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Parenthood And Child Nurture

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



THE STUDY OF THE CHILD

To most parents the study of the child is an engrossing pastime. The first cry, the dawning smile, the sound that resembles ma-ma, the waving of the tiny hand, the early attempts to toddle are strange and unexpected phenomena when they appear. Often there has been no intelligent child study either preceding or accompanying the child's advent in the home. Consequently the parent does not know what to look for or when to look for it. In other words there is no chart that helps the father or the mother to tell whether the child's progress is normal, and they lack any knowledge as to how they may guide his development. While parents need to study the behavior of their own children in order to understand them since no two children are alike, they need to check that study by the study of childhood for which there are today many fine sources.

RESOURCES OF CHILD STUDY

More than a score of years ago G. Stanley Hall introduced formally a new subject, child study. It has increased in popularity steadily until to-day there are hundreds of books, pamphlets and magazine articles available under this general heading. Only a part of this material is thoroughly scientific because the observations of children have not been sufficiently accurate, have not ex-tended over a long enough period of time, and have not included enough children to warrant the generalizations that are made. However, every effort has had its influence in calling attention to childhood and in setting this period of life apart from the adult world for contemplation and appreciation. Gradually a body of fairly re-liable information has been built up to which parents may turn for help and enlightenment in the care of their children.

FICTION AN AID

There has also developed a distinct type of fiction picturing the life of the child; Emmy Lou, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Understood Betsy, Penrod are favorite stories of this kind. These tales are full of the quaint humor, the vivid imagination, the engrossing interests, the comedies and tragedies of. childhood, and touching as they do the emotions of the adult, they aid greatly in helping him to enter the kingdom of child-hood. Then there are the poems about little children by Field, Riley, Longfellow and others, all of which con-tribute toward a loving appreciation of the small sinner who creates the bear that "Alex ist killed his own self," or the small saint who slips off to dreamland with "Wynken, Blynken and Nod." It pays to spend time upon this literature, for nothing else will enable one to come so close in feeling to the little child.

YOUR OWN CHILDHOOD

Every grown-up was a child himself at one time although many adults seem to forget this fact. They do not remember the day when in pink sunbonnet or straw hat they sneaked out of the back door and away to the fields or the meadows in search of wild flowers or butterflies or berries, and hence they have no patience with the small son or daughter who seeks adventure by ways forbidden. They forget when they took apart the clock or the music box or velocipede, and the wrath of the gods is invoked upon the meddlesome youngster who tries this experiment. The grown-up has little sympathy with the curiosity and wander-lust of the young, although at one time his behavior as well as the behavior of every other child showed similar manifestations. It is necessary to understand in order to deal wisely in checking any undesirable act on the part of the child. Many a child remembers with bitterness a deserved punishment not because of the punishment but because his motive was not appreciated. He 'was gripped by some powerful instinct, and his father judged him wilfully disobedient. Let us recall our own childhood in the lives of our children and be charitable, while with a firm hand we lead the way out of forbidden paths.

OBSERVATION OF CHILDREN

Not only should the father and mother study their own children but they can gain added insight by watching other children. The street, the cars, the stores, the play-grounds and the parks are excellent observation centers. There will be points of resemblance and of difference. The resemblances will serve to temper any imagined superiority of one's own offspring as well as to mitigate any exaggerated sense of his depravity. Your child will be more understandable as you see him in the light of the universal child. A careful observation of other children will, however, reveal a multitude of differences. Physical differences such as color of hair, stature, shape of hands and feet because so evident are easily recognized. The great mental differences not so outwardly apparent have been a subject for conjecture and have never until quite recently been taken seriously or properly considered in butterflies or berries, and hence they have no patience with the small son or daughter who seeks adventure by ways forbidden. They forget when they took apart the clock or the music box or velocipede, and the wrath of the gods is invoked upon the meddlesome youngster who tries this experiment. The grown-up has little sympathy with the curiosity and wander-lust of the young, although at one time his behavior as well as the behavior of every other child showed similar manifestations. It is necessary to understand in order to deal wisely in checking any undesirable act on the part of the child. Many a child remembers with bitterness a deserved punishment not because of the punishment but because his motive was not appreciated. He was gripped by some powerful instinct, and his father judged him wilfully disobedient. Let us recall our own childhood in the lives of our children and be charitable, while with a firm hand we lead the way out of forbidden paths.

OBSERVATION OF CHILDREN

Not only should the father and mother study their own children but they can gain added insight by watching other children. The street, the cars, the stores, the play-grounds and the parks are excellent observation centers. There will be points of resemblance and of difference. The resemblances will serve to temper any imagined superiority of one's own offspring as well as to mitigate any exaggerated sense of his depravity. Your child will be more understandable as you see him in the light of the universal child. A careful observation of other children will, however, reveal a multitude of differences. Physical differences such as color of hair, stature, shape of hands and feet because so evident are easily recognized. The great mental differences not so outwardly apparent have been a subject for conjecture and have never until quite recently been taken seriously or properly considered in planning a program of education for the child. It has required recent psychological tests and experiments to reveal the individual differences that do exist as well as the cause for these differences in a highly differentiated nervous mechanism which varies from child to child. We might say that we have one type "man" as distinguished from the animals, but within that type, although we have several rough divisions as exceptional, good, average, fair and poor, there is really an infinite shading from one group to another and in every characteristic and ability possessed by any individual in any one of these groups. These variations are of course due to different ancestry, race, sex, maturity and training. Any child who is markedly different from other children, slower, keener, with some physical handicap, should be taken to a clinical psychologist for examination. Parents can often profit immeasurably by such advice, saving time, energy and sometimes shipwreck in the home and school education. Every child should be considered to some extent a separate problem and treated accordingly. A note of warning needs to be sounded here, however; to be a separate problem does not mean to be a law unto himself allowed to develop without proper relation to the other members of the family and cooperation with them.

QUALITIES OF THE GOOD OBSERVER

There are certain qualities that mark the good observer. The first of these is sympathy. In the presence of an unsympathetic person no little child is ever himself, for children are keenly sensitive to atmosphere and have an almost uncanny power of recognizing their friends. A young kindergartner told of the naive conversation which her niece of seven had held with a little friend as they played with their dolls near the chair where she sat sewing. She said that the child's mother was amazed when the conversation was repeated to her; she said, "I never hear the children talk like that. They always stop when I come around." The observer should be fair, and unprejudiced either in favor of the child or against him. She should have no preconceived notions as to the intelligence, the temperament or the conduct of the child. She must not even permit what she has read in child psychologies or child study books to prevent the recognition of new truth concerning the individual child or children in general. To be a good observer one needs the ability to control self so as not to enter into the situation fully enough to lose perspective. It is especially difficult for parents to extract themselves sufficiently from the intimacy of relationship to the child to see him as other people see him, to stand aside quietly and watch the child reveal himself in play and work both alone and with other children. They need this comparison in order to appreciate truly the strong and the weak points of their child. Of course most parents err in over-estimating their child, but a goodly number steadily underestimate; and as appreciation is one of the greatest factors in development the former failing is less likely to injure the child than the latter. Not only is self-control essential to the student of childhood but concentration also and accurate observation. In order to understand the development of the child in any particular we must follow it painstakingly over a period of days or weeks or months or years, whether it be the growth of a vocabulary, the acquisition of the walking or skipping coordination, or social responses to other children. Moreover, the development of the one child needs to be checked up by the development of other children.

ACCURATE RECORDS OF CHILDREN

The matter of accurate observation suggests the contribution which any parent may make to the child study movement if he will keep an accurate record of the growth of his own child in any particular and will make daily notations as he observes changes. He must, however, analyze the causes in the condition of the child or in the surrounding environment including the people which may be responsible for these changes. Such observation lifts parenthood out of the drudgery, if it is ever so considered, into the interest of a science, for parents may make the greatest contributions to the science of child development since they have unparalleled opportunities for observation. Many of the most valuable contributions up to the present time have been made by parents who are also educators.

PLAN OF THE PRESENT VOLUME

In this volume it is the plan to aid the study of the parent by presenting a summary of the facts of child development during the full period of childhood from birth to eleven years. This period has generally been divided into four secondary periods; infancy from birth to three years of age, early childhood from three to six years, middle childhood from six to eight years, and later childhood from eight to eleven years. The children within these subdivisions have certain characteristics in common which make it convenient to classify in this fashion. It must be understood, however, that each period overlaps the pre-ceding and the following one; and that children within these periods differ from one another, as we have said before, in every single quality and characteristic, physical differences being but an index of mental and moral-social differences. In each instance we shall present the physical characteristics with their implications as to physical needs and possibilities and how to meet them in the home education ; the instinctive equipment and the opportunities there; the mental activity and its guidance; and the spontaneous interests which afford the point of attack for education. We shall also add one chapter on the technique needed by the parent who uses in the home the agencies for child development involved in story-telling, in music, in the manual arts, and in games and dramatic plays.

While in the study of the developing child the attempt is made to stress physical, mental and moral-social education under separate headings, they are so unified in the normal growth of the child that almost every response has implications for all three. For instance the consideration of fear in the life of the child has a pronounced bearing upon his physical, mental, moral-social and religious training. If we define religion as a mode of living based upon the standard of Jesus "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as your-self," then religious education must concern itself with the establishment of attitudes, ideals, standards, and habits that are moral-social. It will have to do not only with the child's relationship to God but also with his relationship to God's creation, chiefly to his fellows. In the period of infancy which will be studied first little direct religious instruction can be given because as we shall see clearly later and as our own observation has already witnessed the child is not mentally mature enough to receive it. There is, however, as will be pointed out from time to time, the opportunity to lay the basis in the atmosphere of the home, the attitude of the parents, and in the happy experiences of daily living for an abiding faith in and love for God when later the concept of God may be more fully developed.

SUGGESTIONS FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY

1. Read such books as Fireside Child Study and Beckonings from Little Hands, by Patterson DuBois, and Misunderstood Children, by Elizabeth Harrison, to see how much sorrow may come into the happy period of childhood because truly loving parents do not understand their children.

2. Compare your own childhood memories with those in Part III of Child Life in Prose, edited by John G. Whit-tier. Mr. Whittier gathered together the early childhood memories of such men as Charles Dickens, Hans Andersen, Walter Scott and others. How is a study of this sort valuable to our children of to-day?

3. Of what use to both teachers and parents are the mental tests which are being given to school children by specialists in the subject? Are such tests given in the schools with which you are most familiar? Why should such tests never be given except by an experienced psychologist? Why must the results be accepted with reserve?

4. Why are the following qualities necessary if one is to observe children helpfully : (1) Sympathy, (2) An unbiased attitude, (3) Self-control, (4) Power of intense concentration, and (5) "Stick-to-itiveness"?

REFERENCES

BOLTON, Principles of Education, 302-321.

HALLAM, Studies in Child Development, 190-224.

KING, The Psychology of Child Development, Introduction, 9-15. KIRKPATRICK, Fundamentals of Child Study, Chapters I and III. NORSWORTHY & WHITLEY, Psychology of Childhood, Chapter XVII.

READ, The Mother Craft Manual, 223-245. STRAYER AND NORSWORTHY, How to Teach, 150-169. 8

THE STUDY OF THE CHILD 9

TANNER, The Child, 9-17.

TERMAN, The Measurement of Intelligence, Chapters I and II. WADDLE, Introduction to Child Psychology.

WARNER, The Study of Children, 1-15; 52-118.

SUPPLEMENTARY READING AS A GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO CHILD STUDY

Anne of Green Gables, Ellen Montgomery.

A Study of Child Nature, Elizabeth Harrison.

Beckonings from Little Hands, Patterson DuBois.

Emmy Lou, George Madden Martin.

In the Morning Glow, Roy Rolfe Gilson. Jeremy, Hugh Walpole.

Love and Law in Child Training, Emilie Poulsson.

Misunderstood Children, Elizabeth Harrison.

Mothers and Children, Dorothy Canfield Fisher.

Poems of Childhood, Eugene Field.

Poems of Children, Riley, Longfellow, Whittier, Guest, Rossetti, Stevenson.

The Crescent Moon, Tagore.

The Golden Age, Kenneth Grahame.

Understood Betsy, Dorothy Canfield Fisher.



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