A father should be just as careful, if not more so, not to forfeit the good opinion, the love and admiration of his son as he would be not to forfeit the friendship of his best friend. If you cannot be a friend to your boy you certainly cannot expect him to look up to you as an ideal, or even a fairly good, father.
Every time you punish your son in anger he despises you for it. He knows that you do it because you are stronger and claim the right by virtue of your fatherhood.
You can get the confidence of your boy just as you can get the confidence of friends, and in no other way. Love and respect will come only in response to love and respect. If you love your boy in the right way, and if you enter into all his ambitions and life dreams with keen interest; if he feels that you are really his best friend, he will tell you everything, and not until then.
Many parents are distressed by the waywardness of their children; but the waywardness they deplore is often more imaginary than real. A large part of their children's pranks and mischief is merely the result of exuberant youthful spirits. They are so full of energy, and so buoyant with life that it is difficult for them to restrain themselves. Love is the only power that will control them.
A mother who has brought up a large family of children in the most admirable way says she has never applied physical punishment or spoken a cross word to one of them.
When this woman's first child was born, friends and neighbors said she was too good-natured to bring up children, that she would spoil them, as she would not correct or discipline, and would do nothing but love them. It is true, love was her only instrument of correction and discipline, but what splendid results it has achieved! Love has proved the great magnet which has held her large family together in a marvelous way. Not one member of it has gone astray. They have all grown up to be noble, straightforward, self-reliant men and women. To-day they all look upon their mother as the greatest figure in the world. She has brought out the best in them. The worst did not need correcting or repressing, because the best overpowered it. The children always worshiped their mother, and the expulsive power of a stronger emotion drove out of their nature, or discouraged the development of all vicious tendencies, which, in the absence of a great love, might have become dominant.
Love's way is the only way that always works. No human being in any part of the world has found that love's way has failed, that it has ever been wanting. It is as stable and as certain as the law of gravitation.
A young society woman, not long ago, by its help, succeeded in changing a group of the worst boys in an east side district in New York into earnest, self-respecting, ambitious youngsters. According to the social worker who put the boys in her charge, they "all smoke and shoot craps, the toughest boys on the east side."
The first thing the young woman did was to try to replace the old evil influences which had made the boys what they were by something better. So, she invited the whole "gang," eighteen in all, to her home. This first party was a complete failure. The boys made an uproar; turned the place into a bedlam, and behaved generally as if they were in their old haunts. But the young woman was not discouraged. She continued her parties, and gradually her visitors responded to her kindness and genuine interest in them. Love, which is always patient, at length won out, and in a comparatively short time their unruly natures were subdued, and they were as respectful to the young woman and her father as if they had been reared and trained in the best environment. This is love's way.
The three great essentials for a happy childhood are food, love, and play. After food and love, play is the great builder and developer of childhood. Yet there are far too large a number of parents who are still utterly ignorant of, or indifferent to, the rights of their children in this respect. And some of them are a little bit like our Puritan fathers who, in the early history of our country, thought that the fun-loving, playful faculties were of the devil, evidences of lack of piety, and a great detriment to the spiritual life. But we know now that this is the opposite of the truth. We have found many more useful things for their development in their play than in some of the things taught in the schools, although both school and play are necessary.
You are not loving your children, my parent friends, when you curtail their play, or worse still, shut it off altogether. This will tend to destroy their symmetrical development and to deprive them of the sound judgment and good sense which can only come from a symmetrically developed brain.
The Director of Education in the Philippine Islands says, "The games which we have taught the Filipinos have done for them more than all the other civilizing influence which America has brought. Before we came to the Islands the boys practically had no games and no plays. They had simple pastimes only. The girls had even less than their brothers. The games we have taught, a dozen or more in all, have brought these boys into their stronger and happier selves."
Froebel tells us that play is in reality the most spiritual activity of man in childhood. He finds that it is "typical of human life as a whole - of the inner, hidden, natural life of man and all things; it gives, therefore, joy, freedom, contentment, inner and outer rest, peace with the world; it holds the sources of all that is good. The child that plays thoroughly until physical fatigue forbids will surely be a thorough determined man, capable of self-sacrifice for the promotion and welfare of himself and others."
The brain would be a prisoner but for the five senses. These five outlets connect it with the outside world. Without these connections a person would become an imbecile. Children, for a few years at least, find their chief outlet in play.