Children - The Time And Place
( Originally Published 1916 )
LITTLE. Ruth, who threw her brother's new baseball about until it went crashing through the window, was really a very nice little girl, and no wicked thought had ever entered her head. She admired her big brother and his friends, and it was natural for her to imitate what she had seen them do. There is no disputing the damage done to the window. But this dam-age was hardly compensated by the damage done to Ruth by the scolding she received for her " naughtiness." If window and brit-a-brat were saved from future destruction at the hands of Ruth and her throwing, it was at the cost of suppressing the girl's impulse to throw. A wiser course would have been to impress Ruth with the harm that comes—not from throwing balls, but from throwing balls in a house, or in the neighborhood of windows.
A class of children at school, in passing from the assembly to the recitation room, had to go through the gymnasium. One of the boys started to climb up a pole, and soon the whole flock of sheep followed suit. When they arrived in their classroom, the teacher, who had seen the performance through the corridor, proceeded to draw a moral. She lost no time in making accusations, or in tempting the children to deny charges. She came at once to the question whether they thought it was right for them to climb the poles.
Not one child undertook to defend the conduct as right. But when she asked them " Why was it wrong to climb up the poles? " there was evident a great deal of mental confusion.
One thought it was wrong because the teacher was not there to watch them. Another, because, they had not been given permission; and a third because they had not been given directions. Several said it was wrong just because it was wrong to climb the poles. One of the children, anxious to air his views, at last declared that it was not wrong; only that was not the right time to do it.
This was just the idea the teacher had in mind, and of course the boy's answer pleased her. When she saw the child's mother a few days later, she told her of the incident ; and then the mother was also pleased, for, as she said, she had always tried to teach Harvey that most of the things he did were not wrong, but that he sometimes did perfectly proper things at the wrong time or in the wrong place. She was pleased to think that her teaching had borne fruit.
There comes a time in the life of every healthy child when keeping busy from morning until night does not use up all the energy generated in the little engine, and it is necessary to jump aimlessly up and down to get relief. But oh, how that jumping gets on our nerves ! And then the easiest thing to do is to say, " Won't you stop that jumping!" " Sit still and give me a rest ! " or words of similar import. Now it is quite practicable to make a child sit still and give the other people a rest. The question is, however, is it worth while—to do it that way? It is almost as easy to get into the child's mind the idea that jumping is lots of fun, and a perfectly legitimate exercise for the muscles and joints and heart; but that it is even more fun to do the jumping outdoors, and no fun at all to annoy the fellow inmates of the house.
And the same thing is true in regard to the running and shouting and the other acts of children that annoy older people with sensitive nerves or worries. It is not wrong for a child to do any of these things ; but there is a time and a place for all of them. It is necessary for us to teach the child which is the right time and which is the right place ; and it is also necessary for us to make sure that the child is provided with an opportunity to apply this principle—that is, there must be a place where he can do almost anything that his impulses call for, and there must be time for the free play of his impulses. Then we shall be in a position to direct as to what may or may not properly be done in the home or in the school.
A seven-year-old boy who had started to make something with his mechanical construction outfit just before bedtime, was told that he could finish it in the morning before going to school. In the morning, how-ever, he played with his brother and sister until it was time to leave. He felt that he was entitled to redeem the promise made him the evening before, for a chance to, finish his construction. His father said to him, " You used up your building time for playing. When you use time for anything, it is gone, and you cannot use it again for anything else." Nothing more was said at the time, but a week or two later the boy called his mother after he' had gone to bed. " Please bring me a book and make a light; I cannot sleep and I want to read." The mother protested that this was not the time to read, and she would not comply with his wishes. " Well, you are making me waste time," said the little logician, "father said when the time is gone you cannot use it again. It isn't right for me to waste this time." The boy's argument was very good; but the mother's answer was conclusive. " That is right, David," she said ; " do not waste any time. But when it is playing time, play as hard as you can. And when it is reading time, don't do anything but read. Now it is sleeping time, and resting time, and you must not use the time for reading or for anything else."
To everything there is a season, said the Preacher, in the childhood of the race, and a time to. every purpose under the heaven. And our children today can get the value of this teaching.