said, T see a neat book here,’ he could see the majority of the boys taking a more business-like attitude and their writing soon showed much more care in its formation. His suggestion of better writing formed a picture in their minds and ruled their thoughts and actions.
The master was so satisfied with the results of his experiment, that he carefully chose all his words of admonition so that they always suggested the pictures he wished to form in the minds of his boys.
The Necessary Safety Valve
CHILDREN must have a safety valve through which mind pictures, w'hich they form but do not wish to keep, can escape. The thousand and one things they see on every hand, suggest to them a thousand and one things to do, and they must work off this surplus energy in some way.
No sane person w’ould think of piling high the fires beneath a boiler which had no outlet for steam, and then saying to it, in a firm and decided manner, ‘Now be a good little boiler, and don’t break out any place.’
Yet perfectly sane people will subject the vivid minds of children to the fires of the power of suggestion, provide no safety valve, and yet say to them, ‘Now be good children, and don’t break out anywhere.’ If they happen to be rather dull and stupid children," they may not ‘break out,’ but if they feel within themselves, any reaction to the many suggestions about them, they surely will ‘break out’ some way.
They picture themselves as being or doing everything they see. A boy sees another boy driving a butcher’s cart flourishing a whip and holding the lines aloft -with all the perfection-of an accomplished jehu. He at once pictures himself as the driver, and his life’s ambition is formed, for the time being, at least.
But, as children must choose and decide many things for themselves, and cannot always be -wrapped in the aurora of their parents’ desires and ambitions and be permanently shielded from all the naughty things of this world, they must have a safety valve; else they will be at the mercy of every finger that beckons, and their lives will be but a series of tangents at which they will shoot off, impelled by the force of every suggestion which leaves its imprint on their brain.
And the safety valve for mind pictures is this. Each child should be provided with a complete set of good pictures, true information, drawm in proper proportion, wdth w'hich to compare all new' pictures received. Good pictures are antidotes for bad ones; good suggestions are antidotes for poor ones. And if a good and sufficient dose of antidote in the form of good, mental pictures, has been given to a child by his parents or friends, first, the poison of bad pictures will have little on no effect.
But the parents must get in their suggestions first. Then the child will know what to expect, when he goes abroad in the world of wicked men. He will not be shocked and excited by new' and strange experiences, he will not be thrilled by the idea that he is doing something ‘terrible’ that no one has done before.
A mind that is empty has a space for plenty, and the world is waiting to supply
it to those who venture forth for the first time, but a mind well-filled is not so susceptible to all the new suggestions.
An Arithmetical Ananias
THE mind pictures formed by children are often weird in the extreme, and not at all what the originator intended.
The following incident sounds a bit hand-made but it really occurred in a Toronto school, recently.
A little girl went home from this school, in a state of great perturbation, one day, and said to her mother: “Mother, our teacher is a liar.”
The mother was stunned, both at the information and the words her little girl used.
“Why, Mary, that is a terrible thing to say. You shouldn’t say that.”
“Well, she is, anyway,” Mary defended herself, “all the girls say she is, too.”
“But what makes them say such an awful thing?” the mother asked, in a shocked tone.
“Well,” slowly, and with great emphasis, “yesterday, she said six and three made nine and, to-day (more emphasis) she says, five and four make nine.”
After the mother explained that nine was not limited to one combination, the atmosphere was somewhat relieved.
In the ‘golden rule’ days of a boy, too much emphasis is often placed on ‘the answer.’ So if he be inclined to take a short cut, he merely turns to the back of the book, when he thinks the master is not looking, and digs up ‘the answer’.
Later in life, the same boy delves into the capacious pockets of his Government or the bank where he is employed, and extracts a tidy sum, and thinks he has found ‘the answer.’ Instead, however, he is soon aware of the stern fart that he has found time—for a little retrospection.
I) he had learned that ‘the answer’ was of relatively little importance, compared with the value of the manner in which he obtained it, how different would be the suggestion which he would receive from that knowledge.
“It is not the answer, but your getting it right, that counts,” said a wise teat her, and the boy who heard, listened, and listening, never forgot.
Not long ago, a great preacher, in quoting Napoleon, said: “Alexander,
Caesar and I founded our kingdoms on force, and they are all gone. But,” he added, “the kingdom of Jesus is founded on love and it has endured throughout the centuries.”
A father suggests to his child that he rules by force, by the mere fact that he is of greater size, and capable of inflicting painful punishment, and that child submits, more or less grudgingly, to that power, so long as it lasts. But there comes a day when that power begins to weaken, and in just so much the father’s power over the child is gone. As his force grows less and less, his power grows weaker and weaker, and his place in his kingdom is gone.
On the other hand, a father suggests that he rules by love, that where the boy cannot understand he may take it for granted that his father’s only desire is for the best, and that he is asked to trust him. Then, as the father’s physical powers grow weaker, his hold over his boy becomes all the stronger as he feels that his turn has now come to show love and care.
“Gee,” a mischievous little fellow said to an adored teacher, one day, “why did n’t you tell us you had a headache, and we would have been good?”
Each and every grown up is an artist who paints with vivid and ever lasting colors, pictures in the minds of the children who surround him. But, unlike those of the artist who paints on canvas, these pictures cannot be blotted out or relegated to an attic room, but must all remain always on exhibition, living pictures, breathing daily the life story of those children, in whose minds they have been painted.