Self-Training Of A Kid
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
ONE of the hardest Iessons for many women to learn is not to worry over the seeming recklessness of their children. They find it hard to realize that, if it comes to a choice it is better for self and husband and all the family that a youngster should now and then get a bruise or a cut or even a broken limb, than that the mother should wear out her own and others' nerves by complaining fears of what may never happen. Your child, dear madam, and particularly your boy, is a young animal. His business in life at present is to grow; all his natural energy is devoting itself to building up and strengthening his body by exercise. His restlessness is just as natural as his hunger. Nature has implanted in him as in all other young animals an instinct for play, by which he trains himself with trial and experience for teachers. His father understands this better than you do, when he dubs mother's darling "the kid." Day by day your kid, like a real one, must try his powers-must run and jump and leap and climb, and butt and be butted, struggling against rough nature and matching him-self against other beginners in life's competition. Nature urges him on in this unconscious schooling-dares him to do feats-and now and then sets him a hard lesson; but nature does not want to lose him any more than you do. Therefore she has planted in his mind, beside the necessary eagerness for exertion, a proper fear of pain-a discernment of what is dangerous-which leads him to be cautious. He is more careful than you think. He has, like other animals, an instinct for self-preservation. Let him climb. He is ordinarily a better judge of his ability than you are. The chances are a thousand to one that he won't fall, and if he does the probability is that it won't hurt him much. His body is light and its frame elastic. At any rate it is better to have him tumble now and then than to have him too careful of himself to take risks. You may diminish the risks which alarm you by judicious instruction, and by encouraging physical training; but if you try to repress the experience necessary for manly development the result is likely to be either a mollycoddle, or more likely, a violent seizing upon chances to test his power behind your back. Then a real recklessness will appear, due to haste to take ad-vantage of his opportunity, revolt against undue restraint, and ignorance of what his powers really are. "In all possible ways," advises one who has given much thought to this anxiety-breeding phase of childhood, "your object is to get him to consider his own muscles, and the habit of cultivating sanely the force he must exert to overcome a given difficulty. Master of the little world around him he is destined to become. He will never cease in his efforts to this end; nor do you, if you but think about it, wish him to cease. Your duty, then, is to help him in the struggle, by giving him full opportunity, unhindered by womanish qualms, and by fitting him to conquer by every means in your power."