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THE DRESS OF CHILDREN.
This part of a child's education is prepared for even before it is born, for numerous fine things are got ready for the expected infant. The clothes are made so long and full, the quiltings and linings are so thick, that the dress must bear a very undue proportion to the weight of the dear little infant. What can be the use of so much attire? is a question not easily answered : while the injury it occasions must be obvious; for what grown person could sustain a weight of clothing so disproportionate? Those who have seen infants in warm climates are more aware of this mischief than others can be. There, the infant, instead of having its limbs encumbered by dress, has the free use of them, and turns it to good account by crawling on the floor at four or five months old.
Look into your own hearts, dear young mothers; scrutinise your motives. Is not vanity at the root ? Are not the long robes, the elegant mantles, etc., etc., sent out for your neighbours to admire ? If you would really consider your infants as sacred deposits, you would anxiously try every thought and intent of your hearts by the word of God. In doing so, how often might you find that you are (without knowing it) under the influence of motives your better feelings would disclaim. How often, for instance, is a mother influenced by her nurse, whose vanity is flattered by the notice taken of her little charge. - This would look so mean;
» « that would not be fit for a tradesman's child,” etc., are the everyday speeches to which undue importance is attached. It is true, that during the first few months the infant's mind can receive no injury from these measures ; but they will have an influence on the mind of the mother. She, having yielded to custom, fashion, and the opinions of her servants, will be less prepared to withstand them in future; and whatever her good sense or judgment may prescribe, will generally be overruled by those to whom she ought to dictate without appeal.
The child, then, will be dressed in ribbons, laces, and feathers; its hair will be tortured into curls before it can speak; and people will admire, because they will conclude that admiration is expected, when so much expense and pains are bestowed to obtain it. Many mothers of observation know how soon their children are impressed by what they hear in this way; and some of them deplore the
want of caution in their visitors. But how many, on the other hand, through a blind partiality are ready to believe much more than the politeness of their friends leads them to affirm; and are even so imprudent as to repeat, or allow the nurse to repeat, in the presence of the children, what has been said of them.
From the beginning of my career I have noticed the effects of vanity in very young children. Among the first I took charge of was a little girl, four years of age, who had been told by some one that she was very pretty, though her parents were very cautious in this respect. Frequently, on going to my room, I found the looking-glass turned, as if some one had been viewing her feet. This was unaccountable to me, till one day when I entered and found this little girl admiring herself before the glass, which she had pushed down for that purpose.
A little boy (who had heard the tailor scolded for not making his clothes to fit well) attached at all times much importance to his dress; and on one occasion gave a striking proof of it. He came into the schoolroom one morning in a very pretty dress, which was quite new; but as we made a point of not fostering his vanity, neither his sisters nor I took any notice of it. I called him to me, as usual, to repeat his little morning prayers and a hymn. He got through them pretty well, till he reached the third verse of his hymn,
" So like the sun would I begin
The business of my—" here he paused, his eyes were fixed on his buttons; and the word “clothes” was substituted for the word “day.” Poor little fellow! I was, of course, obliged to reprove his negligence and his vanity, and to show him what sad effects they produced.
This kind of conceit is not so dangerous in boys as in girls, because not so like to grow up with them ; but it is very disagreeable in both, as it destroys all the beautiful simplicity of childhood. In girls it leads to affectation, display, and many little arts by which attention may be attracted; all tending to form a character replete with duplicity and insincerity.
I knew a little girl in her seventh year, who, with the air of a little woman showed her silk frock, and told her cousin it was made according to the last fashion. The same child, after taking a walk in Hyde Park, came home and told us exultingly that a lady had remarked what a pretty figure she had. Would a child of her age have known anything about beauty of form or face if she had not been very imprudently dealt with? Some time after, I was with her in the country, and on one occasion observed her in the garden, practising some of her little airs. She was quite alone, therefore I was anxious to know whom she expected to admire her. Going out, and looking in the direction her eyes indicated, I saw a woman servant at the window of the adjoining house, who was regarding little miss with some complacency. So true is it
that vanity will stoop to any meanness. When the appetite has once been excited, food must be had, however coarse : husks will suffice in most cases.
As children should not be informed of their personal advantages, neither should they be commended for quickness of parts or intellectual attainments. I have known even young children who would be induced to exertion by praise, but who would do nothing comparatively without it, because they had been accustomed to work under its influence.
It should be an invariable rule, in all cases, but more especially with regard to children, not to do evil that good may come. I would rather lose, in a child's intellectual advancement, all that must be purchased by praise, or attained by the more dangerous excitement of emulation, than gain for him the highest attainments of science at the expense of one moral feeling. What, indeed, has knowledge to do with happiness, unless it lead to the source of happiness, through the paths of humility, faith, obedience, and charity ? Knowledge, indeed, is power; as it has been proudly said. But, let it be remembered that knowledge, in the unconverted and unsanctified, is power to do evil, rather than to do good. The moral principle, on the other hand, when early attended to and carefully guarded, prepares for the reception of that better knowledge which is able to make wise unto salvation.
If Christian parents would calmly reflect on what they may observe around them, they would perceive that a worldly selfish spirit may very soon be cherished in their little children. « The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life” have their actings in the infant heart at a very early period. How all these are cherished by undue attention to dressing, curling, braiding, and adorning, by exposing children to drawing-room display and drawing-room commendation, any one who will consider the matter is competent to judge.
One of the first and most striking truths presented to the mind by an attentive consideration of this subject is, that few parents are aware how much they have it in their power to facilitate the proper education of their children. It cannot be too earnestly impressed on the attention of all who have the care of children, that their education is not conducted entirely in the schoolroom, but extends to the whole of their treatment during every hour they are awake. This is too frequently overlooked. The teacher desirous of performing her share of the task to the satisfaction of all concerned, often finds herself impeded or her efforts completely baffled by faults or deficiencies in the ideas or habits of the pupils, arising not from any natural defect, but from some want of due care in their previous management.
The obligation imposed upon those who undertake the mental training and education of children cannot, it is conceived, be got rid of by merely and exclusively attending to their intellectual ad
vancement. Such a course, though widely adopted, is highly reprehensible; it leaves undone much that is essentially necessary to the future wellbeing of the child. And though this want is frequently supplied by the kindly influence of a judicious and affectionate parent, it is not always so; nor in any case is it wise or just, to leave the formation of the moral character of a child to the chance of events over which it is seldom in our power to exert any
effectual control. Yet, on the other hand, it is just to remember, that the teacher can seldom hope to effect much in the moral training of a child, or thus to perform what I conceive to be the more important half of her duty, if not aided, and still less if obstructed, by the tendencies of home-influence.
A MOTHER'S INFLUENCE,
asked how it was that he, a Wall Street lawyer, brought into sharp collision with the world, had preserved so much tenderness of heart :
“My mother was a member of the Society of Friends," said he," and a serious conversation she had with me
when I was four or five years old has influenced my
whole life. I had joined some boys who were tormenting a kitten, we chased the poor creature, and then threw stones till we killed her; when I came into the house I told my mother what we had done ; she took me on her lap and talked to me in such a moving style about my cruelty to the poor helpless little animal, that I sobbed as if my heart would break. Afterwards, if I were tempted to do anything unkind, she would tell me to remember how
sorry I was for having hurt the poor little kitten. I never forgot that circumstance. For a long time after I could not think of it without tears, it impressed me so deeply that when I became a man I could never see a forlorn, suffering wretch run down by his fellow-beings, without thinking of that hunted and pelted little animal. Even now the spectacle of that kitten and the recollection of my dear mother's gentle lessons come between me and the prisoners at Sing Sing, and for ever admonish me to be humane and forbearing:
The prayer of the excellent Bishop Wilson may well be adopted by every mother conscious of responsibility and deeply anxious to train her children for God :-“O Lord, give me skill and conduct, that with a pious, prudent, and charitable hand I may govern those committed to my care; that I may be watchful in ruling them, earnest in instructing them, fervent in loving them, and patient in bearing with them.”
“The family is the nursery of the Church. If the nursery be neglected, what in time will become of the gardens and the orchards ?”-Gurnal.