Training In Order And Punctuality
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
A CHILD is ordinarily a disorderly little being, probably because from his first day he has been accustomed to being waited upon, picked-up for, and generally directed by his mother or his nurse, or both together. When the time comes that he is expected to do things for himself, he is unprepared, and it takes a long, long time, sometimes many years, to let him under-stand that he is responsible for keeping his things in place; too often he never learns it at all. Boys more than girls, fail in order perhaps from hereditary instincts, for a man has been always more waited upon in small ways than a woman, and the home-making strain which must be born in a girl shows itself early. At the same time, both need careful training in such ways or they will become selfishly careless of others.
Orderly Habits to Be Formed Early.-A very small child will strew his playthings over the nursery floor, and when told to pick them up and put them away, very often will rebel. This is usually because it is growing toward the end of the day and he is tired; the quantity of things looks enormous to him, and his little body aches at the very thought of the task. Still, with tact he can be helped over the difficulty. It is better not to let so many things get about, but when one set of playthings is finished with, it can be put away in some easily reached place, and something else taken out. A large covered box close at hand makes a good place for toys. Then too, if some one will help put things away, that assists wonderfully; or if he is told that father is coming, and the room must all be in order for him, for he will be sorry to see it upset. At all events, in some such way order should be taught even in a very little child.
Playmates are very thoughtless in helping cover the room with toys and then going home leaving the little host to pick up; this should not be allowed, but the mother should stop the play half an hour before time for the visitors to go home and all together the children should put things away, even at the risk of seeming inhospitable. The child taught in his own home that this is the right thing, will, when he in his turn goes visiting, help to dispose of the toys at the neighbors'.
So with the child's own room, here from the first he must learn to keep things in order. He can always put his nightgown on a chair, even if he cannot hang it up in the closet; he can set the bureau top to rights, and put things in the drawers and stand his shoes in an orderly row. When the bed is made he can help with it, and dust, and straighten the curtains. Really he will enjoy the feeling of importance in doing all this if it is done cheerfully, not considered a task so much as a pleasure. If from his childhood he knows the duty of orderliness in his own room, he will probably never become that selfish being, a man who lets his sister or his wife pick up and put away his things, carelessly strewn everywhere. It is only right that he should feel that he is responsible for everything which belongs to him, and he must keep it in its place.
Care of the Person and the Room.-Personal neatness is really orderliness, and this, too, cannot be taught too early. Children naturally resent having their faces and hands washed too frequently, and it is absurd and wrong to expect them to be always clean and tidy; when they are playing they should not be bothered by having such things insisted on; at the same time, there are hours when they should be tidy as a matter of course, especially when they come to the table for their meals. Then a mother must insist on having the hands washed and the hair smooth. This is always a trouble for both parent and child, but it need not be so difficult, if the child who comes clean gets the larger helping of dessert, and the one who has been forgetful gets but a small one. It is a lesson in orderliness not soon forgotten, and one far better taught in this way than by perpetual talking.
As to training a child to keep the house in order outside his own room, that too must be enforced. One has no right to throw down a cap, an armful of books, a pair of muddy rubbers, for some one else to put away, no matter if that some one is perfectly willing to do it. He has a duty to help keep the home attractive. But children are far too apt to think the common living room theirs in the peculiar sense of disorder, and find it hard to remember to put away their belongings. Parents, too, are sometimes thoughtless in not providing places which are convenient for out-of-door clothes, and books. These must be at hand-a closet with low hooks, a shelf for books; a box for rubbers, and something resembling the hymn-book rack at church, on some wall, for the books. Then after all these are ready the child must use them.
Methods of Teaching Orderliness.-One of the best ways to teach order here is to have it a good-natured rule that such things out of place will disappear. A lost cap will be found hidden in some out-of-the-way corner; a school-book will be discovered tucked under a chair-cushion, and so on. When one must take precious moments to hunt up such things before school it is probable that next time they will go where they belong. Here, as in one's own room, a mother should dwell on the selfishness of keeping the house in disorder, and teach a child that he has no right to be careless.
Sometimes a girl who is disorderly can be reached by her vanity in a wholesome way. If she leaves her room upset, with dresses on chair and even on the floor, and then brings home from school a couple of friends and ushers them into her room, she will not need a suggestion from her mother to make her more careful next time. If she does, then half a Saturday spent in putting things to rights will aid her in remembering.
One aid in teaching a girl to be orderly outside her room, is to make her responsible for the sitting-room; she can straighten it up before school in the morning in only a moment's time, if every one puts things away, but if others are careless, or she herself is careless, then it takes longer. Some rainy days, or Saturdays, she can put everything thoroughly tidy in the room, and so she will learn what is necessary for her to know.
Teaching Punctuality.-Punctuality is almost as difficult to teach as orderliness at home, and it is especially difficult to get children to be prompt at breakfast-time, because it seems natural for them to dawdle over dressing. But there are two ways of teaching this. One is to have some deprivation for tardiness, such as the loss of the fruit-course if there is one, or cream on porridge, or plain bread and butter in place of the hot bread. The second is a higher way of dealing with the matter; it is to have each child have some personal responsibility about the meal; a girl may perhaps be expected to pour the water, or put on the napkins; if she is late, she may know the whole family are sitting about the table, unable to begin the meal till she comes. If that plan is faithfully carried out, and no one does her work for her, she will soon learn to be on time. A boy may also have some duty, perhaps getting the morning paper and bringing it to his father, who waits for it. Where love rules the home these things count for a great deal.
As to punctuality in school, a system of rewards helps. Every school report should be carefully read by the parents, and all tardiness inquired into; where the report is good, there should always be a reward, not perhaps in money, but in some treat; where one has been careless, and frequently late without excuse, this may be withheld, and the child told he must do better next time.
Too often children grow up disorderly and unpunctual because their mothers are to blame. It may be more trouble to get a child to put things to rights than to do the work one's self, and so the child slips out of the duty. But for his own sake, as well as for that of those who will take the mother's place in after years, this should never be; both a boy and a girl should be given the training they need even though it is a trouble, and a great one.
So with punctuality, the lack of it may often be traced to the parents. The family may be lazy about getting up on Sunday mornings, and become habitually late in getting to church; breakfast may be at all hours on school-days, and so the child really cannot help coming late to school; the whole habit of the household may be that of easy-going carelessness in keeping appointments, and the child grows up indifferent to exactness. All this is selfishly wrong on the part of the father and mother, and children who are not well trained in such ways must pay dearly for their parents' thoughtlessness later in life.