H. Clay (Henry Clay) Trumbull.

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for Christmas morning without patient and loving labor, on the part of
the parents, during the night before. Moreover, beyond the dazzling
attractions of the ornamented tree, and the suggestive outline of the
bulging stocking, the more there is to provoke curiosity and to incite
endeavor, on the children’s part, in the finding and securing of their
Christmas portion, the better the children like it, and the more they
value that which is thus made theirs.

It takes time and work and skill to make the most, for the children,
of a Christmas morning; but it pays to do this for the darlings, while
they still are children. They will never forget it; and it will be
a precious memory to them all their life through. It is one of the
child-training agencies which a parent ought to be glad to use for good.

One good man might be named who has brought to perfection the art of
making Christmas delightful to children. He has no children of his
own; so he makes it his mission to give happiness to other people’s
children. The story of bright and varied Christmas methods in his home
would fill a little volume. His plans for Christmas are never twice
alike; hence the children whom he gathers say truly, “There was never
anything like _this_ before.” Take a single Christmas for example.
This child-lover was busy getting ready for it for weeks in advance.
Money he spent freely, but he did not stop with that. Day and evening,
with a loving sister’s help, he worked away getting everything just
to his mind—which was sure to be just to the children’s mind. At last
Christmas eve was here; so were the children—nieces and nephews,
and others more remote of kin, gathered in his home to wait for the
hoped-for day.

Christmas morning came at last. Waking and sleeping dreams had all been
full of coming delights to the children; for they knew enough from the
past to be sure that good was in store for them. No one overslept, that
morning. According to orders, they gathered in the breakfast-room.
Their stockings were hanging from the mantel, but limp and empty. Not
one suspicious package or box was to be seen. Breakfast was first out
of the way, that the morning might be free for a right good time. Then
the day was fairly open. Each went to his or her stocking. There was
nothing in it but a little card, pendent from a thread coming over
the mantel edge. On that card was a rhyming call to follow the thread
wherever it might lead; somewhat after this form:

“Charley, dear, if you’ll follow your nose,
And your nose will follow this string
Throughout the house, wherever it goes,—
You will come to a pretty thing.”

Every stocking told the same story, in varied form, and every child
stood holding a frail thread, wondering to what it would lead, and
waiting the signal for a start. At the word, all were off together.

It was a rare old house, richly furnished with treasures of art and
fancy from all the world over. The breakfast-room was heavily paneled
in carved wood and hung with ancient Gobelin tapestry. The threads
which the children followed passed back of the large Swiss clock, along
the wall under the tapestry, out by the parlor with its Cordova-leather
panels, into a picture-hung reception room, and there mounted to the
ceiling above, up through a colored glass sky-light. When the children
saw that, they scampered through the marble-tiled hall, up the broad
polished walnut staircase to the passage above, and there drew up their
threads, and started on a new hunt.

From this fresh point of departure the different threads took separate
directions. They led hither and thither, the children following, almost
holding their breaths with the excitement of pursuit and expectation.
Along the corridor walls, under rows of Saracen tiles and Italian
majolica and Sèvres porcelain, back of old paintings, through the
well-filled library, into and out of closets stored with fishing-tackle
and hunting-gear, through rooms spread with Turkish mats and rich with
coverings of Persian embroidery, up into the third story, and down
along the under side of the banister rail, back to the lower floor,
again the threads led the way and the children followed. It was a happy
hour for old and young.

By and by the threads came once more to a common point, passing under a
closed door out of a rear hall, where a printed placard called on each
child to wait until all were together. One by one they came up with
beaming faces and bounding hearts. The door was opened. There in the
center of the disclosed room were seven mammoth pasteboard Christmas
boots, holding from one to three pecks each, marked with the names of
the several children, and filled to overflowing. Each child seized a
boot, and hurried, as directed, back to the breakfast-room.

Then came new surprises. All hands sat on the floor together. Only one
package at a time was opened, that all might enjoy the disclosures to
the full. And there were unlooked-for directions on many a package.
One child would take a package from her Christmas boot, and, on
removing the first wrapper, would find a written announcement that
the package was to be handed over to her cousin. A little later, the
cousin would be directed to pass along another package to a third one
of the party. And so the morning went by. How happy those children
were! What life-long memories of enjoyment were then made for them! And
how thoroughly the good uncle and aunt enjoyed that morning with its
happiness which they had created!

There were elegant and fitting presents found in those Christmas boots;
but the charm of that day was in the mysteries of that pursuing chase
all over that beautiful house, and in the excitements of prolonged
anticipation and wonder. Those children will never have done enjoying
that morning. The choicest gifts then received by them had an added
value because their generous giver had put so much of himself into
their preparation and distribution. And this is but an illustration of
a truth that is applicable in the whole realm of efforts at gladdening
the hearts of the little ones on Christmas or any other day. It
matters not, so far, whether the home be one of abundance or of close
limitations, whether the gifts be many or few, costly of inexpensive.

He who would make children happy must do for them and do with them,
rather than merely give to them. He must give himself with his gifts,
and thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave
himself to us, who is touched with the sense of our enjoyments as
well as our needs, and who, with all that He gives us, holds out an
expectation of some better thing in store for us: of that which passeth
knowledge and understanding, but which shall fully satisfy our hopes
and longings when at last we have it in possession.




XXX.

_GOOD-NIGHT WORDS._


If there is one time more than another when children ought to hear only
loving words from their parents, and be helped to feel that theirs is a
home of love and gladness, it is when they are going to bed at night.
Good-night words to a child ought to be the best of words, as they are
words of greatest potency. Yet not every parent realizes this important
truth, nor does every child have the benefit of it.

The last waking thoughts of a child have a peculiar power over his mind
and heart, and are influential in fixing his impressions and in shaping
his character for all time. When he turns from play and playmates, and
leaves the busy occupations of his little world, to lie down by himself
to sleep, a child has a sense of loneliness and dependence which he
does not feel at another time. Then he craves sympathy; he appreciates
kindness; he is grieved by harshness or cold neglect.

How glad a true child is to kneel by his mother’s knee to pray his
evening prayer, or to have his father kneel with him as he prays! How
he enjoys words of approval or encouragement when they precede the good
night kiss from either parent! With what warm and grateful affection
his young heart glows as he feels the tender impress of his mother’s
hand or lips upon his forehead before he drops asleep. How bright and
dear to him that home seems at such an hour! How sorry he is for every
word or act of unkindness which he then recalls from his conduct of the
day! How ready he then is to confess his specific acts of misdoing, and
all his remembered failures, and to make new resolves and purposes of
better doing for the future!

Whatever else a child is impatient to grow away from, he does not
readily outgrow the enjoyment of his mother’s good-night. As long as
she is willing to visit his bedside, and give him a kiss, with a
loving word, just before he goes to sleep, he is sure to count that
privilege of his home as something above price, and without which he
would have a sense of sad lack. And at no time is he more sure than
then to be ready to do whatever his mother would ask of him; at no time
do gentle, tender words of loving counsel from her sink deeper into his
heart, or make an impression more abiding and influential.

There are young men and women, still at their childhood’s home, who
look for their mother’s coming to give them her good-night kiss,
with no less of interest and grateful affection than when they were
little boys and girls. And there are many more people—both young and
old—away from their homes, who thank God with all their hearts for the
ineffaceable memories of such tokens of their dear mother’s love, while
yet they were with her.

Notwithstanding this, however, there is perhaps no one thing in which
parents generally are more liable to err than in impatient or unloving
words to their children when the little ones are going to bed. The
parents are tired, and their stock of patience is at the lowest. If the
children are not as quiet and orderly and prompt as they should be, the
parents rebuke them more sharply than they would for similar offenses
earlier in the day. Too often children go to bed smarting under a sense
of injustice from their parents, and brood over their troubles as they
try to quiet themselves down to sleep. Their pillows are often wet with
their tears of sorrow, and their little hearts are, perhaps, embittered
and calloused through the abiding impressions of the wrong they have
suffered, or the harshness they have experienced, while they were most
susceptible to parental influences for good or ill.

It is a simple matter of fact that some parents actually postpone the
punishment of their children for the misdeeds of the day until the
leisure hour of twilight and bed-time. A great many mothers besides the
“old woman who lived in a shoe,” in providing for a large family of
children, have often “whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.”
Perhaps children, as a rule, receive more whippings at bed-time than at
any other of the twenty-four hours. And unquestionably they then have
more scoldings.

“Do you hear me, children?” sounds out the voice of many a mother into
the nursery as the children are getting to bed. “If you don’t stop
playing and talking, and go right to sleep, I’ll come up there and just
_make_ you.” And that is the echo of that mother’s voice which rings
longest in her children’s ears.

Again, there are mothers who, without any thought of unkindness,
are unwise enough to deliberately refuse a good-night kiss to their
children, as a penalty for some slight misconduct; not realizing the
essential cruelty of withholding from the little ones this assurance of
affection, at a time when the tender heart prizes it above all else.
The first effect of such a course as this is to cause bitterness of
grief to the children. The repetition of such a course is liable to
loosen the parent’s loving hold on the little ones, and to diminish
the value of the good-night kiss. It is, indeed, probably true, that
more children out of reputable homes are soured, and estranged, and are
turned astray, through harshness and injustice, or by unwise severity,
at their bed-time hour, than from any other provoking cause in their
home-life.

Even where there is no harshness of manner or severity of treatment on
the part of the parents, there is often an unwise giving of prominence,
just then, to a child’s faults and failures, so as to sadden and
depress the child unduly, and to cast a shade over that hour which
ought to be the most hopeful and restful of all the waking hours.
Whatever is said by a parent in the line of instruction toward a better
course, at such a time, should be in the way of holding up a standard
to be reached out after, rather than of rebuking the child’s misdoings
and shortcomings in the irrevocable past. The latest waking impressions
of every day, on every child, ought to be impressions of peace and joy
and holy hope.

A sensitive, timid little boy, long years ago, was accustomed to lie
down to sleep in a low “trundle-bed,” which was rolled under his
parents’ bed by day, and was brought out for his use by night. As he
lay there by himself in the darkness, he could hear the voices of his
parents, in their lighted sitting-room, across the hall-way, on the
other side of the house. It seemed to him that his parents never slept;
for he left them awake when he was put to bed at night, and he found
them awake when he left his bed in the morning. So far this thought was
a cause of cheer to him, as his mind was busy with imaginings in the
weird darkness of his lonely room.

After loving good-night words and kisses had been given him by both
his patents, and he had nestled down to rest, this little boy was
accustomed, night after night, to rouse up once more, and to call out
from his trundle-bed to his strong-armed father, in the room from which
the light gleamed out, beyond the shadowy hall-way, “Are you there,
papa?” And the answer would come back cheerily, “Yes, my child, I am
here.” “You’ll take care of me to-night, papa; won’t you?” was then his
question. “Yes, I’ll take care of you, my child,” was the comforting
response. “Go to sleep now. Good-night.” And the little fellow would
fall asleep restfully, in the thought of those assuring good-night
words.

A little matter that was to the loving father; but it was a great
matter to the sensitive son. It helped to shape the son’s life. It
gave the father an added hold on him; and it opened up the way for his
clearer understanding of his dependence on the loving watchfulness of
the All-Father. And to this day when that son, himself a father and a
grandfather, lies down to sleep at night, he is accustomed, out of the
memories of that lesson of long ago, to look up through the shadows
of his earthly sleeping-place into the far-off light of his Father’s
presence, and to call out, in the same spirit of child-like trust and
helplessness as so long ago, “Father, you’ll take care of me to-night;
won’t you?” And he hears the assuring answer come back, “He that
keepeth thee will not slumber. The Lord shall keep thee from all evil.
He shall keep thy soul. Sleep, my child, in peace.” And so he realizes
the twofold blessing of a father’s good-night words.

A wise parent will prize and will rightly use the hour of the
children’s bed-time. That is the golden hour for good impressions on
the children’s hearts. That is the parent’s choicest opportunity of
holy influence. There should be no severity then, no punishment at that
time. Every word spoken in that hour should be a word of gentleness and
affection. The words which are most likely to be borne in mind by the
children, in all their later years, as best illustrating the spirit and
influence of their parents, are the good-night words of those parents.
And it may be that those words are the last that the parents shall ever
have the privilege of speaking to their children; for every night of
sleep is a pregnant suggestion of the night of the last sleep. Let,
then, the good-night words of parents to their children be always those
words by which the parents would be glad to be remembered when their
voices are forever hushed; and which they themselves can recall gladly
if their children’s ears are never again open to good-night words from
them.




INDEX.


Abraham as a child-trainer, 14, 15.

Accidents, sympathy with children in, 255.

Adams, John Quincy, on the mother-love, 271.

Addison, Joseph, on reading, 175.

Affectation, of grief, for selfish ends, 98.

Afraid, when a child is old enough to be, 130.

Allowing play to a child’s imagination, 277–282 (see Imagination).

Ambidextrous, gain of being, 59.

Amusements:
training a child in, 155–164;
necessary to children, 155;
bad companionship to be avoided in, 159;
should have no element of chance, 160;
should not involve late hours, 161;
a choice of reading in, 176.

Anger:
never right in conference with a child, 44;
never punish a child in, 205–216;
defined, 205, 206;
confession by a parent of its influence on him, 209;
its exhibit as “indignation” in punishing, 212;
illustration of its evil on the mission-school superintendent, 213.

Animals:
training better than breaking for them, 50;
their knowledge through training, 143;
gain of calmness in training them, 220.

Answering:
a child’s request deliberately, 107;
a child’s questions, importance of, 122;
wise methods of, 124–128.

Apologizing, duty and manliness of, 172.

Appetite:
early control of, possible, 99;
training a child’s, 109–118.

Assertion, self, inconsistent with courtesy, 166.

Atmosphere, influence of the home, 257–262.


BAD boy, the:
some traits of, 207;
example of, in a mission-school, 213.

Bashful child, the, 18.

Bedtime:
a child’s impressibility at, 291–293;
a parent’s irritability at, 293–295;
mistakes of parents at, 295–297;
illustrative memories of, 297–300.

Beginning:
of training for a child, 15;
of a child’s self-control, 94.

Bending a child’s will, distinguished from its breaking, 38.

Best things kept for Sunday, 146.

Bible-study on Sunday is not always worship, 142.

Books [see Reading].

Braddock and Washington as contrasting cowardice and fear, 225.

Bravery consistent with fear, 225.

Breaking a child’s will is never right, 47–52.

Bushnell, Horace:
on giving a premium to a child’s fretting, 97;
on rewarding silence with “dainties,” 97;
on a parent’s sympathy with a child’s plays, 157 f;
on the place for a parental explosion against evil, 212.


CANDY:
used wrongly, 97, 116;
reserved for Sunday, 148.

Censure:
few words better than many in, 220;
a child’s sorrow from a playmate’s, 243;
evil of unsympathetic, 254.

Centripetal force of some amusements, 162.

Chance, the element of, not admissible in children’s amusements, 160.

Character:
shaped by child-training, 16;
possibilities of, perceived, 73;
shown in fears, 223.

Choice:
faculty of, identified with the will, 38;
God’s dealings with men, on the basis of their freedom of, 39;
not abrogated by rewards and punishments, 40;
of obedience or punishment, a fair one, 44, 46;
for a child by parents, of studies and duties, 58;
of food and drink, 109;
of amusements, 156, 164;
of reading, 176;
of companionships, 197 f.;
of a residence, school, a week-day school, or a Sunday-school, 201.

Christ [see Jesus Christ].

Christian faith, the remedy for child-sorrows, 245.

Christmas:
celebration of, may illustrate Sabbath observance, 146;
distinguishing then between fact and fancy, 279;
giving added value to a child’s, 283–290.

Church services should be made attractive to children, 153.

Classic examples of table-talk, 187.

Coaxing a child to be quiet, 97.

College curriculum, its value as a means of training, 56.

Comforting children by sympathy, 249.

Companionships:
in a child’s amusements to be guarded, 159;
guiding a child in, 197–204.

Condiments, a child’s use of, 111, 115.

Confession:
of faults won through parental sympathy, 254;
a child’s readiness for, at bed-time, 292.

Conscientiousness, of young parents, as a cause of over-doing
child-training, 84 f.

Control [see Self-Control].

Conversation:
honoring a child’s interest in adult, 79;
evil to a child of having himself for the topic of, 170, 174;
favorable occasion for, at family meals, 189.

Counseling, not identical with training, 17.

Courtesy, training a child to, 165–174.

Cowardice, distinguished from fear, 224.

Criticism, of our children, by others, to be heeded, 34.

Crying:
controlling by self-control, 96;
not recognized as a means of gain, 106;
a child’s earliest action, 239.

Cultivating a child’s taste for reading, 175–186 [see Reading].

Curbing, an element in training, 30.


DARK side of life, seen first by the child, 239.

David’s recognition of the mother-love, 264.

Dealing tenderly with a child’s fears, 223–238 [see Fears].

Death in the atmosphere, 258.

Definition:
of training, 11;
of teaching, 12;
of faith, 129;
of courtesy, 165;
of good-breeding, 166;
of anger, 206;
of punishment, 207;
of scolding, 217;
of sympathy, 248;
of home atmosphere, 259;
of the false and of the unreal, 277.

Denying:
a child wisely, 61–70;
not to be done hastily, 107.

De Quincey on “fine manners,” 166.

Diagnosis, important in parental care, as in medical practice, 30.

Dictionary, at hand for use in table-talk, 193.

Discerning a child’s special need of training, 29–36.

Discipline:
by the use of “must” in child-training, 53 f.;
example of Spartan, 68;
danger of its over-doing, 85, 90;
in eating and drinking, 109 f.;
in the mission-school, 213, 214.

Dogs:
to be trained, not broken, 50 f.;
a natural tone of voice in the training of, 219.

Dolls, as a child’s treasure, 243.

Duty of training children, 17–22.


EDUCATION:
begins with training rather than teaching, 12;
progress in methods of, 54.

Eli honoring the child Samuel’s individuality, 73.

English custom of separating parents and children at meal-time, 190.

Etiquette, distinguished from courtesy, 170.

Eton, influence of its playground on the battle of Waterloo, 161.

_Ex post facto_ laws not justifiable, 215.

Eye and ear, trained by playthings and games, 160.


FACT and fancy, a child distinguishes between, 277.

Fairy-tales:
value and place of, 178;
safer reading than falsely colored religious story-books, 281.

Faith, training a child’s, 129–138.

Fancy and fact [see Fact].

Fathers sharing the amusements of children, 158.

Faults:
of children, friends and neighbors may see those which parents
do not, 33;
should excite parental sympathy, 253;
children more ready to confess, at bed-time, 292.

Fears, dealing tenderly with a child’s, 223–238.

Feeble-minded children, their special lack, 20, 21.

Fiction:
place and value of, in child’s reading, 178;
no place for the highly colored and over-wrought, 182;
when false is pernicious, 281.

First child, danger of over-doing the training of the, 84, 87.

Food:
for children, should be chosen by parents, 109;
inherited tastes for, may be overcome by training, 109;
freaks of appetite for, 112;
an American educator’s method of training his children’s tastes
for, 114.

Forcing a child’s will:
never right, 42 f.;
permanent harm of, 48.

Freedom:
of man’s will, the basis of divine dealing, 39, and fore-ordained,
40;
to ask questions, limited, 123;
should be permitted in family table-talk, 192;
from anxiety and sorrow not characteristic of childhood, 239.

Freshness of a child’s thought on profound themes, 80, 131.

“Friend-enemies,” parents as, according to Herbert Spencer, 255.


GAMES:
for Sunday, 147;
should be made a means of good, 159;
the element of chance should be excluded from, 160;
of an intellectual nature, 163;
the right use of imagination in, 278, 279.


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