H. Clay (Henry Clay) Trumbull.

Hints on child-training online

. (page 10 of 13)
Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 10 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


called into service for their mastery. It is not enough to pronounce
these fears unreasonable and foolish. They are, in their realm, a
reality, and they must be met accordingly. While children suffer from
them most keenly, they are not always outgrown in manhood. A clergyman
already past the middle of life was heard to say that, to this day,
he could never come up the cellar stairs all by himself, late at
night, after covering up the furnace fire for the night, without the
irrational fear that some one would clutch him by his feet from out of
the darkness below. The fear was a reality, even though the cause was
in the imagination. And a soldier who had been under fire in a score of
battles, said that he would to-day rather go into another battle than
to be all alone in a deserted house in broad daylight.

In neither of these cases was the person under the influence of
superstitious fears, but only of those fears which an active
imagination will suggest in connection with possibilities of danger
beyond all that can yet be seen. And these are but illustrations of
the sway of such fears in the minds of men who are stronger by reason
of their very susceptibility to such fears. These men have added
power because of their vivid imaginations; and because of their vivid
imaginations they are liable to fears of this sort. What folly, then,
to blame a child of high imagination for feeling the sway of similar
fears!

The heroic treatment of these fears of the imagination is not what is
called for in every instance; nor is it always sufficient to meet the
case. A child may be trained to go by himself into the darkness, or to
sleep in a room shut away from other occupants of the house, without
overcoming his fears of imagination. And if these fears be constantly
spoken of as those which are utterly unworthy of him, the child may
indeed refrain from giving expression to them, and suffer all by
himself with an uncalled-for sense of humiliation, even while he is
just as timid as before. It would be better, in many a case, to refrain
from an undue strain on a sensitive child, through sending him out of
the house in the evening to walk a lonely path, or through forcing
him to sleep beyond the easy call of other members of the household;
but in every instance it is right and wise for a parent to give his
child the evidence of sympathy with him in his fears, and of tender
considerateness of him in his struggles for their overcoming.

The help of helps to a child in meeting his fears of the imagination,
is found in the bringing to his mind, through the imagination, a sense
of the constant presence of a Divine Protector to cheer him when his
fears are at their highest. A little child who wakened in the middle of
the night, called to her parents, in another room, and when her father
was by her bedside, she told him that she was afraid to be alone.
Instead of rebuking her for this, he said, “There’s a little verse in
the Bible, my darling, that’s meant for you at a time like this; and
I want you to have that in your mind whenever you waken in this way.
It is a verse out of one of David’s psalms; and it is what he said to
the Lord his Shepherd: ‘What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.’
That is the verse. Now, whenever you are afraid, you can think of that
verse, and say it over as a loving prayer, and the Good Shepherd will
hear you, and will keep you from all harm.”

The child repeated the verse after her father, and she saw its peculiar
fitness to her case. As her father then prayed to the God of David in
loving confidence, she realized more fully than before how near God
was to her in the time of her greatest fears. And from that time on,
that little child was comforted through faith when her imagination
pressed her with its terrors. She never forgot that verse; and it still
is a help to her in her fears by day and by night.

A child’s imagination ought, indeed, to be guarded sacredly. It should
be shielded as far as possible from unnecessary fears, through foolish
stories of ghosts and witches, told by nurses or companions, or read
from improper books. But whether a child’s fears in this realm be few
or many, they should be dealt with tenderly by a loving parent; not
ignored, nor rudely overborne. Many a child has been harmed for life
through a thoughtless disregard by his parents of the fears of his
imagination. But every child might be helped for life by a sympathetic
and tender treatment of these fears, on the part of his parents, while
he is still under their training.

In no realm of a child’s nature has a child greater need of sympathy
and tenderness from his parents, than in the realm of his fears. It is
because he is sensitive, and in proportion as he is sensitive, that a
child’s fears have any hold upon him. And a child’s sensitiveness is
too sacred to be treated rudely or with lightness by those to whom he
is dearest, and who would fain train him wisely and well.




XXIV.

_THE SORROWS OF CHILDREN._


The trials and sorrows of children and young people have not always
had the recognition they deserve from parents and teachers. It is even
customary to speak of childhood as an age of utter freedom from anxiety
and grief, and to look upon boys and girls generally as happier and
lighter-hearted than they can hope to be in later life. No mistake
could be greater than this. The darker side of life is seen first. The
brighter side comes afterward.

“Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” The first sound
of a child’s voice is a cry, and that cry is many times repeated before
the child gives his first smile. How easily the best-behaved baby
cries, every mother can testify. It is the soothing of a crying child,
not the sharing in the joy of a laughing one, which taxes the skill
and the patience of a faithful nurse. Only as the child is trained,
disciplined, to overcome his inclination to cry, and to find happiness
in his sphere, does he come to be a joyous and glad-hearted little one.

Every burden of life—and life’s burdens seem many—rests at its heaviest
on a child’s nature. A child is refused more requests than are granted
to him. He is subjected to disappointments daily, almost hourly. The
baby cannot reach the moon, nor handle papa’s razor, nor pound the
looking-glass, nor pull over the tea-pot, nor creep into the fire. The
older child cannot eat everything he wants to, nor go out at all times,
nor have papa and mamma ever at his side. Then there come school-tasks
to shrink from, and the jealousies and unkindnesses of playmates and
companions to grieve over. And as more is known of life and the world,
and the inevitable struggles with temptation, and of the injustice and
wrongs which must in so many instances be suffered, it becomes harder
and harder for a young person to see only the brighter side of human
existence, and to bear up bravely and cheerily under all that tends to
sadden and oppress us. There are more clouds in the sky of life’s April
than of life’s August.

As the young grow older they come to be less sensitive to little
trials, and they control themselves better. They are not tempted to
shed tears whenever they find their plans thwarted, or themselves
unable to do or to have all they would like to, or their companions
unlike what they had hoped for. They learn to philosophize over their
troubles, to look at the compensations of life, and to recognize the
fact that many things which they have longed after would not have been
good for them if they had obtained them, and that, at all events, time
will soften many of their trials. And so life’s troubles seem lighter,
and life’s joys greater—if not more intense—to maturer minds than to
the young. Even when men are far greater sufferers than ever children
can be, they come to be calloused in a measure through the very
continuance of their grief, and they bear as a little thing that which
would have crushed them a few years before.

But how their former experiences and their earlier tumults of feeling
are forgotten by men and women as they get farther and farther away
from childhood! They fail to remember how deeply they grieved as little
ones. They forget, in large measure, how heavy the burdens of life
seemed in their earlier years. They are sure that many things which now
trouble them had no power over them when they were younger. It seems
to them, indeed, that the little trials of children cannot seem very
large even to children. And so, as they watch the little ones in their
brighter moments, they think that childhood is the age of freedom from
sorrow and care; and they are even inclined to wish that they were
young once more, that they might have no such hours of trial and grief
as now they are called to so frequently.

Values are relative; so are losses; so are sorrows. One person puts a
high estimate on what another deems quite worthless. One grieves over
a loss for which another would feel no concern. That which a child
values highly may be of no moment to the child’s father; but its loss
might be as great a grief to the child as would the loss to the father
of that which, in the father’s sight, is incalculably more important.
The breaking of a valued toy may be as serious a disaster, from the
child’s point of view, as the bankrupting of the father’s business
would seem from the father’s standpoint. And the child’s temporary
censure by his playmates for some slight misdoing of his, may cause to
him as bitter a sorrow as would the condemnation by the public, cause
to his father when the father’s course had brought him into permanent
disgrace.

A little girl was startled by what she heard said at the family table
concerning a neighbor’s loss of household silver through a visit of
robbers. “Mamma,” she whispered, “do robbers take _dolls_?” Her dolls
were that child’s treasure. If _they_ were in danger, life had new
terrors for her. “No, my dear,” said her mamma; “robbers don’t want
dolls. Why should they take them?” “I didn’t know but they would want
them for their little girls,” was the answer; as showing that, in the
child’s estimation, dolls had a value for children in the homes of
robbers as well as elsewhere. With the assurance that her dolls were
safe, that little girl had less fear of midnight robberies. What, to
her mind, was the loss of the family silver, or of clothing and jewels,
if the dolls were to be left unharmed! A child’s estimate of values may
be a false one; but the child’s sorrows over losses measured by those
estimates are as real as any one’s sorrows.

It must, indeed, be a sore pressure of sorrow and trial on a child’s
mind and heart, to bring him to commit suicide; yet the suicide of
a child is by no means so rare an act as many would suppose. The
annual official statistics of suicides in France show a considerable
percentage of children among the unhappy victims. Hundreds of suicides
are reported in England, year by year. In America the case is much
the same. Month by month the public prints give the details of child
suicides as a result of some sore trial or sorrow to the little ones.

“Forgive me for committing suicide,” wrote a bright and affectionate
lad, in a note to his father just before committing the fatal act. “I
am tired of life,” he added. And everything in connection with his
suicide showed that that lad had planned the act with a cool head and
an aching heart. In fact, most persons of adult years can recall out of
the memories of their earlier life some experiences of disappointment,
or of grief, or of a sense of injustice, which made life seem to them
for the time being no longer worth living, and the thought of an end to
their trial in death not wholly terrible. Very _childish_ all this was,
of course; but that is the point of its lesson to parents; childish
griefs are very real and very trying—to children.

One plain teaching of these facts concerning the sorrows of children
is, that the young need the comfort and joys of a Christian faith for
the life that now is, quite as surely as the aged need a Christian
hope for the life that is to come. The surest way of bringing even
a child to see the brighter side of this life is by inducing him to
put his trust in an omnipotent Saviour, who loves him, and who makes
all things work together for good to him if only he trust himself to
His care and walks faithfully in His service. The invitations and
the promises of the Bible are just what children need, to give them
happiness and hope for now and for hereafter.




XXV.

_THE PLACE OF SYMPATHY IN CHILD-TRAINING._


A child needs sympathy hardly less than he needs love; yet ten children
are loved by their parents where one child has his parents’ sympathy.
Every parent will admit that love for his children is a duty; but only
now and then is there a parent who realizes that he ought to have
sympathy with his children. In fact, it may safely be said that, among
those children who are not called to suffer from actual unkindness on
the part of their parents, there is no greater cause of unhappiness
than the lack of parental sympathy. And, on the other hand, it is
unquestionably true that in no way can any parent gain such power over
his child for the shaping of the child’s character and habits of life
as by having and showing sympathy with that child.

Love may be all on one side. It may be given without being returned
or appreciated. It may fail of influencing or affecting the one
toward whom it goes out. But sympathy is in its very nature a twofold
force. It cannot be all on one side. From its start it is a response
to another’s feelings or needs. It is based on the affections, or
inclinations, or sufferings, or sense of lack, already experienced by
another. Hence sympathy is sure of a grateful recognition by the one
who has called it out. Love may be proffered before it is asked for or
desired. Sympathy is in itself the answer to a call for that which it
represents. Love may, indeed, be unwelcome. Sympathy is, in advance,
assured of a welcome.

In his joys as in his sorrows a true child wants some one to share his
feelings rather than to guide them. If he has fallen and hurt himself,
a child is more helped by being spoken to in evident sympathy than by
being told that he must not cry, or that his hurt is a very trifling
matter. The love that shows itself in tenderly binding up his wound,
in a case like this, has less hold upon the child than the sympathy
that expresses a full sense of his pain, and that recognizes and
commends his struggle to control his feelings under his injury. It is
easier, indeed, to comfort a child at such a time, and to give him
power over himself, by showing him that you feel with him, and how you
want him to feel, than by telling him, never so lovingly, what he ought
to do, and how to do it. And it is the same with a child in any time of
joy, as in every time of grief. He wants your sympathy with him in his
delights, rather than your loving approval of his enjoying himself just
then and in that way.

Herbert Spencer, who makes as little of the finer sentiments of
human nature as any intelligent observer of children can safely do,
emphasizes this desire of a child for sympathy, in the realm of mental
development. “What can be more manifest,” he asks, “than the desire
of children for intellectual sympathy? Mark how the infant sitting
on your knee thrusts into your face the toy it holds, that you too
may look at it. See, when it makes a creak with its wet finger on the
table, how it turns and looks at you; does it again, and again looks at
you; thus saying as clearly as it can—‘Hear this new sound.’ Watch how
the older children come into the room exclaiming, ‘Mamma, see what a
curious thing,’ ‘Mamma, look at this,’ ‘Mamma, look at that;’ and would
continue the habit, did not the silly mamma tell them not to tease her.
Observe how, when out with the nurse-maid, each little one runs up to
her with the new flower it has gathered, to show her how pretty it is,
and to get her also to say it is pretty. Listen to the eager volubility
with which every urchin describes any novelty he has been to see, if
only he can find some one who will attend with any interest.”

How many parents there are, however, who are readier to provide
playthings for their children than to share the delights of their
children with those playthings; readier to set their children at
knowledge-seeking, than to have a part in their children’s surprises
and enjoyments of knowledge-attaining; readier to make good, as far
as they can, all losses to their children, than to grieve with their
children over those losses. And what a loss of power to those parents
as parents, is this lack of sympathy with their children as children.
There are, however, parents who sympathize with their children in all
things; and as a result, they practically train and sway their children
as they will: for when there is entire sympathy between two persons,
the stronger one is necessarily the controlling force with both.

In order to sympathize with another, you must be able to put yourself
in his place, mentally and emotionally; to occupy, for the time being,
his point of view, and to see that which he sees, and as he sees it,
as he looks out thence. It is not that your way of looking at it is
his way from the start, but it is that his way of looking at it must
be your way while you are taking your start in an effort to show
your sympathy with him. In many relations of life, sympathy would be
impossible between two parties, because of the differences of taste
and temperament and habits of thought; but in the case of parent
and child, the parent ought to be able to learn the child’s ways of
thinking and modes of feeling, so as to come into the possibility of
sympathy with the child at all times.

How the child ought to feel is one thing. How the child does feel is
quite another thing. The parent may know the former better than the
child does; but the latter the child knows better than the parent.
Until a parent has learned just how the child looks at any matter, the
parent is incapable of so coming alongside of the child in his estimate
of that matter as to win his confidence and to work with him toward a
more correct view of it. To stand off apart from the child, and tell
him how he ought to think and feel, may be a means of disheartening
him, as he finds himself so far from the correct standard. But to stand
with the child and point him to the course he ought to pursue, is more
likely to inspire him to honest efforts in that direction, until he
comes to think and to feel as his parents would have him.

A parent misses an opportunity of gaining added power over his
child, when he fails to show sympathy with that child in the child’s
enjoyments and ordinary occupations. If, indeed, the parent would
be always ready to evidence an interest in his child’s plays and
companionships and studies, the parent would grow into the very life of
his child in all these spheres; and there would be hardly less delight
to the child in talking those things over with his parent afterward,
than in going through with them originally. But if the parent seems
to have no share with the child in any one or all of these lines
of childhood experience, the child is necessarily shut away so far
from his parent, and compelled to live his life there as if he were
parentless.

Still more does a parent lose of opportunity for good to his child, if
he fails to have sympathy with his child in that child’s weaknesses
and follies and misdoings. It is in every child’s nature to long
for sympathy at the point where he needs it most; and when he has
done wrong, or has indulged evil thoughts, or is feeling the force of
temptation, he is glad to turn to some one stronger and better than
himself, and make confession of his faults and failures. If, as he
comes to his parents at such a time, he is met with manifest sympathy,
he is drawn to his parents with new confidence and new trust. But if he
is met unsympathetically, and is simply told how wrong he is, or how
strange it seems that he should be so far astray, he is turned back
upon himself to meet his bitterest life-struggle all by himself; and
a new barrier is reared between him and his parents, that no parental
love can remove, and that no parental watchfulness or care can make a
blessing to either child or parent.

It is a great thing for a parent to have such sympathy with his child
that his child can tell him freely of his worst thoughts or his
greatest failures without any fear of seeming to shock that parent, and
so to chill the child’s confidence. It is a great thing for a parent
to have such sympathetic thoughts of his child when that child has
unintentionally broken some fragile keepsake peculiarly dear to the
parent, as to be more moved by regret for the child’s sorrow over the
mishap than for the loss of the precious relic. There is no such power
over children as comes from such sympathy with children.

There is truth in the suggestion of Herbert Spencer, that too often
“mothers and fathers are mostly considered by their offspring as
friend-enemies;” and that it is much better for parents to _show_ to
their children that they are “their best friends,” than to content
themselves with _saying so_. It ought to be so, that children would
feel that they could find no such appreciative sympathy from any other
person, in their enjoyments or in their sorrows and trials, as they
are sure of from their parents. This is so in some cases; and wherever
it is so, the parents have such power over and with their children as
would otherwise be impossible. On the other hand, there are parents who
love their children without stint, and who would die to promote their
welfare, who actually have no sympathy with their children, and who,
because of this lack of sympathy, are without the freest confidences of
their children, and are unable to sway them as they fain would.

The power of sympathy is not wholly a natural one. It is largely
dependent upon cultivation. An unsympathetic parent may persistently
train himself to a habit of sympathy with an unsympathetic child, by
recognizing his duty of learning how the child thinks and feels, and
by perceiving the gain of getting alongside of that child in loving
tenderness in order to bring him to a better way of thinking and
feeling. But if a parent and child are not in sympathy, the best and
most unselfish love that that parent can give to that child will be
fruitless for such results in child-training as would be possible if
that love were directed by sympathy.




XXVI.

_INFLUENCE OF THE HOME ATMOSPHERE._


In the world of nature, life is dependent on the atmosphere. Whatever
else is secured, the atmosphere is essential to life’s existence. It
is, in fact, the atmosphere that gives the possibility of all the
varied forms of vegetable and animal life in the earth and the sea
and the air. So, again, the atmosphere brings death to every living
thing, if elements that are hostile to life prevail in its composition.
When the question of the date of man’s first appearance on our planet
is under discussion, a chief factor in the unsolved problem is the
nature of the atmosphere of the earth at any given period of antiquity.
Without a life-sustaining atmosphere, life were an impossibility.
Similarly, the question of the probability of other planets being
inhabited, pivots on this consideration. Life and death are in the
atmosphere.

It is not alone the component elements of the atmosphere that bring
life or death to all within its scope; but the temperature and the
measure of movement of the atmosphere go far to decide the degree
of life that shall be attained or preserved within the scope of its
influence. Unless there is a due measure of oxygen in the air, the
atmosphere is death-giving. Without sufficient warmth to the air, its
oxygen is of no avail for the sustaining of life. And even though the
oxygen and the warmth be present, the force of the swift-moving air may
carry death on its vigorous wings. No gardener would depreciate the
importance of a right atmosphere for his most highly prized plants;
nor would any wise physician undervalue the sanitary importance of
the atmospheric surroundings of his patients. As it is in the natural
world, so it is in the moral sphere: life and death are in the
atmosphere.

A vital question in connection with every home is, Is the atmosphere


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13

Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 10 of 13)