Neurosis, the foundation of neurotic diseases--convulsions, paralysis, incorrigibility, delinquencies, and the petty nervous diseases that will be referred to--is an inborn potential requiring only slight encouragement from wrong habits of eating and mismanagement to be thrown on the cinema of life. For example, the hoarding attributes of the so-called successful business man are often thrown on the screen of his children's lives as kleptomania, forgery, and check-raising. The children of staid, exemplary pillars of the church are often nymphomaniacs and libertines--potentials passed on from lust and lasciviousness.
Infantile paralysis comes to children begotten of venereally enervated parents. Something cannot come from nothing. There is no accident or chance to account for the neuroticisms of children. Let us hope that some day the cause of neurosis in children will be removed by prospective parents taking a rest cure before marriage--not only resting, but learning how to live to restore and build virility.
The long step now being taken toward the nude, leaving little to the imagination, will be followed in the next generation by a preponderance of neurotic disease in children. Then will come a sterile generation, which will be supplanted by the children of people who have been lying fallow and have been statically restored. Impotency and the nervous derangements peculiar to sex-neurosis must follow the present pandemic of erotomania. The present overt mania may not be worse than the past covert mania--indeed, it may be educational. The evils of the latter had no cause except as a deluded professor declared that they came from a universal syphilitic taint. This teaching afforded an apology for unpleasant responsibilities; but the children following the overt mania of today can point to their parents and say: "You cursed me before birth."
Neurotic or nervous children are inclined to the bed-wetting habit when enervated, toxemic and suffering from digestive derangements. The exciting cause is any enervating influence: overeating; eating stimulating food; drinking coffee or tea; excessive drinking of milk or water; too much salt, sugar, or sweets of all kinds; the excessive use of butter, gravies, meat, eggs, cake, and pastries; the pernicious habit of frequent eating to overcome so-called underweight.
Fear is one of the greatest nerve depressants to which children are subject. Parents often rule by fear instead of by love and reason. Scolding, picking, fault-finding, and punishing by parents often ruin children's health. A chronic shrew can keep a home atmosphere so miasmatic that health for all who live in it takes wings and flies away. Children are scarcely over one sickness until they are in another; and, if they are troubled with sensitive neurotic bladders, bed-wetting will be of nightly occurrence. If the neurosis is of the stomach, gastric attacks will be frequent. Then, if treated and nursed badly, an eruptive fever may develop. If the throat is the neurotic center, feeding, medicating, and foolish nursing may end in diphtheria.
Neurotic children suffer much from their school life. Their fear of not pleasing the teacher is a constant drain on their nerve-energy. Imperfect lessons are often enough to cause indigestion. Failure at school and criticism at home are enough to cause indigestion and fever. Fear of bed-wetting, the displeasure of parents, and the punishment often given them are enervating and become a cause that continues the habit.
The first thing to do is to get rid of fear by assuring the child that bed-wetting is a nervous disease, over which it has no control except as it cultivates a willingness to learn how to live to get well. Parents must prove to children their sympathy and friendship, instead of being displeased and finding fault with them for a weakness which they cannot help. They should condole, and assure them that they will help them in every way they can to overcome their embarrassing weakness. They must explain to the little folks that this weakness is made worse by playing too hard and too long; that they must be moderate, and avoid becoming excited, shouting, and angry in play; that, until they can have a dry bed, they must go to bed early, and be willing to give up all their habits that help to build bladder weakness--such as candy-eating, gum-chewing, ice-cream, cake, fountain-drinking, all eating between meals, and all rich foods, until in full health; and that then they must live in a manner that will make them stay well. The right kind of parents will practice a reasonable amount of abstemiousness. Children learn from example more than from precept; and it is the sensuality practiced by parents before and after children are conceived that sets children's nerves on edge.
Children are easier to control in eating than grown people, when the evil of wrong eating is explained to them. If possible to begin treatment by giving a week or two of rest in bed, the rest should be taken. The first few days no food should be given. A good plan is to stop food until a night is passed without bed-wetting. This has a fine psychological influence on the child--it gives encouragement that a cure will be made. Then give fruit for breakfast--orange, apple, or other fresh fruit in like proportions. At noon, a combination salad (lettuce, two parts; tomato and celery, of each one part). At night, a baked apple or a dish of prunes--no dressing.
Second week: One slice of whole-wheat bread (dried out in the oven), with unsalted butter. The toast must be eaten dry, and mastication must be thorough. Then follow with fruit. At noon, a vegetable salad, and a teacupful of vegetable soup (see "The Practical Cook Book"). In the evening a slice of toasted whole-wheat bread followed with baked apple. Continue this light eating until the habit is fully controlled; then give fruit for breakfast--any fresh fruit--and follow with a glass or two of whole milk, sipping slowly. For dinner at noon, any coarse bread toasted, with unsalted butter. The bread should be eaten first, thoroughly masticating every bite; then follow with salad and baked apple for dessert. For supper, toasted bread, followed with vegetable soup. If noon time is limited, reverse, giving dinner at night and supper at noon.
If all is going well at the end of a month, select meals from the "The Practical Cook Book".