Irving's narrator describes Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as a "conscientious man, [who] ever bore in mind the golden maxim, 'Spare the road and spoil the child.'" However, Crane has his own way of distributing the discipline: he takes the "burthen off the backs of the weak, and lays it on those of the strong." That Ichabod passes by the thin who wince at the flourish of a rod, but gives full justice to those who a tough and "wrong-headed." All of this Crane calls doing "his duty by their parents." Yet, when school hours are over, Ichabod is the playmate of the larger boys, and on holidays he sometimes takes the little ones home, especially if they have pretty sisters or good homemakers for mothers; in this way he gets to eat a good supper. For, though lank, Ichabod Crane is a voracious eater.
With the adults, Crane is ingratiating and obsequious--not at all as he is with the children. When around the mothers, he pets the young children, even bouncing them on his knee; sometimes he rocks a cradle with his foot. All these things Ichabod Crane does so that he can have an "easy life of it." Because he gets fed and invited into the comfort of their homes, Ichabod is affectionate with the children and most respectful of the matriarchs. When they grow to like him, the parents have their children take lessons in singing from him. Clearly, it is profitable for Ichabod Crane to act very politely and be cheerful with the children in this lightly sadistic tale.