Character Building - Society
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
WHILE children are still very young they show a desire for the company of others. They want mother within call; they want other children to play with them; they want attention, and an interest in their games. All this is perfectly natural and normal, and if it is denied a child, somehow he will not thrive.
As they grow older children's parties are attractive, provided they are not so formal as to be terrifying rather than delightful. Any one who understands children at all will see that to make such parties like those of grown people, either by costly dresses or elaborate entertainment, or gorgeous decoration and supper, is to completely spoil them for a healthy child. He wants a good time, plenty to eat, funny plays, and in general a good romp, far more than anything else.
The time of social awakening, in the larger sense, comes as the child grows older. Then it is really essential that a parent recognize this as the natural thing, and work along the right lines in giving the boy or girl what is needed. Playmates should be considered, and those which seem detrimental to the good manners or morals of the child must be discouraged tactfully, and others who have genuine qualities of goodness and wholesomeness should be invited to the home to supplant them.
As a child is essentially an imitative animal, a good social life should be given just as far as possible. If he becomes accustomed early to well-bred manners in the parlor, and hears conversation which is not all idle, he will have a standard of conduct which will help him later on in choosing good society rather than that which is merely flashily attractive. If, on the other hand, his parents are careless or indifferent as to the sort of homes he frequents, the sort of parties he attends and the conversation he hears, they need not wonder if he grows up loving the worse rather than the better social life.
Often at what is called the "awkward" period, a boy or girl finds going into company far more of a trial than a delight.
A mother should come to the rescue here, and do all she can to help the growing child. Sleeves and collars and neckties for the boy should be seriously considered, and dresses let down and hair brushed prettily for the girl. If they are not to be self-conscious and shy, they must be dressed becomingly, no matter how simply.
Interest and sympathy in the social life of children, younger or older, are essential. Friends should be asked to come and see them, and should be made cordially welcome when they do come. Children should be encouraged to go out to simple affairs, no matter whether they like them or not, because of the training they receive by contact with others.
Too many men and women are stiff in their manners with others, shy, self-conscious and awkward. They know this to be the case, and are either unhappy in company or brusque and disagreeable. For one reason or another, they have failed to receive the polish which is acquired only by meeting people socially in youth. Quiet, cultivated manners are not easily acquired after men and women are grown, and uncouth manner-isms are difficult to overcome.
It is quite essential to see that children and young people do not miss the social training which is their due, and which in later life they will find a vital necessity as they go out into the larger world.
References under "Friendship" and "Conversation" will be found valuable, while Volume X of the Library is rich in articles on phases of social life: see "Hints for Happiness," "Girls and their Mothers," "How to Entertain a Guest," "An Agreeable Guest," "Lord Chesterfield's Maxims," and " Good Taste in Dress." In that volume, too, are indoor games, charades, and little plays, which ought to furnish many a merry evening for the youngsters, and the same may be said of our collection of songs in Volume XII. Primary lessons in social significance can be drawn from the humorous tale, "The Darning-Needle," in Volume I, and "Uncle David's Nonsensical Story about Giants and Fairies" in Volume III. Older boys and girls will find interesting the biography of Margaret Fuller Ossoli in Volume IX. Poems under the division of "Friendship," in Volume XI, might be studied with profit, and the social life depicted in "The Deserted Village" should afford entertainment and instruction.