In the earlier, crueler centuries when small children were sometimes imprisoned for many years in dark dungeons, where no light or sound could reach them, and where they were not allowed to communicate with human beings, they never developed. They became imbeciles.
Christ was the first who voiced the rights of the child. There was a time when, if they were at all defective or deficient, children were exposed to wild animals; or if they were not likely to be strong and able to serve the state they were sacrificed. At this time the child was not supposed to have any rights that adults were bound to respect, but Christ said, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Christ gave a new significance to the child, a new life and a new opportunity to it and to all mankind. The love leaven he implanted in the world has started such a tremendous impulse in favor of the little child, that it is taking hundreds of thousands of children out of factories, stores, and mines, and sending them to school, giving them a chance for life.
In Denmark, where children are not only theoretically the nation's greatest resource, but are treated as such, the state exercises a kindly supervision and care over every child, no matter whose it is, whether high or low, rich or poor. No child is allowed to go to waste, to become a menace to society, because of the parents' ignorance or indifference. Every boy and girl, insofar as the state can make it possible, is insured training for health and efficiency, so that they will grow up independent, self-respecting citizens, fully developed physically and mentally.
Every government should guarantee the inalienable right of its children to a fair chance in life, to all the advantages which a superb physique, robust health, a practical education and good moral training will give them. If all the civilized states would spend as much money on the proper rearing and education of their children as they now spend in conducting criminal trials, in supporting prisons, reform institutions, schools for defectives, insane asylums and poor houses, the need for such institutions would soon cease to exist.
In New York City two hundred and fifty thousand dollars are spent for vacation classes, playgrounds and evening recreation centers, and seventeen million to correct delinquencies and crimes that have their origin in the evil bent given to the young largely by play less lives.
Ernest K. Coulter, author of "The Children of the Shadow" and founder of the Big Brother movement, made a study of the bad boy and girl problem for ten years in the children's courts of New York, and it is his opinion that if the community can be aroused to the dangers of evil environment the problem of the bad boy can be dealt with successfully.
Love by the state, love in the school and love in the home, but above all love in the home, is the great educator of the child, the great maker of men and women; not the over-indulgent, ignorant love which makes children little monsters of selfishness and cruelty, but the wise, enlightened, divine love which knows how to discipline, to withhold as well as to give.
Many parents who think they love their children are in reality their greatest enemies. They bring out the worst that is in them, because they appeal to the worst. They appeal to all that is frail, weak, timid, and unlovable in their nature, by catering to their selfishness, indulging every whim, no matter how unreasonable or vicious, by doing everything for them instead of allowing them to do things for themselves and thus strengthen their faculties and power of self-reliance.
They are allowed to stay at home from school when they "play" sick, as so many children do, and are petted, and coddled, and fussed over, when there is really nothing the matter with them. If they fall or hurt themselves they are sympathized with and encouraged to cry, by expressions of pity, instead of being taught to bear a little pain or hurt bravely and manfully and not to whimper like a weakling.
In a hundred such ways, weak, foolish parents cultivate the selfishness of their children until they become unbearable; they de stroy their courage and self-reliance; make cowards and weaklings of them, and pave the way for their destruction. Many men and women have lived to curse in bitterness of heart the criminal indulgence of over fond parents, who were the primal cause of their ruin.
Do not do for your children what they ought to do for themselves, but help them to help themselves. Do not allow them to trample on the rights of others in order to gratify their own selfish desires. Show them the beauty of the Golden Rule, and insist upon their practising it in their games, with their playmates, and with older people. Teach them to respect the rights of others; but don't forget under any circumstances that they also have rights which should be respected.
You can no more compel the love and admiration and respect of your child by constantly antagonizing, and finding fault with him, and showing him the unlovely side of your character on the one hand, or, on the other, pandering to every unreasonable whim, than a young man could compel a girl to love him by adopting similar means.
The training of a child is the most delicate and sacred business in the world. It is a work that calls for the greatest wisdom, the finest discernment, the most infinite patience. Love includes all of these.
In training your child try love's way.