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Child Training

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



SUBMISSION.-The natural impulse of every creature is to do whatever comes into his head, that is-to do as he likes. The first lesson in behavior that a human creature has to learn is that he must always do, not just what he likes, but what is best for him. Sometimes this is also what he likes. When it is not, he must learn to submit. So, the first thing that a baby must learn, by experience, is that he must lie in his bed almost all the time no matter how much he likes to be taken up; etc.

Obedience.-Next he must learn that passive submission when he cannot help himself is not enough. He must do of his own will, many things which he does not just like to do. So, the next thing which he must learn is to stop when his mother says "No! No!"

Self-control.-Afterwards he must learn not to do what his mother would say "No! No!" to, if she were present. That is, he must learn self-control. He must not take the sugar even if Mother is not looking.

SECOND YEAR

Imitation.-We are commonly told that all which a child learns, he learns by imitation of his elders. But this is not so. A child does not begin to imitate any one, until he has learned to use all his muscles and senses and has found out how to do many simple things with them. Then he begins to look around for more things to do. It is then that the idea of imitating dawns upon him. Then he begins to learn to talk, not merely to make noises. Then, and not till then, you can begin to teach him by showing how you and other people do things.

Reasonableness.-As soon as a child begins to understand a few little words, and long before he can express himself in sentences, you can begin to explain the reasons for your commands. "Baby, no, no touch stove! Burny, burny!" This is the way to draw out his reasonableness.

Self-amusement.-Every one ought to be full of resources, able to amuse himself when there is no one else to be had. So a little child should be left to itself a great deal, to invent its own amusements. Of course it should be given some simple things to play with, but a grown person or an older child should not spend precious time "amusing the baby!" The baby should amuse itself. Besides, an older person, child or adult, always plays with more ideas than the child himself would naturally have. It is impossible for any one older to be as simple as a child really is. So the society of older playmates is a very exciting thing to a child, and he should have but very little of it. This applies to story-telling as well as to games. Many conscientious mothers over-excite their children by being over-devoted to them.

THIRD YEAR

Self-direction.-In all his own small affairs, where he cannot do himself any harm, a child should have perfect freedom of choice. He should choose for himself which path he will take, which hand he will put first into his coat, what toy he will take to bed, etc. And even when you are quite sure that he will not like it when he gets it, let him have it and find out for himself-unless some real harm will come. If he wants salt in his milk, let him put some into part of his milk and he will learn for himself very quickly how disagreeable it is. Your statement against it would not teach him or even convince him.

Courage.-A child should begin early to try to conquer his natural fears, whatever they may be. These are different in different children. Some are afraid of strange people, others of strange places. Some shrink from any new experience. Others are afraid of animals. Some are terrified by swift motion or loud noise or by the very idea of pain. Each fear springs from some inner condition of the child, from sensitive brain-centers, or delicate nerves in one organ or another. These fears must be overcome by self-control. But a child who is possessed of fears cannot be cured all at once by forcing him into violent contact with the thing he hates. He must be helped by explanations, by encouragement, by being shielded as far as possible from the extreme forms of his "bugbears," and by feeling the sympathy and moral support of his mother while he is trying to face the milder forms. But courage he must learn, for fear is the most weakening of all emotions, and he who has not courage cannot get through this difficult and dangerous world at all.

Kindness.-Until a child is nearly three years he seldom has imagination enough to begin to be really kind. You may teach him not to pull the cat's tail. But that will be because he is obedient, or else because he is afraid of being scratched. When he is nearly three, he can begin to imagine how it would feel to be pussy and have his tail pulled. This is the beginning of kindness. And kindness is the basis of all the social virtues -politeness, gentleness, etc., and also of cheerfulness, unselfishness, trustworthiness, sense of responsibility, honor, chivalry, democracy, and self-sacrifice. If the imagination is not early used in guessing how other people feel and in trying to make them feel happy, it will prove dull indeed in later life, when the tasks of kindness are so much more puzzling.

FOURTH YEAR

Cheerfulness.-As before said, cheerfulness is a duty to one's neighbor. Incidentally it is also essential to the best condition of one's own health, happiness, and usefulness. A child should be helped and urged and joked into cheerfulness. Children incline to make much of small woes, because they have no sense of proportion. But they can learn that sense faster if they are helped cheerfully.

Sincerity.-This is the beginning of truthfulness. Treat a child always with sincerity and seriously, as he treats himself. Then he will not learn to pretend with you, in order to please you or to avoid being laughed at. A little child is naturally entirely sincere. But, like all helpless creatures, it quickly learns deceit and affectation, if it is not treated with fairness and kindness.

Unselfishness.-This is singularly easy for some natures and difficult for others. In the first place some natures have much more imagination than others: they are more able to see what others probably want. Some again have much more natural de-sire to please than others: such children will be unselfish merely for the pleasure of pleasing. Again, some have much keener and more concentrated desires and affections than others: such children find yielding much more difficult. What appears to be selfishness is therefore oftenest a mere lack of the necessary knowledge and interest. It is a negative state. Selfishness is not positive, until it includes an active wish to deprive one's neighbor of an obvious good. Wherefore, do not call a child selfish. Simply teach him how to be unselfish. Never mind about giving it a name.

FIFTH YEAR

Truthfulness.-Telling the truth is very difficult. It seems easy when you happen to know the truth clearly yourself, and you have no reason for wishing it was not so. When you see your little girl slap her playmate and call names, you are horrified if she tells you she "didn't slap and it was the other little girl who called names." But, as a matter of fact, she may really have been so excited that she did not know exactly what she did do, and so ashamed of her excitement that she hates to try to remember. It is absolutely important that she should learn to notice what she is about and to remember clearly what happens, and to tell accurately what she remembers. But the way to help her learn this very difficult skill is, not to frighten her by blame and scoldings, but to help her to remember quietly and to have the courage to face the truth even when it disgraces herself. Also show her on every possible occasion what harm of many sorts comes about, when other people fail to tell the truth whether they mean to or not. The more imaginative and the more sensitive a child is, the more difficult truth-telling is. So it is not a virtue to be inculcated by blows and alarms, but by explanations and assistance.

Trustworthiness.-This virtue, like all others, comes very slowly, and it comes more slowly to lively natures than to quiet ones. You must begin early by putting small trusts in proportion to the capacity of each child. Be very careful to give those who find it difficult a chance to learn. In many families the quiet steady ones get all the chances to be trusted, and the careless ones are never given trusts to practise on. Let every child have some bundle to carry when you travel, but do not give the lunch or the purse to the heedless one. Send forgetful children on easy errands, etc.

Independence.-All that was said above about self-direction is equally true of independence. A child must be independent, that is, dependent upon himself in all the things which he is capable of managing and understanding. But he must be obedient and submissive in the things which transcend his skill or comprehension. The more independence you accustom him to practise in his own sphere, the more willing he will be to accept your authority in the things which you obviously understand better.

SEVENTH YEAR

Reserve about Private and Personal Matters.-One has to begin even younger than this, to try to make a child practise delicacy in mentioning his physical needs and ailments. But most children are six years old before you can give them the feeling of delicacy, and make them understand that it is not nice to talk to outsiders about any affairs which are purely private in their interest. Some things are only suitable for the doctor and Mother. Other things are just for the family, etc. This helps, also, to prepare for a sense of official honor.

Sense of Responsibility.-This is the more advanced form of trustworthiness and independence. It comes with the increased sense of inner life.

EIGHTH YEAR

Respect.-You may secure behavior in a child of three, which expresses respect, but the real feeling of respect cannot come until the child's imagination is active enough to sense the wide difference between his own incapacities and the powers of his elders. So one must not wonder at the curious impudence of small children. It must be checked, but real respect cannot come till later. Respect is a consequence of appreciation. One cannot ask for it at all, unless one has done something to deserve it.

NINTH YEAR

Loyalty to Persons.-Loyalty is one of the indispensable virtues. The power and will to stick to what we admire and believe in, no matter how hard that may make our life-this is the central essential of a useful, noble life, and it lies at the core of happiness, too. The first loyalty possible is loyalty to persons whom we love. Later we demand that they be also persons whom we can admire, for we weary of following what we cannot be proud of. Later still, we learn that even the finest person is sometimes a disappointing guide, and so we learn to try to be loyal to principle, even if it separates us from our friends. Latest of all we come to our ideals, upon which and for which principles are built. To those we can give passionate unending devotion, for they have no variableness.

Refinement.-Children who are brought up with gentleness and consideration are almost inevitably refined and nice in their feelings and talk. They do not need to have their attention called to the beauty of refinement, until they come in contact with children who are coarse and vulgar. Then it becomes necessary to show them how unlovely and unworthy such talk and feelings are.

TENTH YEAR

Sense of Personal Honor.-The feeling of honor is so large and abstract that it is scarcely fair to talk about it to a young hild. But by the time a child is nine years old, his ideas should be large enough to see the meaning of guarding his own honor, so that no one need ever fear that act of his has wronged a living soul. "Honor," said an old poet, "is the finest sense of justice that the human mind can frame. It guards the way of life from all offence, suffered or done."

Help him to be scrupulous in the keeping of promises-in standing by agreements, appointments, and engagements of all sorts. "A promise must not be broken; it must not even be altered or withdrawn, without the knowledge and willing con-sent of the other party. If you say you will be there, be there. If you agree to do certain work for a certain pay, do it all (and a little more besides if you can). If you engage to run a race, do not give up because you think the other fellow will beat. Do not be a "quitter"! Teach him this by your own practice, and by what you expect of him.

Precision in Execution.-Of course, we try to have the children do right whatever they do, even when they are very little. But real precision is not possible until they have full control of all their small muscles and of all their own intentions. So we have to wait until they are about nine years old, before we can set them a standard of real perfection in the tasks they have to do. They should have tasks within their power and do them really well. The thing most needed in business and all practical life is people who will do a thing right the first time-so that it will not have to be done over again.

ELEVENTH YEAR

Reverence.-This is the more spiritual form of respect. We respect the things which we have seen. We reverence the things which we have not seen-the invisible beauties of character that make men noble, the things of the spirit, the things that are sacred.

Perseverance with Long Plans.-Little children have not experience or imagination enough to think far ahead. But no one can live wisely and well in a civilized state without the habit of making long plans sensibly. Ten years old is none too early to begin trying to make sensible plans and sticking to them. Encourage children in their pet schemes, and help them to plan successfully.

TWELFTH YEAR

Loyalty to Principle.-This is the wider stage of loyalty. No longer urge a child to do right because it will please you or be like some one else. Show him the principle and make him proud to be loyal to that.

THIRTEENTH YEAR

Chivalry.-By the time a boy is twelve years old, he should have known for several years that we are all born of woman. And he should now learn, if he has not learned before, that men have that life-giving power which makes it possible for women to bear children. And he should feel clearly that the possession of children, which is the greatest blessing that a man and woman can gain, is possible only through great self-devotion in the mother. Also he should very soon understand the terrible unavoidable tragedy of life for a woman who has a child and is without the protection of the child's father. This knowledge will of itself breed the feeling of chivalry in almost any boy. But almost any boy needs to be shown how he can express this feeling in little every-day ways. He can raise his hat to every woman, in silent expression of the tenderness he feels toward her womanhood. He can offer her a chair, or a seat in public places, recognizing that she may need it much more than he does. In various other ways, he can begin to take the attitude of protection and physical responsibility toward girls and women, which will lead him later to guard them zealously and scrupulously from all masculine offence, in others or himself.

Womanliness.-A girl of twelve, on the other hand, should recognize her own woman-function quite as clearly but in a different light. She should feel that this power of bringing life into the world is a wonderful privilege, worth all that it can cost a woman, and that the sacrifice and suffering bring a high gladness which only a woman can understand. She should think of herself as having a high calling, for which she must keep her-self pure and strong, unspotted and without weakness. The physical trials she need not think about. In the end they will seem to her only incidental. The beauty and singularity of her privilege should make her humbly in love with womanliness.

FOURTEENTH YEAR

Sense of Official Honor.-One of the commonest failings of well-meaning people is a failure to understand the special extra reserves and silences which special circumstances demand of them. A youth must begin early to learn that each special position has its own proper code of honor. Special knowledge demands special reticence. For instance, a boy may speak freely to his playmate about the obvious faults of "old Smith" who lives around the corner. But he must not discuss his own father's faults with any one. In his official capacity as son, he owes a loyal reticence. A boy who begins by being careful in these ways will scarcely grow up to babble the secrets of his employer, or be dishonorable in public office.

FIFTEENTH YEAR

Democratic Spirit.-From their earliest years children, of course, should hear their elders talk in a democratic spirit. When the father and mother talk about the character of an acquaintance or of a stranger, they should always pass judgment on solid grounds. Honorable dealing and fidelity should rank highest. Kindness, generosity, and unselfishness, come next. Cleverness and talent of all sorts count for something; but good looks, clothes, houses, horses, motor cars, elegant entertaining and all such matters, are merely amusing additions to the person himself, and no child should ever get the impression that his parents think them of importance. But young children should not be taught to be tolerant of other children who have low standards of behavior. They should condemn wrong in others just as heartily as you want them to condemn it in themselves. Tolerance, the excusing of people's faults on the ground that they know no better, is not properly understood by children. It is most apt to make them little snobs, condescending to those who have not had their own advantages. Or it makes them think that after all these things cannot be so very wrong, if Mother says other children must not be blamed for them. To teach tolerance, we must wait until the child has enough imagination to see the difference in different people's surroundings, and to understand how complicated is the problem of living aright. After they are fifteen, they can begin to understand that people must be blamed and praised, not merely according to what they are, but according to what they might have been. They must begin to appreciate the responsibility which their own excel-lent opportunity puts upon them of being worthy. The democratic spirit gives every one a chance and then expects him to use it well.

SIXTEENTH YEAR

Sense of Relative Values in Moral and Social Distinctions.-This virtue has no short name, but it is very important. We need to grow up with a habit of easily distinguishing between the value of clean speech and the value of a ready compliment. Decency has a moral value; "blarney" has only a social value. Telling the truth is a moral necessity; wearing fashionable clothes has merely a social advantage, it is never a duty. Girls especially are apt to get an exaggerated idea of the relative importance of the social "virtues." Both girls and boys should know by practical instinct, bred by the family habits, that wherever a moral consideration clashes with a social demand, the social demand must always give way as a matter of course. It is very nice to entertain your friends, but it is very wrong to run into debt in order to please them.

SEVENTEENTH YEAR

Loyalty to Ideals.-This is the highest, truest, most enduring kind of loyalty. An ideal is a picture in one's mind of what is best to be and do and have.

You admire Mrs. A. because she is so faithful and hardworking, but you are disappointed to find that she is cross to her children. Mrs. B. is loving and gentle but she lets her house-keeping go at loose ends. Mrs. C. is brave and cheerful but she neglects both her house and her children. So you conclude that it is best to be faithful and loving and brave-all three. You make a picture to yourself of what such a woman would be like. That is your ideal. You cannot find a real woman so perfect, but you would like to see one and you would like to be one. If you are loyal to your ideal, you try to be, each day, as like your ideal as you can. And presently, after ten years perhaps, people begin to wonder what makes you so much more faithful and loving and brave than most women are. It is because you are being loyal to your ideals.

So, likewise, with what is best to do. You know that it is best to do your plain duty first and quickly; and to leave as much time as may be to enjoy wholesome pleasure with your children, and with your husband if he is so fortunate as to think so too.

A part of the leisure time, too, should go to helping on good things outside home. You know of no one who does the very best that you can imagine in these ways. You make an ideal life in your imagination. This becomes a very beautiful and a very dear guide to you. Then, if you are loyal to this ideal of what to do, you try steadily to live up to it. By and by, your life comes to resemble your ideal.

Concerning what is best to have, an ideal is harder to attain. To be loyal to that ideal is even harder still. So many things seem best! Cleanliness and tidiness, space enough in the house and out of doors, books and pictures, education, hired household help, horses and automobiles, nice clothes-all these things are good to have and the best of each seems the best to have! I do not mention money, because money is not good to have; it is merely good to help us have the things we want. But the more money we have to get the things with, the harder it is to decide what is really the best to get. If you have a clear ideal, however, the choice becomes easier, though it is never simple. First, of course, good friends and good food; then next, cleanliness and tidiness. This is the best thing to have-the most absolutely necessary to comfort and health, not too much, but just enough cleanliness to be sanitary and just enough tidiness to be comfortable and convenient!

Second, space enough in the house and out of doors. Always have as much space as you can afford, so that the family need not run against each other too closely and constantly. Third, books and pictures. With a few good books and a few good pictures, if he takes an interest in them, one can get along very well without an "education." Fourth, education. An education as elaborate as one has the ability to use well, is an excellent help to usefulness and development. But it is not nearly so important as the first three good things. Fifth, hired household help. Many a woman longs for this, when she has not the four better things for herself and her children. The only good of hiring help is in order to do some other very useful things which one can do better or at least as well. Sixth, horses and automobiles. I put these before nice clothes, be-cause with them one can do so many pleasant things, and see so many things and people worth seeing. Seventh, and far in the rear, nice clothes. Of course one must have clothes of some sort, and they must be clean and tidy and not very queer. It is good to have them pretty, too, if that does not take too much time. But money put upon clothes ends in the clothes. Put on any of the other six things, it brings a long train of other valuable things behind. Such practical things as these do not seem the stuff from which to make an ideal. Yet to live loyally according to this grading of values takes courage and foresight and devotion. It takes all that one can gather of faithfulness, love, and bravery. It takes, too, all the wisdom that one can acquire.

Such are the ideals of what is best to be and to do and to have. Happy the woman who learns to make such pictures and live in their presence. Happier she who has, to guide and aid her in such a life, the light and strength of true religious faith.

EIGHTEENTH YEAR

Sense of Responsibility toward Humanity.-Much is said nowadays about social service, love of humanity, universal brotherhood; but this aspect of things should not be thrust upon children. Until they have learned to be loving and tolerant toward their brothers in the flesh whom they see every day, they are in no position to understand or practise tolerance and love toward their human brothers whom they have not seen. When, however, they are close upon maturity, it is time they began to understand this larger appeal.

NINETEENTH YEAR

Idea of Self-culture.-Last of all should they take up the idea of self-culture. One's duty toward oneself must ever be merely the second consideration. So a concern about self-development should come, consciously, only after all other duties have been definitely accepted. Yet this, too, is a duty; and when the time comes that the mother and father can no longer direct the child's occupations so as to give it the best personal development, then the child, now almost grown up, must take up the task, and learn the duty of giving self the best wholesome pleasures and enlarging opportunities, compatible with duty to others. The fullest usefulness cannot be given without the fullest development.



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