|by Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth
A home without children is like a garden without flowers, a brook with no gurgling, gushing, purling water in its channel. Imagine our world with no children! Can one think of a more dreary place to live?
A dying father called for his son. As he came to his bedside, the man placed his feeble hand upon the head of the child and said, "Always remember, my son, that you were kissed, and blessed, and given to God."
This is the rightful heritage of all children. They have an inalienable right to the kiss of welcome. They have a right to a father's blessing. They have the unquestionable right to be given back to the God who created them, and who says to every parent, "Take this child and train him for Me."
The father and mother who fulfill their sacred trust will carefully prepare for the coming of the little one who will be their fondest joy or their unspeakable sorrow. The ever-present question will be, "How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?" Judges 13:12. The marginal reading is: "What shall he do? What shall be his work?"
There is a richer, deeper Christian experience for parents who come close to our Father by seeking His counsel concerning the treasure committed to their keeping.
Of Enoch, who walked with God on earth as a husband and father, this testimony is borne:
After the birth of his first son, Enoch reached a higher experience; he was drawn into a closer relationship with God He realized more fully his own obligations and responsibility as a son of God. And as he saw the child's love for its father, its simple trust in his protection; as he felt the deep, yearning tenderness of his own heart for that first-born son, he learned a precious lesson of the wonderful love of God to men in the gift of His Son, and the confidence which the children of God may repose in their heavenly Father. "Patriarchs and Prophets," page 84.
Children were designed to be a blessing. Not only do the parents teach the child, but the child teaches the parents. While they study him, he studies them. Parents learn lessons of trust, of faith, of unselfish love, of self-control, which they can be taught in no other way. They are schooled in patience, and the child becomes the teacher. While they discipline their children, they must first be disciplined.
All may enter this higher training school. If unblessed with children of their own, there are many little ones in the world who need fathering and mothering and whose presence in the home would be a blessing. There is no excuse for the rearing of pet cats and poodles, monkeys and birds, in the place of children.
But, it is urged, children are a constant care. They bring anxiety and disappointment, and seem to give back small return for what is invested in them. True; but the benefits received far exceed the outlay. The Master, who loved children, declared: "Whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me."
A child is not intended to be a plaything. To every father, mother, and guardian of children, the command is given to train not only for time, but for eternity. To form a character is like chiseling in the rock that which can never be effaced.
WHEN TRAINING SHOULD BEGIN
First, the parents should be trained. To become one with God in creating a human being is a great privilege. Reverently, patiently should preparation be made. The study of the laws of heredity will be useful. Not selfish enjoyment, but to make the world better, to add subjects for the kingdom of heaven, is the object of parenthood. Fathers and mothers should strive to be physically, mentally, and morally fit to be parents.
The training of the child begins as soon as it is born - yes, before. Parents are inclined to say: "What a responsibility it will be when the time come to train and educate this little darling!"
But when the baby is a month old, the parents are a month late if they have not already begun right methods of education. It is even now being trained in right or wrong habits.
But what should a babe be taught?
Its first lesson may be patience in waiting for its wants to be supplied. An experienced mother says:
"Don't give the child what it is crying for, while it cries. As it grows older, it will associate receiving with quiet and pleasant asking. The child may be taught to cry softly, not in anger demanding what it wants and disturbing the home with shrieks. A young child may be calmed and soothed so it will cry softly and not form the habit of roaring and bellowing."
Very young children manifest temper. They straighten themselves, and their cry is one of rage instead of entreaty. But if its demands are not met while it is in this mood, a valuable lesson in self-control for both parent and child will be taught. The time to check wrong habits is at their beginning.
One mother, when her children came crying loudly for sympathy, would say: "Softly, softly, and then I shall feel so sorry for you." Little folks, like older ones, love to be pitied and petted; and if they find the price of sympathy is to shriek like a Comanche, the shrieks will come.
In their unbounded love and admiration, parents often teach selfishness instead of overcoming it. The child must early learn that others have rights to be respected, that it must give pleasure as well as receive it. The foundation of a self-caring disposition, a determination to have one's own wishes gratified at any cost to others, is laid in babyhood.
The training of children requires the best brain power of the world. Many wonderful discoveries in art and science have made our age the most remarkable in history; but while men have mastered the secrets of earth, air, and sky, they have not made great progress in child training, as the finished product testifies.
Intense love is not enough. Children are loved to-day, but fathers and mothers are too busy to study and train them. They must conquer the earth, must grapple with great questions, and meanwhile Herbert and Charlie, Alice and Pauline are unstudied problems. There would be fewer human wrecks if there were more faithful parents.
But while children are a perplexing problem to the parents, the parents are a problem to the children. Misunderstanding results from their relations to one another. If parents would reason from the child's understanding of every question as well as from their own, and exercise reasonable authority, the relationship would be far more satisfactory to all.
UNITY BETWEEN FATHER AND MOTHER
Parents will be united in their methods of child training if it is successful. If they cannot agree, they will do well never to discuss their difference before the children. No truer sentiment was ever uttered than, "If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand."
If father speaks angrily to mother, Henry reasons why may not he do the same? If mother is cross to father and treats him with disrespect, Alice will soon speak to him the same way. Children readily absorb the atmosphere of the home. They are keen detectors of spirit and motives. For this reason, if for no other, parents must be examples to their children in kindness and courtesy. If they disagree before the child as to what may or may not be done, they place themselves at a disadvantage, and soon the child is beyond control.
One railway system takes as its motto, "Safety first." The guiding rule for parents may well be, "Self-control first." Having mastered their own willfulness, impatience, and temper, they can then control their children, lead them to self-mastery, and guide them in the formation of correct habits.
"LET US LIVE WITH OUR CHILDREN"
It is not that children do not possess the best that money can buy. They have comfortable homes, plenty of food and clothing, schools and churches; but the greatest need of childhood is fathers and mothers who give themselves to their sons and daughters. Some parents are hardly acquainted with their own children; they know little of their associates, their temptations, and their conflicts. To give companionship and loving interest in their studies, sports, and occupations, to be one with their children in their trials and temptations, leading, helping, teaching, is to bestow the richest endowment possible.
THREE IMPORTANT THINGS
There are three cardinal virtues to be taught from babyhood. These are obedience, truthfulness, and unselfishness. They lay the foundation for a good and useful character.
The animals require obedience of their young. Notice how kittens remain in perfect silence when their mother is absent, and the same is true of other animals. The mother knows their safety depends upon strict obedience. Human mothers may well wish they knew the secret as to how this lesson is taught. A hen utters a peculiar cry when she sees danger. One call is sufficient. Instantly every chick stands as if petrified till another tone tells that the danger is past. With some animals, if their young are disobedient, corporal punishment follows.
But not so with children. If a command is given, it usually must be repeated. If their wishes are not granted, crying, sulking, and often disobedience follow.
And the command is still in force: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right." If they are taught from babyhood to obey father and mother, obedience will not be so difficult as the boy or girl reaches the perils of adolescence. Like other good habits, obedience is more easily formed in childhood than in youth or manhood.
The child who is obedient to his parents does not find it difficult to obey God. He will obey the righteous laws of his country. He will not be the leader in school strikes, but will be obedient as a pupil. Thus it is seen that obedience to parents will lead to obedience as a citizen and as a Christian.
Obedience of the right kind is prompt and cheerful. If a child whines and questions, complains and hesitates, he has not learned to be obedient in spirit. He must obey when parents are absent, when they do not know whether they are obeyed or not.
A man asked a boy to go to a circus. "No sir," said the boy, "father doesn't like 'em."
"I'll give you the money to go, and your father need not know it," said the man.
"I cannot do it," said the boy.
"Why not?" asked the man.
"Because," said the boy, "after I had been, I couldn't look my father right in the eye; and I can now."
That boy had the spirit of true obedience.
The child is an interrogation point with a voice. He wants to know the why of what he sees, hears, and handles; and he has a right to be heard and answered. His questions are not to be ignored. He may ask such questions as these: Could the cows walk on their heels? Where do the rabbits sleep? Where do the frogs go when the ponds dry up? Can the baby frogs sing? Can the grasshoppers shut their eyes? Why does the moon grow large and small? What are the stars made of?
There can be no monotony in the home with a growing child. If one question is answered indefinitely, twenty more follow asking enlightenment. If mothers will throw away their novels and story magazines, and study insects, birds, and animals, they will be wiser and become a fountain of wisdom and entertainment to their children. To illustrate:
Little Fred ran to his mother one day. In his hand was a silky ball.
"Look, mamma! What is this?"
"Fred, just look at your feet! They are covered with dust. No, don't touch my work, your hands are so dirty. Throw the sticky thing away."
"But what is it, mamma?"
"I don't know, son. Perhaps it's a bit of cotton."
Fred seemed disappointed. The mother turned to a woman who was visiting her, and said, "Such a child to ask questions!"
The visitor was wiser. Taking Fred's little hand, she helped herself to a tumbler and a saucer, then went to the veranda. She captured a big spider, and placed it under the glass. The boy screamed, but she only said, "There's nothing to be afraid of. This is Mrs. Spider. She has a hundred babies, instead of three, like your mamma. She wanted them to have a nice nest where they would keep warm and dry, so she worked hard and spun this fuzzy ball which you brought to the house. If is the family cradle for baby spiders. See what soft, yellow, silken blankets cover them. Peep in now while I hold them to one side so you can see. Watch the baby spiders kick because their blankets are off. Those shiny balls are more babies. They are not big enough to kick."
"Oh, how little they are!" exclaimed the boy. "Will they grow big?"
"Yes, just as big as their mamma by and by."
"But when there are so many, they'll run all over the house."
"No, Fred; as they grow older, some will die, the birds will eat some, and only a few will become as big as mamma spider."
The child's mind that is filled with useful knowledge has little room for evil. A bond of union is formed between parents and children, and they become close companions.
DEALING TRUTHFULLY WITH CHILDREN
But while questions are answered, children must not be deceived.
"Daddy, what makes the train stop?" asked a tiny girl of her father, as the train stood waiting.
The father, who was reading a paper, replied, "They're waiting for a cow to get off the track."
"Huh! A cow on the track? Why, daddy, the cow would be 'fraid to stay on the track so long, and would run off."
"Just look and see if the cow isn't down the bank."
Two bright eyes searched the landscape. Soon the childish voice was heard exclaiming, "I see her, daddy, way over there!" Seating herself on her father's knee, she put a tiny hand on each side of his face, tipped it up so she could look him in the eye, and asked, "What made the train stop, daddy?"
"Oh," replied the father, "the conductor lost a button off his coat, and stopped the train to find it."
Again the little face was pressed against the window, trying to see the conductor. As the train began to move, in a flash she was back on her father's knee, exclaiming, "He's found it, daddy, he's found it!"
A ripple of laughter, the cause of which the child did not understand, came form the adjoining seats. If in years to some this child is untruthful, who will be to blame?
Sometimes the parents unite to deceive, as is illustrated by a story told by Mrs. Bess Fife Brooks:
A mother and father were ready to go to town, and the little boy ran out to the yard begging to be taken along. The mother didn't want to be bothered with him while shopping; but knowing from past experience that she could not get rid of him without a scene, she said:
'Run into the house, honey, and tell Aunt Martha to give you a cookie. We'll wait for you.'
The little chap exceeded the speed limit getting to the kitchen, where his pockets were filled with goodies. With his face all aglow at the prospect of riding on the front seat beside his daddy, he rushed out to the porch, only to see the automobile with his father and mother inside, turn the corner two blocks away.
"His little heart bursting with indignation, he shook his tiny fist at the fleeing pair, saying between sobs, 'There - go - two - of - the - biggest - liars - in town.'"
What experience could be more cruel? How pitiful that any child should be taught untruthfulness by its own parents!
RESPECT OF THE PROPERTY AND RIGHTS OF OTHERS
A fine trait for cultivation in children as well as for grown persons, is a sense of ownership, a respect for the property of others, and the necessity of treating it even more carefully than their own.
If a boy knocks his ball through a neighbor's window, and must use the money in his bank to pay for a pane of glass, or work until he earns enough, it will be a lesson he will remember. To return borrowed articles promptly, to replace them when lost in his possession, is a valuable lesson for any child.
Some children are allowed to be very disrespectful to elderly people. One boy, with a new sled, was coasting on the sidewalk of a steep hill. An old man reached it as the boy started down with a whoop.
"Get out of the way, you old duffer!" he shouted as he sped by, almost knocking the man down in the snow.
This lad happed to have the right kind of father. The father saw the incident, called his son, made him follow the man he had insulted, and beg his pardon. Afterward there was a very impressive settlement between father and son. From that time this boy treated the weak and aged in a different manner.
Biographies of our greatest men show that in their childhood they endured privation and bore burdens beyond their years; but their hardships developed a strength of character not seen in some who are reared in comfort and wealth.
Training in usefulness is invaluable. We may learn wise lessons from the way animals treat their young. Notice old Speckle, the mother hen. In their babyhood her chicks received her tenderest care. She watched over them, scratched for them, brooded them; but when they were half grown, she weaned them. Henceforth they must scratch for themselves. Consequently, in a short time her chickens were able to care for themselves, and were as happy as before.
Children who are fed, clothed, educated, and cared for, and given no sense of responsibility till they are grown, feel greatly abused when the time comes that they must be self-supporting. Therefore they should learn early to bear burdens in the home, to be helpers wherever they can. Thus they learn the value of money and how to use it wisely.
The story is told of a lad who was very wasteful of his food. His father and mother tried to bring about a reformation, but he was wasteful still. When he was twelve years old, his father gave into his care a quarter of an acre of corn, and as much land planted to potatoes. The boy planted, hoed, and weeded corn and potatoes, and pursued potato bugs. He thought it great fun at first; but soon fun changed to hard work, and work became galling. The father had hired the land and paid for the plowing and the seed.
Charlie learned what food costs. He husked his corn, dug his potatoes, sold his crop, paid his bills, and had a dollar and a half left for his work. But the experience taught him a lesson. He knew what it costs to produce a dinner from the soil. Food represented labor. The boy became thrifty and saving.
If Pauline earns part or all of her spending money, she will not be so ready to ask father for means with which to multiply her costumes. Children who learn the value of food, clothing, and education, will not become a dead weight on their parents. For their good, children must become self-reliant and independent.
A PLEASANT HOME
The home of childhood must not be one of severity and gloom. Kind words and smiles, social, cheerful evenings, are as sunshine. Parents and children may be comrades, each interested in the welfare and occupation of the others.
Music adds charm to the humblest home. If an instrument can be afforded, it will be greatly enjoyed. Singing together brings good feeling and pleasure. A good reader in the family is a treasure. Books may be read in which all will be interested.
Sociability of the right sort is a blessing to any home. Friends and neighbors may be invited in, and there will be holidays, anniversaries, and excursions to vary the routine of life. In all these, parents and children should unite. Father and mother will keep young longer if they occasionally take time for recreation. In all things, parents should live with their children.
This text is Chapter 7 in the book The Real Home and is in the public domain
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