Monday, April 25, 2016

Etiquette and Parenting in 1912

Childhood is the most favorable time to develop the little habits we carry through life, and the importance of giving attention to these little habits cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of parents of young children.

The Failure of Women To Be the Best Mothers Possible 
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Greatest Work on Earth That a Woman Can Do Is to Guide the Manners and Train the Mind of a Child

If the parents of a rough diamond could only realize the handicap they place in their child by starting him out into the world without polishing him as much as possible, I am sure every parent would do his utmost to add a touch here and a touch there to the personality of his offspring during childhood, for it is during childhood that the little habits are formed, which, taken as a whole, do much to influence his future career and station in life. 
I refer to habits of tidiness, manners, deportment, carriage, table etiquette, care of the toilet, etc... 

"There comes a time in the life of every child when habits of this class have to be formed, and there is no reason on earth why they should not he formed in such a way that in later years they will not be a source of embarrassment to him." —Herbert A. Parkyn M.D. 

I wish these words by one of America's most gifted physicians and metaphysicians, could be written in letters of gold and hung where every mother and teacher in the land might read them daily. Women are pushing forward their claims for higher recognition and every day, and woman are succeeding in almost all the arts, professions and trades formerly pursued by men exclusively, yet women are almost universally failing to be the best mothers possible. 

You who read these words may take exception to such a statement. Yet, employ your leisure hours the next week in looking about you critically and dispassionately for a really perfect, or even "near perfect" mother of boys and girls of that embryo age, from eight to fourteen. 

From 8 to 14, Children Show Mothers’ Teaching 

It is during that period children show forth the training and teaching which has come to them from close association with their mothers. To again quote from Dr. Parkyn: "There are great possibilities in a new wooden barrel, provided it is empty. It is easy to fill it with syrup or kerosene, or any other liquid. But if a barrel be filled first with kerosene, it is very difficult, so completely to get rid of its impressions on the barrel, that the barrel can be used afterwards for syrup, the barrel, as it were, having formed an auto suggestion, which is hard to overcome. 

A young child's mind is very much like a barrel, so far as its first impressions are concerned. Its mind is an empty thing, waiting to be filled with any kind of impressions, and the impressions of childhood are by far the most lasting. Childhood is the most favorable time to develop the little habits we carry through life, and the importance of giving attention to these little habits cannot be too strongly impressed upon the minds of parents of young children.

So many parents believe that if they teach their children what is right and wrong, from a moral and ethical point of view, clothe them and send them to school, they have done all that is required of them, and that the children will do the rest themselves and make a success in life.” 

Habits Can Be Developed Best During Childhood

Mothers of culture and education are to be found all about us who have allowed their little sons to pass through the formative period of childhood without one distinguishing trait or habit of refined, considerate manhood, and who consider the brusqueness and boorish deportment of their offspring as natural phases of boyhood, which will be eventually outgrown. 

In America, children are allowed to occupy an unnatural position in the home and are permitted to demand favors of their elders, where foreign children gently request to dispute, and flatly contradict, where others would only question or remain silent, and to sit in the presence of their parents and grand-parents without waiting for permission or observing whether any one is discommoded, by their conduct. 

Mothers permit their little sons to interrupt conversation; to enter a room noisily, without removing their hats; to be first at the table, without showing the courtesy of seating the mother or sister or guest, and to air their ideas and opinions aggressively in the presence of older people. 

The very greatest work a woman can do on earth is to guide and train the mind and manners of a little child into gentleness, kindliness, courtesy, consideration, politeness, respect and reverence for whatever is great and good, and to teach the embryo man or woman those small refinements of deportment which mean so much In life. No matter what other work a mother may be doing in the world, if she is neglecting this work, which is the work God has given her, she is miserably failing as an individual and a citizen, as well as a mother. 

Not One Woman in 100 Is a Scientific Mother 

However bright a boy may be in his lessons, however he may excel in the athletic field, he is not growing into admirable and excellent manhood unless he is receiving the delicate and gracious touches of education which a mother should consider it her great privilege to give. 

But this cannot he given in a day or a year, it must he done day by day, and year by year, unobtrusively and tactfully, until the child has absorbed the wholesome and refining system unconsciously. And we do not find one American mother in one hundred who is unselfish and patient enough to bestow so much time and thought on the, profession of scientific motherhood.  Written for The Evening Herald by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1912

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