Religious Education in the Family
by Henry F. Cope
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The family may help directly toward the realization of this ideal by an insistence on the family conception and the family program in the church. Bring the children with you to the church and seek to find there a place for each as natural as the place he occupies in the home. If the church makes no such provision, if it has no place for children, in the name of our wider spiritual family relationships we must demand it. Let the voice of the family be heard insisting on suitable buildings and specially designed worship for child-life—suitable forms of service and activity. Let the thought that goes to furnish these in the home be carried over to provide them in the church.

Parents may help their children to find right relations with the church by their attitude toward it as the larger family group. To think and act toward this institution as our home, the wider home of the families, is to establish similar habits of thought in children. Such a concept is not always easy to maintain; the church includes many of different habits of thought from ourselves, divergent tastes and habits of general life. Here one must exercise the family principle of responsibility toward the weaker and immature. This family, the church, just like our own family, exists, not to minister to our tastes, but that we may all minister to others.

The principal service which the family may render to the church is, then, to foster an interpretation and view of the latter which will relate it more closely to the home and will make it evidently natural for child-life to move out into this wider social organization for religious culture and service. Surely this should be the attitude toward membership in the church, whether that membership begins theoretically in infancy or in maturer years; the child is trained to see the church as his normal society, the group into which he naturally moves and in which he finds his opportunity for fellowship and service. The family may well hold that relationship steadily before its members. In childhood the child is in the church in the fellowship of those who learn. The Sunday school is the spiritual family in groups discovering the way of the religious life and the art of its service. The fellowship grows closer and the sense of unity deepens as the child's relationship passes over from the passive to the active, from the involuntary to the voluntary—just as it does in the home—and develops, as the child comes into social consciousness, into a recognition of himself as belonging to a social organization for specific purposes.


At some time every child of church-attending parents will want to know whether he "belongs to the church." One must be very careful here, regardless of the ecclesiastical practice, to show the child that he is essentially one with this body, this religious family. He may be too young to subscribe his name to its roll, but he belongs at least to the full measure of unity appreciable by his mind. He must not be permitted to think of himself as an outsider. Indeed, no matter what our theology may hold, every religious parent believes that his children belong to God. Do they not also belong to the church in at least the sense that the church is responsible for their spiritual welfare?

The sense of unity must be developed. Writing the child's name on the "Cradle Roll" of the church school may help. Assuming, as he develops, that he is a part of this spiritual family, naturally expecting that he will have an increasing share in its life, will help more. Parents who dedicate their children to God pass on to them the stimulus of that dedication. A church service of dedication is likely to impress them with a feeling of unity with the church; seeing other children so dedicated they know that a similar occasion occurred in their own early lives.

The forms of relationship must develop with the nature of the child. The church needs not only a graded curriculum of instruction but a graded series of relationships by which children, step by step, come into closer conscious social unity, each step determined by their developing needs and capacities.

It is easy to say that the responsibility lies with the church to provide these methods of attachment. But the church we have been sketching is a congeries of families, after all, and it will do just what these families, particularly the parents in them, stimulate it to do.


But what of those instances in which parents are convinced that the church does not furnish a normal and healthy atmosphere for the child's spiritual life? There are churches where the Sunday school is simply a training school in insubordination, confusion, and irreverence, or where religion is so taught as to cultivate superstition and to lead eventually either to a painful intellectual reconstruction or to a barren denial of all faith. There are churches of one type so devoted to the entertainment of adults, to the ministry to the pride of the flesh and the lust of things, that a child is likely to be trained to pious pride and greed, or of another type, in which religion is a matter of verbiage, tradition, and unethical subterfuge.

Parents must be true to their responsibilities. The family is the child's first religious institution. Fathers and mothers are not only the first and most potent quickeners and guides in the religious life, but they are primarily responsible for the selection of all other stimuli to that life. Under the drag of our own indifference we must not withhold from the child the good he would get even from the church we do not particularly enjoy; neither dare we, for fear of criticism or ostracism, force the child under influences which, in the name of religion, would chill and prevent his spiritual development, would twist, dwarf, or distort it. Responsibility to the spiritual purpose of the family is far higher than any responsibility to a church. The churches are ordered for the souls of men.

What shall we do in the family when the sermon is always tediously dull? Don't try to force children to go to sleep in church; they will never get over the habit. Insist that there shall be a service suitable for them parallel to the adult service of worship.[47] Next, try to overcome the present popular obsession regarding the sermon. The church is more than an oratory station. The sermon is only one incident. Many criticisms of the sermon indicate that the critic measures the preacher by ability to entertain, that he attends church to be entertained. If that is essentially your attitude, you cannot complain if your children are dissatisfied unless they too are entertained according to their childish appetites. When the sermon is poor, put it where it belongs proportionately and enlarge on the many good features of church fellowship and service.

In a word, let the church be to the family that larger home where families live together their life of fellowship and service in the spirit and purpose of religion and where there is a natural place for everyone.

I. References for Study

H.W. Hulbert, The Church and Her Children, chaps. i-v. Revell, $1.00.

H.F. Cope, Efficiency in the Sunday School, chaps. xiv-xvi. Doran, $1.00.

George Hodges, Training of Children in Religion, chap. xiv. Appleton, $1.50.

II. Further Reading

A. Hoben, The Minister and the Boy. The University of Chicago Press, $1.00.

E.C. Foster, The Boy and the Church. Sunday School Times Co., $0.75.

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals, Part II. Revell, $1.35.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What are the special common interests of church and family?

2. What are the fundamental relationships of the two?

3. What conception of the church ought to be fostered in the children's minds?

4. When is criticism of the church unwise?

5. What changes might be made in church life for the sake of the children?

6. What changes would bring the church and the home closer together?

7. What should be the children's conception of unity with the church?

8. Should children attend, in family groups, the church service of worship?

9. Does the plan of a short service for children meet the need?


[46] See a pamphlet on Church School Buildings (free) published by the Religious Education Association; also H.F. Evans, The Sunday-School Building and Its Equipment.

[47] See the author's suggestion for the Sunday school in Efficiency in the Sunday School, chap. xv.



Wise parents will know the character of the influences affecting their children at all times. At no time can their responsibility be delegated to others. There is a tendency to think that when children go to school the family has a release from responsibility. But the school is simply the community—the group of families—syndicating its efforts for the formal training of the young. Every family ought to know what the community is doing with its children. The school belongs to all; it is not the property of a board, nor a private machine belonging to the teaching force; it belongs to us and we owe a social duty as well as a family obligation to understand its work and its influence on the children.

Parents ought to visit the school. Wise principals and teachers will welcome them, setting times when visits can best be made. The visitors come, not as critics, but as citizens and parents. The principal benefits will be an acquaintance with the teachers of our children and a better understanding of the conditions under which the children work for the greater part of the day. By far the larger number of teachers most earnestly desire character results from their work. It will help them to know that we are interested in what they are doing.


Parents and teachers, both desiring spiritual results, can find means of co-operation. Parent-teacher clubs and associations have done much to bring the home and the school together. Meeting regularly in the evening, so that fathers, too, can attend, gives opportunity to work out a common understanding to raise the spiritual aims of the school, and to discover means by which the families may aid in securing better conditions for school work.

One of the most important considerations relates to the moral effect of the school life and environment. We are committed in this country to the principle that the public school cannot teach religion, but this by no means relieves it of responsibility for moral character. The family needs this ally. Children expect instruction in the school and they feel keenly the power of its ideals and the standards established by its methods and requirements. The family and the school greatly need to co-ordinate their efforts here to the end that there may be under way in both an orderly program for the moral training of children.


The school may help the home if arrangements are made for parents to meet regularly and receive instruction in those forms of moral training which can best be given at home. This is one method of solving the vexed question of sex instruction. Many hesitate as to the wisdom of such instruction in schools; but no one doubts that it ought to be and could be given in families but for the fact that parents are both ignorant of what to tell and indifferent to the matter. It may be that some day the state will not only say that the child must go to school, but also that every parent intrusted with children must either prove ability to train and instruct in these and other matters or go to school to obtain the necessary training. The state would not go beyond its province if it required ignorant parents—and that means most of us in matters of moral training—to go to school and learn our business. And without waiting for such compulsion the school may now offer opportunity for all parents to obtain the desired information. Teachers are especially trained to an understanding of child-nature and to methods of pedagogy; they are prepared to teach many things we ought to know; why should not the family obtain the advantage of such expert knowledge?

The school would also be within its province if it undertook to stimulate the indifferent parents, both rich and poor, to an appreciation of the educational task and opportunity of the home. Each institution greatly needs the other. The school reaches all the children of all the people; might it not be made a larger means of helping all the parents of all the children to quickened moral responsibility and to greater educational efficiency?


The family ought to know the conditions at the school outside the recitation or working hours. Few parents have any conception of the power of the playground over moral character. Perhaps a smaller number realize how dangerous are some of the elements at work there. Play of itself is immensely valuable, but play means playfellows, and some of these are simply purveyors of indecency and moral contagion in conversation and act. We are required to send our children to school; we have a right to demand freedom from moral contagion. Do you know what goes on in secret places on the grounds? Do you know that the vilest ideas and phrases are current in pictures, cards, on scraps of paper, and in handwriting on walls, not only in the high schools, but often among children of from six to twelve years of age? This is too large a subject to be developed properly here. It is one familiar to all wide-awake school men and women and ought to be equally so to the parents of children. Where the school combats this evil the home should intelligently aid; where the school is indifferent the family dare not rest until either the indifference is quite dispelled or the indifferent dismissed.

Do not expect to get the facts concerning these suggested conditions by inquiry among your children. They are reticent, naturally, on such matters when talking with adults; besides, the sense of school honor holds them to silence. If they tell you voluntarily, you are happy in their free confidence. Do not betray it; simply let it lead you to make further inquiry at the school from the authorities and stimulate you to insist that, for the sake of the spiritual good of the young, the school must furnish conditions of moral health.

I. References for Study

Ella Lyman Cabot, Voluntary Help to the Schools, chaps. vii, viii. Houghton Mifflin Co., $0.60.

W.A. Baldwin, "The Home and the Public Schools," Religious Education, February, 1912. $0.65.

II. Further Reading

M. Sadler, Moral Instruction and Training in Schools. 2 vols. Longmans.

John Dewey, The School and Society. The University of Chicago Press, $1.00.

Smith, All the Children of All the People. Macmillan, $1.50.

G.A. Coe, "Virtue and the Virtues," Religious Education, February, 1912.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What ought parents to know about public-school life?

2. In visiting a school what may the parent do to acquire information in the proper way?

3. How may the home co-operate with the school?

4. What degree of instruction in morals ought the school to give?

5. In what way does the school best help in moral training?

6. What do you know about the conditions on the playgrounds of your own school?



Moral crises arise in every family. Deeply as we may desire to maintain an even tenor of character-development, in harmony and quietness, occasions will bring either our own imperfections or those of our children—or of our neighbors' children—to a focus and throw them in high relief on the screen. Progress comes not alone in perpetual placidity. When temper slips from control, when angry passions rule, when the spirit under discipline rebels, when a course of petty wrongdoing comes to a head, when secret sins are discovered, and when we suddenly find ourselves confronted with a tragic problem in the higher life, it is still important to remember that the crisis is just as truly a part of the educational process as is the orderly, gradual method of development.

A moral crisis is an experience in which our acts are such, or have such results, that they are thrown out in a white light that reveals their inner meaning, so that they are sharply discerned for their spiritual and character values. Then in that light courses of conduct have to be valued anew, reconsidered, and determined.

Two courses are open in times of moral crisis in the family. One is to bend our efforts to settle the situation, to proceed on the policy of getting through with the crisis as quickly as possible, to seek to remove the pain rather than to cure the ill. The other is to regard the crisis as a revealer of truth, to use it as a valuable opportunity, one in which moral qualities of acts are so easily evident, so keenly felt, as to make it a time of spiritual quickening, a chance for the best sort of training.


The perfect child is the one unborn; shortly after his birth he begins to take after his father. The perfect character does not exist in a child. It is as unreasonable to expect it as it would be to look for the perfect tree in the sapling. Character comes by development; it is not born full-blown. Childhood implies promise, development. Therefore parents must not be surprised at evidences that their children are pretty much like their neighbors' children. Outside of the old-time Sunday-school-library book the child who never lied, lost his temper, sulked, or made a disturbance never existed and never will, except in a psychopathic ward in some hospital. Could anything be sadder than the picture of the anemic, pulseless automaton who is always "good"?

When parents speak of the "natural depravity" of their children, they are commonly using terms they do not understand. What they mean is the natural immaturity of their children, a condition of imperfection in which they may rejoice, as it shows the possibility of development. The child is in the world to grow to the fulness of all his powers. The powers of the higher life are to develop as truly as those which we call physical and mental. The family is the great human culture-bed for the development of those powers, their training-field and school.

Does someone say, concerning a little child, "But we thought he had the grace of God in his heart, that he had been born again and would no more do wrong"? True, he may be born again, but there is a world of difference between being born and being grown up. From one to the other, in the realm of character, is a long and tedious process, with many a stumble, many a fall, many a hard knock, and many a lesson to be learned. Every moral crisis is part of the struggle, the experience and training that may make toward the matured life. You have no more right to expect your child to be a mature Christian than you had to expect him to be born six feet tall.

A moral crisis is a lesson. The important consideration for the parent, then, is to see the wrongdoing of the child as an experience in his moral upward climb; not as a fall alone, but as part of the acquisition of the art of standing upright and walking forward. Dealing with such an occasion one may well say to himself or herself, "This is my chance to guide, to make this experience a light that shines forward on the way for the child's weak feet and to strengthen him to walk in it." For is it not true with us that practically all we really know has come by the organizing of our different experiences? Think whether it is so or not. And is it not to be the same with the child?

We can study here only a few typical moral crises, perhaps those that give greatest perplexity to parents. They cannot be successfully met as isolated instances, but must be seen as a part of the whole educational process. Those to whom the development of character is a reality will watch tendencies and train them before they focalize in crises.


Parenthood presents tremendous moral strains; it is rife with temptations. It offers a little world for autocracy to vaunt itself. The martinets command, often totally blind to the changing nature of the subjects as they pass from the submissive to the rebellious. One day the parents wake up to realize that they are not the only ones possessed of will.

When to your Yes the child says No, while you may not applaud, you ought to rejoice; you have discovered a will, you have found developing in your child the central and essential quality of character. Forgiveness will be hard to find and recovery still more difficult if you make the mistake of attempting to crush that will. The child needs it and you will need its co-operation. The power to see the possibility of choice of action, to know one's self as a choosing, willing entity, able to elect and follow one among many courses of action, is a distinctive, Godlike quality. The opposition of wills is like the birth of a new personality, a new force thrown out into the world to meet and struggle and adjust itself with all other persons.

When the collision comes, take a few long breaths before you move; take time to think what it means. Keep your temper. Do not break before the other will by an exhibition of chagrin that your authority is defied. From now on the basis of any real authority is being transformed from force and tradition to a moral plane.

Therefore, first, be sure you are right in your direction or request. You cannot afford to make the child think that authority is more important than justice, that might makes right in the social order of the home. If you do he will accept the lesson and practice it all his life.

Remember the right has many elements. There is the child's side to consider. As soon as he can decide on courses of action his ideas of justice are developing. To do him an injustice is to help make him an unjust man.

Secondly, help him to see the right. This will involve sympathetic explanations of your reasons which you may have to give in the form of simple arguments or of a story, perhaps from your own experience, or by an appeal or reference to the wider knowledge of the older children. It may be necessary to let him learn in the effective school of experience. Other means failing, allow him to discover the pain and folly of his own way when it is wrong. Of course this does not apply if he is minded, for instance, to imbibe carbolic acid. But even in such circumstances it would be better to prove his unwisdom by demonstration—as a drop of acid on a finger tip—than to let the issue rest on blind authority. One such demonstration gives a new, intelligible basis to your authority in other cases.

Thirdly, help him to will the right. Help him to feel that he must choose for himself, to recognize the power of the will and the grave responsibilities of its use. He is entering the realm of the freedom of the will. Every act of deliberate choice, with your aid, in a sense of the seriousness of choice, goes to establish the character that does not drift, is not dragged, and will not go save with its whole selfhood of feeling, knowing, choosing, and willing.

Sec. 3. ANGER

An angry child is a child in rebellion. Rebellion is sometimes justifiable. Anger may be a virtue. You would not take this force out of your child any more than you would take the temper out of a knife or a spring. Anger manifested vocally or muscularly is the child's form of protest. But, established as a habit of the life, it is altogether unlovely. Who does not know grown-up people who seem to be inflexibly angry; either they are in perpetual eruption or the fires smoulder so near the surface that a pin-prick sets them loose. Usually a study of their cases will show either that the attitude of angry opposition to everything in life has been established and fostered from infancy or that it was acquired in the adolescent period.

The angry, antisocial person is most emphatically an irreligious person; there can be no love of his brother man where that spirit is. The home is the place where this ill can best be met and cured, for it deals most directly with the infant, and for the adolescent it is the best school of normal social living.

Let no one think the angry demonstrations of little children are negligible or that they have nothing to do with the religious character of the child or the adult. They are important for at least two reasons, first, as furnishing the angry one opportunity to acquire self-control, to master his own spirit, and, secondly, because they disturb the peace and interfere with the well-being of others.

It is possible to set up habits of anger in the cradle. In the first instance the infant encountered opposition in the cradle and proceeded to conquer it by yelling, and so, day after day, he found anger the only route to the satisfaction of his desires. He grew to take all life in terms of a bitter struggle and every person became his natural enemy.

In the case of the adolescent it sometimes happens that a boy or a girl will make a very tardy passage through the normal experience of social aversion, the time when they seem to suspect all other people, to flee from social intercourse and to sulk, to want to be off in a corner alone. This is a normal phase of adolescent adjustment, coming at thirteen or fourteen, but it ought to pass quickly. A few allow this period to become lengthened; they fail to regain social pleasure and soon drift into habits of social enmity. This may be due to scolding at this period, or to a lack of healthful friendships.


It is evident that talking, lecturing, or arguing with the angry infant will not help the case. He may feel the emotion of your anger but misses any shreds of your logic. Parents ought first to ask, Why is an infant angry? With the infant, with whom there are no pretensions or affections, there is commonly a simple cause of his rebellion. The baby yelling like an Indian and looking like a boiled lobster is neither possessed of an evil spirit nor giving an exhibition of natural depravity; he is lying on a pin, wearing the shackles of faddish infant fashions, or he is trying to tell you of disturbances in the department of the interior. Furnish physical relief at once and you put a period to the display of what you call temper; try to subdue him by threats and you only discover that his lungs are stronger than your patience; you yield at last and he has learned that temper properly displayed has its reward, that the way to get what he wants is to upset the world with anger. That is one of life's early lessons; it is one of the first exercises in training character.

Consider the future. Each family is a social unit, a little world. Within this world are in miniature nearly all the struggles and experiences of the larger world of later life. It is a world which prepares children for living by actually living. The qualities that are needed in a world of men and women and affairs are developed here. When young children exhibit anger parents must ask, How would this quality, under similar circumstances, serve in the business of mature life? Anger is an essential quality of the good and forceful character. Somehow we have to learn to be angry and not sin. Anger is the emotional effect of extreme discontent and opposition. For the stern fight against evil and wrong, life needs this emotional reinforcement. But it must be purified, it must be controlled. Like the dynamic of steam, it must be confined and guided. Love must free it from hatred; self-control must guide it.

When children are angry, help them to think out the causes for the feeling. Instead of denouncing or deriding them, stop to analyze the situation for yourself. It may be that they are entirely justified, that not to be angry would be an evidence of weakness, of base standards of conduct or conditions, or of weak reactions to life's stimuli. Always help the child to see why he is angry. Perhaps the situation is one he may remedy himself. Is he angry because the top-string is tangled? Stay with him until he has learned that he can remove the cause of his own temper.

Step by step, dealing with each excitement of anger, train him in self-control. Self-mastery is a matter of learning to direct and apply our own powers at will. It is developed by habitual practice. It is the largest general element in character. The temper that smashes a toy is the temper that kills a human being when it opposes our will, but it is the same temper that, being controlled, patiently sets the great ills of society right, fights and works to remove gigantic wrongs and to build a better social order. That patience which is self-control saves the immensely valuable dynamic of the emotions and harnesses them to Godlike service. And that patience is not learned at a single lesson, not acquired in a miraculous moment; it is learned in one little lesson after another, in every act and all the daily discipline of home and school and street.

Children must learn to qualify and govern temper by love in order to save it from hatred. When the irritating object is a personal one the rights, the well-being, of that one must gain some consideration. There will be but little feeling of altruism in children under thirteen; we must not expect it; but egoism is one way to an understanding of the rights, the feelings, and needs of others. The child can put himself in the other's place. He is capable of affection; he loves and is willing to sacrifice for those he loves, and when he is angry with them, or with strangers, he must be helped to think of them as persons, as those he loves or may love. He also can be aided to see the pain of hatred, the misery of the life without friends, the joy of friendships.

Anger against persons is the opportunity for learning the joy of forgiveness and, if the occasion warrants, the dignity and courage of the apology. The self-control, consideration, and social adjustment involved must be learned early in life. It is part of that great lesson of the fine art of living with others. Little children must be habituated to acknowledging errors and acts of rudeness or temper with suitable forms of apology. Above all, they must, by habit, learn how great is the victory of forgiveness.[48]

I. References for Study

The Problem of Temper. Pamphlet. American Institute of Child Life, Philadelphia, Pa.

E.P. St. John, Child Nature and Child Nurture, chap. v. Pilgrim Press, $0.50.

J. Sully, Children's Ways, chap. x. Appleton, $1.25.

II. Further Reading

Patterson Du Bois, The Culture of Justice, chaps. i-v. Dodd, Mead & Co., $0.75.

E.H. Abbott, The Training of Parents. Houghton Mifflin Co., $1.00.

M. Wood-Allen, Making the Best of Our Children. 2 vols. McClurg, $1.00 each.

H.Y. Campbell, Practical Motherhood. Longmans, $2.50.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What special opportunities are offered in the rise of moral crises?

2. Do we tend to expect too high a development of character in children?

3. How early in life do we have manifestations of a conscious will?

4. What constitutes the importance of early crises of the will?

5. What are probably the causes when children habitually defy authority?

6. Is anger always a purely mental condition?

7. What importance have the angry demonstrations of infants?

8. What is the relation of the control of temper to the rightly developed life?


[48] See Gow, Good Morals and Gentle Manners, chap. viii.




A child who never quarrels probably needs to be examined by a physician; a child who is always quarreling equally needs the physician. In the first there is a lack of sufficient energy so to move as to meet and realize some of life's oppositions; in the other there is probably some underlying cause for nervous irritability.

It is perfectly natural for healthy people to differ; in childhood's realm, where the values and proportions of life are not clearly seen, where social adjustments have not been acquired, the differences in opinions, as in possessions, lead to the expression of feeling in sharp and emphatic terms. Rivalry and conflict are natural to the young animal. Children do not wilfully enter into conflicts any more than adults; they are only less diplomatic in their language, more direct, and more likely to follow the word with attempts at force.

In few things do parents need more patience than in dealing with children's quarrels. First, seek to determine quietly the merits of the cause; but do not attempt to pronounce a verdict. It is seldom wise to act as judge unless you allow the children to act as a jury. But ascertain whether the quarrel is an expression somewhere of anger against injustice, wrong, or evil in some form. Sometimes their quarrels have as much virtue as our crusades. It is a sad mistake to quench the feeling of indignation against wrong or of hatred against evil. A boy will need that emotional backing in his fights against the base and the foes of his kind. While rejoicing in his feeling, show him how to direct it, train him to discriminate between hatred of wrong and bitterness toward the wrongdoer. Help him to see the good that comes from loving people, no matter what they do.

Our methods of dealing with a quarrel will do more to develop their sense of justice than all our decisions can. Be sure to get each one to state all the facts; insist on some measure of calmness in the recital. Keep on sifting down the facts until by their own statements the quarrel is seen stripped of passion and standing clear in its own light. Usually that course, when kindly pursued and followed with sympathy for the group, with a saving sense of humor, will result in the voluntary acknowledgment of wrong. The boys—or girls—have for the first time seen their acts, their words, their course, in a light without prejudice. They are more ready to confess to being mistaken than are we when convinced against our wishes.

When no acknowledgment of wrong is proffered voluntarily, we must still not offer a verdict. Put the case to the contestants and let them settle it. Listen, as a bystander, coming in only when absolutely necessary to insist on exact statements of fact. That course should be excellent training in clear thinking, in the duty of seeing the other man's side, in the deliberation that saves from unwise accusations and the serious quarrels of later life. Teach children to think through their differences.

The perpetually petulant child, bickering with all others, should be taken to a physician. Get him right nervously, physically, first. He is out of harmony with himself and so cannot find harmony with others. When the condition of habitual bickering seems to afflict all the children in the family, it cannot be settled by attributing it to a mysterious dispensation of natural depravity. The probability is that the home life is without harmony and full of discord, that the parents are themselves petulant and more anxious to assert their separate opinions than to find unity of action. Nothing is more effective to teach children peaceful living than to see it constantly before them in their parents. A harmonious home seldom has quarrelsome children. Such harmony is a matter of organization and management of affairs as much as of our own attitude.

Some children are educated to a life of quarrels by being trained in the family that spoils them. The single child is at a great disadvantage; he occupies the throne alone. His home life becomes a mere series of spokes radiating from himself. When he finds the world ordered otherwise, he quarrels with it and tries to rearrange the spokes into a new, self-centric social order. Whatever the number of children may be, each one must learn to live with other lives, to adjust himself to them. Neighboring social play and activities are the chance for this. Do not try to keep Algernon in a glass case; he needs the world in which he will have to live some day.


The best of men are likely to have a secret satisfaction in their boys' fights, and the bravest of mothers will deplore them. The fathers know how hard are the knocks that life is going to give; the mothers hope that the boys can be saved from blows. A man's life is often pretty much of a fight, every day struggling in competition and rivalry; we have not yet learned the lesson of co-operation, and we still tend to think of business as a battlefield. Something in us calls for fighting; we have to use the utmost strength at our command to fight the evil tendencies of our own hearts; often we rejoice in life as a conflict. It feels good to find causes worth fighting for. If all this is true of the man, it is not strange that the small boy, scarce more than a young savage, will find opportunities for conflict. He is more dependent on the weapons of force than is his father. He cannot cast out the enemy with a ballot, nor with a sneer or biting sarcasm, nor by some device or strategy of business or affairs. He can only hit back. Taken altogether, boys settle their differences as honestly at least as do men.

Moreover, children's fights are not as cruel as they seem to be; even the bloodshed means little either of pain or of injury. A boy may be badly banged up today and in full trim tomorrow; it is quite different with the wounds bloodlessly inflicted by men in their conflicts.

Does all this mean that boys should be encouraged to fight? No; but it does mean that when Billy comes home with one eye apparently retired from business, we must not scold him as though he were the first wanderer from Eden. That fight may have been precisely the same thing as a croquet game to his sister, or any test of skill to his big brother, or a business transaction to his father; it was a mere contest of two healthy bodies at a time when the body was the outstanding fact of life. The fight may give us our chance, however, to aid him to a sense of the greatness of life's conflict, to a sense of the qualities that make the true fighter. It may leave him open to the appeal of true heroism. We must make light of the victory of brute strength, just as we may make light of his wounds and scars, and glorify the victory of the mind and will.

The boy who fights because he lacks control of temper needs careful training. He gets a good deal of discipline on the playground and street, but it is not always effective; the beatings may only further undermine control. But the lack of self-control will manifest itself in many ways and must be remedied at all points. The discipline of daily living in the family must come into play here.


The matter of self-control is not separable into special features; one cannot learn control under one set of moral circumstances without learning it for all. The boy who strikes without thinking is simply one who acts without thinking. He tends to throw away the brakes of the will. The regain of control comes only through training at every point in deliberation of action.

Probably there is no other point at which children so frequently and readily learn control as in the matter of speech. The family where all speak at once, where a babel of sounds leads to a rivalry of vocal organs, is not only a nuisance to the neighbors, it is a school of uncontrolled action to the children. Just to learn to wait, even after the thought is formed into words, until it shall be my turn or my opportunity to speak is a fine discipline of control. To do that every day, year after year, tends to break up the hair-trigger process of action.

Control is gained also by the acquisition of the habit of thought regarding general courses of action. We can hardly expect meditation on the part of little children. But those who are older, those entering their teens, may and should be able to think things out, to plan out the day's actions, to determine their own ways of conduct. Children who have the custom of quiet, private prayer often develop ability to see their conduct in the calm of those moments. They get a mental elevation over the day and its deeds.


The evident danger of undue deliberation of action must be met by another cure of the personal-conflict spirit; that is, the substitution of games of rivalry and skill for the unorganized rivalry and "game" of fighting. The transition from the bloody arena to the excitement of a game is very easy and natural. But the game is the boy's great chance to learn life as a game to be played according to the rules. All that the fight calls for—courage, endurance, skill, quickness of action, and grim persistence—comes out in a good game. Here is a suitable youthful realization of the fight that is worth waging. Our participation in the youths' games, our appreciation of their points, our joy in honestly won success, is the best possible way to lead up to their taking life in terms of a good fight, a grand game, a real chance to call out the heroic qualities. Turn every fighting instinct into the good fight that will clarify and elevate them all.

I. References for Study

W.L. Sheldon, Ethics in the Home, chaps. xi, xii, xiii. Welch & Co., $1.25.

E.A. Abbott, Training of Parents, chap. v. Houghton Mifflin Co., $1.00.

II. Further Reading

Ella Lyman Cabot, Every Day Ethics. Holt, $1.25.

M. Wood-Allen, Making the Best of Our Children. 2 vols. McClurg, $1.00 each.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. Do all children quarrel? Should one punish for small quarrels?

2. What are the facts which ought to be ascertained regarding any quarrel?

3. What special opportunities do children's differences offer?

4. What are the causes of habitual petulance? What are the dangers of this habit of mind?

5. Is fighting necessarily wrong? What part does it play in the lives of men?

6. What are the dangerous elements in boys' fights?

7. What special quality of character needs development in this connection?

8. What are the valuable possibilities in the fighting tendency?



Sec. 1. LYING

Parents are likely to be wilfully blind to the faults of their children. But some faults cannot be ignored; they must surely quicken the most indifferent parent to thought. We suffer a shock when our own child appears as a wilful liar.

"What shall I do when I catch the child in an outright lie? Surely he knows that is wrong and that he is wilfully doing the wrong!"

First, be sure whether he is "lying." Lying means a purposeful intent to deceive by word of mouth or written word. When Charles Dickens wrote Oliver Twist he described a burglary that never happened, so far as he knew. He intended the reader to feel that it was true. Was he lying? No; because he simply used his imagination to paint a scene which was part of a great lesson he desired to teach the English public. Even had he had no great moral purpose, it would still not have been a lie, just as we do not accuse the writer of even the most frivolous novel of lying. He is simply creating, or imitating, in the field of imagination.

Imagination is the child's native world. When the little girl says, "My dolly is sick," she is saying that which is not so, but instead of reproving her for lying, you prepare an imaginary pill for the doll. Many children's lies are simply elaborations of their doll- and plaything-imaginings. When my little daughter told me, and insisted upon it, that she had seen seven bears, of varied colors, on the avenue, should I have reproved her for lying? Was it not better to humor her fancy, to draw it out, to give it free play, being careful gradually to let her know that I knew it was fancy? I entered into the game with her and enjoyed it so long as we all understood it was only fancy. It is a crime to crush a child's power of creating a world by imagination, a fair world, set in the midst of this world where things are imperfect, jarring, and disappointing, a world in which everything is always "just so."

But one must also carefully aid the child in distinguishing between the world of fancy and the world of fact. This takes time and patience. We must not rob the life of fancy nor must we allow the habits of freedom with ideas to pass over into habits of carelessly handling realities. Along with the development of fancy we must train the powers of exact observation and statement of facts. The child who saw seven bears, red, green, yellow, etc., must go to see real bears and must tell me exactly their colors and forms. Daily training in exactitude of statements of real facts is the best antidote for a fancy that has run out of its bounds. It establishes a habit of precision in thinking which is the essence of truth-telling.


But there is another form of lying which is frequently met in some form. It may be called protective lying. Ask the little fellow with the jam-smeared face, "Have you been in the pantry?" and he is likely to do the same thing that nature does for the birds when she gives them a coat that makes it easier to hide from their enemies. He valiantly answers "No, Mother." He would protect himself from your reproof. There has been awakened before this the desire to seem good in your eyes and he desires your approbation most of all. The moral struggle with him is very brief; he does not yet distinguish between being good and seeming good; if his negative answer will help him to seem good he will give it.

What shall we do? First, stop long enough to remember that appetites for jam speak louder than your verbal prohibitions. The jam was there and you were not. It can hardly be said that he deliberately chose to do a wrong; he is still in the process of learning how to do things deliberately, just as you still are, for that matter. Consider whether your training of the anti-jam habit has been really conscientious and sufficient to establish the habit in any degree. It were wiser to ask these things of yourself before putting the fateful question to him. It would be better not to ask a small child that question. It demands too much of him. Besides, you are losing a chance to establish a valuable idea in his mind, namely, that acts usually carry evidences along with them. Better say, "I see you've been in the pantry." That will help to establish the habit of expecting our acts to be known. Then would follow with the little child the careful endeavor to train him to recognize the acts that are wrong because harmful, greedy, against the good of others, and against his own good.

Just here parents, especially many religious parents, meet the temptation thoughtlessly to use God as their ally by reminding the child that, though they could not see him in the pantry, God was there watching him. In the vivid memory of a childhood clouded by the thought of a police-detective Deity, may one protest against this act of irreverence and blasphemy? True, God was there; but not as a spy, a reporter of all that is bad, anxious to detect, but cowardly and cruel in silence at all other times! Let the child grow up with the happy feeling that God is always with him, rejoicing in his play, his well-aimed ball, his successes in school, his constant friend, helper, and confidant. I like better the God to whom a little fellow in Montana prayed the other day, "O God, I thank you for helping me to lick Billy Johnson!" The child of the pantry needs to know the God who will help him to do and know the right.


But protective lying presents a more serious problem with older children. The school-teacher and parent meet it, just as the judge and the employer meet it in adults. The cure lies early in life. Truth-telling is as much a habit as lying is. Perhaps it is more easily practiced; its drafts are on the powers of observation and memory rather than on those of imagination. Along with the child's imaginative powers there must be developed the powers of exact observation and description. Exact observation and description or relation are but parts of the larger general virtue of precision. Help children at every turn of life to be right—right in doing things, right in thinking, in saying, and in execution. Precision at any point in life helps lift the life's whole level. Truth-telling is not a separable virtue. You cannot make a boy truthful in word if you let him lie in deed. You cannot expect he will speak the truth if you do not train him to do the truth, in his play, in ordering his room, in thinking through his school problems, and in thinking through his religious difficulties. Truth-telling is the verbal reaction of the life which habitually holds that nothing is right until it is just right.

Two things would, ordinarily, make sure of a truthful statement, instead of a protective lie, in answer to your question: first, that the young person has been trained to the habit of seeing and stating things as they are—and that you really give him a chance so to state them, and, secondly, that to some degree there has been developed a recognition of considerations or values that are higher than either escape from punishment or the winning of your approbation. He will choose the course that offers what seems to him to be the greater good; he will choose between punishment, with rectitude, a good conscience, a sense of unity with the higher good, of peace with God his friend, a greater approximation to your ideal, on the one side, and, on the other, escape from punishment.

Everything in that crisis will depend on how real you have made the good to be, how much the sense of the reality of God and his companionship has brought of joy and friendship, and how high are his values of the actual, the real, the true.


But what shall we do as we meet the lie on the lips of the child? First, as already suggested, do not wait until you meet it. Train the child to the truthful life. Second, be sure you do not make too heavy moral demands. Remember the instinct to protect himself from immediate punishment or disapprobation is stronger than any other just then. Do not ask him to do what the law says the prisoner may not do, incriminate himself. We have no right to put on our children tests harder than they can bear. Often we put those which are harder than we could face. What you will do just then depends on what you have been doing for the training of the child or youth. Do not expect him to solve problems in moral geometry if you have neglected simple addition in that realm.

Punishment by the blow or the immediate sentence will be futile. The offender must know he has trespassed in a realm beyond your administration and rule; he has done more than commit an offense against you. Whatever consequences follow—such as your hesitation to accept his word—must evidently be a part of the operation of the entire moral law. Help him to see that lying strikes at the root of all social relations and would make all happy and prosperous living, all friendship, and all business impossible by destroying social confidence.

Facing the crisis, do not demand more than your training gives you a right to expect. Often, instead of the direct categorical question as to guilt, we must gradually draw out a narrative of the events in question; we must patiently help the child to state the facts and to see the values of exactitudes. Without preaching or posing we must bring the events into the light of larger areas of time and circles of life, help him to see them related to all his life and to all mankind and to the very fringes of existence, to God and the eternal. That cannot be done in a moment; it is part of a habit of our own minds or it is not really done at all. At the moment we can, however, make the deepest impression by insistence on the importance of the actual, the real, the exactly true.

I. References for Study

E.L. Cabot, Every Day Ethics, chaps. xix, xx. Holt, $1.25.

W.B. Forbush, On Truth Telling. Pamphlet. American Institute of Child Life, Philadelphia, Pa.

J. Sully, Children's Ways, pp. 124-33. Appleton, $1.25.

II. Further Reading

G.S. Hall, "A Study of Children's Lies," Educational Problems, I, chap. vi. Appleton, $2.50.

E.P. St. John, A Genetic Study of Veracity. Pamphlet.

J. Sully, Studies in Childhood.

E.H. Griggs, Moral Education. Huebsch, $1.60.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. Are there degrees of lying?

2. When is a lie not a lie?

3. How can we discriminate among the statements of children?

4. How can we help them to recognize the qualities of truth?

5. In what ways are parents to blame for forcing children to protective lying?

6. What of the relation of the thought of God to the demands for truth?

7. Would you punish a child for lying and, if so, in what way?




Many parents appear to think that the child's concepts of property rights and of fair dealing are without importance. Habits of pilfering are permitted to develop and success in cheating wins admiration. Low standards are accepted and religion is divorced from moral questions. The family attitude practically assumes that all persons cheat more or less and that it is necessary only to use wisdom to insure freedom from conviction.

Responsibility lies at home. We shall never have an honest generation until we have honest men and women to breed and train it. It is folly to think we can lay on the public schools the burden of the moral education of the young. Much is already being attempted there; yet little seems to be accomplished because the home, having the child before and after school and for a longer period each day, furnishes no adequate basis in habits, ideals, and instruction for the moral work of the school. If parents assume that one cannot succeed with absolute integrity, that dishonesty in some degree is necessary to prosperity, then children will learn that lesson despite all that may be said elsewhere. Honest children grow where, in answer to the false statement, "You will starve if you do business honestly," parents say, "Then we will starve."

But the very home life itself can be a teacher of dishonesty. Is it largely a matter of sham and pretense for the sake of social glory? Does it prefer a cheap veneer to a slowly acquired genuine article? Is the front appearance that of a dandy while the backyard looks like a slattern? Is the home striving for more than it deserves? Is it trying to get more out of life than it puts in? Evading taxes, avoiding duties, a community parasite, does it commend to children the arts of social cheating and lying? Such homes teach so loudly that no voice could be heard in them.

Given the atmosphere, ideals, and practices of the honest life in the home itself, the problems of conduct, in the realm of these rights, are more than half solved. Here in the home the real training for the life of business takes place. Not for an instant can we afford to lower standards here, nor to lose sight of the life-long power of our ideals, our habits, and our attitudes on the conduct of the next generation. Do parents know that the problems of lying, cheating, quarreling are the great, vital questions for their children, much more important than industrial or professional success in life; that on these all success is predicated? If they do, surely they cannot regard the problems which arise as mere incidents; surely they will provide for the culture of the moral life as definitely as for the culture of the physical or the intellectual!


But children also acquire habits from their playmates. Whenever the act of pilfering appears, the wrong must be made clear. Some sense of property rights is necessary; not the right, as some assume, to do what you will with a thing because you have it, but the right to enjoy and usefully employ it. Help children to see the difference between mine and thine. Slovenly moral thinking often comes from too great freedom in forgetful borrowing within the family. In this little social group the members must first acquire the habits of respect for the rights of others. Through toys, tools, and books the lesson may be learned so early that it becomes a part of the normal order of things.

Children can learn that the game of life has its rules and that the breach of these rules spoils the game and prevents our own happiness. They can learn, too, that these are not arbitrary rules; they are like the laws of nature; they are the conditions under which alone it is possible for people to live together and to make life worth while. Gambling is wrong because it is unsocial; it is the attempt to gain without an equivalent giving. Cheating is wrong, no matter how many practice it, just as surely as cheating is wrong in the game on the playground.

Children are really peculiarly sensitive to the social consciousness. In school under no circumstances will they do that which the school custom forbids or the older boys condemn. In the home, despite contrary appearances, the opinion of elders, brothers, sisters, and parents is the recognized law. Every small boy wants to be like his big brother. Children's conduct may be guided by an understanding of the social will outside the school and home. Help them to know that all people everywhere in organized society condemn cheating and dishonesty.[49]

Sentiment and emotional feeling must back up all teaching of conduct. Your stories and readings should be selected with this in mind. The approbation of parents and of the great Father of all enters as an effectual motive.

But parents seldom understand these problems; they attempt to deal with each one as it arises until they are weary of the seemingly endless procession and abandon the task. Their endeavors are based on faint memories of such problems in their own youth or on rule-of-thumb proverbial philosophy about morals and children. Does not the development of moral ability and culture deserve at least as much attention as any other phase of the child's life? After all, what do we most of all desire for all our children—position, fame, ease? or is it not rather simply this, that, no matter what else they do, they may be good and useful men and women? Then what are we doing to make them good and useful?

A clear view of the need for moral training, a belief that is possible, will surely lead to serious attempts to learn the art of moral training. In this they need not be without guidance. There is a number of good books on character development in the child.[50] The foundation for all such training of parents ought to be laid in an understanding of what the moral nature is, and then of the laws of its development. Later the specific problems may be separately considered.


Teasing is the child's crude method of experimentation in psychological reactions; the teaser desires to discover just how the teased will respond. It degenerates, by easy steps, into a thoughtless infliction of pain in sheer enjoyment of another's misery, and then into brutal bullying. When only two children are together mere teasing will not last long; either the teaser will tire of his task or his teasing will turn to that lowest of all brutalities, delight in inflicting pain on weaker ones.

But teasing is a serious problem in many families; the whole group sometimes lives in an atmosphere of ridicule, derision, and annoyance. Teasing is likely to appear at its worst wherever a group is gathered, for the guilty ones are under the stimulus of the praise of others; they inflict mental pain for the sake of winning approbation.

Teasing has a pedagogical basis. A certain amount of ridicule acts healthfully on most persons. Even children need sometimes to see their weaknesses, and especially their faults of temper, in the light of other eyes, in the aspect of the ridiculous. But children are seldom to be trusted to discipline one another; freedom to do so is likely to develop hardness, indifference to the sufferings of others, and arrogance from the sense of lordship. The corrective of ridicule is safe only as it is a kindly expression of the sense of humor. The ability to see and to show just how foolish or funny some situations are will turn many a tragedy of childhood into a comedy. Whenever children laugh at the distresses or faults of others, help them to laugh at their own. Cultivate the habit of seeing the odd, the whimsical, the humorous side of things. A sound sense of kindly humor often will save us all from unkind teasing.


Help the habitual and unkind teaser to see how cowardly the act is, to see how it is against the spirit of fair play. Call on him to help the weaker one. If he is teasing for some fault of temper or some habit, show him the chance that is afforded to do the nobler deed of helping another to overcome that fault.

Let the cowardly teaser reap the consequences of his own act; he must bear the burden of the critic, the expectation of perfection. Teasing him for his own shortcomings will sometimes cure him, but usually he loses his temper quickly. Make him feel the injustice of the teaser's method. If he is a bully he needs bullying. If ever corporal punishment is wise it is in such a case. He who inflicts pain simply because he can deserves to endure pain inflicted by someone stronger. But one must be careful not to confirm him in the coward's code. The injustice of it he must see, see by smarting under it. If ever punishment before others is wise it is in this case; for surely he who delights in humiliating others must be humiliated. But though justice suggests this course, experience shows that it does not always work; the bully only bides his time, and, cherishing resentment, he wreaks it on the weaker ones.

The best cure for brutal teasing will take a longer time than is involved in a thrashing. Besides, the teaser will get his thrashings very soon from other boys. It requires time to change the habits that make bullying possible. Try gradually helping him to see the beauty and pleasure of helpfulness. Give him a chance to give pleasure instead of pain. Help him to taste the joy of praise, the praise that helps more than all teasing criticism. Help him to see that it is more truly a mark of superiority to help, to cheer, to do good, than to oppress and tease. Take time to habituate him in helpfulness.

In dealing with teasing in the family, two other things are worth remembering: First, the teased must be taught the protective power of indifference. Teasers stop as soon as their barbs fail to wound; the fun ends there. Laugh at those who laugh at you, and they will soon cease. Secondly, the atmosphere and habit of the family determine the course of teasing. Where carping criticism and unkindly ridicule abound, children cannot be blamed for like habits. Where the sense of humor lightens tense situations, where we sacrifice the pleasure of stinging criticism for the sake of encouraging those who most need it, children are quick to catch those habits too. The teasing child usually comes out of a family of similar habits. On seeing our children engaged in teasing others, our first thought ought to be as to the extent to which we may have been their example in this respect. Constant watchfulness on our part against the temptations to tease will have an effect far more potent than all attempts to talk them out of the habit; it will lead them out.

I. References for Study


P. Du Bois, The Culture of Justice, chaps. iii, x. Dodd, Mead & Co., $0.75.

E.P. St. John, Child Nature and Child Nurture, chap. viii. Pilgrim Press, $0.50.


W.L. Sheldon, A Study of Habits, chap. xvii. Welch & Co., Chicago, $1.25.

II. Further Reading


Sneath & Hodges, Moral Training in School and Home. Macmillan, $0.80.

E.O. Sisson, The Essentials of Character. Macmillan, $1.00.

H. Thisleton Mark, The Unfolding of Personality. The University of Chicago Press, $1.00.

Paul Carus, Our Children. Open Court Publishing Co., $1.00.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. Of what importance is the child's sense of possession?

2. What are the first evidences of a consciousness of property rights?

3. How do homes train in dishonesty?

4. What is the relation between cheating and dishonesty?

5. What is a child seeking to do when he teases another?

6. What are the unfortunate features of teasing?

7. What is the relation of teasing to bullying?

8. What cures would you suggest for either?


[49] Parents will be helped by the practical discussions of cheating, cribbing, and other boy problems in Johnson, Problems of Boyhood.

[50] See "Book List" in Appendix.



Whoever will stop to review his early educational experience will be impressed with the instantaneous and vivid manner in which certain teachers spring into memory. They are seen as though actually living again. We have difficulty in recalling even the subjects they taught, while of the particulars of their teaching we have absolutely no recollection. But they continue to influence us; they are like so many silent forces leading our lives to this day. The teacher is always greater than his lesson, and what he is, is greater than what he says. The religious education of the young depends more on the gift of persons, on contact with lives, than on anything else.

There are instructors and there are teachers; the former impart information, the latter convey personality; the former deal with subjects, the latter teach people. The greatest factor in education as a process of developing persons is the power of stimulating personality. The power of the family as an educational agency is in the fact that it is an organization of persons for personal purposes. When you take the persons away you remove all educational potencies.

The depersonalized home is the modern menace. We have come to think that provided you throw furniture and food together in proper proportions you can produce a capable life. So we depend on the home as a piece of machinery to do its work automatically, forgetting that the working activity is not the home but the family, not the furniture but people. Life can only come from life, and lives can only come from lives. Personality alone can develop personality. By so much as you rob the family life of your personal presence, as mother or as father, you take away from its reality as a family, from its force as an educational agency, from its religious reality.


All that is said here about fathers might well be applied to mothers, save that they are not as flagrant sinners in this respect, and, besides, it comes with better grace for a father to speak on the sins of fathers.

There are too many fathers who are financial and physiological fathers only. A good father easily grows as crooked as a dollar sign when he is nurtured only on money. Many, both fathers and mothers, take parenthood wholly in physiological terms, imagining—if they think about it at all—that they have fully discharged all possible obligations if only they know how to bear, feed, and clothe children properly. True, such duties are fundamental, but no father can be rightly called "a good provider" who provides only things for his family, no matter with what generosity he provides these things. Our homes need more of ourselves first of all.

He makes a capital error of setting first things in secondary places who willingly permits business to interfere with the pleasure of being with his children. Our social order fights its own welfare as long as any father is chained to the wheels of industry through the hours that belong to his home. But there are just as many who are not chained, but who enslave themselves to business, and so miss the largest and best business in the world, the development of children's characters.

Many a good father goes wrong here. Love and ambition prompt him to provide abundantly for his children; he enslaves himself to give them those social advantages which he missed in youth.

But it is a short-measure love that gives only gifts and never gives itself. The heart hungers, not for what you have in your hand, but for what you are. "The gift without the giver is bare." No amount of bountiful providing can atone for the loss of the father's personality. It is easy for the hands to be so engrossed in providing that the home is left headless and soon heartless. If we at all desire the fruits of character in the home we must give ourselves personally.

It is not alone the habitue of the saloon or the idler in clubs and fraternities who is guilty of stealing from the home its rightful share of his presence. He who gives so much of himself to any object as not to give the best of himself to his family comes under the apostolic ban of being worse than an infidel. A father belongs to his home more than he belongs to his church. There have been men, though probably their number is not legion, who have allowed church duties, meetings, and obligations so to absorb their time and energy that they have given only a worn-out, burned-out, and useless fragment of themselves to their children. Some have found it more attractive to talk of the heavenly home in prayer-meeting or to be gracious to the stranger and to win the smile of the neighbor at the church than to take up the by-no-means-easy task of being godly, sympathetic and cheerful, courteous and kind among their children and in their homes. No matter what it may be, church or club, politics or reform organization, we are working at the wrong end if we are allowing them to take precedence of the home.


The father owes it to his family to give himself at his best, that is, as far as possible, when his vitality is freshest and his powers keenest to answer to the young life about him. He owes it to his family to conserve for it the time to think of its needs, time to listen to the wife's story of its problems, time to sit and sympathize with children, time to hear their seemingly idle prattle, time to play with them. Have you ever noticed this great difference between the father and the mother, that while the latter always has time to bind up cut fingers and to hear to its end the story of what the little neighbor, Johnny Smith, did and said, somehow father's ear seems deaf to such stories and he is often too busy to sympathize? It might work a vast change in some families if the "children's hour" had a call to the father as well as to the mother. Of course we are crowded with social engagements and life is at high pressure under the enticing obligation of uplifting and reforming everybody else, yet one hour of every evening held sacred for the firelight conversation, one in which the children could really get at our hearts, might be worth more to tomorrow than all our public propaganda.

Fathers owe their brains as well as their hands to their families. Competent and efficient fatherhood does not come by accident. We are learning that children cannot be understood merely by loving them, that two things must be held in balance: the scientific and the sympathetic study of childhood. Is there any good reason why, while so readily granting that mothers should belong to mothers' clubs, study child psychology, the hygiene of infancy, domestic science, and eugenics, we should assume that fathers may safely dispense with all such knowledge? There are men who sit up nights studying how to grow the biggest radishes in the block, there are men who toil through technical handbooks on the game of golf, who would look at you in open-eyed wonder if you should suggest the duty of studying their children with equal scientific patience. They of course desire to have ideal children but they are not willing to learn how to grow them.


It takes intelligence and burns up brain power to keep the confidence of your boy so that he will freely talk of his own life and needs to you. Those much-to-be-desired open doors are kept open, not by accident, nor by our sentiments or wishes alone. A boy changes so fast that a man has to be alert, thinking and trying to understand and sympathize all the time. The boy sees through all sleepy pretenses of understanding. We keep the open door of confidence only as by steady endeavor we keep in real touch with the boy's world.

Fathers are ignorant of the problems of family training; they oscillate between the wishy-washy sentimentality that permits anarchy in the home and the harsh, unthinking despotism that breeds hatred and rebellion. Fathers criticize the public schools but never take the time to go and look inside one. They laugh at women's clubs because they are too lazy to make a like investment in the patient study of some of their problems. They affect indifference to the parent-teacher clubs while remaining ignorant of the significant things they have already accomplished for the schools. If we were to make an inventory of what the women, the mothers, have accomplished by study, agitation, and legislation for social, civic, ethical, and religious betterment, we proud lords of creation would, or ought to, hang our heads in shame.

Fatherhood is our chance to become. It is our chance to grow into our finest selves. The measure of its gains to us depends upon the measure of our gifts to its opportunities and duties. It is our chance to be what we should like our children to be, our chance to find ourselves. All that it costs, all the self-denial, labor, and often pain it must mean, is just the process of developing a fine, rich life. Now, that life is just the greatest gift that any man can make to his home and his world. We can never give any more than ourselves or any other than ourselves, and this pathway of sacrifice, this costly way of home-making, is a man's chance to become Godlike. The race has come upward in this way. It needs the masculine in its ideal self as well as the feminine. There is no race salvation without constant individual self-giving. That self-giving must be balanced equally on the part of the man and the woman. Fatherhood, like motherhood, is just our chance to learn life's best lesson, that there is a certain short path to happiness which men have called the way of pain and God calls the way of peace.

Motherhood is a sacred portion, but so is fatherhood. Its calls are just as high, its service just as holy, its opportunities just as large, its meaning just as divine. How worse than empty are all our pratings about divine fatherhood if we illustrate its meaning only degradingly or misleadingly! And just as the life of the spirit is the gift of that divine fatherhood, so for us the gift of our lives, ourselves, is the largest and richest contribution we can make to the religious lives of our children.

The father as a teacher teaches by what he is. The classes in the home have no set lessons, for the text is written in lives and the word is spoken and taught in personality. You effect the religious education of your children in the degree that you give yourself as a simple religious person to them.

I. References for Study

Hodges, Training of Children in Religion, chap. vii. Appleton, $1.50.

K.G. Busby, Home Life in America, chaps. i, ii. Macmillan, $2.00.

II. Further Reading

E.A. Abbott, On the Training of Parents. Houghton Mifflin Co., $1.00.

Allen, Making the Most of Our Children. 2 vols. McClurg, $1.00 each.

Wilm, The Culture of Religion, chap. ii. Pilgrim Press, $0.75

III. Topics for Discussion

1. Which do you remember best, your teachers or your lessons? Why?

2. Describe, from your memory, some of the influences of personality?

3. Are these influences greater or less with parents on children?

4. What are the causes that separate parents and children?

5. How shall we define duties to business, to society, and to the family?

6. Under what circumstances is one justified in refusing time to the church for the sake of the family?

7. What are the best times and opportunities for the strengthening of the personal bonds between children and parents?

8. How shall we overcome the apparent difficulty of maintaining the confidence of children?



Whether we can remedy the ills of family living today or not, we can determine the character of the family life of the future. The homes of tomorrow are being determined today. The children who swing their feet in schoolrooms and play in our gardens will control family living very soon. We can do little to reconstruct the old order; we can do everything to determine the new. When the mountain sides have been made bare, forest conservation cannot save the old trees, but it can prepare for new growths. Ours is the larger opportunity because we can determine the ideals of our children. Today we can determine that they shall not suffer from false conceptions, shall not bruise themselves in the blind ignorance that compelled us to find our own way. We shall see that, first, in the education of our children we can save the homes of tomorrow by training the children of today to set first things first. If family life has been neglected in America, it has been because we have submerged its real values of character and affection in a flood of things, of materialism.


The future higher efficiency of the family depends on an extension of a conscience for character through all our thinking on the family. We are really half-ashamed to talk of character. We blush for ideals but we have no shame in boasting of commerce and factories; we are ashamed of the things of beauty and we love only the useful. So we have become ashamed of the ideals of the home. Not only do we passively acquiesce in the popular attitude of indifference or derision, but we voice it ourselves. We join in the jest at marriage; we joke over marital infelicities. We would be ashamed to be caught singing "Home, Sweet Home." What is more important, we show that, as a people, we have less and less the habit of regarding the home as any other than a commercial affair. The tendency is to determine domestic living wholly by economic factors. The literature on the "home" is overwhelmingly economic; its heart is in the kitchen. High efficiency on the physiological, sanitary, culinary, and mechanical sides makes the modern home so convenient that you can lie on a folding bed, press a button to light the grate fire, turn on the lights, start the toaster, and wake the children. Homes are places to hide in at night, to feed the body, arrange the clothes, and start out from for real living. They are private hotels.

If we would save the family we must save the child from losing sight of the primacy of human values; we must strengthen his natural faith that people are worth more than all besides, leading him into the faith that moral integrity, truth, honor, righteousness, are the glory of a life. More, these young lives must be trained to habitual and efficient right-doing. In a word, the conservation of the home is simply a program of beginning today ourselves to set first things first, to conserve the human factors that will make homes, to make education everywhere in school and church and home count first of all for character. And that broader education we ourselves must test first of all by this, whether it makes youth competent to live aright, cultivates the love of worthy ideals, and makes him willing and able to pay the price of a trained life consecrated to the service of his world, to the love of his fellows, and to the making of a new world.

We shall need, first, to safeguard the primary motives that enter into the founding of families. Those motives begin to develop early. They are in the making in childhood. Somehow we must plan the education of youths so that they will think of homes and of marriage in new terms. Possibly the public school will not only teach the physiology of marriage and the bare physical facts of sexual purity, but will teach new ideals of family life; it will count it at least as much a duty to cultivate a love of home as it is to cultivate a love of country. It can set so clearly the final objective of character that even children shall see that life has higher ends than money-making and the family greater purposes than garish social display.


Certainly the church must seek to quicken and develop new ideals of family life; it must bring religion to our hearths and homes; it must worry less about a "home over there," and show how truly heavenly homes may be made here. It must not only get youth ready to die, it must prepare them to live; to live together on religious terms. It will do this, not only by general discussions in the pulpit, but by special instruction in classes. No church has a clear conscience in regard to any young person contemplating the duties of a family whom it has not directly instructed in the duties of that life.

It is a strange spectacle, if we would stop long enough to look at it, of the church proclaiming a way of life but scarcely ever teaching it. In any church there is a large number of young people under instruction; what are they learning? Usually a theological interpretation of an ancient religious literature. Some still are learning to hate all other persons whose religion differs from the brand carried in that institution. In a few years these youths will be bearing social burdens, facing temptations, taking up duties; does their teaching relate at all to these things? No, indeed, that would be "worldly"; it would seem to be sacrilegious to teach them how actually to be religious. The business of the church school is still largely that of filling minds with theological data rather than training young, trainable lives to become religious schoolboys, religious voters, religious parents. How many have been at all influenced by Sunday-school teaching when they stepped into a polling-booth, when they chose a life-mate, when they guided or disciplined their children? If religious education does not at all influence us in the great events of life, of what value is it to us? Must it not be counted a sheer waste of time?

If we would conserve the human values of the family we must train youth to a religious interpretation of the home. If we cannot do that in the church we might as well confess that the church cannot touch the sources of human affairs.


No matter what the breadth of the interests of the public school, youth will still need training for family living given under religious auspices and with the religious aim. The day school may give courses in domestic economy, but family living demands more than ability to sweep a room or cook an egg. In fact, no one can be competent to meet its higher demands unless at least two things are accomplished, first, that he, or she, is led to see the family as essentially a religious, spiritual institution because it is an association of persons for the purpose of developing other persons to spiritual fulness; secondly, that he, or she, is moved to willingness to count the work of the family, its purpose and aim, as the highest in life and that for which one is willing to pay any price of time, treasure, thought, and endeavor.

This means that the fundamental need is that our young people shall grow up with a new vision and a new passion for the home and family. That passion is needed to give value to any training in the economics or mechanics of the home; and that training is precisely the contribution which the church should make to all departments of life today. It is the prophet, the interpreter, revealing the spiritual meanings of all daily affairs and quickening us to right feeling, to highly directed passion for worthy ideals.

From the general teaching, the high message of the church, directed to this special problem, there must be formed in the mind of the coming generation a new picture of the family, a new ethics of its life, a new evaluation of its worth. That can come in part by the prophetic message from the pulpit, but it will come more naturally and readily by regular teaching directed to the actual experiences and the coming needs of the young people who are to be home-makers. The soaring ideals pass over their heads, but when you teach the practice, the details of the life of the family in the spirit of these ideals, as interpreted and determined by the higher conception, then they catch the vision through the details.

We need two types of classes in church schools in relation to the life of the family: First, classes for young people in which their social duties as religious persons are carefully taught and discussed. Perhaps such courses should not be specifically on "The Family," but this institution ought, in the course, to occupy a place proportionate to that which belongs to it in life. The instruction should be specific and detailed, not simply a series of homilies on "The Christian Family," "Love of Home," etc., but taking up the great problems of the economic place of the family today, its spiritual function, questions of choice of life-partners, types of dwelling, finances and money relations in the family, children and their training, and the actual duties and problems which arise in family living.

All topics should be treated from the dominant viewpoint of the family as a religious institution for the development of the lives of religious persons. The courses should be so arranged as to be given to young people of about twenty years of age, or of twenty to twenty-five. They should be among the electives offered in the church school.

The second type of class would be for those who are already parents and who desire help on their special problems. Many schools now conduct such classes, meeting either on Sunday or during the week.[51] Work on "Parents' Problems," "Family Religious Education," and similar topics is also being given in the city institutes for religious workers. No church can be satisfied with its service to the community unless it provides opportunity for parents to study their work of character development through the family and to secure greater efficiency therein. Such classes need only three conditions: a clear understanding of the purpose of meeting the actual problems of religious training in the family, a leader or instructor who is really qualified to lead and to instruct in this subject, and an invitation to parents to avail themselves of this opportunity.

The value of such a class would be greatly enhanced if it should be held in close co-ordination with similar classes or clubs conducted by the public schools.[52] Here all the parents of the community meet in the school building, not to discuss how the teachers may satisfy parental criticism, but to learn what the school has to teach on modern educational methods applied to the life of the child, especially in the family, and mutually to find ways of co-operation between the home and the school for the betterment of the child.

I. References for Study

Articles in Religious Education, April, 1911, VI, 1-77.

Helen C. Putnam in Religious Education, June, 1911, VI, 159-66.

George W. Dawson in Religious Education, June, 1911, VI, 167-74.

Cabot, Volunteer Help in the Schools, chap. vii. Houghton Mifflin Co., $0.60.

II. Further Reading

Forsyth, Marriage, Its Ethics and Religion. Hodder & Stoughton, $1.25.

Lovejoy, Self-Training for Motherhood. American Unitarian Association, $1.00.

Pomeroy, Ethics of Marriage. Funk & Wagnalls, $1.50.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. In how far are home problems due to the ignorance of parents?

2. What do you regard as the essentials in the training of parents?

3. Where can the necessary subjects best be taught?

4. What are the difficulties in the way of teaching these subjects to young people?

5. In how far can we direct the reading of young people toward sane and helpful knowledge of family life and duties?


[51] Pamphlets on plans for parents' classes: The Home and the Sunday School, Pilgrim Press; Plans for Mothers' and Parents' Meetings, Sunday School Times Co.; How to Start a Mothers' Department, David C. Cook Co.; The Parents' Department of the Sunday School, Connecticut Sunday School Association, Hartford, Conn.

[52] See pamphlet published by the National Congress of Mothers: How to Organize Parents' Associations and Mothers' Circles in Public Schools.




This book is designed for individual reading or for use in classes. It is not a textbook of the same character as a textbook in mathematics or history, but the material is arranged so as to be both easily readable and of ready analysis for classes. There are two methods of following the course: one by work conducted under a regular teacher in a class, and the other by private or correspondence study.


The class should be composed of parents and other adults, inasmuch as the work is designed for them. It may be a class in connection with the Sunday school in a church, a class conducted by a mothers' club or congress or by a parent-teacher association, or it may be organized under other auspices. Or it might be organized by a group of parents in any community. The class need not consist of either fathers or mothers alone, as the work is planned for both. In any case the work of teaching will be facilitated if, in addition to the customary officers of the class, the teacher will appoint a librarian, whose duties would be to ascertain for the members of the class where the books for study and for reference may be obtained, that is, whether they are in the public library, church library, or in private collections, and also, whenever it is desired to purchase books, where they may best be secured.


The primary requisite for the teacher will be an eagerness to learn, a sufficiently deep interest in the subject to lead to thorough study. No one can teach this class who already knows all about the subject. A spirit sympathetic with the child and the life of the family and a mind willing to study the subject will accomplish much more than facile rhetorical familiarity with it. The best teacher will not often be "an easy talker" on the family; class time is too precious to be occupied with a lecture. While, naturally, one who is a parent will speak with greater experience than another, the ability to teach this subject cannot be limited to fathers and mothers; physiological parenthood is less important than spiritual parenthood. The teacher must have, then, willingness to study the subject, ability to teach as contrasted with mere talking, sympathy with parenthood, and a passion for the religious personal values in life.


The teacher's aim will be to make this course definitely practical. The book is not concerned so much with theories of the family as with the present problems of the family, and especially with those that relate to moral and religious education. There must be a sense of definite problems to be concretely treated in all lessons. The teacher will therefore encourage discussion, but will also avoid the tendency to drift into desultory conversation. Direct the discussion to avoid tedious detours on side issues. Direct the discussion to avoid the tendency to treat superficially all the subject at one session. It will be necessary frequently to insist that attention be focused upon the immediate problems suggested by the lesson for the day, and to ask the class to wait until the subjects which they in their eagerness suggest shall come in their due order.

Encourage personal experiences as sidelights and criticisms on the text, but remember that no single experience is conclusive. Beware of the over-elaboration and detailed narration of experiences.

Insist on a thorough study of the text. Students should be so prepared as to make a lecture superfluous and to allow discussion to take the place of review and explanation. The greatest danger in parents' classes is that the members do not study; class work becomes indefinite and soon loses value. Again, the members of the class often are unwilling to be governed by the schedule of lessons, and the class drifts into aimless conversation. Adult students especially need to be turned from the tendency to regard educational experience as having come to an end with their school days. The members of this class will need encouragement; they must be stimulated patiently until they have re-formed some habits of study and rediscovered the pleasures of systematic thinking. The best stimulus will be a teacher so convinced of the supreme importance of the subject to be studied as to lead the members to recognize its importance and the insignificance of any price they may pay for efficient spiritual parenthood.


At the first session teach chap. i, which is introductory. Draw out discussion on the points suggested therein, and assign this chapter and the one following for the next session. The first lesson will give the teacher opportunity to explain and illustrate the method of study, presentation, and discussion.

Assign the work carefully each week, calling especial attention to the "References for Study." Secure promises from as many as possible to read at least one of these references and to prepare a written report, on one sheet of paper, for presentation at the next session. Ask others to look into the special points which will be found in the references given under the heading "Further Reading."

In beginning a lesson it will be wise to call to mind first the principle running through the book, that the great work of the family is the development of religious persons in the home; then call to mind the application of this principle in the last lesson. Make your review very brief.

Next, bring out the leading topic of the lesson for the day. This should be done so as to present a vital issue and a live topic to the class. Very often the best way of doing this is to state a concrete case involving the issue discussed. The presentation of a definite set of circumstances or a fairly complete experience involving the fundamental principles under discussion is an instance of teaching by the "case method." If the teacher will consider how the law student is trained by the study of particular cases, the advantage of the method will be clear. Be sure that the "case" selected will include the principles to be taught. Prepare the statement of the case beforehand. This should be done in a very brief narrative, so giving the instance as to enable the class to see the reality of the question. Be sure that your instance is itself vital and probable. A class of adults will especially need such points of vital contact. By announcing the topic in advance the teacher will often be able to obtain definite cases in point from the members.

With the case thus presented take the points in the text and apply them, first to the special case alone, but with the purpose of developing the principles involved in that and similar cases. Beware of the special danger of the case method, namely, that the class may discuss the specific instances rather than the principles.

Teaching is more than telling; it is stimulating other minds to see and comprehend and state for themselves. Therefore the teacher must first comprehend and be able to state for himself. Avoid repeating the phrases of the text. Get them over into your own language and see that the class does the same. Do not fail to call for the brief reports on reading, and to make them a real part of the subject of discussion.

Questioning is the natural method of stimulating minds. Use the question method, but do not confine yourself to "What does the author say on this?" Direct your questions to the points stated and the issues raised so as to compel students to think on the topics and so as to draw out the results of their thinking. Form your own judgments and help the class to form theirs too. Remember that the purpose of the class is to get people thinking on the great subjects discussed. The text is not written in order that groups of students may learn the author's statements, but that they may be led to think seriously on all these matters and stimulated to do something about them.

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