Character Building - Tidiness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE natural child is an untidy little being. One is not conscious of this fact while he is a mere baby, for, until he is several years of age, he has had some one to keep him clean and to put his belongings in order, and has, therefore, had little opportunity to show his tendencies toward or against tidiness. But it is to be doubted if the average child under nine years of age cares a whit if he be clean or dirty, unless upon special occasions. For instance, when "company is coming" he is glad to be washed and dressed so that he may be looked at approvingly or admiringly by the expected guest. But when there are only " home people" present he would, unless he be an exception to the general rule, be entirely willing to eat with dirty hands and face, and to wear the same soiled and tumbled clothing from morning to night. Nor would be mind how "messy" his room was so long as he was allowed to play there undisturbed.
Since, therefore, it would seem that the child is not by nature an order-loving creature, we must instil into his character a desire for cleanliness. At first one can only do this by protesting gently when he is dirty, and by expressing gratification when he is clean. One may teach him while he is young to keep his room in order to the extent of putting away his toys, by having a place for each plaything, and by making a little frolic each evening of laying every toy in the place assigned to it. But, as the child gets older, he should be taught some of the laws of hygiene-at least to the extent of learning that dirt makes for disease and that cleanliness is conducive to health. In this way he can be made to under-stand that there are in the filth on his hands particles of matter that might make him ill if taken into his mouth, and that therefore he must wash before eating. He must also be told that the sight of soiled hands and face and clothing spoils other people's appetites, and that for their sake he must come to the table clean.
Until the children are old enough to love cleanliness for itself, it is well to have a kind of competition in neatness.
The little ones may hold out their hands to father and mother before each meal so that each may be caressed for the "nice clean hands" or gently reprimanded for the grime on the chubby fists. All persons love to be praised, and children are no exception. Instead of scolding about the dirt, praise the absence of it. Make a business of going several times a day into each child's room and commending all signs of neatness. In this way, for the sake of the pleased word from the beloved parent, the child will, little by little, learn to be cleanly in person and about his belongings, until the habit of tidiness will be fully established.
Little ones may be helped to acquire neatness by such a story as "Simple Susan" in Volume III. In Volume X there is a whole section on physical culture which, of course, lays stress on cleanliness. In "Hints for Happiness" and in "Moral Culture," Volume X, will be found matter appertaining to the subject.