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Character Building - Punctuality

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

ONE of the hardest lessons a parent has to teach is that of punctuality. Perhaps one reason for this is that the mother herself is not always punctual. Many women, as well as many men, often fail to keep engagements exactly on time.

The habit of unpunctuality is a troublesome one, and it should be corrected in the home. It is here that the mother has the ruling of hours for meals, for rising, for going to bed; and when she makes her rules she should adhere to them. Breakfast at seven-thirty should not mean that the children are allowed to come straggling in anywhere from a quarter of eight to eight o'clock. Nor, if the youngsters are told to be in bed at a certain time, should they be allowed to sit up for a half-hour longer.

The habit of slow dressing is one that the mother finds hard to break. The child who is careless in this matter should be timed while he dresses himself as rapidly as he can without neglecting any part of his toilet. When he has been thus tested he may be told that he must dress within that time-limit every morning thereafter, and, if he does not, he should be reasonably punished, unless he can produce some good and sufficient reason for his tardiness. In one family the daughter of ten years of age who had proved that she could make her entire toilet in forty minutes, consumed on four mornings of each week an entire hour in performing this task, descending to the breakfast-room nearly a half-hour late. At last the mother hit upon a penalty that broke up the habit. When the child was late on account of slow dressing she was compelled to return to her room and disrobe completely, and then, beginning all over again, dress within the time originally set for her. This punishment was enforced but twice, and after that the little girl was always on time. This plan was more effectual than much scolding and many threats would have been.

A good way to enforce punctuality is to make the offender pay the penalty of his laziness. If, for instance, the child plays about the house instead of starting for school on time, insist that he himself find his scattered books and papers, and, if he is late, positively decline to write any note of excuse to principal or teacher. The fault is his own, and he should pay the price of his self-indulgence and carelessness.

But the mother must live up to her part by having meals at the hour that she promises to have them. The boy or girl who has to wait for breakfast until almost school-time should not be blamed for being late at his classes. The parent, in allowing such lack of system in her housekeeping, is inculcating habits of unpunctuality.

In some homes there is a habit of starting for church on Sunday just a few minutes late, and the little ones get to thinking that there is no especial harm in arriving at the sanctuary after service has begun. Insist that the children leaving for church or Sunday-school shall do so quite as promptly as if starting for day-school, or for some secular pleasure. When the habit of punctuality is established it is no more trouble to be ready a few minutes ahead of time than three minutes behind time. To dally at home until the church hour arrives, and then to rush off to the sanctuary and enter after service has begun, shows a lack of reverence for the sacred place and of respect for the officiating clergyman.

The reputation of being just a little late for every engagement is a harmful one, and will tell against a young man or woman going out into the world to earn a living. To be a person whom others can always count upon is to make one's self well-nigh necessary in any life-position one may select.

Throughout the Library will be found paragraphs and bits of verse emphasizing the vital need of punctuality in life, beginning with that ancient and philosophic "Cock Crows in the Morn" in Volume I. The article on "Method" in Volume IX is good. Look for the hints in "An Agreeable Guest" and "A Spirit of Love" in Volume X.

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