The belief that children must be punished to learn better behaviors is illogical. Children learn to roll, crawl, walk, talk, read, and other complex behaviors without a need for punishment. Why, then, wouldn’t the same gentle guidance, support, and awareness of developmental capabilities that parents employ to help their little ones learn those complex skills also work to help them learn to pet the cat gently and draw on paper instead of walls?
― L.R. Knost, Two Thousand Kisses a Day: Gentle Parenting Through the Ages and Stages
The idea of attention or contemplation, of looking carefully at something and holding it before the mind, may be conveyed early on in childhood. ‘Look, listen, isn’t that nice?’ Also, ‘Don’t touch!’ This is moral training as well as preparation for a pleasurable life. It need not depend on words, but can also be learnt from patterns of behaviour which should in any case back up the words. The far reaching idea of respect is included in such teaching. The, as it might seem, sophisticated concept of a work of art may be acquired easily. Children, if they are lucky, are invited to attend to pictures or objects, or listen quietly to music or stories or verses, and readily understand in what spirit they are to treat these apparently dissimilar things. They may also be encouraged to contemplate works of nature, which are unlike works of art, yet also like them in being “beautiful.”
―Iris Murdoch,Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals
The soul grows into lovely habits as easily as into ugly ones, and the moment a life begins to blossom into beautiful words and deeds, that moment a new standard of conduct is established, and your eager neighbors look to you for a continuous manifestation of the good cheer, the sympathy, the ready wit, the comradeship, or the inspiration, you once showed yourself capable of. Bear figs for a season or two, and the world outside the orchard is very unwilling you should bear thistles.
When two people settle into a pattern of behavior it becomes increasingly difficult to change habits. In some cases, it may be that those very habits are all that connect us.
For some people, the simple perception that there is a pattern, a hint of a cage, will be enough to make them want to fly away. For others, the pattern becomes so familiar that they will endure all manner of tortures to stay within its boundaries. The cage metaphor constructs a trap that necessitates escape or acquiescence.
There are always multiple viewpoints in any situation. In Adjoining Cells, reading down the columns produces a different result than reading across. Does one perspective offer more hope than the other?
When you grow up as a girl, it is like there are faint chalk lines traced approximately three inches around your entire body at all times, drawn by society and often religion and family and particularly other women, who somehow feel invested in how you behave, as if your actions reflect directly on all womanhood.
—M.E. Thomas, Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight
No one stepping for the first time into a room made of books can know instinctively how to behave, what is expected, what is promised, what is allowed. One may be overcome by horror–at the cluster or the vastness, the stillness, the mocking reminder of everything one doesn’t know, the surveillance–and some of that overwhelming feeling may cling on, even after the rituals and conventions are learned, the geography mapped, and the natives found friendly.