Training A Child For Life
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ONE of the things which parents too often forget is that, after all, it is not the training of a child in itself which is the important thing, it is the preparation for adult life. It is so easy to think only of the health of the growing child, his schooling, his pleasures, his gradual development, and lose sight entirely of the fact that the whole thing is but the means to an end. The saying that one sometimes "cannot see the wood for the trees," exactly expresses the idea. The important thing is to get the boy or girl ready to live his or her own life when the parental rule is over.
General or Special Training?-For this reason it is best to decide as early as is possible whether a child should go on with the common-school education or be fitted for college or professional life. A teacher can usually help one greatly in making a decision, for he knows better even than the child the bent of its mind, and his constant contact with growing boys and girls gives him an insight a parent, with limited opportunities, can-not have. If he is to go to college, then he must begin to prepare for it early, and not wait till the end of high school, when he will perhaps have not taken exactly the required studies for passing.
So with other preparations for living. If the social life of the home is limited, and he is likely to go into some larger place, then he must if possible, receive some fitting for that. He should from time to time go out and see a little of the world, go to the nearest city and learn its ways, and read books bearing on the trade or business he is to follow, instead of waiting till the end and then taking a sudden plunge for which he is unprepared. The farmer's boy who wants to go. to town to make his fortune begins with a tremendous handicap if when he is sixteen or eighteen he is thrown for the first time into its life. Long before that he should know something of it from personal contact.
Training for Citizenship.-The training for citizenship should not be forgotten in bringing up a boy. His politics he will probably inherit from his father, but the trend of his ideas may be different; in any case the broader things should be constantly put before him, not the narrower; he should not hear the success of any party spoken of as of such importance as that of good government. He should be told of the good men, the unselfish men in power, not the mean ones; he should hear "graft" spoken of as a thing to be despised, and public honor as something to be held sacred. A boy is naturally idealistic, and he will respond to such suggestions as these and get a high ideal of political life-a far better thing to have than the view too many men hold that politics are "rotten" all through, and a vote something to be treated with indifference. It should never be thought sufficient to let a boy hear the bad side of political life; he should hear more of its good side, and learn to regard his place in the body politic as one of importance; he should grow up to hold his vote as a high thing, and to strive to make the government better, in his own town and outside it, as far as his influence will count.
The Training of a Girl.-A girl's training for grown life must be quite different from a boy's. She should be taught from early childhood that home-making is her province, and that all that comes within that she must know. She can learn to cook, to keep the house in order, to sew and mend, and to care for little children. When she grows into girlhood, still her education along these lines must not be neglected, but even though she goes to college, or into society, she should still think of herself as one to make a home.
It may be that she will never marry, but there are few women who are not called on at one time or another to help in some one else's home, and if she would guard against that ureadful thing, a lonely old age, she must be ready to step into that vacant place in a father's, a brother's, a friend's home, and fill it as though it were her very own. Fortunately, most women do marry, but not all of them have been trained to be home-makers, and many a mother is blamed by her daughter for not fitting her for adult life, for motherhood, for the care of a family and its responsibilities.
Home-making of First Importance.-Often a girl, especially one in her teens, will determine on a "career" for herself, in music, painting, teaching, or possibly on the stage; perhaps she has really a talent for something of the kind, one her parents feel themselves bound to develop and cultivate; so she is excused from home duties and permitted to give all her time to fitting herself for a future away from home. But this is all a mistake, one some one must pay for dearly later in life. Her talent may fail her, her health may break down, competition may be too keen for her and she may fall out of the ranks; then, if she has not had a home training, she is unfitted to go into her father's house, or that of any one else, and at that late day take up a life of happiness there. No matter how great a talent may appear to be, nor how unnecessary it may seem to fit a girl for any other life than that she will probably have, still she should receive exactly the same training as the girl who will stay at home till she marries and spend the rest of her years in bringing up children and keeping house. First and foremost in a girl's training should be the thought that she must be ready to be a home-maker before she is anything else.
General Rules.-Among the many things a parent must remember in bringing up children and fitting them for adult life some stand out preeminently. They must be made strong and vigorous in body, sane of mind, broad in their views, well educated, honest, straightforward, truthful, and unselfish; they should consider life as a great opportunity, not a certain number of years to be spent in money making and spending, and in pleasure and comfort. For this outlook they should have the help of the parental living; they should see that father and mother guide their lives by such principles, and this example should be enforced by direct teaching on such lines till the children grasp the beauty and force of the ideals. If only children grow up into men and women who are the best possible, the sanest, the noblest, those most devoted to the best things, surely parents may feel that their own lives are blessed.