"Mothers," remarked the cynic, "are of two classes: those who have preconceived ideas as to how to bring up their children and won't learn, and those who have no ideas and can't learn."

Ignorance of Mothers.—We will probably not all agree to this rather sweeping statement, for most of us are fortunate enough to number among our acquaintances several brave, conscientious women who are true mothers in every sense of the word. But looking the facts squarely in the face, we must admit that there are lamentably few such examples, and that the majority of women are most woefully ignorant on the important subject of child-training.

Occupation of Motherhood.—In these days of skilled labor, a person who desires to teach a certain branch of knowledge will spend several years beforehand in preparation. Women as well as men have learned to their cost that in order to obtain a business position they must be able to perform its duties well. The sole exception to this rule seems to be in the case of motherhood, which, of all the occupations in which a woman can engage, is beyond doubt the highest and the most difficult. Possibly because there is no money consideration attached to her duties, a mother's labor in the bringing up of her children is not generally considered in the light of a profession, and hence a woman rarely hesitates to undertake this difficult task without a previous study of the subject. The disastrous result of this act is felt not only by the child but also by the thoughtless mother, who alone is responsible for the consequences.

Who Are to Blame.—Ungrateful and wayward children have always been looked upon with horror, and unbounded sympathy expressed for the parents in their terrible affliction. All that is very right and proper, provided it is the children and not the parents who are to blame. Unfortunately the latter is too often, the case, and the sympathy that is given the father and mother frequently belongs to the unhappy offspring, who are made the innocent victims of someone else's ignorance or wrongdoing.

Children's Rights.—Too few mothers recognize the fact that their children have certain rights which should be respected; that among these rights are a healthy body, a good disposition and an intellectual and moral training. To the extent of her powers a mother should provide these for her child. I emphasize these duties as appertaining to the mother, since it is she and she alone in whom is vested the important office of the education of her offspring. The father provides the funds and may aid and advise his wife, but he can never take her place in the lives of his children.

Children's Imitative Powers.—The most characteristic thing about children is their power of imitation, and this power can be made to serve both a desirable and an undesirable end. Few people realize the extent to which this practice is carried by the average child and the reason for its existence. The child is a stranger in an unfamiliar world and among people of whose customs he knows nothing. There is an undefined prompting which urges him to imitate the acts committed by those around him, and even the words they speak. Finally, by constant repetition, he begins to understand what to him at first, was an enigma. In the case of the tiny baby this imitation is unconscious, but finally it is performed consciously.

Children's Surroundings.—The tremendous importance of a child's surroundings will at once be seen. Since he must imitate, it is right that he should see and hear only things worthy of imitation, and herein lies a great difficulty; for people cannot be made to comprehend that what they do and say in the presence of children can have any effect upon their characters. "The child is too young to take it in," they assert. Some day they are startled and embarrassed when the youngster repeats their action and the very words uttered by them, in the presence of strangers. The truth is that children comprehend more than we know, and the ideas which they receive may lie dormant for some time before they are able to give them out. This explains many seemingly incredible acts of memory on the part of very young children.

Dispositions and Temperaments.—Not only do children imitate the words and actions of those around them, but they also reflect in a wonderful degree their dispositions and temperaments. If one or both of the parents are nervous and irritable, the chances are that their offspring will be the same, and, on the contrary, if the family life is peaceful and happy it will be reflected in the sunny dispositions of the children. All these things will be considered by the wise mother who does not wish the little one to enter the great struggle of life with a terrible handicap at the very outset.

Froebel's System.—Friedrich Froebel, the originator of the kindergarten, and the greatest student of child nature that the world has ever known, was the first to see that the education of the child must begin when he is born. It is necessary, therefore, for the mother to understand the nature of the little being whose destiny lies in her hands, and to this end Froebel formed classes especially for mothers where they could be taught the physical, mental and moral requirements of their children. His book of songs and games is intended not only for the kindergarten but for the mother to use with her baby. The mottoes and commentaries on them are for the kindergartner's or mother's perusal. It is a work that all those who have the care of young children cannot well do without.

Start of Child Training.—The question is often asked, "How can a mother start the training of her child when it is yet too young to understand what she says?" If the questioner will but consider for a moment she will realize that the education of a human being begins at the moment of birth, continues throughout life, and only ceases when he dies. Every physician will testify to the necessity of forming desirable habits in the period of infancy, when the character is still in a plastic condition. The foundation for habits of punctuality and self-control are easily laid in the infant by accustoming him to a regular life. His meals should be given at stated periods, also his walks and his bath. He should be put to sleep at the same time every day, and gradually he will learn to know what is required of him and cheerfully conform to it.

Crying Children.—Children should be taught that no amount of crying and misbehavior will bring a coveted object which has once been denied them. A child who has thus been indulged once by a thoughtless parent will practice the same tactics another time. Children learn almost intuitively to connect cause and effect. "I cried for it and it was given to me, so it must be my crying that brings me what I want." And they lay that connection of ideas by for future use. In correcting this, as in so many other things, it is the first step that both counts and costs. There may be a scene or two at the outset when the half-formed will of the child is pitted against that of the mother, but what is that in comparison with the value of the final results in the formation of the child's character. Few mothers realize the harm they can do a child by an unwise lowering of their parental authority.

Over-indulgence.—Over-indulgences in smoking, drinking and other vices are loudly condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an interesting fact that any number of such cases have been traced directly back to the foolish leniency of the mother in allowing in her child excesses in little things. For example, baby is permitted to suck his finger and soon is not happy unless doing so. Finally, the mother notices the act and straightway provides a rubber-ring or something similar to take the finger's place. The child quickly becomes accustomed to the new device, and when the ring is not forthcoming he sucks his cap-string, or anything within reach. Pencils, chewing-gum, and candy take the place of the ring when the baby grows into the boy, and finally these give way to cigarettes when manhood is reached. Is it any wonder that a man finds the tobacco habit hard to break. He has been accustomed to having something constantly in his mouth and with each year the habit grows stronger and his will weaker.

Correction of Overeating.—Eating after the cravings of nature have been satisfied is a common fault in little children, and thoughtless adults will frequently urge them to partake of more food than the stomach can possibly have any use for. This is a fertile cause of ill-health, but far worse than that, it is more injurious to the moral nature. This also applies to the excessive eating of candy and sweet things of which the child is very fond. The continual gratification of the appetite, or in fact of any of the senses, to a point beyond that which common sense dictates can have but one result and that is the loss of all self control.

Children's Pitfalls.—It is far from my wish to discourage any mother in the training of her children by thus pointing out the numerous pitfalls that beset her way. These same pitfalls are many and deep, it is true, but continual watchfulness and a knowledge of wherein the danger lies will do much to keep one in the right path. It is to this in a large measure that the good kindergartner owes her wonderful influence over her small charges. She makes a study of each individual child, his. virtues and faults, what he likes and dislikes, and in fact all the peculiarities of his individual character. Thus she is enabled to correctly attribute his acts to the motives which prompted them and reward or punish the small doer accordingly. For it is a well-known fact that two children may do exactly the same thing—the one from a bad and the other from a good motive; and a person not understanding the different natures would be likely to treat both in the same manner.

Rewards and Punishments.—The question of rewards and punishments is one of the gravest with which the mother and kindergartner is called upon to deal, for an unjust decision in such a matter is often the cause of much harm to the child. The arbitrator is practically in the position of God to the child who regards her decision as absolutely just and final. One of the saddest things that could happen to a mother is the loss of this faith, and it may safely be said that this loss only comes through her child's knowing that her decisions are unjust. She should be the standard of right and wrong in the eyes of her children, their conscience, so to speak, before their own has completely formed.

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Last Modified: Monday, 13-May-2013 15:31:47 EDT