July 12, 2020

"Locke makes the very good point that 'most children’s constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.'"

"That lovely seventeenth century word ‘cockering’ means ‘to indulge or spoil.' Locke goes on to recommend that children are not too warmly wrapped up in winter, in order that they learn to endure the cold, in the manner of the Spartans. He also reckons that the shoes of children should be made deliberately leaky in order to toughen up the feet. Certainly my third son Henry, more ignored than the other two, has tough feet, and spent whole summers shoeless. Henry maintained when nine years old that ‘shoes were prisons for the feet.'... Our youngest, Henry, was born in the house with two lovely midwives, and he has grown into a solid, healthy lad. He spent his first eight years roaming the fields and rocky coves, and even from an early age he was a fast runner and a confident climber.... Henry would disappear for hours with his friend Gilbert doing God knows what in the fields. The key here was lack of parental supervision. When parents supervise, they are at some level imposing their own ideology or fantasy of country life or wild life on to their children. That’s why I have always recoiled from those adventure holidays and back-to-nature holidays for children. children. There is some damn theory or other underpinning the whole thing, like a Steineresque philosophy. They remind me of the Hitler Youth. This is what D. H. Lawrence is getting at when he says that children should be left with a lazy woman who can’t be bothered with them. Leave them alone!"

From "Why Ignoring Your Children Will Make Everyone Happier: Or, What to Neglect When You're Neglecting," Tom Hodgkinson.

Locke is the philosopher John Locke. The quote is from "Some Thoughts Concerning Education" (1690).

"Cockering" — do you like that word? Can you use it? Maybe not. The OED calls it "Now English regional."  The historical examples include this from the King James version of the Bible (1611): "Cocker thy childe, and hee shall make thee afraid." And let me give you this quote too:
1682 T. Shadwell Lancashire-witches i. 7 Dost thou think, because thy foolish Mother has Cocker d thee with morning Cawdles and afternoons Luncheons, thou art fit to make Love?
I presumed that "cawdle" was an old spelling of "cuddle," but no, it's an alternative spelling of "caudle," which is "A warm drink consisting of thin gruel, mixed with wine or ale, sweetened and spiced, given chiefly to sick people."

As for "Steineresque philosophy," there's nothing else in the book about it. I googled and guess it refers to this person — Rudolf Steiner — whose ideas are listed as "Anthroposophy, anthroposophical medicine, biodynamic agriculture, eurythmy, spiritual science, Waldorf education, holism in science."  He died in 1925 and wasn't connected to the Hitler Youth. Indeed: "In 1921, Adolf Hitler attacked Steiner on many fronts, including accusations that he was a tool of the Jews... In 1922 a lecture Steiner was giving in Munich was disrupted when stink bombs were let off and the lights switched out, while people rushed the stage apparently attempting to attack Steiner, who exited safely through a back door.... The 1923 Beer Hall Putsch in Munich led Steiner to give up his residence in Berlin..."

35 comments:

wholelottasplainin' said...

I distinctly recall Hitler asking for Steiner in that video.

mezzrow said...

There are a bunch of spaniels outside who want to know if you think they are spoiled.

They're awfully cute, but they could all use a combing out about now.

Rory said...

"Locke is the philosopher John Locke."

I wish that you didn't feel the need to point that out. He have a statue anywhere?

Bob Smith said...

Where and when I *grew up if you went outside during summer vacation with shoes on It better be Sunday and you better be on your way to Sunday School.

*Really never did. But I’m only 83 so there’s still hope.

Krumhorn said...

I'm afraid that like the word, 'niggling' which is almost unusable today, 'cockering' sounds too much like what gay guys do to each other, with or without the reach-around.

- Krumhorn

Bilwick said...

You know who believed in cockering? Ron Jeremy.

Wince said...

'most children’s constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.' That lovely seventeenth century word ‘cockering’ means ‘to indulge or spoil.'

Thanks for that clarification on behalf of those who grew-up in the Boston Archdiocese.

Ice Nine said...

The pathetic and abominable idea of the "play date" would blow Locke's mind.

Rob said...

Can you use "cockering"? Easy. "He was wearing a cockering."

Ingachuck'stoothlessARM said...

From "Why Ignoring Your Children Will Make Everyone Happier: Or, What to Neglect When You're Neglecting,"

...or: "Tips On 'Cockering Blockering' "

And wasnt 'spoiled' spelt 'spoilt' ?

Timotheus said...

The Bible quote is from the Apocrypha, so I didn't recognize it at first:
Ecclesiasticus 30:9

wholelottasplainin' said...

Asked if he liked children, the great W.C. Fields replied:

Yes, if they're properly cooked."

Dan in Philly said...

It's truly astonishing how influential the Spartans have been to intellectuals throughout history. They were such a secretive bunch that sometimes I wonder if they really led tremendously lazy and indulgent lives, and all the whole Spartan mystique was just really good propaganda, and the joke has been on history ever since.

wild chicken said...

I was neglected, I guess, by a working mom and I ran all over the place by myself at 7. She later denied she knew, but I think she did but didn't care until she was around more controlling parents.

Anyway it was wonderful while it lasted. But it gave me an inordinate love of freedom that makes commitment hard.

For words, I think "cockup" is amusing.

Oso Negro said...

Stink bombs! Sulfur or butyric acid, I wonder?

n.n said...

Welfare syndrome (e.g. spoiled-child, shared/shifted responsibility, avoidance) is a first-order cause of dysfunctional individuals, families, and relationships. Also, diversity (e.g. affirmative discrimination, selective privilege, protection rackets) dogma breeds adversity.

stevew said...

In summer my mother would kick us out of the house after breakfast on all but the most rainy of days. We were allowed back in for lunch and expected to be home for supper (5:30pm). After supper we were allowed out until dark. Dark was fungible.

With all the Covid restrictions kids are stuck hanging out with their parents all the time. Not good.

Joan said...

I read "cawdle" as a variant spelling of "coddle", which makes more sense to me in that context.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

cawdle is coddle.

Treat gently as in coddling an egg.

Jim said...

Cockering seems appropriate for the mad dogs and the Englishmen.

grimson said...

I'm all for leaving kids alone to roam fields and rocky coves, and to even get bored; but leaving them alone in a city is a bad idea. Cities aren't so good for adults, either--too many distractions.

Lucien said...

Didn’t they breed a special kind of spaniel for cockering?

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't think most kids play outside anymore. Most kids who come over start lying around and saying they're tired after a couple hours. (They have fun though, so they always come back.)

Ignorance is Bliss said...

"Cockering" — do you like that word? Can you use it?

Henry would disappear for hours cockering his friend Gilbert in the fields

MikeR said...

"Locke makes the very good point that 'most children’s constitutions are either spoiled, or at least harmed, by cockering and tenderness.'" I love it when titles confuse me. I was expecting to hear about places where children got to write the Constitution, and didn't do too well. They're too tender or something.

Birkel said...

Maybe the kids wouldn't be so tired if you helped them pull down some statues.
Or are you still pretending giving an inch won't lead to a mile?

bagoh20 said...

When I'm not wanting to punch one in the mouth for having a huge tumor of self-righteousness and ignorance where gratitude and respect should be, I feel mostly sad for kids today. All the best things of childhood have been made off limits to them - stolen really. It's a crime so heinous it's almost impossible to overstate. You never get a second shot at childhood, and it is so important to who you become, and that's on top of it being the best time of your life almost unrelated to the quality of your family's finances or status. How do you make up for robing a person of the most magical thing life life will ever give you: the challenges and rewards of growing up.

bagoh20 said...

"Can you use it?"

Darling, I feel a sudden emptiness. Possibly your cockering has fallen off and is failing to uphold it's responsibilities.

I'm Not Sure said...

"In summer my mother would kick us out of the house after breakfast on all but the most rainy of days. We were allowed back in for lunch and expected to be home for supper (5:30pm). After supper we were allowed out until dark. Dark was fungible."

Same here but seeing as how I grew up in SoCal, rain was pretty much out of the question in the summertime.

wholelottasplainin' said...

I also distinctly remember the journo Alexander Cockburn insisting that his name be pronounced
Coburn.

Wonder why...?

Ann Althouse said...

"I wish that you didn't feel the need to point that out. "

Huh?! The last name appears without more. How could anyone know it's a specific Locke? Could have been somebody else with that name.

tim in vermont said...

Sounds so lovely. This is how a lot of us were raised, when neighborhoods were stable, and moms stayed home and watched each other’s kids via the yenta-net. It can be overdone. Tom Sawyer? Just right, Huck Finn? Overdone.

Bob said...

Coddle is also found in mollycoddle, which can be used as a noun or a verb; for the noun version they (Google Dictionary) use a quote from Hall of Fame baseball player Ty Cobb: "Baseball is a game for red-blooded men and mollycoddles better stay out of it."

Michael said...

Rudolf Steiner most certainly was NOT involved with the Hitler Youth-- besides already being dead by then, the Waldorf school movement was shut down by the Nazis as representing everything they hated (free thinking, anti-bigotry etc.* I get this author's point about having no program for kids running free, but the Waldorf program of allowing great hunks of free play time comes fairly close to what he wants, I think. I sure never had as wild and unplanned a camping experience as my kids had through their Waldorf school.


* At my kids' school, someone once described it, pretty accurately, as "traditional Christian education for atheists, Jews and New Age weirdos."

Guildofcannonballs said...

"He have a statue anywhere?"

He has many in my mind good sir, and soon the world. Fear not.