I once listened to a conversation between two friends — each the mother of daughters who had just arrived at the age of young womanhood.
When one asked the other the question, “How do you manage your girls? I cannot keep mine off the street, and when I remonstrate with them, they only laugh and go on in their own way.” The other replied very unconcernedly, “I never have any trouble in controlling my daughters.”
With this remark, the subject was dropped.
Wishing to hear the mother of “the tractable daughters” express her ideas upon the training of children, and especially the training of girls, I afterward made an opportunity of seeing her alone and brought up the subject by asking her why she had evaded answering Mrs B’s question. She replied, “It was asked fifteen years too late.”
At my request, she gave me her theories on the subject.
In the first place, this training must begin in infancy. Here the first and most important lesson is strict obedience to the will of the parent.
This principle of obedience to proper authority is the foundation of all good citizenship and good government — the very cornerstone of liberty itself. We may well tremble when we think of our responsibilities as mothers. We are accountable to God for the manner in which we perform these solemn duties.
We must not govern as tyrants but by love, gentleness, firmness, and by the example of patience, guiding the tender feet in pleasant ways, leaving out harsh words and fault finding — and in their stead give words of sympathy, helpfulness and encouragement, always leading onward to noble effort.
Punishments for misdeeds is rarely necessary if the mother has been faithful to her charge. Children regard their punishments as an injustice and resent it in their hearts long after the parent has entirely forgotten about it.
As our daughters grow older, we must make them our companions, let them feel that we are indeed their truest friend and that they may always confide in us. Teach them those things which every girl ought to know and which is the duty of every mother to make known to them.
Confide in them and make their young lives happy. Rejoice with them in their joys. Sympathize with them in all their disappointments. Give them the benefit of your own experience when needful.
Let them be children just as long as they will, for this carefree time is only too short, and the burdens of life come but too soon. After our little girls have donned the garb of young womanhood, they can never go back and be our little girls again.
Then it is our duty to place our children in the society of people of intelligence and refinement. They will have to remain where we place them, and we all become very much like those with whom we associate.
Furnish them with an abundance of good literature — wholesome yet interesting reading matter. Allow none of the frivolous, trashy type to be a part of their literary table.
Our children will have their personalities. They are not, nor do we wish them to be, machines to be set in motion and operated by us, therefore they should have the privilege of planning and arranging their own rooms, and should be consulted on every subject that will lead them to think and reason for themselves.
Grant every request that comes within the bounds of reason. Be liberal, and make home the sweetest, brightest place on earth to them, and they will love it and be glad to return to it.
– M R C
Illustration: From a panel in “Girl playing in the garden” by Kate Greenaway, published 1905