Your Child: Today and Tomorrow / Some Problems for Parents Concerning Punishment, Reasoning, Lies, Ideals and Ambitions, Fear, Work and Play, Imagination, Social Activities, Obedience, Adolescence, Will, Heredity

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Second Revised Edition Enlarged


Chancellor of Chautauqua Institution


1912, 1913, 1920




In the sad years that have intervened since this book was published,
we have all been impressed by the brilliant achievements of science
in every department of practical life. But whereas the application
of chemistry and electricity and biology might, perhaps, be safely
left to the specialists, it seems to me that in a democracy it is
essential for every single person to have a practical understanding
of the workings of his own mind, and of his neighbor’s. The
understanding of human nature should not be left entirely in the
hands of the specialists—it concerns all of us.

There is no better way for beginning the study of human nature than
by following the unfolding of a spirit as it takes place before us
in the growth of a child. I am humbly grateful of the assurances
received from many quarters that these chapters have aided many
parents and teachers in such study.

In the present edition I have made a number of slight changes to
harmonize the reading with the results of later scientific studies;
there is a new list of references and some new material in the
chapter on sex education; and there is a new chapter suggesting the
connection between the new psychology and the democratic ideals of
human relations.


March, 1920.


In my efforts to learn something about the nature of the child, as a
member of child-study groups, and in my own studies, I have found a
large mass of material—accumulated by investigators into the
psychology and the biology of childhood—which could be of great
practical use to all concerned with the bringing up of children. In
this little book I have tried to present some of this material in a
form that will make it available for those who lack the time, or the
special training or the opportunity to work it out for themselves.
It has been my chief aim to show that a proper understanding of and
sympathy with the various stages through which the child normally
passes will do much toward making not only the child happier, but
the task of the parents pleasanter. I am convinced that our failure
to understand the workings of the child’s mind is responsible for
much of the friction between parents and children. We cannot expect
the children, with their limited experience and their undeveloped
intellect, to understand us; if we are to have harmony, intimacy and
cooperation, these must come through the parents’ successful efforts
at understanding the children.

In speaking of the child always in the masculine, I have followed
the custom of the specialists. It is of course to be understood that
“he” sometimes means “she” and usually “he or she.”

It has been impossible to refer at every point to the source of the
material used. One unconsciously absorbs many ideas which one is
unable later to trace to their sources; in addition to this, the
material I have here presented has been worked over so that it is
impossible in most cases to ascribe a particular idea to a
particular person. I wish, however, to acknowledge my indebtedness
to all who have patiently labored in this field, and especially to
those Masters of Child Study, G. Stanley Hall, John Dewey, Earl
Barnes, Edwin A. Kirkpatrick and Edward L. Thorndike. I owe much to
my opportunity to work in the Federation for Child Study. These
groups of mothers and teachers have done a great deal, under the
guidance and inspiration of Professor Felix Adler, to develop a
spirit of co-operation in the attack upon the practical problems of
child-training in the home.

I am very grateful to Mrs. Hilda M. Schwartz, of Minneapolis, for
her assistance in revising the manuscript and in securing the

The assistance of my husband has been invaluable. In his suggestions
and criticisms he has given me the benefit of his experience as
biologist and educator.


New York May, 1913.


In the thought of the writer of this prefatory page, the book he
thus introduces is an exceptionally sane, practical and valuable
treatment of the problem of problems suggested by our present
American Civilization, namely: The Training of the On-coming
Generation—the new Americans—who are to realize the dreams of our
ancestors concerning personal freedom and development in the social,
political, commercial and religious life of the Republic.

There is always hope for the adult who takes any real interest in
self-improvement. One is never too old to “turn over a new leaf” and
to begin a new record. A full-grown man may become a “promising
child” in the kingdom of grace. He may dream dreams and see visions.
He may resolve, and his experience of forty or more years in
“practising decision” and in persisting despite counter inclinations
may only increase his chances for mastering a problem, overcoming a
difficulty and developing enthusiasm. A page of History or of
Ethics, a poet’s vision or a philosopher’s reasoning, will find a
response in his personality impossible to a juvenile. His knowledge
of real life, of persons he has met, of theories he has often
pondered, of difficulties he has encountered and canvassed, the
conversations and discussions in which he has taken part—all give
new value to the pages he is now turning, and while he may not as
easily as formerly memorize the language, he at once grasps,
appreciates and appropriates the thoughts there expressed.

With these advantages as a thinker, a reader, a man of affairs, a
father interested in his or children and in their education, what a
blessing to him and to his family comes through the reading of an
interesting, suggestive and stimulating book on child training such
as this practical volume by Mrs. Gruenberg. In fact, the book
becomes a sort of a Normal Class in itself. It is attractive,
ingenious, illustrative and stimulating—an example of the true
teaching spirit and method.

This volume has in it much that a preacher and pastor would do well
to read. And a very wise pastor will be inclined to bring
together Mothers and Sunday-School Teachers and read to them certain
paragraphs until they are induced to put a copy of the volume in
their own library and thus become, in a sense, members of a strong
and most helpful “Normal Class.”

One thing every Sunday-School Teacher and every Parent should
remember is that all attempts to experiment in the instruction of
children are so many steps towards “Normal Work,” in which are
included the use of “illustrations,” the framing of “questions,” the
devices to “get attention,” and the effort to induce children to
“think for themselves” and freely to express their thoughts,
reasonings, doubts, difficulties and personal independent opinions.
All these efforts not only develop power in the child, but they
react upon the teacher and ensure for the “next meeting of the
class” some “new suggestion,” some additional question, some fresh
view of the whole subject by which both teacher and pupils will be
stimulated and instructed.

In our intercourse with children let us aim to develop the
teaching motive, and we shall not only make the work of the
“class room” profitable to the pupils, but each of us will find new
delight, new inspiration and an unanticipated degree of success in
this beautiful and divine ministry.


May 7, 1913.










Housekeeping, in the sense of administering the work of the
household, has been raised almost to a science. The same is true of
the feeding of children. But the training of children still lags
behind, so far as most of us are concerned, in the stage occupied by
housekeeping and farming a generation or two ago. There has, indeed,
been developed a considerable mass of exact knowledge about the
nature of the child, and about the laws of his development; but this
knowledge has been for most parents a closed book. It is not what
the scientists know, but what the people apply, that marks our

“Child-study” has been considered something with which young
normal-school students have to struggle before they begin their
real struggle with bad boys. But mothers have been expected to know,
through some divine instinct, just how to handle their own children,
without any special study or preparation. That the divine instinct has
not taught them properly to feed the young infant and the growing
child we have learned but slowly and at great cost in human life and
suffering; but we have learned it. Our next lesson should be to
realize that our instincts cannot be relied upon when it comes to
understanding the child’s mind, the meaning of his various activities,
and how best to guide his mental and moral development.

Mistakes that parents—and teachers—make in dealing with the
child’s mind are not often fatal. Nor can you always trace the evil
effects of such mistakes in the later character of the child. But
there can be no doubt that many of the heartbreaks, misunderstandings,
and estrangements between parents and children are due to mistakes
that could have been avoided by a knowledge of the nature of the
child’s mind.

There are, fortunately, many parents who arrive at an understanding
of the nature of the child through sympathetic insight, through
quick observation, through the application of sound sense and the
results of experience to the problems that arise. It is not
necessary that all of us approach the child in the attitude of the
professional scientist; indeed, it is neither possible for us to do
so, nor is it desirable that we should. But it is both possible and
desirable that we make use of the experience and observations of
others, that we apply the results of scientific experiments, that we
reënforce our instincts with all available helps. We need not fall
into the all-too-common error of placing common-sense and practical
insight in opposition to the method of the scientists. Everyone in
this country appreciates the wonderful and valuable services of
Luther Burbank, and no one doubts that if his method could be
extended the whole nation would benefit in an economic way. Yet
Burbank has been unable to teach the rest of us how to apply his
shrewd “common-sense” and his keen intuition to the improvement of
useful and ornamental plants. It was necessary for scientists to
study what he had done in order to make available for the whole
world those principles that make his practice really productive of
desirable results. In the same way it is well for every parent and
every teacher—everyone who has to do with children—to supplement
good sense and observation with the results of scientific study.

On the other hand, there is no universal formula for the bringing up
of children, one that can be applied to all children everywhere and
always, any more than there is a universal formula for fertilizing
soil or curing disease or feeding babies. Yet there are certain
general laws of child development and certain general principles of
child training which have been derived from scientific studies of
children, and which agree with the best thought and experience of
those who learned to know their children without the help of
science. These general laws and principles may be profitably learned
and used in bringing up the rising generation.

Too many people, and especially too many parents, think of the child
as merely a small man or woman. This is far from a true conception
of the child. Just as the physical organs of the child work in a
manner different from what we find in the adult, so the mind of the
child works along in a way peculiar to its stage of development. If
a physician should use the same formulas for treating children’s
ailments as he uses with adults, simply reducing the size of the
dose, we should consider his methods rather crude. If a parent
should feed an infant the same materials that she supplied to the
rest of the family, only in smaller quantities, we should consider
her too ignorant to be entrusted with the care of the child. And for
similar reasons we must learn that the behavior of the child must be
judged according to standards different from those we apply to an
adult. The same act represents different motives in a child and in
an adult—or in the same child at different ages.

Moreover, each child is different from every other child in the
whole world. The law has recognized that a given act committed by
two different persons may really be two entirely different acts,
from a moral point of view. How much more important is it for the
parent or the teacher to recognize that each child must be treated
in accordance with his own nature!

It is the duty of every mother to know the nature of her
child, in order that she may assist in the development of all of his
possibilities. Child Study is a new science, but old enough to give
us great help through what the experts have found out about “child
nature.” But the experts do not know your child; they have
studied the problems of childhood, and their results you can use in
learning to know your child. Your problem is always an individual
problem; the problem of the scientist is a general one. From the
general results, however, you may get suggestions for the solution
of your individual problem.

We all know the mother who complains that her boys did not turn out
just the way she wanted them to—although they are very good boys.
After they have grown up she suddenly realizes one day how far they
are from her in spirit. She could have avoided the disillusion by
recognizing early enough that the interests and instincts of her
boys were healthy ones, notwithstanding they were so different from
her own. She would have been more to the boys, and they more to her,
if, instead of wasting her energy in trying to make them “like
herself,” she had tried to develop their tastes and inclinations to
their full possibilities.

How much happier is the home in which the mother understands the
children, and knows how to treat each according to his disposition,
instead of treating all by some arbitrary rule! As a mother of three
children said one day, “With Mary, just a hint of what I wish is
sufficient to secure results. With John, I have to give a definite
order and insist that he obey. With Robert I get the best results by
explaining and appealing to his reason.” How much trouble she saves
herself—and the children—by having found this much out!

A mother who knows that what we commonly call the “spirit of
destruction” in a child is the same as the constructive
will not be so much grieved when her baby takes the
alarm clock apart as the mother who looks upon this deed as an
indication of depravity or wickedness.

[Illustration: The impulse to action early leads to “doing.”]

Some of the directions in which the parents may profit from what the
specialists have worked out may be suggested. There is the question
of punishment, for example. How many of us have thought out a
satisfactory philosophy of punishment? In our personal relations
with our children we all too frequently cling to the theory of
punishment that justifies us in “paying back” for the trouble we
have been caused—if, indeed, we do any more than vent our temper at
the annoyance. It is not viciousness on our part; it is merely
ignorance. But the time is rapidly approaching when there will be no
excuse for ignorance, even if it is not yet time to say that
preventable ignorance is vicious.

How many mothers, for example, realize that the desire on the part
of the child to touch, to do—to get into mischief—is a fundamental
characteristic of childhood, and not an indication of perversity in
her particular Johnny or Mary? How many know that these instincts
are the most useful and the most usable traits that the child has;
that the checking of these impulses may mean the destruction of
individual qualities of great importance in the formation of
character? How many know how wisely to direct these instincts
without thwarting them?

How many mothers—good housewives—know anything at all about the
imagination, that crowning glory of the human mind? They admire the
poet’s flights of fancy; but when, on being asked where his brother
is, Harry says, “He went off in a great, great, big airship,” they
feel the call of duty to punish him for his lies!

Many of us have realized in a helpless sort of way that there is
need for expert knowledge in these matters, and have comfortably
shifted the responsibility to the teacher. Parents are often heard
to say, when a troublesome youngster is under discussion, “Just wait
until he begins to go to school.” It is not wise to wait. There is
much to be done before the school can be thought of, or even before
the kindergarten age is reached. Indeed, a child is never too young
to profit from the application of thought and knowledge to his

Of course, the training value of the school’s work is not to be
underestimated. The social intercourse that the child experiences
there, the regularity of hours, the teacher’s personality, all have
their favorable influence in the molding of the child’s character.
But neither must we overestimate the powers of the school. The
school has the child but a few hours a day, for barely more than
half the year; the classes are unconscionably large. We all hope
that the classes will be made smaller, but they never can be small
enough, within our own times, for the purpose of really effective
moral training. The relations between teacher and pupil can never be
as intimate as are those of parent and child. The teacher knows the
child, as a rule, only as a member of a group and under special
circumstances; the parents alone have the opportunity to know
closely the individual peculiarities of the child; they alone can
know him in health and in sickness, in joy and in sorrow, in his
strength and in his weakness. The parents can watch their child from
day to day, year after year; whereas the teacher sees the child for
a comparatively short period of his development, and then passes him
on to another.

The time was—and for most of our children still is—when the
teacher had to know nothing but her “subjects”; the nature of the
child was to her as great a mystery as it is to the ordinary person
who never learned anything about it. She was supposed to deal with
the “average” child that does not exist, and to attempt the futile
task of drawing the laggard up to this arbitrary average and of
holding the genius down to it. The effort is being made to have the
teacher recognize the individuality of each child; but the mother is
still expected to confine her ministrations to his individual

In a dozen different ways the effective methods in the treatment of
children, at home or in school, in the church or on the playground,
depend upon knowledge and understanding, as is the case in all
practical activities. Instincts alone are never sufficient to tell
us what to do, notwithstanding the fact that so much really valuable
work has been achieved in the past without any special training.

It may be true that in the past the instincts of the child adapted
him to the needs of life. It may also be true that the instincts of
adults adapted them in the past to their proper treatment of
children. We should realize, however, that the conditions of modern
life are so complex that few of us know just what to do under given
conditions unless we have made a special effort to find out. And
this is just as true of the treatment of children as it is of the
care of the health, or of the building of bridges. It is for this
reason that the results of child study are important to all who have
to do with children—whether as teachers or as parents, whether as
club leaders or as directors of institutions, whether as social
workers or as loving uncles and aunts.

It is impossible to guarantee to anyone that a study of child nature
will enable him or her to train children into models of good
behavior. Knowledge alone does not always produce the desired
results; nevertheless, an understanding of the child should enable
those who have to deal with him to assume an attitude that will
reduce in a great measure their annoyance at the various awkward and
inconsiderate and mischievous acts of the youngsters. Such a study
should make possible a closer intimacy with the child. And, finally,
it should make possible a longer continuance of that intimacy with
the child, which is so helpful for those in authority as well as for
the child himself.



Picture to yourself a dark hallway. Behind the door stands an
indignant mother with a strap in her hand. It is past the dinner
hour and William has not yet returned. But here he is now. He comes
bounding up the steps, radiantly happy, and under each arm a
pumpkin. He bursts into the house. His mother seizes him by the
shoulder and proceeds to apply the strap where she thinks it will do
the most good. The little boy is William J. Stillman, and the story
is told in his autobiography. He tells how just an hour before
dinner a neighboring farmer had asked him to go to his field to
shake down the fruit from two apple trees. William was so glad to do
something for which he would receive pay that he allowed the work to
trench upon his dinner-time. The two large pumpkins he brought were
his pay, and he knew that they meant a great deal to his needy
family. Stillman, in writing of the incident, continues: “It is more
than sixty years since that punishment fell on my shoulders, but the
astonishment with which I received the flogging, instead of the
thanks which I anticipated for the wages I was bringing her, the
haste with which any mother administered it lest my father should
anticipate her and beat me after his own fashion, are as vivid in my
recollection as if it had taken place yesterday.”

While I hope that not many of us are guilty of such flagrant abuse
of our power as is described above, still I am certain that on many
occasions we punish just as hastily, without giving a chance for
explanation and with as little thought as to whether “the punishment
fits the crime.”

I have often been impressed by the great interest that mothers take
in uses of punishment and in kinds of punishment. It has sometimes
seemed as if the most valuable thing which they could carry away
with them from some child-study meeting was a new kind of punishment
for some very common offence. I have frequently felt as if the only
contact some mothers have with their children is to punish them, and
that punishment constituted the chief part of the poor children’s

Now, punishment undoubtedly has a place in the training of children,
but only a negative place. The proper punishment, administered in
the right spirit, may cure or correct a fault; but punishment does
not make children good
. If children are punished frequently, it may
even make them bad.

We can all remember some of the punishments of our own childhood.
How unjust they seemed then, and do even now, after all these years
to heal the wounds! How outraged we felt! Into how unloving a mood
they put us!

The history of punishment for criminals shows us three stages. With
primitive peoples and in early times the first impulse is to “get
even” or to “strike back.” “An eye for an eye”—nothing less would
do. Then comes a stage in which punishment is used to frighten
people from wrong-doing and as a warning—a deterrent for others.
Gradually, very, very slowly, as we become more civilized and
develop moral insight—develop a love for humanity—we come to
recognize that the only legitimate purpose of punishment in the
treatment of offenders is to redeem their characters, to make them
positively better, not merely frighten them into a state of
apparent right-doing—that is, a state of avoiding wrong-doing.

It is said that each individual in his development lives over the
experiences of the race. How each of us passes through the three
attitudes toward punishment is very interestingly shown by a study
that was made some years ago on 3000 school children, to find out
their own ideas about punishment. Miss Margaret E. Schallenberger
sent out the following story and query and had the answers

Jennie had a beautiful new box of paints; and in the afternoon,
while her mother was gone, she painted all the chairs in the parlor,
so as to make them look nice for her mother. When the mother came
home, Jennie ran to meet her and said: “Oh, mamma, come and see how
pretty I have made the parlor.” But her mamma took her paints away
and sent her to bed. If you had been her mother, what would you have
done or said to Jennie?

In the answers the most striking thing is the range of reasons given
by the children for punishing Jennie. There are three prominent

The first is clearly for revenge. Jennie was a bad girl; she made
her mother unhappy; she must be made unhappy. She made her mother
angry; she must be made angry. A boy of ten says: “I would have sent
Jennie to bed and not given her any supper, and then she would get
mad and cry.” One boy of nine says: “If I had been that woman I
would have half killed her.” A sweet (?) little girl would make her
“paint things until she is got enough of it.” Another girl: “If I
had been Jennie’s mother, I would of painted Jennie’s face and hands
and toes. I would of switched her well. I would of washed her mouth
out with soap and water, and I should stand her on the floor for
half an hour.”

This view was taken mostly by the younger children.

The second reason for punishing is to prevent a repetition of the
act. A thirteen year old girl says: “I would take the paints away
and not let her have them until she learned not to do that again.”
When a threat is used it is with the same idea in view: “I wouldn’t
do anything just then, but I would have said: ‘If you do that any
more I would whip you and send you to bed besides!'” All trace of
revenge has disappeared.

The third stage of punishment is higher still. Jennie is punished in
order to reform her. In the previous examples the act was
all-important. Now Jennie and her moral condition come into the
foreground. None of the younger children take the trouble to explain
to Jennie why it was wrong to paint the parlor chairs. A large
percentage of the older ones do so explain.

A country boy of fourteen says: “I would have took her with me into
the parlor, and I would have talked to her about the injury she had
done to the chairs, and talked kindly to her, and explained to her
that the paints were not what was put on chairs to make them look

A girl of sixteen says: “I think that the mother was very unwise to
lose her temper over something which the child had done to please
her. I think it would have been far wiser in her to have kissed the
little one, and then explained to her how much mischief she had done
in trying to please her mother.”

We can see from this study that the children themselves are capable
of reaching a rather lofty attitude toward wrong-doing and punishment,
yet these children when grown up—that is, we ourselves—so frequently
return to a more primitive way of looking at these problems. In
punishing our children we go back to the method of the five- and

What is the reason for our apparent back-sliding? Is it not plainly
the fact that we allow ourselves to be mastered by the animal
instinct to strike back? When the child does something that causes
annoyance or even damage, do we stop to consider his motive, his
“intent,” or do we only respond to the result of his action?
Do we have a studied policy for treating his offence, or do we slide
back to the desire to “get even” or to “pay him” for what he has

Sometimes a very small offence will have grave consequences, while a
really serious fault may cause but little trouble.

Here, for instance, is Harry, who was so intent upon chasing the
woodchuck that he ran through the new-sown field, trampling down the
earth. He caused considerable damage. If your punishment assumes the
proportion dictated by the anger which the harm caused, he certainly
will be dealt with severely. Knowing that he had not meant to do
wrong, he cannot help but feel the injustice of your wrath. Of
course, he has been careless and he must be impressed with the harm
such carelessness can cause. Whether you lock him in a room or
deprive him of some special pleasure, or whether you merely talk to
him, depends upon you and upon Harry. But one thing must be certain:
Harry must not get the notion that you are avenging yourself upon
him for the harm he has done, or for the ill-feeling aroused by his
act—he must not feel that “you are taking it out of him” because
you have been made angry.

This brings us to the old rule: Never punish in anger.

On the other hand, while we must allow every trace of anger to
disappear, we must not allow so much time to elapse as to make the
child lose the connection between his act and the consequence. A
little boy at breakfast threw some salt upon his sister’s apple in a
spirit of mischief. The mother sent him out of the room and told him
that he would have to go to bed two hours earlier than usual that
night as a punishment for his misdeed. Now we all know that “the
days of youth are long, long days,” and the many events of that day
had completely crowded out of the little boy’s mind the trivial,
impulsive act of the morning. The punishment could not arouse in him
any feeling but that of unjust privation.

This particular case illustrates three other problems in connection
with punishment. In the first place, nothing that is considered
desirable or beneficial should be brought into disfavor by being
used as a punishment. Sleep is a blessing, and, it may be said in
general, no healthy child gets too much of it. By imposing two hours
of additional sleep upon the child the mother discredits sleeping.
It isn’t logical. It is as unreasonable as that once favorite
punishment of teachers, now rapidly being discarded, of keeping
children after school. On the one side they are told how grateful
they should be for this great boon of education, and for being
allowed to come to school, and then they are told: “You have been
very bad and troublesome to-day; as a punishment you shall have an
extra hour of this great privilege.”

The second point is that no punishment should ever deprive a child
of conditions that are necessary for his health or impose conditions
that are harmful. And, finally, it is not wise to exaggerate the
importance of trivial acts by treating them too seriously. The
little boy tried to be “smart” when he threw that salt. With nearly
every child it would be sufficient, in a case like this, to make him
feel that it was really very silly and that he had made himself
ridiculous in the eyes of the family.

Very often the seriousness of a child’s offence is greatly
exaggerated. We must not waste our ammunition on these small
matters; if we use our strongest terms of disapproval for the many
little everyday vexations, we shall be left quite without resource
when something really serious does occur. Children are very
sensitive to such exaggerations, and their attention is so much
taken up with the injustice of making a big ado about such trifles
that they overlook what is reprehensible in their own conduct.

Some of the greatest authorities believe that a child should be
allowed to suffer the consequences of his deeds. We should borrow
from nature, they say, her method of dealing with offenders. If a
child touches fire he will be burnt, and each time the same effect
will follow his deed. Why not let our punishments be as certain and
uniform in their reaction? To a certain extent this plan can be
followed. If a little girl stubbornly refuses to wear her mittens,
it is all right to let her suffer the consequences, the natural
consequences—and let her hands get quite cold.

But this principle cannot be consistently applied as a general
method. If a child insists upon leaning far out of the window it
would be foolish to let him suffer the consequences and fall,
possibly to his death. Part of our function is to prevent our
children from suffering all the possible consequences of their
actions. We are here to guide them and to protect them.

To abandon the child to the natural consequences of his moral
actions would be even more harmful, for very often we must separate
the child from his fault. This is true in a double sense. In the
first place, we are concerned chiefly in removing the child’s
faults, as a physician seeks to separate a patient from his
sickness. But we must also avoid the error of identifying any fault
with the fundamental nature of the child; that is, we must keep
before us the character of the child as distinct from the wrong acts
which the child may commit. If a child lies, that does not make of
him a liar, any more than does his failure to understand what he has
just been told make of him a blockhead. Yet the natural consequence
of lying, for instance, is to be mistrusted in the future—to be
branded a liar. This, however, is one of the worst things that can
happen to a child, and one of the surest ways of making him a
habitual liar. Many children pass through a stage in which they
naturally come to have the feeling which is expressed in the saying:
“If I have the name, I may as well have the game.” We must show the
child that we have unbounded confidence in him, otherwise he will
lose faith in himself.

It is clear, then, that the “natural” method will not work in such
cases, for the impulse to condemn the child after he has committed a
wrong deed, instead of condemning the deed, may merely help
to fix upon him the habit of committing similar deeds in the future.

In Nature, too, the same punishment invariably follows the same
offence. If we try to imitate that method, the child soon learns
what he has to reckon with. If the child knows that a certain action
will produce a certain result, he often thinks it is worth the
price. Then the child feels that he has had his way, and, having
paid the price, the account is squared; so he feels justified in
doing the same thing again. In following this course we defeat our
own ends, as this kind of punishment does not act as a fine
moral deterrent.

Scolding as a punishment is also not efficacious. We are justified
in having our indignation aroused at times and in letting the
offender feel our displeasure. There is something calm and
impressive about genuine indignation, while scolding is apt to
become nagging and to arouse contempt in the child.

When we consider the many difficulties of finding a punishment
exactly fitted to the offence in a way that will make the offender
avoid repetition, we are tempted to resort to sermonizing and
reasoning, for through our words we hope at times to establish in
the child’s mind a direct relation between his conduct and the
undesirable consequences that spring from it.

In doing this, however, we should not speak in generalities, but
bring before the child’s mind concrete examples of his own
objectionable acts from recent experience. It is useless to tell
John how important it is to be punctual and let it go at that; it is
not enough even to tell him that he often fails to be on time. If
you can remind him that he was late for dinner on Wednesday, missed
the letter-carrier twice last month, and delayed attending to an
errand Monday until all the shops were closed, you have him where he
can understand your point. Mary will listen respectfully enough to a
homily on being considerate, but it will have little effect upon her
compared to bringing before her a picture of some of her actions:
how, instead of coming right home from school the day you were not
feeling well, and helping you with some of your tasks, she had gone
to visit a friend just that afternoon.

But reasoning with a child often fails to accomplish its purpose,
because the child’s reasoning is so different from that of an adult.
Unless there is a nearly perfect understanding of the workings of
the child’s mind, reasoning is frequently futile. A seven-year-old
boy who had received a long lecture on the impropriety of keeping
dead crabs in his pockets said, after it was all over: “Well, they
were alive when I put them in. You are wasting a lot of my precious
time.” These little brains have a way of working out combinations
that seem weird to us grown-ups.

Only with a child of a certain type and a parent able to understand
the workings of his mind may the method of reasoning work
satisfactorily in correcting faults and establishing good habits and

No discussion of this subject would be complete without a word on
corporal punishment. It is impossible here to present all the
arguments for or against it. I am sure, however, that the most
enthusiastic advocates of it will admit that it is not always
practised with discretion and that it is in most cases not only
unnecessary but positively harmful. Children that are treated like
animals will behave like animals; violence and brutality do not
bring out the best in a child’s nature. It would seem that
intelligent parents do not need to resort to such methods in the
training of normal children.

As suggested by our veteran novelist, William Dean Howells, we have
clung to the wisdom of Solomon, in this respect, through centuries
of changing conditions. Solomon said: “Spare the rod and spoil the
child”; Mr. Howells suggests that we might with profit spoil the rod
and spare the child. In the small families of to-day there is no
need to cling to the methods that may have worked well enough with
the Oriental, polygamous despot, who never could know all his
children individually, and it is therefore hardly necessary to use
Solomon as our authority.

It is plain, then, that it is impossible to recommend any punishment
as the correct one, or even to recommend any one infallible
rule. This must depend upon the parent, upon the child, and upon the
circumstances. But there are certain definite principles which we
must keep in mind and which will do much toward making our task of
discipline more rational:

We must never punish in anger.

We must consider the motive and the temptations before
the consequence of the deed.

We must condemn the deed and not the child.

We must be sure that the child understands exactly the offence with
which he is charged.

We must be sure that he sees the relation of the
offence to the punishment.

We must never administer any excessive or unusual punishment.

We must not exaggerate the magnitude of the offence.

If we keep these principles in mind we may not always be right, but
we shall certainly be right more often than if we had no policy or
definite ideas. But, above all, we must recognize that punishment is
only a corrective, and that it is our duty to build up the positive
virtues. Let us expend our energy in the effort to establish good
habits and ideals, and the child will shed many of the faults which
now occupy the centre of our interest and attention.

In a family where the proper spirit of intimacy and mutual
understanding and forbearance reigns punishment will be relegated to
its proper place—namely, the medicine closet—and not be used as
daily bread. For punishment is a medicine—a corrective—and when we
administer it we must do in the spirit of the physician. We do not
wish to be quacks and have one patent remedy to cure all evils; but,
like physicians worthy of their trust, we must study the ailment and
its causes, and above all must we study the patient. The same remedy
will not do for all constitutions. Therefore the punishment must not
only fit the crime, but it must also be made to fit the “criminal.”

Love and patience are the secret of child management. Love which can
fare from the chilliest soul; patience which knows how to wait for
the harvest.



Johnny was playing in the room while his mother was sewing at the
window. Johnny looked out of the window and exclaimed, “Oh, mother,
see that great big lion!”

His mother looked, but saw only a medium-sized dog.

“Why, Johnny,” replied the mother, “how can you say such a thing?
You know very well that was only a dog. Now go right in the corner
and pray to God to forgive you for telling such a lie!”

Johnny went. When he came back, he said triumphantly, “See, mother,

God said He thought it was a lion Himself.”

This poor mother is a typical example of a large class of mothers
who fail to understand their children because they have no idea of
what goes on in the child’s mind. To Johnny the lion was just as
real as the dog was to the mother. And even if the dog had
not been there for the mother to see, Johnny could have seen just as
real a lion.

Every mother ought to know that practically every healthy child has
imagination. You will have to take a long day’s journey to find a
child that has no imagination to begin with—and then you will find
that this child is wonderfully uninteresting, or actually stupid.

You can easily observe for yourself that as soon as a child knows a
large number of objects and persons and names he will begin to
rearrange his bits of knowledge into new combinations, and in this
way make a little world of his own. In this world, beasts and
furniture and flowers talk and have adventures. When the dew is on
the grass, “the grass is crying.” Butterflies are “flying pansies.”
Lightning is the “sky winking,” and so on. This activity of the
child’s mind begins at about two years, and reaches its height
between the ages of four and six. But it continues through life with
greater or less intensity, according to circumstances and original

It is not only the poet and artist who need imagination, but all of
us in our everyday concerns. Do you realize that the person to whom
you like so much to talk about your affairs, because she is so
sympathetic, is sympathetic because she has imagination? For
without imagination we cannot “put ourselves in the place of
another,” and much of the misery in the relation between human
beings exists because so many of us are unable to do this. The happy
cannot realize the needs of the miserable, and the miserable cannot
understand why anyone should be happy—if they lack imagination.

The need for imagination, far from being confined to dreamers and
persons who dwell in the clouds, is of great practical
importance in the development of mind and character. Imagination is
a direct help in learning, and in developing sympathy. As one of our
great moral leaders, Felix Adler, has said, much of the selfishness
of the world is due, not to actual hard-heartedness, but to lack of
imaginative power.

We all know the classic example of Queen Marie Antoinette, who, when
told that the people were rioting for want of bread, exclaimed,
“Why, let them eat cake instead!” Brought up in luxury, she could
not realize what absolute want means. She had no imagination.

The world has progressed, but we still have among us the same type
of unfortunate persons who are unable to put themselves in the place
of others. I recently heard of a woman who, on being told of a
family so poor that they had had nothing but cold potatoes for
supper the night before, replied:

“They may be poor, but the mother must be a very bad housekeeper,
anyway. For, even if they had nothing but potatoes to eat, she might
at least have fried them.”

Like her royal prototype, this modern woman had not the imagination
to realize that a family could be so poor as to be in want of fuel.

But being able to put yourself in the place of another is of
importance not only from the strictly moral point of view. You can
easily see how it will affect one’s everyday relations, how it will
be of great help in avoiding misunderstandings of all kinds—as
between mother and child, between mistress and maid, etc.

If parents would only realize this importance of imagination, and
not look upon it as a “vain thing,” they would not merely
allow the child’s imagination to take its own course; they
would actually make efforts to cultivate and encourage it. In this
way they would not only aid the child in becoming a better and more
sympathetic man or woman, but would also add much to the happiness
of the child.

Unless we have given special thought to this matter, most of us
grown-ups do not appreciate how very real the child’s world of
make-believe is to him, and how essential to his happiness that we do
not break into it rudely. When one of my boys was two and a half years
old he was one day playing with an imaginary baby sister. A member of
the household came into the room, whereupon he immediately broke out
in wild screaming and became very much agitated. It took some time to
quiet him and to find out that the cause of all his trouble was the
fact that this person had inadvertently stepped upon his imaginary
sister, whom he had placed upon the floor. Before him he saw his
little sister crushed, and great were his horror and grief.

I know from this experience and many others that if we do not enter
into the child’s world and try to understand the working of his mind
we will often find him naughty, when he is not naughty at all. In
the example given it would have been very easy to follow the first
impulse to reprove the child for what seemed very unreasonable
conduct on his part. And such cases arise constantly.

How completely the child throws himself into an imaginary character is
shown by an incident which occurred recently. A little boy of four,
who had been accustomed to speak only German at home, was playing
“doctor,” and was so absorbed in the play that when dinner-time came
he was loath to abandon the role. His mother, to avoid delay, simply
said, “I think we will invite the doctor to have dinner with us,” and
he promptly accepted the invitation. When the maid came in, he said in
English, “What is her name?”

“Marie,” the mother replied. “Isn’t that Mary in English?” the child
politely inquired. “You see, I cannot speak German, for my mother
never taught me.” And although this little boy never spoke English
to his parents nor his parents to him, as “doctor” he spoke English
throughout the meal.

Many parents enter spontaneously into the spirit of their children’s
games, and make believe with the best of them. They pity poor Johnny
when he screams with terror at the attack of the make-believe bear,
and take great joy in admiring the make-believe kitten. If we but
realized how all this make believe helps in the development of
character and in the gaining of knowledge, all parents would
try to develop the child’s imagination, and not only those who have
the gift intuitively. It is the child’s natural way of learning
things, of getting acquainted with all living and inanimate objects
in his environment. It sharpens his observation. A child who tries
to “act a horse,” for example, will be much more apt to notice all
the different activities and habits of the horse in his various
relations than a child who merely observes passively.

A child with imagination, when receiving directions or instructions,
can picture to himself what he is expected to do, and easily
translates his instructions into action. To the unimaginative child
the directions given will be so many words, and he cannot carry out
these instructions as effectively.

Again and again teachers find that pupils fail to carry out orders,
though able, when asked, to repeat word for word the instructions
given them.

The plaintive inquiry, “What shall I do now?” is much more
frequently heard from the child who is unimaginative or who has had
the play of his imagination curbed. For the child can be
whatever he wishes, and have whatever he likes, his heart’s
desire is at his finger’s end, once his imagination is free. The
rocking-chair can be a great big ship, the carpet a rolling sea, and
at most a suggestion is needed from the busy mother. A few chairs
can be a train of cars and keep him occupied for hours. A wooden box
is transformed into a mighty locomotive—in fact, give an
imaginative child almost anything, a string of beads, or a piece of
colored glass, and out of it his imagination will construct great

A normal child does not need elaborate toys. The only function of a
toy, as someone has well said, is “to serve as lay figures upon
which the child’s imagination can weave and drape its fancy.”

Although parents have not always understood what goes on in the
child’s mind when he is so busy with his play, our poets and lovers
of children have had a deeper insight. Stevenson, in his poem “My
Kingdom,” shows us how, with the touch of imagination, the child
transforms the commonplace objects of his surroundings into material
for rich romance:

Down by a shining water well

I found a very little dell,

  No higher than my head.

The heather and the gorse about

In summer bloom were coming out,

  Some yellow and some red.

I called the little pool a sea:

The little hills were big to me;

  For I am very small.

I made boat, I made a town,

I searched the caverns up and down,

  And named them one and all.

And all about was mine, I said,

The little sparrows overhead,

  The little minnows, too.

This was the world and I was king:

For me the bees came by to sing,

  For me the swallows flew.

I played there were no deeper seas,

Nor any wilder plains than these,

  Nor other kings than me.

At last I hear my mother call

Out from the house at evenfall,

  To call me home to tea.

And I must rise and leave my dell,

And leave my dimpled water well,

  And leave my heather blooms.

Alas! and as my home I neared,

How very big my nurse appeared,

  How great and cool the rooms!

Some children do not even need objects as a starting point
for their imaginative activity. They can just conjure up persons and
things to serve as material for their play. Many children, when
alone, have imaginary companions. One little boy, when taken out for
his airing, daily met an imaginary friend, whom he called “Buster.”
As soon as he stepped out of the house he uttered a peculiar call,
to which Buster replied—though no one but he heard him—and he
would run to meet him and they would have a lovely time together,
sometimes for hours at a stretch.

Another little child received a daily visit from an imaginary cow.
There was a certain place in the living-room where this red cow with
white spots would appear. The child would go through the motions of
feeding her, patting her, and bringing her water.

In these two cases the “companionship” lasted but a few months, but
there are children whose imaginary companions grow up with them and
get older as they get older.

[Illustration: Imagination supplies this two-year-old a prancing

In some instances there is a group of such imaginary companions, and
their activities constitute “a continued story,” of which the child
is a living centre, although not necessarily the hero.

It seems to me that the power to create his own friends must be a
great boon to a child who is forced to be alone a great deal or has
no congenial companions.

There need be no fear—except perhaps in very extreme cases—that
such activity of the imagination is morbid. A little girl who plays
with her dolls is really doing the same thing, only that she has a
symbol for each of her imaginary companions.

But although an imaginative child is much easier to teach later on,
and although he does not trouble you with the incessant nagging
“What shall I do now?” the mother whose idea of good conduct is
“keeping quiet” will find the unimaginative child much easier to
care for. He is very much less active and therefore “less
troublesome.” This explains why this priceless gift of imagination
has so often been discouraged by parents and teachers. But they did
not know that they were actually harming the child by so
discouraging him, or, let us hope, they would not have chosen the
easier way. For, after all, we are not looking for the easiest way
of getting along with children, but for the best, and the best for
them will prove in the end to be the best for us.

It must certainly try your patience, when you are tired, at the end
of a day’s work, to have Harry refuse to come to be put to bed
because you called him “Harry”; and he replies, perhaps somewhat
crossly: “I am not Harry, I told you. I am little Jack Horner, and I
have to sit in my corner.” But no matter how hard it may seem, do
not get discouraged. Once you are fully aware of the importance of
what seems to be but silly play, you will add this one more to your
many sacrifices, and find that it will bring returns a hundredfold.
And, after all, as in so many other problems, when you resolve to
make the sacrifice, it turns out to be no sacrifice. For, once you
approach the problem in an understanding spirit, the flights of the
child’s imagination will give you untold pleasure.

Another reason why imagination has been suppressed by those who are
in charge of children is the fear that it will lead to the formation
of habits of untruthfulness. It is very hard to realize, unless you
understand the child’s nature, that the child is not lying when he
says something that is manifestly not so to you and the other
adults. I have heard children reproved for lying when I was sure
that they had no idea of what a “lie” is. In one family an older boy
broke a plate and, when charged with the deed, denied it flatly. His
little brother, however, confessed and described just how he had
broken it. Now, the older boy was telling a falsehood consciously—
probably from fear of punishment. The little fellow, however, was
not telling an untruth—from his point of view. He really imagined
having broken that plate. He had heard the event discussed by the
family until all the incidents were vivid to him and he pictured
himself as the hero.

Up to a certain time it is impossible for the child to distinguish
between what we call real and his make-believe. Both are
equally real to him, and the make-believe is ever so much more

Until about the fifth year a child does not know that he is
imagining; between the ages of four and six the imaginative period
is at its height, and there begins to appear a sort of undercurrent
of consciousness that it is all make-believe, and this heightens the
pleasure of trying to make it seem real. Gradually the child learns
to distinguish between imaginary experiences and real ones, but
until you are quite certain that he does distinguish, do not
attach any moral significance to his stories. Should an older child
be inclined to tell falsehoods, you may be sure that this is
not because his imagination has been cultivated. There are
then other reasons and causes, and they must be studied on their own

After you come to a clear appreciation of the value of imagination
in the child’s development you will, instead of suppressing his
feelings, look around for ways of encouraging this activity of his
mind. You will see a new value in fairy tales and fables and a new
significance in every turn of his fancy.



None of the petty vices of childhood appears to shock adults so much
as lying; and none is more widespread among children—and among
adults. As we are speaking of children, however, it is enough to say
that all children lie—constantly, persistently, universally.
Perhaps you will be less grieved by the lies of your children, and
less loath to admit that they do lie, if you realize that all
children lie. The mother who tells you that her child never lies is
either deceiving herself or trying to impress you with the
superiority of her off-spring. In her case the untruthfulness of
childhood has not been remedied.

However, although lying is so common, that is no reason for ignoring
the lies of children. They have to be taught to know the truth, and
to speak it and to act it. And they can be taught. The Psalmist
said, “All men are liars”; but he spoke hastily, as he afterward
learned. All of us are probably born with instincts that make it
easy for us to acquire the art of lying; but we have also the
instincts that make us love the truth and speak it. Indeed, a child
may acquire a hatred of untruth that is so keen as to be positively
distressing; and this condition is just as morbid and undesirable as
that of the other extreme, which accepts lies as the usual thing.

As in other problems connected with the bringing up of children, the
first and the last aim should be to understand the child, the
individual, particular child. Will your child become a habitual
liar, or will he simply “outgrow” the tendency toward untruthfulness,
as he will leave other childish things behind him? It is impossible to
tell; but for the vast majority of children a great deal depends upon
the kind of treatment given. If you do not treat the lies of your
children understandingly, there is the danger that you will
bring out other characteristics, perhaps even more undesirable
ones—such as cruelty, vindictiveness, or even actual deceit.

We must recognize that there is no general faculty of lying. It is
very easy