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Those Juniors, Part 15: Tempting to Teach, #2

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: We can learn good things from bad people. Learning the art of tempting children to good is an effectual way of bringing them into submission to Christ. By the thoughts, one can induce themselves to do something so strongly that the urge cannot be resisted. When applied for good, this is an invaluable skill.

Now, let me give you my one-hundred-dollar proof for this statement.

As I explained in the introduction to this book, into our home sixteen years ago was born a little girl who, at the age of ten months, became deaf after an attack of meningitis. Following the advice of the specialist who was caring for her, we finally procured a preschool correspondence course from the Wright Oral School in New York for $100 and began to teach our little girl to speak and lip-read. Follow carefully as I describe the steps that enabled us to teach our two-year-old deaf girl to speak her first word—”yellow.”

We found that “yellow” was chosen because of its distinctive lip movement. There is no other word that looks anything like it. Some words, “mamma” and “baba,” for instance, have identically the same lip movement.

The instructions for the first day read, “Take eight skeins of differently colored wool and have your little girl play with them as often as she will.” We started in. In two minutes she was tired and ran away. After a while we brought her back to her wool for two more minutes. As her mother went through the room, she played wool with our little girl. As I went through the room, I played wool with her. We played wool all day long.

The next day the instructions read, “Put the skeins of wool in her lap, select the yellow skein, then match the yellow wool with the yellow things around the house; the yellow flowers, the yellow dress, the yellow in the picture.” Her mother did it. I did it. We did it all day long.
The next day the instructions read, “Put the skeins of wool in her lap, select the yellow skein, match it with the yellow things around the house, then lift her little chin, until her eyes can see your lips as you say, ‘Yellow, yellow.’” Her mother did it. I did it. We matched and yellowed all day long.

The next day we were told to do all this again, except that as we said yellow we were to stand in front of a mirror with our lips speaking as close to her little face as possible. Notice, in her hand was the yellow wool, in the mirror she saw the same lip movement of the day before. Against her cheek she felt the vibration of the spoken word, and, believe it or not, before that day was over, our little two-year-old deaf girl, whose lips had been sealed to intelligent sounds up to that time, was imitating us and saying clearly and distinctly, “Yellow, yellow, yellow.”

Do you see why? The first day had been spent in placing one passive percept of wool in her mind. The next day had added the color percept to it. The third day had added the lip movement to it; the next day, the vibration. These had been repeated and repeated and repeated so often that at last that passive idea had gathered force and become an active idea, and in the process there had come an irresistible urge to imitate. We had tempted her to speak.

Following this principle, in three years we had taught her to say one hundred and fifty nouns and to recognize them when they were spoken. Then she attended an aural school for six years. Now she is in the academy with normal boys and girls, and has just finished her first year. She can carry on a conversation with anyone.

It is on this principle of being urged to imitate that all deaf children in the United States are being taught to speak.

Now do you wonder why adolescent boys are tempted to smoke? They see it on the street, in the buses, in the shops, in the magazines. They hear its “blah, blah, blah” on the radio. They smell it and see it and hear it, and smell it and see it and hear it, until, of course, they are urged to imitate.
Do you wonder why adolescent girls want to paint their fingernails and lips? It is the same process. They see it and they hear it. On the street, in the bus, in the shop, in the magazine, over the radio, and even in church, until it would be a miracle if they did not get the urge.

Only too truly the poet wrote:

“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.”

Paul has given us the formula for using this principle in tempting our children to do good. He says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, . . . honest, . . . just, . . . pure, . . . lovely, ... of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”1  And I would like to add, Not only think about them but also talk about them, read about them, sing about them, live them, put pictures of them on the walls of your home.

Paul shows that he used this principle of psychology when he says, “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”2 “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory.”3 Moses also used this principle, for he commanded, “Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”4

What tremendous power there is in these good, pure, virtuous, lovely things! And yet the following warning shows that the same power lurks in evil. “But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you.”5 Even talking about these filthy things once strengthens them, makes them easier to recall, and brings them that much nearer to becoming active ideas with an urge to imitate.

(Next week: “The Law of Substitution.”)

1. Phil. 4:8.
2. Col. 3:2.
3. 2 Cor. 3:18.
4. Deut. 6:7-9.
5. Eph. 5:3.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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