Training of Children in The New Thought
by Frances Partlow
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The author endeavors to deliver advice on how to raise children in the new thought and prepare them for adult life. Contents: First Steps; Growing; Strengthening the Bonds; Bending Twigs; Asserting the Self; The Universal Mother; The Fruit of Philosophy; Death and After; The Magnetism of Character; The Application of a Truth; You Can and You Will; Entering the Silence.
When the Psychic Research Company asked me to put in book form my experience connected with the training of my children, it did not seem to me that I could possibly have anything worthy the attention of the students of New Thought to impart. But when I reflected that nothing that transpires in our lives comes to us by chance it seemed to me possible that I had a message to give to the world in this way, which might be the means of bringing happiness into some homes where today discord reigns; and even more than that, I became ambitious enough to hope that the few words in season here given might be of supreme advantage in the development of character of those who are today the children, but who will eventually be the fathers and mothers of the coming generation. Realizing this responsibility, I have endeavored in this little book to set forth, in the simple language of one who speaks as she feels, the rules of conduct which created and cemented the close intimacy and love existing between my children and myself; a love which has been to me so great a consolation that in the darkest hours of affliction it has been sufficient in itself to stay me and support me, and has given me a content of spirit which the easiest of circumstances could never procure.
Now that my work of training and caring for these children is almost concluded I realize, as never before, that it is the duty of every woman to separate herself in spirit to a certain extent from her children, so that her eye may ever be of clearest vision where their best interests are concerned, and that no cloud of selfishness may obscure the rays of the true mother-wisdom.
I think that the mission of the higher phase of New Thought is to bring home to the mind of everyone the conviction that we are but instruments for the advancement of others, and that the more nearly we hold to this ideal, the better it will be eventually for our own spiritual enlightenment, fulfilling in this way alone the scriptural prophesy that " He that loses his life shall find it."
When my children shall have grown to an age at which they need no more my careful direction I shall hope that strength sufficient will be given me to thoroughly eliminate my personality from the atmosphere, as I might call it, of their conduct, because it is very clearly shown to me that the mother-love which protects and cares for and helps to develop character in the children becomes a weakness, rather than strength, when the times arrives for those children to develop that strength of self-assertion and individuality which fit them to take their part in the battle of life.
It has been too often my observation that the strong mother makes a weak child, but to the credit of the mother it may be said this does not come from carelessness of her offspring, but from a too zealous anxiety to shield and protect the child from every harm, and take the burden of its pain and troubles always upon herself.
I believe that the hardest lesson for the mother to learn is that she must, even at the beginning, understand that she can never lavish her love in unstinted measure upon her children. It must be restricted, lest it become too much a staff for the child to lean upon.
I have endeavored to make the pages which follow as little autobiographical as possible, the events of my life being my concern alone, but am conscious that to many the reading will seem trivial and of little purpose. I shall hope, however, that there will be some who will find in its pages just that word of counsel which is needed to bring to its most perfect fruition the work of developing the character of those who are to succeed us as the representative youth and manhood and womanhood of our nation.
CHICAGO, February, 1903.
LOOKING back to my own childhood it is almost difficult for me to recognize in the picture that comes before me of the slight girl of delicate physique, proud of her ambition, and petted and spoiled always by the indulgence of her parents, the foreshadowing of the woman grown. Responsibilities and duties were not for me. My love for my father and my church seems to have been the anchor which corrected the tendencies of a wilful disposition, made still more wilful by the indulgence everywhere showered upon me.
It really seems to me now that the consciousness of my first duty came to me at the birth of my little daughter, whom I feared even more than I loved. The immensity of the responsibility thus thrust upon me, together with my utter lack of. knowledge of anything connected with the training of children was actually overpowering. I felt the seriousness of the situation to such an extent that I never expected to be able to smile again, and this feeling was made even stronger when I realized that here was a duty which I could not shirk, or place upon the shoulders of my father and mother. There came to me an exaggeration of the natural instinct of the mother to protect her young, and I continually hovered about this tiny morsel with soothing syrups and infant foods of many kinds, equally fearful whether it smiled upon me or cried, and fully expecting some dreadful or unheard-of fate to overtake it in the way of starvation or its reverse, overfeeding. Fortunately, however, we get accustomed to whatever condition is thrust upon us, and though my child was always a wonder to me, I am thankful to say she lived and thrived and my love enfolded her about more and more each day.
I found that at a very early age, indeed, her demands upon me continually increased in proportion as I submitted to them; in fact, she showed every indication of developing into a tyrant, and developed the propensity of bursting into tears if she considered herself neglected for a moment, I determined then that there was nothing like starting right, and resolved for my baby's sake to suppress any such demonstrations of affection on my part as were calculated to create in her this unceasing and unnecessary demand for attention from me, and so, having thoroughly made up my mind as to the course I should pursue, I sat down, so to speak, to watch results. From that time on the baby was not rocked or attended to, except when quite necessary.
At this procedure there were of course long spells of crying to endure, and I found this very difficult to withstand. Every cry seemed to find an echo in my heart, and my conscience upbraided me with my possible coldness towards my baby in her sorrow. It is not a mere form of words to say that the suffering was much greater for me than for her, but I was fortunately able to restrain myself, and noticed among the earliest manifestations that the child would cry very much harder when she could see me. In the course of a week or so the spells of crying grew less and I comforted myself with the thought that I was following the right line of conduct for her best interests.
She very soon learned that her appeals for attention were quite useless, and she would then amuse herself by admiring her little pink fingers, at the same time crowing to herself in true baby fashion, until she happened to catch sight of me, when her little hands would flutter in an uncertain manner, and the sweet face, so lately wreathed in smiles, would bear an expression of distress. She would then utter murmuring sounds as if she reproached me for want of care and affection. I never once responded to such a demand, no matter how necessary it was at that time, and she would often fall into a sleep brought on by exhaustion. I think that I should have yielded often at those times if unusual strength had not been given me in this, my first effort to divert the will of my daughter from her own present interest to her future good.
I noticed that as she learned to depend upon herself, she invented many little ways of amusing herself which grew more and more elaborate as she learned to creep around and then to walk.
I attach the greatest importance to this first lesson in self-control which was given to her, and have called it the first step in the building of her character. It established a confidence in her ability to take care of herself, as well as a reliance in me when she turned to me for encouragement in the important act or art of walking erect. Even then, although I knew nothing of New Thought teaching, it was as clear as crystal to my mind that the purpose of this child's advent on earth was the development of her individual character, and I felt that it was a sacred trust permitted to me to assist her to the best of my ability to do so. There were many long hours when I sat alone and planned how best to strengthen myself in the line of conduct I had mapped out.
I found on comparing notes with other mothers that it was very natural for a child to expect and receive attendance, even in its play, and I heard that many mothers would drop their own work every time an appeal of this kind was made by their children, although they might reproach the child for interrupting them. I concluded that this taught the child to take advantage of the mother's affection, and that it developed a domineering manner and an exacting habit in the child which would certainly prove eventually of great detriment. If this line were followed it must result, in time, in allowing the child to take the control of affairs into its own hands, encouraging disrespect for the mother's guidance. Realizing this, I very early began to teach my little Harriet not to disturb me for trifles which she could herself procure, or do without until such time as I was at leisure to comply with her wants. If she whined and cried at this I never paid the slightest attention to her until she had controlled herself and had asked for my assistance in her best manner, which she learned was the only way to gain my interest. When she showed in this way that she was mistress of herself, I never failed to approach her with all the courtesy and deference due to a grown person, desiring, in this way, not only to fairly share her interests with her, but to impress upon the baby mind that the little things of life could be as courteously and properly done as the grave things must be later.
I helped her to mend broken dolls and found interest in the construction of broken houses. I seriously argued with her the necessity of being kind to "kitty." I pored over the pictures exhibited in her little story books, and, in a word, never refused my whole-souled interest in the smallest thing which held her attention. It is very easy and very dangerous for a mother to push aside her child and refuse interest in the small things which constitute the baby's world, and then, as this baby grows older, complain that she withholds her confidence from her mother.
I noticed that when Harriet fell and hurt herself she seldom attempted to cry unless she was quite sure that I was near to pick her up, and at the same time tell her how sorry I was. I soon found that even that was the wrong method to follow, and as soon as I ignored things of this kind she began to pick herself up, and the tears came very rarely. If a bruise appeared, I immediately kissed it, and this was sufficient for an instant cure. She soon ceased to look for or expect any more comfort from me than the balm of this healing kiss which was as applicable to her dolly's injured head as to her own. This authority and tender carelessness, if I may use this paradoxical expression, she in turn bestowed upon her doll, doing and saying for and to her doll the very things I did or said for and to her, with a fine imitation of my manner, and with, in certain instances, the same tender interest and consideration.
So I came to understand that I was this tiny creature's ideal of motherhood, and was responsible for the creation of character in her. Children are as imitative as monkeys, and as impressionable as wax, and we cannot be too careful of the example we set before them in their infancy.
Harriet not only learned to amuse herself, but to keep herself clean, and began to offer, of her own accord, to do little things to help me, which, although they were often to me an immediate disadvantage, I welcomed and thanked her for. I encouraged the motive which prompted her to offer her assistance by telling her how very helpful she was, and that I did not see how I could do without her services. If she showed any signs of reluctance I failed to notice them always, or rather I overlooked them entirely, showing her positively that I thought my baby was delighted to be of such great assistance to her mother.
When my friends and visitors would tell me how cross, disobedient, and what a great trouble their children were, I immediately took advantage of this opportunity to say before Harriet how thoughtful and obedient she was; how she always put away her own toys, besides doing many little things to help me through the day. This was probably not as pleasant for the mothers to listen to as it was for Harriet, but I could not lose this opportunity of driving in the lesson of helpful suggestion. Perhaps the night before she might have betrayed a desire to be disobe-dient in some little things, such as going early to bed with an ill-grace, but always after I had praised her in the hearing of others, on that night her little arms would be around my neck with the assurance that she would go right to bed, and would not make her dear mamma any trouble; and then I kissed her and told her how bright and happy her goodness made me. She always felt repaid then for the effort she had made, and went to sleep a very happy child, and I never placed her in her little bed without assuring her that she was the best of girls to make me happy by going to bed and to sleep without a word of remonstrance: that no one ever had such an obedient and thoughtful little girl, repeating over the many things she had done that day that were good and kind, and making no reference to anything that was not so good, in fact, that savored of shortcoming. With arms about my neck she always promised to try harder tomorrow.
It is a beautiful thing to me now to remember that my child and I have never once, even to this day, separated for a night without a goodnight kiss and the spoken wish for happy dreams for both.
As her character developed I noticed a tendency towards mischievous-ness. I remember her downcast face when I caught her helping herself to sugar and hurrying for fear she would be caught. I picked her up in my arms and took her to my own room, where all the serious troubles of her small life were wont to be settled. I sat her down gravely before me and said; "There are naughty little fairies who tell little girls to do things which their mammas could not love them for doing, and there are good little fairies who are very sorry and know that little girls cannot be loved without doing as their mammas want them to do. You will wish to do what the good fairies tell you always. Then when you grow to be a woman the bad fairies will all leave because you will no longer do as they wish you to do. Every time that they come to you, no matter what they want you to do that is naughty, you run right to mamma and I will call the good fairies to help you drive away the naughty fairies and then we shall all be happy." The little head nestled closer to me and she sobbed out her sorrow for helping naughty fairies who did not love her mamma, and she promised never again to listen to them.
In this way I tried to make her understand that in the conflict between right and wrong, even in the smaller things, her mother must be, and would always be, her best friend and counselor, and that she need have no secrets from her mother, or fear to tell her everything. It is best to make our children our closest friends.
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