Character Building - Trustworthiness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE best way to make a child trustworthy is to trust him. Have the son know that you depend upon him for certain things, and that as he proves himself worthy of that confidence you will confide more things to his care. With the little girl, tell her that you depend upon her to keep the nursery floor free from scraps of paper, broken toys, etc. One mother had what was known as "a toy-box," divided into compartments, and each child was expected to keep his or her compartment in perfect order. Just before bedtime the room was "cleared up," and Mother "trusted" each child to put his toys away neatly. The sense of responsibility had a better effect upon the children than would reprimands or scoldings. Let the boy feel that his own especial belongings -his skates, sled, etc.-are intrusted entirely to his care, and that if he neglects them and they are injured by this neglect, he will be the loser. One boy was allowed to have an air-rifle on condition that he pay out of his pocket-money for any damage wrought by it. At the end of a month his pockets were empty, but he had learned a lesson in consideration for other people's property. Such lessons are as hard for the parents to witness as for the children to endure, but they are necessary, and the earlier in life they are acquired the better it will be for the child. "I forgot!" is a poor excuse when the damage is done. Train the child to remember that
" Evil is wrought by want of thought
In the same way show the child that you trust in his word. One little girl made a false statement to her mother. When she acknowledged her error she expected that the parent would refuse to trust her again. "What are you going to do the next time I tell you a thing, Mother?" she asked.
"Believe you," replied the mother.
The child could never again bring herself to tell a falsehood to one whose trust in her was so great.
The parent must resist the inclination to increase the heedlessness of the careless child by putting no matters of trust in his hands. Often the thoughtful girl has laid upon her tasks that should be intrusted to her harebrained sister. Make this same harebrained girl do certain things regularly and methodically. These things may seem to the grown per-son mere trifles, like folding up and laying away a hair-ribbon after wearing it, or placing the school-books upon a certain shelf when studies are ended. But act as if these tasks were of great importance-as they are when one considers that they are all helps in the formation of character. If they are neglected, insist that the culprit stop any game, no matter how interesting, and do the task properly before she is allowed to rejoin her playmates. The child thus learns that one's duty, not one's pleasure, is the chief, consideration in life.
By saying " Just this time I will hang up this coat, or put away these skates, and not call the boy all the way into the house for such trifles," the mother teaches her children to shift their burdens from their own shoulders to the shoulders of others. Such unwise love is a mistaken kindness, a direct injustice to the little one.
With each year added to the children's ages there must be added some responsibility. Make them take these as a part of their life-work and life-discipline. Do not spare your son and daughter the duty or trust fitted to their years if you would have them become trustworthy and dependable men and women.
Point out the great trustworthiness in the faithful Gelert in "Llewellyn and His Dog," Volume I. Countless fairy tales emphasize the value of the quality. See what lack of it wrought in stories in Volume II like " Pandora" and "Roland"; all of Loki's evil- doings in the Scandinavian myths, also in Volume II, may be brought to a child's attention. Older heads will appreciate "Political Dishonesty," in Volume VII, and the biography of Peter Cooper in Volume IX.