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Character Building - Self Control

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

AT the very beginning we would like to ask parents and children a few questions. What is self-control? Is it an important quality in character-building? Should it-can it-be cultivated ? Is it of value in the home, in the school, and in every-day life? (Look at the definition of the term in some good dictionary.)

A little boy once said to his teacher, "I know what self-control means-it means 'to make yourself mind."

A little boy promised to get up in the morning promptly when called. He was called, but he did not get up promptly. He lacked self-control. He promised and meant to obey, but he lacked the power to make himself mind.

We would not, of course, give much for a boy who has no temper. Temper is just as important for the boy as it is for the steel blade of a jack-knife, but it must be controlled. The boy who allows his temper to get the best of him-who cannot control it-is lacking in firmness and strength of character. Can he learn self-control? Of course he can-just as he can learn to skate-by trying again and again. The grit and perseverance that make a boy a good skater and swimmer, if applied in the right way will give him the power of self-control. There is wisdom in the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Yes, always try, try again, whether you are trying to learn self-control, or cheerfulness, or skating, or checkers.

Once on a time a large strong boy was "sassed" and insulted by a boy smaller than himself. Their teacher, who was not far away, watched to see the outcome, but said nothing. Finally the larger boy walked over to the teacher and said: "This self-control business is a pretty good thing for me. Twice I thought I would like to lick that kid for being so "sassy," but I said to myself, `Thomas, hold on to yourself! Remember self-control.'"

Self-control means many things. We will now mention only five, and let you, unknown reader, think out and look up the others. i. The avoidance of hasty and angry words. 2. The power to resist temptation when it comes. 3. The power to be calm under provocation or insult. 4. The control of temper. 5. The power to compel yourself to do the things you ought to do, and which conscience approves.

Happy the home or the school where all the members have learned self-control! This means you, teachers and parents, as well as the boys and girls. The boy who eats too much and the man who drinks too much lack self-control. The boy who shirks when he ought to do honest work, who permits his mind to dwell upon baseball or firecrackers when all its power should be given to arithmetic or grammar, lacks self-control. The man who enters a barroom when he knows it is not wise for him to do so lacks self-control.

Yes, self-control can be cultivated and it is worth while. Happy the home, we repeat, where all the members have learned this "fine art" !

As aids in the direction of self-control, we suggest the following stories and articles in our Library. Read them carefully, to catch both their plain and their hidden meaning, and to find every helpful suggestion that you can.

Under the heading "Firmness" readers will find useful references. In Volume I see "Suppose" and "Let Dogs Delight to Bark and Bite." Many of the old-fashioned stories in Volume III breathe the spirit of self-control, especially "Oyster Patties" and "The Purple Jar." In Volume IV read "Peter Rugg-The Missing Man," a powerful story of a quick-tempered character. Naturally, nearly all of the heroes in Volume VII show this quality of ruling their spirit, but we would wish every child to read in it again and again the biographies of Nathan Hale and Toussaint L'Ouverture. To the older children and adults "Training the Will," in Volume X, is highly recommended. The poetry in Volume XI contains "Marmion and Douglas," "One by One," "The Rainy Day," and The Angler," all applicable to the question of self-control. Memorize your favorite.

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