Through Dependence to Independence
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE little child comes to us dependent; indeed, this is a large part of his charm. A self-reliant four-year-old is an anomaly that does not appeal to the imagination. No more does a child of six who has grown in body but not in efficiency. He bids fair to develop into the parasitic type that occupies park benches, or hangs on to the nearest male relative, according to sex.
Our task, then, is in two years to develop exactly the right amount of independence, and yet to discourage the self-assertiveness that makes a "smarty" from whom we part with relief.
1. Influence of the Group. Most of our children come to us with little, if any, training toward independence, unless they have younger brothers or sisters. Their chances of gaining this are in-finitely greater in a group of contemporaries than as youngest members of families eager to minister to them.
For the first time in their lives they find themselves part of a crowd. They gradually absorb the idea that they are not to be personally conducted through life. This is good for their souls.
They come under the subtle influence of public opinion. The older children are the ones generally admired and imitated. Capability and self-reliance are popular qualities. The little newcomer finds himself emulating these virtues to secure the approval of the group.
The wise teacher assists in the development of self-reliance by encouraging the little children in picking up their own overturned chairs, putting on their own wraps as far as possible, and in general waiting upon themselves, and not being department parasites.
2. Stories. Stories that arouse an ideal of self-reliance are those about the same character in babyhood, dependent and cared for, and again, when older, taking his share of responsibility. Thus the baby Moses, whose life was saved by ingenious care, becomes the man Moses, leading and directing his people. The boy Jesus, helpless in his mother's arms, grows into a man whom the children delight in calling Jesus the Helper. Hannah's baby Samuel develops into blind Eli's assistant.
The return of care to those who have given it is the theme of the stories, "Ruth in the Barley Field," "Elijah Helping a Mother," "Elisha and a Boy," "Children's Love for Jesus," "Joseph Taking Care of His Father," and "The Story of Ishmael."
The entire series under "Children Helping" and "Friendly Helpers" makes exertion on behalf of others desirable, and in "Jesus Teaching How to Help" the idea of service is set forth.
3. Songs and Prayers. Songs that set a high value upon services rendered and request strength to perform them have a great effect upon the children.
4. Pictures. There are pictures that make independence and capability attractive. Such are "Back from the Grocer's," "Nothing Venture, Nothing Have," "Don't Be Afraid," and "The Garden."
5. Bible Verses. The Bible verses that carry out this theme are "Be ready" and "Even a child maketh himself known by his doings."
6. Handwork. Skill in handwork is coveted, and praise for unassisted efforts an incentive.
7. Independent Thought. The wise teacher will also recognize the value of independent thought in her children, and never ridicule or frown upon the little child who tenaciously holds an opinion. She will show her respect for his opinion, and help him to modify it himself, or to consult a parent.