Through Egoism to Consideration
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE little child who comes to us is absorbed in himself. He is not an egotist but he is an egoist, and naturally so. His first business in the world is to get acquainted with his own capabilities and exercise his own powers. However, we do not want him to leave us without some consideration for other people. This will not be as big a thing as self-denial. Unselfishness, even, is too large a term. The word consideration expresses what is quite within the capacity of a little child.
Family life is the best school for learning consideration, and where the Beginner has a baby brother or sister, he has had some good training. A girl of three and a half, the morning after the advent of a baby into the family got up, washed and dressed herself, and inquired, "Shall I go down and get breakfast?" On the other hand, when the child is the youngest member of the family, the very unselfish devotion of brothers, sisters and parents tends to increase his sense of his own importance.
The Beginners' class is usually his first social adventure, and he soon feels social obligations. He not only finds that he is not of chief importance, but that he receives consideration in exact proportion to that he shows. The public opinion of the group of contemporaries proves a great force, and a wise teacher makes use of it. So in our training toward consideration we will put as most influential, -
1. Group Action. In conversation no child can have a monopoly. He learns to yield the floor. At the blackboard there is not room for all; and children must take turns. It is not possible always to have the prominent parts in play, or be the one to point out objects in a picture, or to have one's choice of old stories and songs. Teasing or wriggling is not countenanced by a neighbor one's own age, and the protest of a contemporary is often more effective than the command of a teacher. Even in such small matters as receiving one's folder, or holding an object, or being assisted with one's wraps, each child must await his turn.
This is wholesome discipline, as the 'group epitomizes life better in some ways than the family, where the standards and routine are planned for adults and not for contemporaries.
2. Stories. Certain stories and groups of stories give the children an ideal of consideration for others. All those of Jesus the Man do this, as his attitude toward people was always that of extreme sympathy and helpfulness. Little children feel this.
The themes Duty of Loving Obedience, Love Shown by Kindness, Children Helping and Friendly Helpers are all illustrated by stories that make the other person of infinitely more consequence than ourself, and service a privilege.
3. Bible Verses. Such Bible verses as the following keep this ideal before the children: "A friend loveth at all times" ; "Love one another" ; "Be ye kind one to another" ; "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" ; "Forget not to show love unto strangers."
4. Songs. There are songs that emphasize this loving thought for others, such as, —
"Help us to do the things we should,
"God is love, God is love.
5. Acts of Service. Arranging flowers in cornucopias for their parents, mounting a picture for a hospital, wrapping in tissue-paper with painstaking care a book for a sick classmate, all these , class activities send the children's thoughts outward instead of inward. And the Christmas season is our great opportunity for associating joy with deeds for others far greater joy than in receiving.
With two Christmas seasons added to all one's other chances, what teacher will not send out at six a child better fitted to live with his fellowmen ?