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Title: Bringing up the Boy - A Message to Fathers and Mothers from a Boy of Yesterday - Concerning the Men of To-morrow
Author: Werner, Carl
Language: English
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                          Bringing up the Boy



[Illustration]

 “GIVE HIM THE LIGHT
       TELL HIM THE TRUTH
            SHOW HIM THE WAY!”



                          Bringing up the Boy

                   A Message to Fathers and Mothers
                  from a Boy of Yesterday concerning
                         the Men of To-morrow


                                  By
                              CARL WERNER


                            [Illustration]


                               New York
                        Dodd, Mead and Company
                                 1913



                          Copyright, 1911, by
                   THE BUTTERICK PUBLISHING COMPANY

                          Copyright, 1913, by
                        DODD, MEAD AND COMPANY

                        Published, March, 1913



                                  TO

                          Mary Morris Werner

                             A GOOD MOTHER
                 WHOSE FINE SYMPATHY, KEEN PERCEPTION,
                 AND DEVOUT SENSE OF DUTY ARE MOULDING
                           THE CHARACTER OF

                            AN AMERICAN BOY

                THIS VOLUME IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED



CONTENTS


 CHAPTER                                     PAGE
        FOREWORD                               xi
      I FROM BABY TO BOY                        3
     II THE SIMPLICITY OF DISCIPLINE           17
    III AS THE TWIG IS BENT                    33
     IV A TALK AT CHRISTMAS TIME               48
      V THE DYNASTY OF THE DIME NOVEL          63
     VI THE SIN OF SEX SECRECY                 77
    VII THE WEED AND THE WINECUP               91
   VIII OUT INTO THE WORLD                    104



                There; my blessing with thee!
    And these few precepts in thy memory
    See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
    Nor any unproportioned thought his act.
    Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
    Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
    Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;
    But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
    Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware
    Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,
    Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.
    Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;
    Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.
    Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
    But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;
    For the apparel oft proclaims the man.
    Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
    For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
    And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
    This above all: To thine own self be true,
    And it must follow, as the night the day,
    Thou canst not then be false to any man.

                              --Polonius to his son.
                                  _Hamlet_, Act I, Scene 3.



FOREWORD


A good portion of the material in this volume was printed in serial
form in _The Delineator_, to whose editors and publishers I am deeply
indebted for the sympathy and encouragement that were necessary to
bring my ideas on boy training into the circle of general parenthood.
As a result of the publicity gained through the medium of that
magazine’s wide circulation, many letters were received by the magazine
and by myself; and in this mass of correspondence there was a distinct
note of appeal for the publication of the essays between covers. It was
quite without any knowledge of this demand, however, that the present
publishers, acting independently, became interested in the series, and
decided, after due consideration, to issue it in book form.

It was surprising that of the many letters received while these
articles were appearing serially, only a small minority of the writers
disagreed with my views, and those few protests were confined to one
or two subjects. So far as could be reasonably expected of one whose
time is much occupied in pursuing a livelihood, I replied to all such
communications. If in some instances I failed, the omission was not
because I was lacking in a keen appreciation of the interest, the
sympathy, the suggestions and the criticisms thus expressed. As to
those who disagreed with me, I would like to repeat here what I have
said to them in personal replies: They may be right, and I wrong.
This much only, I know--That Providence is kind in that He permits
me to retain a distinct picture of the boy’s cosmos; that as a man
and a father I can still see--and feel--from the boy’s viewpoint; and
that, preserving that visuality, I have tried, with the best judgment
and most constant effort of which I am capable, to employ it for the
greatest good. Everything that I have written about boy training is
solidly fixed on this foundation; and everything that I have written
has been or is being employed, to the very letter, in my stewardship
of one who is infinitely more precious to me than life itself--my
own boy. If I have erred, may God forgive me; but on this score my
conscience is as clear as a crystal pool, for so far as human vision
penetrates not one duty has been left undone and not one endeavour has
gone astray. And happily, though I say it with a prayer on my lips and
humility in my heart, every passing year adds its living testimony to
the principles which I advocate and for which I plead.

                                                                  C. W.



Bringing up the Boy



I

FROM BABY TO BOY


Your son, madam, while passing a vacant house, paused, poised his
arm and deliberately sent a small stone crashing through one of the
windows. Then, turning on his heel, he ran nimbly up the street and
disappeared around the corner.

You know it occurred, because some one living next to the house saw him
do it and told the owner, and the owner came to you for reparation and
you charged the boy with it and he admitted it to be true.

You are heartbroken because you find yourself confronted with what
appears to be irrefutable evidence that your son is a bad boy.

You ask him why he did it. He doesn’t know. You suggest that it might
have been an accident. Being a truthful boy, he replies tearfully that
it was not. You enquire if he had any grievance against the man who
owns the house. He answers that he hadn’t even heard of the owner and
didn’t know who he was. Then--you ask again--why did he do it? You get
the same answer:

“I don’t know.”

It certainly looks dubious for your boy, madam, doesn’t it? If at the
tender age of ten years a lad will deliberately “chuck” a stone through
a neighbouring window, with no reason or provocation for it whatsoever,
what may he not be capable of at twenty? The thought is appalling,
isn’t it?

Happily, however, I think it can be demonstrated to your complete
satisfaction that your son is not bad--so far as this particular
offence is concerned, anyway--and that this stone-throwing business is
a perfectly natural thing for a perfectly normal boy to do.

To start with, let us suppose that I have placed on your back
fence, side by side, a brick and a bottle. I then hand you a little
target-rifle and invite you to try your skill at shooting. Now, which
will you aim at--the brick or the bottle?

The bottle, of course. You answer more quickly than I can write it.

And why the bottle?

Just think that over a moment, please. Why the bottle?

Meanwhile, let us go back to the boy and the window.

The desire to see a physical result from any personal effort is
deep-seated in every human being. Where is the author who does not take
secret and real pleasure in scanning the achievements of his pen in
the public print? Where is the architect who would forego the pleasure
of seeing the finished structure, the lines and masses of which he
has dreamed over and designed? The desire to see the result follow the
endeavour, the effect follow the cause, is strong within us all.

It may seem a far cry from art and letters to the boy and the broken
window, but the psychologic principle involved is one and the same.
The boy, sauntering along the street or the roadway, has been amusing
himself by throwing stones. He has sent one against the side of a barn
with no effect other than the sound of a hollow thud as it struck the
boards. He has heaved one at a telegraph pole, and the pole didn’t even
quiver. Then he spies the vacant house.

It is obviously deserted and abandoned. A pane already shattered in one
of the windows starts the idea. It is far enough back from the street
to make the throw a test of skill. If he misses there’s no harm done.
If he hits there’ll be a noise, a crash, a shower of flying glass
and--Enough! Up goes the arm, away goes the stone with fateful accuracy
and the deed is done. It was the act of a sudden impulse. Before the
conscience within him could assert itself the missile had struck; and
that innate human ambition to produce a visible result was gratified.

The deed is done, and the boy doesn’t know why he did it. But returning
to the hypothesis of the brick and the bottle, perhaps you, madam, can
explain why you would prefer to shoot at the bottle.

In these talks I want to tell mothers something of what I know about
boys; not all about them, but just a few of the more vital things
that every mother of a boy ought to know and every father ought to be
reminded of. I say “reminded” advisedly, for the fathers must have
known some time, though it would seem that most of them have forgotten
now. What I say I know about boys, I know. What I may suggest or advise
is another matter. It can stand only as a belief, an opinion, and my
sole excuse for presuming to offer it is that I love the boy; I live
close to him and I believe in him.

I do not believe that the intuitiveness generally accredited to
motherhood is in the least degree overestimated or exaggerated. But
mere intuitiveness, even in its highest form of development, can hardly
be expected to bridge the natural gap of temperamental sex difference
between mother and son.

Unfortunately, the father, not eager to invade what he believes to
be the mother’s sphere, usually is content to leave the management
of the boy in the mother’s hands, while the mother, not recognising
the deficiency of her position, labours on patiently, lovingly,
untiringly, but in many cases blindly, and often with poor success.
If mothers only understood this it would be better. If they could be
brought to realize the handicap under which they are striving they
could fortify themselves against it. They could deepen the interest
of the father or, failing that, they could at the least draw upon his
experience and knowledge of real boyhood with good effect. But there
are no sex distinctions to the average mother. The boys and the girls
are just “the children” and the difference of sex is lost in the great
catholicity of maternal love.

At the very beginning parents must concede the existence of an inherent
temperamental difference between the boy and the girl. This, for the
mother, is not so easy of adjustment as it may appear. The boy is her
baby, just her baby, from swaddling-clothes to long trousers.

The fact is, of course, that the assertion of the sex temperament
starts almost with the beginning of life. For the first four or five
years it is, to be sure, almost a negligible quantity, but after that
the boy needs to be treated as a boy, and not as a sexless baby.

Put a pair of new red shoes on a little girl’s feet and send her out
among a group of misses shod in black. Then watch her plume herself and
pose at the front gate and mince up and down the avenue, as proud as a
peacock.

Now, rig up the six-year-old boy in some new and untried kink of
fashion and turn him loose on the highway--and observe what follows.
Note how sheepishly he looks down the street to where his playfellows
are gathered, and see how he edges toward them, faltering and keeping
as close to the fence as he can. Observe how, just as he is trying to
slip into their midst unostentatiously, one of them cries in a shrill
voice:

“Look who’s here!” and another remarks:

“Oh, what a shine!” and still another exclaims:

“Pipe the kelly!” meaning, observe the hat.

Then perhaps there is the very rude boy who asks whether the “rags”
have been “rassled,” said enquiry being gently emphasised by a push
from behind. In which case the young glass of fashion, having a gloomy
premonition of what may happen to him at home if he returns bearing the
marks of combat, backs discreetly off the firing-line, and retreats
to his own dooryard with as small loss of dignity as the exigency
of the occasion will permit. And he is pretty sure to stick there
the remainder of the afternoon, while occasionally other boys, in
regulation woollens or corduroys, peep at him curiously through the
palings, making him feel like one of those unpronounceable animals that
they keep in cages and lecture about at the zoo.

Do you think this characteristic of the boy really signifies that he
is “notional”? Do you put it down merely as “finicality”? Then you do
him a great injustice. In the true analysis it is quite the opposite.
It is but one feature of a unique democracy, a splendid democracy that
you will find holding sway wherever boys gather. Oh, this democracy of
boyhood is a wonderful thing! To me it is the régime beautiful. There
is something so inspiring about it! For here, in this quaint domain of
dare-and-do, you see every sturdy little chap, regardless of clothes,
creed or family position, standing on his own merits and judged by his
own deeds.

Why some mothers persist in Little-Lord-Fauntleroy-ing their boys
within an inch of their lives is to me a profound mystery. Can any
mother enlighten me on the long-curls cruelty? Is it selfish vanity?
Could any mother, for the mere gratification of an egoistic desire,
be so unfeeling as to send her helpless boy out into the scene of
humiliation and actual physical torture of which the boy with the long
curls becomes the pitiable centre as soon as he turns the corner?

I do not like to think so. Rather would I believe, as in the case of
the broken window, that the mother’s error is chargeable to her never
having been a boy. She has a faulty conception of what it means to be
yanked about by those boy-hated ringlets of gold, to be harassed and
taunted by the inornate but happier hoi polloi.

I recall one afternoon when I took a youngster of three around to the
barber’s to have him shorn. I returned with the boy in one hand and the
curls in the other. He was magnificently cologned and wanted everybody
to “smell it.”

The mother was waiting with an empty shoe-box in her lap. She was
sitting by the window, in the soft half-light of the early evening, and
she caressed the golden bronze ringlets before putting them away. And
something glistened in her eye and it fell into the box and was packed
away with the curls. I shouldn’t wonder if it were there yet, for
somehow I can’t help thinking that a tear like that must crystallise
into a tiny pearl and glisten on forever.

But when this mother looked up at the boy, she was smiling, almost
proudly; and she patted the shiny, round head, and kissed it, cologne
and all, and quoted a verse about having “lost a baby and gained a
man,” declaring that he really looked much better than she had expected.

And the boy was put to bed and slept coolly and comfortably, and he’s
had a clean scalp and a clear conscience ever since, I guess.

But here I am, taking up the reader’s precious time talking about
clothes and curls--neither of which mere man is supposed to know
anything about--when all I meant to do was to emphasise the fact that
long before a half-dozen of his birthdays have been celebrated, the boy
must be taken up as an abstract proposition.

At the age of five, then, let us say, the boy reaches the stage of
recognisable and indisputable masculinity. This is the logical time for
the properly constituted father to take the helm of the son’s destiny.
If he does not do so, through lack of interest, lack of time or lack
of the faculty for it, the mother must needs go on with the struggle.
Her five years of training the baby will not come amiss in training the
boy. But she must now reckon with boyhood as a distinct classification
of childhood. She must remember that from now on, every year, every
month, every day, widens the gap of sex divergence. She will do well
to look at the bearded men who pass her door and consider that every
attribute of masculinity exists, embryonically, in her round-faced baby
boy.

From now on, if she hopes to appeal to the best that is in him, she
must not only study the boy, but she must study the world from the
boy’s viewpoint. The nearer the mother can get to the boy’s inner
emotions, the more effectively can she direct the trend of his mental,
moral and physical development. Herein lies the secret of getting and
keeping a grip on the boy.



II

THE SIMPLICITY OF DISCIPLINE


We are living in an epoch of extremists. This morning the suffering
dyspeptic is told that he will find a complete cure in a two weeks’
fast; this afternoon he is advised that by eating every two hours he
will be forever free from his ills. On the one hand is a sect preaching
that prayer will bring us peace, power and plenty, and on the other
is a schism pleading that supplication, in itself, availeth nothing.
Here we have a group of modern disciplinists teaching that corporal
punishment is a fading relic of barbaric brutality; there we find a
sturdy school of old-timers telling us that if we spare the rod we
shall spoil the child.

With these extremists who specialise in the stomach or in the soul I
have no quarrel; but coming down to the subject of disciplining the boy
I do want to point out to fathers and mothers seriously and earnestly
that there is a happy medium, a middle course--a neutral and natural
way.

The moral suasion idea is a fine thing in theory and it would be a
moderately fine thing actually if parents were all moral suasionists,
and if parents and children had nothing else in the world to do but
practise it. By this I mean that if all or most parents were naturally
equipped to rule by moral suasion, and, secondly, if twenty-four hours
of the day could be devoted exclusively to discipline, it would be
undoubtedly a commendable method of child-government. Unfortunately,
such is not the case, and in dealing with the question collectively we
have to take conditions, parents and children as we find them.

Nearly every parent possesses the faculty of governing to some
extent--greater or less; and all children are capable of responding
to it--but in varying degrees. There is, therefore, no hard and fast
rule that can be laid down for the guidance of all parents, to be
applied successfully to all children. However, by reducing the subject
of this article first to boys, and second to the average boy, I think
we can get the discussion down to a practicable basis. The little
girl is here absolutely eliminated from consideration. I have studied
her assiduously and at close range for a number of years and have
succeeded in establishing this much only; first, that she is almost too
sweetly complex for paternal comprehension, and second, that she is not
amenable to the rules by which we discipline the boy.

My boy, then, is the average boy, old enough to walk and talk and
understand what is said to him, moderately sensitive, moderately
affectionate, moderately impulsive, moderately perverse, of ordinarily
good health, and possessed of the usual amount of animal spirits.

Obedience is the foundation stone of the entire structure of
discipline. There is a good deal in discipline besides obedience, but
without obedience there is no discipline. It is not the alpha and
omega, but is a good deal more than the alpha. Discipline is harmony.
Harmony cannot be maintained without perfect obedience, because
obedience is a joint affair, a partnership arrangement between you and
the boy. All other essentials of discipline are _ex parte_. In all
other essentials you are subjective and the boy is objective. You think
and he acts, you direct and he executes, you furnish the plan of living
and he lives it. But it is the _partnership_ in obedience that makes
this possible. Given perfect obedience, the rest is easy, because the
boy’s daily routine is simply a vivification of the principles shaped
by your own matured mind.

Let me repeat, then, that discipline is simply harmony and harmony
cannot be attained without perfect obedience. Note the adjective,
_perfect_, for this is the obstacle over which we are so prone to
stumble. Obedience must be absolute, complete and infallible.

How can we attain it? How can we take the child-boy and so mould him
that he will respond to a command instantly and unfailingly? Within
him there is a natural, healthy instinct opposed to it. Within him is
the natural human tendency to think and act independently, to learn by
experiment, to venture unassisted and unrestrained into the unknown.

Punishment other than corporal will not always do it, because at the
time when this condition must be established the boy’s baby mentality
is not capable of compassing the long distances between cause and
effect. At the early age at which it is necessary to establish perfect
obedience, the moral penalties are too slow in action, too complex
and too much dependent upon local condition to be effective. There
are exceptions, of course. For example: You have a box of sweets and
you tell the boy he may take one. He takes two. As a penalty for
his disobedience you make him return both pieces to the box and you
cast the package into the fire. There you have incorporal punishment
that is instant, direct and effective; but this incident is made to
order and of rare occurrence in fact. Suppose that the boy swallows
the two pieces instantly, or suppose the more usual occurrence that
you have forbidden him to partake of the sweets at all and he has
surreptitiously eaten one. What then? Casting the remainder into the
fire will not impress him at the time because his appetite has been
satisfied, the desire is dulled. You may deprive him of his allowance
on the day following, but the lapse of time dims the relation of the
penalty to the offence. This kind of treatment works well with some of
the minor errors but not with disobedience. The tendency to disobey is
too constant, too persistent and too frequent, and too early in the
boy’s process of development.

A mother said: “It is not necessary for me to strike my child. I compel
him to sit in a chair for one hour without speaking. He fears that
more than the rod.” Of course, he does, poor little chap! And that
mother did not realise that she was substituting a barbaric torture
for mild punishment. I reverse her reasoning: It is not necessary for
me to so torture my boy. Nor shall I deprive him of his play, of the
outside air, of his supper, of anything that makes for his health and
happiness, nor of any good thing that it is in my power to give him.

Disobedience calls for a punishment that is short, direct and
impressive. A sharp tap on the palm of a boy’s hand, or on the calf of
his leg--or two or five or ten--is the only kind of penance I know of
that fills the requirements. It is the one short and sure road to an
immediate result. Naturalists tell us that the sense of touch is the
first experienced by a newborn child. It is the first and quickest wire
from the outer world to the brain. Then come hearing and smelling and
seeing and long after these come the moral perceptions, the power of
deduction and the distinction of right and wrong. My experience has
been that this first sense continues to be the live wire until well on
toward the maturity of the child--if the child is a boy. There are many
men, who can undergo the severest mental torture with calm resolution
and fortitude, but who tremble at the sight of a dental chair. Not
long ago I was chatting with a friend, who is a dentist, when a burly
policeman rushed in, plumped himself into the operating-chair and asked
the dentist to ease his aching tooth. The dentist looked at the tooth
and reached for his forceps. “The only way to fix that is to extract
it,” he said. The officer of the law sprang from the chair like a
jack-in-the-box and made for the door, remarking apologetically as he
went out that he couldn’t spare the time. “That man,” said the dentist,
when he had gone, “has a medal for bravery, and three times has been
commended for saving lives at the risk of his own.”

It is not that the boy fears pain, but that he fears the certainty of
it, he dreads the deliberate, the inevitable punishment, accompanied by
no moral stimulus with which to combat it. I have known my boy to take
a severe beating from another boy in a struggle for the possession of
an apple--and all without shedding a tear. The spat on the hand that
I inflicted was a mere flea-bite to that beating, but because of it I
could leave an apple within reach of his hand indefinitely and, though
he might want it ever so much, he would not touch it if I had forbidden
him.

So much for the psychology of corporal punishment. Now for the practice
of it.

While I may have been guilty of many literary offences, a list of
“Don’ts” has not, up to this time, been among them. But as the word
obedience necessarily captions an imposing array of “Don’ts” for the
boy, I think his parents may be better equipped to enforce them by
considering some very important ones applying to themselves. At any
rate, having spoken freely in favour of the use of the rod, it is
vitally important to qualify my advocacy of it in accordance with my
experience and belief. Every one of the qualifications or conditions
that I am about to enumerate is essential to this system of discipline,
so much so that if they were not to be considered as part of it, all
that I have written would go for naught and I would ask to withdraw it
completely.

Corporal punishment is resorted to for one kind of offence
only--disobedience. Absolutely for no other.

Corporal punishment consists of a few sharp taps on the palm or calf
with a thin wood ruler.

The boy is never punished in the presence of a third person, even a
brother or sister.

Punishment is never administered with the slightest sign of anger or
under excitement. _Any parent incapable of so administering corporal
punishment should not employ it._

Punishment must partake of the nature of a simple ceremony rather
than of a torture; it must be regarded as a duty, not as a personal
retaliation.

Punishment is always prefaced with a simple, brief, but explicit
explanation, like this: “My boy, listen: I love you and I do not
like to hurt you. But, every boy _must_ be made to obey his father
and mother, and this seems to be the only way to make you do it. So
remember! Every time you disobey me you shall be punished. When I tell
you to do a thing, you must do it, instantly; without a moment’s delay.
If you hesitate, if you wait to be told a second time, you will be
punished. When I speak, you must act. Just as sure as you are standing
here before me, this punishment will follow every time you do not do
as you are told.”

Say no more than that. Drive home the inseparability of the cause and
the consequence; let the idea of instant, infallible obedience be
telegraphed to his brain simultaneously with the sting of the ruler.

Have no fear that this form of chastisement will break your boy’s
spirit or will weaken the bond of love between him and yourself. Both
will be strengthened by it. For one punishment inflicted, there are
hundreds of kind words and deeds to prove your affection.

No child should be punished corporally other than as I have described.

To strike him in the face, to strike him at all with the hand or fist
is brutal, and brutality is not only sinful but ineffective. Corporal
punishment inflicted impulsively is dangerous because it lacks the
earmarks of good intent.

Above all, remember this: That the kind of corporal punishment which I
employ is effective, first because it is the only kind the child knows,
and in no other way does he feel the weight of a corrective hand; and
second, because _it never fails to follow the deed_.

To waver is unfair to the child. Yesterday he was punished. To-day he
commits the same infraction and is not punished. Here is inconsistency
and the boy is confused. If it were not deserved to-day, he reasons, it
was undeserved yesterday; therefore, he is aggrieved. Every time you
miss the atonement you lose a link, and the chain of your discipline is
broken.

This is the chief error of parent disciplinarians. We fail to grasp
the all-important truth that the unfailing application of corporal
punishment is the very thing that can render punishment of any kind
unnecessary. Many a boy is punished a hundred times where but a few
would have sufficed had the penalty been exacted consistently and
unfailingly. The right kind of discipline neither spoils the child nor
spoils the rod. It spares both. It is like good dentistry. Every moment
of hurt saves years of suffering in later life. And good painless
discipline is as rare as good painless dentistry.

Further than this I have but little to say about discipline, for,
once you have achieved infallible obedience, you are bound to achieve
perfect discipline. The two words are synonyms in effect. No mother can
hope for the best results if she seeks to train her boy as she would
arrange her hair--to please her vanity--or as she would plan a shopping
tour--to suit her convenience. Self must be submerged and the child’s
future kept uppermost. For discipline is a mother’s duty to her boy.
If she falters in it the boy will suffer. And every penalty that the
unwatched boy escapes through a parent’s frailty, he will have to pay,
many fold, in the future years.



III

AS THE TWIG IS BENT


You hear the sound of sobbing in the distance, and as it draws nearer
and grows more distinct you recognise the voice. A moment later the
door flies open and there stands your boy, crying as though his
heart would break. Little rivulets of tears are trickling down his
dust-covered cheeks, and on the side of his face is the mark of a cruel
blow.

Between sobs he tells you that the boy across the street did it. Why?
He doesn’t know why; he wasn’t doing anything at all, “jes’ playin’
around.”

You wipe the tears away and kiss the hurt, and as you note the
quivering lip and the angry bruise, a wave of indignation swells within
you. Glancing out through the window you see the boy across the
street, cavorting triumphantly on the curb. How much bigger and coarser
and rougher than your boy he appears--isn’t it always so? Your little
chap has come to you partly for sympathy, but mainly for retaliation.
He shows you his wound and points to the boy who did it. He has been
hurt, he has been grievously wronged, and he has come to you whom he
has learned to look upon as his one never-failing protector and friend.
You spring to your feet, fired with an overwhelming desire to rush into
the street and avenge the wrong that has been done your child.

Madam, one moment! Don’t do it. The retaliation you contemplate may
be justice so far as the tormentor across the street is concerned,
but it is a rank injustice to your own boy. I want to tell you on the
authority of an ex-boy that if you would serve your son best, you will
not interfere.

None but a mother knows the trials and heartaches of the fighting
period in a boy’s life; and none but a father realises what an
important part that period plays in the shaping of the boy’s career.
The period runs approximately from the ages of five to ten. Prior to
that the child is too young to indulge in it, and subsequently he is
too old to tell about it. In the interim these affairs of the street
are of daily occurrence and are to the mother a source of annoyance as
mysterious as they are harrowing.

The right way to deal with this problem may not be the easiest way
but it is the simplest, and it is the best for the boy. It is to let
him alone. It is to teach him from the very beginning that outside of
his own dooryard he must protect himself with his own hands. Have a
distinct understanding that if he gets himself into a fight, he must
get himself out of it. Tell him that by helping him you would only make
more trouble for him because he would get to be known as a coward, and
all the boys would annoy him more than before.

I went further than this with my boy. I told him that I did not approve
of fighting, but that if he were forced into it, I would expect him to
hit out hard and fast and defend himself blow for blow. I provided him
with a punching-bag and a set of boxing-gloves and I showed him how to
use them. He was just five when I established this rule and in one year
it proved itself.

At six we started him off to school, and a few days later he came home
one afternoon with a discoloured eye.

But there was no tear in it. He threw his books in a corner and ran,
whistling, out to play. At dinner that evening my curiosity got the
better of me, but I assumed indifference.

“Where did you get the eye, old chap?” I asked casually.

He looked up sheepishly, smiled and pushed his cup toward me.

“Some more milk, if you please, father,” he said. The fighting problem
had been solved forever.

The mother who coddles her boy shows him a double unkindness. She
not only increases his boyhood miseries, through making him the
particular target of other boys, but she retards the development of his
self-reliance and his manliness.

I give the _affaire d’honneur_ an important place in this chapter
because it is one of the things about boys that mothers often
misunderstand and quite generally undervalue.

Of course, the cardinal precept which should form the foundation of
the character structure is--Truth. Combine in him manliness and
truthfulness, and the other essential traits of good character will
spring from these two like shoots from the trunk of a healthy tree.
Truth-telling should be made a matter of habit with the boy. Have you
not among your acquaintances men, women and children who are habitual
prevaricators, people who make misstatements continuously, absolutely
without purpose and without malice? Lying has become a habit with them.
By the same token truth-telling can be and should be so instilled in
the boy as to become automatic. He should never be punished for a
falsehood as you might punish him for disobedience. The problem of
disobedience, which I discussed in a foregoing chapter, is a matter of
psychology from beginning to end. Truth-telling becomes so in the end
but is a matter of morals at the beginning. It can be formed into a
fixed habit by treating it morally and by keeping everlastingly at it
until the result is achieved. You cannot beat a boy into hating a lie,
but you can shame him into it.

It is natural for a very young boy to seek to evade responsibility for
an offence by disclaiming it. The first time he does this he must be
made to know that, however serious the offence may be, it is as nothing
compared to the lie that he seeks to cover. I did not go so far as to
promise my boy immunity for infractions that he frankly confessed;
but I did make it a rule unto myself that he should never suffer
through confession, and I did invariably commend him, in the highest
terms, when he told the truth under conditions that made it peculiarly
praiseworthy. An example: I find my inkstand tipped over and a great
black stain upon the carpet. I summon the boy and ask him sternly:
“Who did that?” My manner is threatening. The offence is grave. He is
thoroughly frightened, but after a moment he answers, falteringly, “I
did.” Instantly my attitude changes from admonitive to commendatory.
I say to him: “This is an awful thing that you have done. The carpet
is spoiled. The stain will always be there. Nothing can remove it. But
you have told the truth and that is the finest thing that a boy can do.
As bad as this is, I would rather you would do it a hundred times than
tell one lie.”

If, on the other hand, he falsifies, I grieve before him. I tell him
that nothing that a boy can do is as bad as a falsehood: that a lie
is the very meanest and lowest thing in the world. I tell him that I
fully forgive him for spilling the ink, but it is almost impossible to
forgive him for that lie. I leave him to meditate upon it.

I never allow an untruth to pass without bringing a blush of shame to
the boy’s cheek. I never let a lie show itself without holding it up as
a thing to be despised. The boy first gets to fear a falsehood, then to
despise it--and finally to forget it. And by forgetting I mean that it
passes beyond the pale of things considerable. Truth has become a fixed
habit.

Having accomplished this, you have given your boy a solid foundation
upon which to rear the structure of good character.

I believe in sending the boy to the church. Regardless of the parents’
attitude toward religion, I believe it is their duty to give the
boy the benefit of a church environment while he is still a boy.
Irrespective of sect or creed, he is sure to absorb some good in an
atmosphere of divine worship. In later years he may depart from the
precepts there learned, but the early teachings and associations of the
church or the Sunday school will leave their influence in some degree,
and whether it is much or little, it will never be for anything but
good.

I give my boy the Bible to study and the Golden Rule to live by. I
teach him to speak or think deprecatingly of no religious faith, and
show him that all are working for the betterment of man.

From his infancy I guard him from superstition and discourage the fear
of fancied dangers. I do not believe it is necessary for a boy, at any
age, to fear the dark. Mine never did. Fear of the dark is born of
suggestion, and he has been successfully guarded from any word that
would couple darkness with danger. Throughout his entire childhood he
never sensed the usual terrors of the unlighted room and the darkened
passage. I would never confirm even the Santa Claus myth, though I did
not dissuade him from it, because I well remember the added joy it
brought to me when I was a boy. When the question was put to me I said:
“I shall not tell you because the mystery of Christmas adds much to
your enjoyment of it. Believe it or not, as you choose; I have nothing
to say.” With this pleasant exception he has never asked me a question
that I have not answered truthfully and as completely as I could.

I live close to my boy, and by so doing I find his level and see his
narrowed horizon as he sees it. When he was only six we lived together
in the woods, slept under the same blanket, fished and sailed and took
our daily swim together. Beginning at that early age we have sat by the
campfire at night and talked of the stars and the moon and the strange
noises of the wood. Nowhere can you get as close to your boy as you can
out under the sky with only Nature about you. It would be a splendid
thing if every father could devote a few weeks each year to “roughing
it” with his boy. Besides the opportunities it offers for community of
thought, it brings out a phase of the boy’s character that under other
conditions might never come to the surface. I recall one evening, as
the boy and I were lolling on the bank of a river, how he astonished
me by exclaiming: “See! What a beautiful sunset!” He had seen the sun
go down many times over the housetops of the town, but it needed the
solitude of that particular place and time to give him an appreciation
of its beauties. Unexpectedly there was disclosed to me an æsthetic
side of his nature that I had never known.

These are opportunities that open peculiarly to the father, and he
should take advantage of them.

I believe that every boy should be encouraged to acquire a college
education and that he should be made to pay for it. We hear a good
deal of talk nowadays about the lack of real advantage that the college
man has over the other fellow. Thousands of college men fail in their
struggles with the work-a-day world, and often you find a degree man
working in a subordinate capacity to a man of his own age who missed
a college education. It is a fact, too, that the honour men of our
colleges rarely distinguish themselves in their chosen professions.
But none of these things prove anything, because the personal equation
has to be reckoned in. I believe that the young man who takes his
college course and takes it seriously is better fitted for the work
of life than he would otherwise have been. The unschooled man who
succeeds would have succeeded with more ease and to a higher standard
had he been schooled. The college man who fails would have failed more
miserably had he been untrained. I believe that failure of an educated
man is in spite of his education, and not because of it.

If you want to make sure that your boy is going to use his college
education to the best advantage, let him pay his way. The failures that
our institutions of learning turn out are not the men who work their
way through; they are the sons of the affluent, the little brothers
of the rich. The boy who drives the hay-rake or works behind the
counter of his father’s store in vacation time is rarely found among
the derelicts. Let the boy share the cost with you, and you need have
no fear that either the time or money spent for education will go for
naught.

From the first time that he trots over to the candy store with his
penny, the boy should be trained to know the intrinsic value of money.
Encourage him in moderate frugality, not because the accumulation of
money is a desideratum, but because profligacy is bad for the morals.

Whether it is the mother or the father who takes especial charge of
the boy, or both, they should aim steadfastly to have his complete
confidence always. He should be made to feel that they are not only
dearer to him, but nearer to him than any one else in the world.

If a condition of implicit confidence can be established between you
and the boy, you can depend upon him to be receptive of the good which
you seek to charge him with.

Then, with truth as his anchor, no storm of the outer world can sweep
him beyond the influence of home. The bulwark of the good character
that you have builded will stand throughout his lifetime.



IV

A TALK AT CHRISTMAS TIME


On a Christmas Eve some thirty-odd years ago a very small boy, guarded
on either side by sisters older than himself, knelt at the low sill of
his bedroom window and looked wonderingly out into the night. Above was
the sky, studded with twinkling stars. Below was a soft, silent blanket
of white--the unsullied snow of a northern winter. Everything was very
still.

The boy looked first at the sky. Being of the baby age when the
children of the wise are put to bed with the sun, the night sky was
more mystic than the snow. There were so many of those stars, and
they appeared to be twinkling at him with cheerful friendliness. One
attracted him particularly. It did not twinkle and was not so merry as
the others, but it was larger and shone with a bright, steady glow. It
seemed to be reaching down toward the boy as though it would speak to
him.

He recalled the story that had been told him only the day before, the
story of the first Christmas and of three wise men who had been guided
to the manger wherein lay the infant Christ; and the thought came to
him that this, perhaps, was the star that led them. The suggestion of
the manger brought the boy’s eyes downward to the snow-topped stable
opposite his window; and from the stable he turned to the white-roofed
houses with their chimneys still smoking from the evening fires. He
wondered if Santa Claus would have to wait till all the fires were out
before he could make his rounds.

How white everything was and how still! A sense of delicious mystery
crept over him. He heard the sound of distant sleigh-bells. They drew
nearer and jingled more tunefully. One of his guardians caught his hand
in hers and held up a warning finger. They listened.

“Quick! Maybe it’s Santa Claus!” whispered the guardians in unison; and
the three scampered to their beds and disappeared beneath the blankets.
Five minutes later the little boy was fast asleep.

The little boy was myself, and the incident is the first Christmas that
I can recall. I recount it because it seems to illustrate the natural
coalescence of the mythical idea with the historical idea of the great
world holiday.

Too often, I think, the real significance of our holidays is lost
in the merriment of celebrating them. Every child is entitled to a
thorough explanation and a lasting impression of the incident which
Christmas commemorates. In shaping the Christmas idea in the boy’s mind
we should begin at the beginning. If the story of the Star of Bethlehem
is told in the right way and at the right time, it may be depended upon
to survive the myths and the merry-making with which the atmosphere is
charged during the festal period.

And this need not militate against the development of the Santa Claus
side of the celebration, for the one amplifies the other. Unselfish
giving is the keynote to both, and the child-mind easily comprehends
the application of the modern custom to the ancient story.

In the bringing up of my boy I have been a stickler for truth. Absolute
confidence between father and son, mother and child, has been my
plea and my practice, always. Yet, while not going out of my way to
encourage the Santa Claus myth, I have most cheerfully tolerated it.
It is the one mystery of childhood that I do not explain, and my reason
for excepting it from the calendar of candour is that the end justifies
the means.

I would not rob the boy of a fiction that has not one harmful
possibility, and that brings so much gladness into the home, and into
his heart. I would not deny him a kind of pleasure that added so much
to the joy of my own childhood. But, and paramount to every other
consideration, the great unassailable justification of the Santa Claus
myth is the remarkable lesson it teaches.

With reasonable reservations for the unusual I may say that never,
after the Santa Claus age, does a man or a woman either practise or
experience that remarkable unselfishness of the parents who conceal
their bounteousness behind a fiction. After childhood we continue to
give and take. We give to our brothers and sisters, to our parents and
to all whom we love. It is our pleasure to add to their happiness; but
it is also our pleasure to feel that they know it is we who have so
contributed to their enjoyment.

Not so in Santa Claus land. There, and there only, is found the
absolute submergence of self, the sincerely impersonal benefaction. As
a child, coming down to the dazzling Christmas tree, I said: “How good
is Santa Claus!” But in after years when I began to realise that every
one of those trees of joy had come from my good father, who had tramped
out into the woods to cut them and had hauled them over the hills for
miles, sometimes through a blinding blizzard,--then I said: “How great
is a parent’s love!”

When the boy arrives at the age of serious reasoning, say six or seven,
and asks me point-blank if there is really a Santa Claus, I meet the
question fairly. I simply decline to answer and give him my reason for
so doing. I explain to him that half the fun of the holiday lies in
the mystery surrounding St. Nicholas. I tell him, good-humouredly but
positively, that he must solve the Santa Claus problem himself.

By taking this position I keep square with the boy, and at the same
time he is not disillusionised, for he is as willing to cling to the
romance as I am to have him--and more so.

The custom, particularly prevalent in the large cities, of conducting
the boy through the toy department of the stores when the big holiday
stocks are on display, is to be deplored. The lavish exhibitions
paraded before his eyes cannot fail to dull his appreciation of the
home Christmas.

In arranging my boy’s Christmas I strive for simplicity. It was
Nerissa, I think, in the “Merchant of Venice,” who said: “They are as
sick who surfeit with too much, as they that starve with nothing.” The
rich--sometimes--pity the poor at Christmas.

This is well, for pity looses a purse-string occasionally, and Heaven
knows there are enough tight ones! But the fact is, that the children
of the moderately poor often get more real joy to a square inch of a
Christmas morning than many a little brother of the rich. There can be
no great pleasure in receiving when there has been no genuine longing.
Only the child who has known want can fully relish realisation.

A few modest gifts, judiciously selected, are more permanently
satisfying than a lavish display, indiscriminately gathered. I always
try to supply my boy with one thing that he most desires, or with a
fair compromise between it and what I can afford to buy. If I can
meet his anticipations fully in this one gift I do so; but it must be
something of a substantial and permanent nature. After which, if my
purse permits, I amplify this with a few things of lesser cost and more
trivial in character.

And here let me record a protest against that modern unnecessary,
the perfected toy. By the perfected toy I mean the toy that is not
a plaything, but an ingenious contrivance so perfected mechanically
that it leaves nothing for the child to do. I protest against the toy
that leaves absolutely nothing to either the fancy or the ingenuity
of the boy. The imaginative faculty of a child is constantly reaching
out for something upon which it may feed and develop. This propensity
is stifled by the perfected toy. The railroad outfit that goes into
complete operation at the turn of a lever; the doll that walks and
talks and has an elaborate trousseau; the soldier equipments that fit a
boy out in military style from head to toe--these and all like them are
praiseworthy examples of the commercial instinct of the toymakers; but
they do not meet the requirements of the child.

And if the juvenile mind were capable of self-analysis it would reject
them. I learned this first from a little girl of three years. She had
been deluged with presents that Christmas morning; but before an hour
had passed she had looked them all over, and we found her curled up in
an armchair, playing with a clothes-pin and an empty baking-powder can!
Hers was the happiness found only in the land of Make-Believe.

Instead of giving my boy a soldier outfit, I would give him a
pocket-knife--assuming that he is old enough to wield one. Having a
new knife, he is ambitious to use it, and he fashions a sword out of
a stick of pine. The sword suggests playing soldier, and he proceeds
to make a peaked hat out of a newspaper; a skate-strap answers for a
belt, and he makes a pair of epaulets from a scrap of tin-foil. In this
way the boy is duly benefited: in creating these things his ingenuity
is drawn upon, and, in supplying things that he cannot make, his
imagination is exercised.

One can hardly begin too early to teach the child the pleasure of
giving. A few pennies taken by him from his own little bank, and an
excursion to a neighbouring store, will initiate the idea. A mere
trinket for each member of the household will serve the purpose and put
him on the right track. But we must go further than the family circle
with the Christmas idea. We must show the boy that while charity begins
at home, it does not end there.

One day shortly before Christmas, I took the boy to the closet where
his discarded toys were kept, and I said:

“There are millions of children in the world, and there are not always
toys enough to go around. If you will tell me which of these things
you do not play with any more, I will see that they are distributed
on Christmas Day among little boys and girls who otherwise would get
nothing.”

He looked the things over carefully, and said finally that there was
nothing that he would like to give away. I did not urge the matter; but
the next day I invited him to take a ride with me on the street-car.
Alighting at City Hall Park, we walked down the Bowery. Arriving at
Pell Street, I found Chuck Connors sunning himself on the corner.

“Chuck,” I said, “I have a dollar in my pocket that isn’t busy, and I
want you to take me to some one who needs it more than you or me.”

So off we trudged, Chuck and I, and the boy between. A few blocks
farther down we turned toward the river. It was familiar ground to
Chuck and me--but the boy’s eyes were opened to a new world. He saw the
misery of the slums. He passed a boy of his own age, barefooted--in
December--staggering under a load of scrap-wood that would have
troubled a man to bear. He saw a little girl, half clad, shivering
behind an ash-can, trying to hide herself from her drunken father,
who leered at the waif from a hallway across the street. Pushing on
into the very heart of that pitiable section, through poverty, want
and wretchedness, the boy went with us through a miserable tenement,
wherein the spectre of Starvation stalked through the sordid halls and
snarled at my dollar bill.

On the car, homeward bound, the boy tugged at my elbow.

“Father,” he said, “besides what’s in the closet, they’s a lot of other
things I don’t play with any more.”

Ever since then we have had an annual house-cleaning about a week
before Christmas, and the Salvation Army wagon carries away a goodly
load. Indeed, the event has come to be regarded as quite a festal
occasion.

As the years go on and the boy begins to leave playland behind, I would
not hurry him into the realism of the grown-up’s Yuletide. Let the
charm of mystery, of certainty, of anticipation, linger as long as it
will.

Perhaps last year you thought it was a bit incongruous when you found
yourself slipping a safety razor into a gaily-hued sock, size ten,
dangling in the chimney-corner. And perhaps you have decided that he
is too big for that sort of thing now, and that you will let it go by
default this Christmas. Maybe you are about to tell him so.

My friend, defer it.

Stick right on in the old way as long as you can get the boy to stick
with you; for, once you have severed the ties of the Christmas of his
childhood, you will have cut the tinsel thread that links your son to
the only fairyland he will ever know.



V

THE DYNASTY OF THE DIME NOVEL


My neighbour ran in at the basement door as was his wont. Coming
lightly up the stairs he entered the library, and not finding me there,
but hearing a voice beyond, he walked across the room and looked in at
the open doorway of my den, where he stood for a moment, unobserved.

This is what he saw:

The boy, then scarcely nine, stretched out comfortably on a sofa,
reading aloud; I reclining in an easy-chair with my slippered feet in
another, and listening intently; a bright light shining over the boy’s
shoulder and flooding the room.

My neighbour paused long enough to hear these words fall from the
reader’s lips in boyish monotone:

“The crack of a Winchester sounded on the night air and the engineer
fell dead!”

Then he interrupted.

“Well, in the name of reason,” he said, “what are you folks reading?”

The boy and I looked up. I took the book from the youngster’s hand and
passed it up to the intruder.

“The life and adventures of Jesse James,” I said.

My neighbour took the book gingerly, read the title and glanced
at the cover, upon which were pictured in vivid colours three
desperate-looking gentlemen in black masks, holding up a train.

“And you are reading this--together?” he asked.

“Yes,” said I; “taking turns at it, he a chapter and I a chapter.”

My neighbour shrugged his shoulders and returned the volume, dusting
his fingers.

“Don’t you think he would get to this sort of stuff soon
enough--without you helping him?”

“He arrived there to-day,” I said; “and I’m there with him.”

There you have it--the great difference of viewpoint: my neighbour
looking at it from where he stands and I looking at it from the
standpoint of my boy. My neighbour convinced that I was starting my
beloved son on the highroad to a criminal career; I calm and confident,
and cocksure that I am doing what is best for the boy. And I guess if
we were to take the vote of Parenthood on the issue, my side would go
down to overwhelming defeat.

Now, my father says that up to the time he departed from the parental
roof there were only two books in the home that he was permitted to
read--the Bible and Foxe’s “Martyrs.” From his tenth to his seventeenth
year he was actually starving, he said, for the want of stories of
adventure. Once, when he was fourteen, a departing visitor left a copy
of “Scottish Chiefs.” This he seized upon and was devouring it in the
attic when discovery by his stern pater cut him off in the middle of
a most exciting battle. The book was confiscated and he was soundly
chastised. “And do you know,” adds my father ruefully, “it was three
years before I learned how that fight came out!”

Perhaps that’s why he gave me a freer hand in my selections when I was
a kid. He did, anyway. All that he required was that it must be free
from any suggestion of the obscene and of sacrilege. Like most boys I
began my independent reading with “Grimm’s Fairy Tales,” “Robinson
Crusoe,” “Swiss Family Robinson,” “Arabian Nights” and books of the
sort that boys usually receive as gifts. From these I jumped to the
nickel and dime variety. There were one or two good juvenile magazines
coming into the home, but they were not sufficient. I waded through all
the “Smart Aleck” books, including “Peck’s Bad Boy.” I took the thrills
with the ten-cent detective heroes of the Old Sleuth and Nick Carter
type, and revelled in the more or less historical exploits of David
Crockett, Kit Carson, Daniel Boone and Buffalo Bill.

At fourteen I had run the gamut of cheap literature. I do not mean
that I read every “penny-dreadful” in existence, for the list is
endless--there is a new one every day. But I had “got my skin full” and
the stuff began to pall. After reading a good number of these books,
even a boy feels their want of the convincing quality. He feels, too,
their sameness and their unrealness.

Then I approached the modern style and the truer type of boy books,
stories of the Alger, Oliver Optic and G. A. Henty kind; and then
the better type of adventure stories, such as “Treasure Island” and
“King Solomon’s Mines.” Then I drifted into Wilkie Collins’ creations,
reading only the more exciting ones--“The Moonstone” and “The Dead
Alive.” After that came Edgar Allan Poe and Charles Reade; and before
I was sixteen I had got into Scott, Thackeray and Dickens. And here I
anchored. Since then, of course, I have voyaged far and wide in all
directions, but Dickens is my snug harbour, and will be to the end. No
boy could revel--shall I say wallow?--in trashy literature more than
I did; but search as I will, I cannot see where it left a trace of an
influence on my conduct or my character. I do not think it was owing
to any want of physical courage; because I know that I did my share
of fighting and took as many beatings with a dry eye as the others; a
little more of both, in fact, than it would become me to boast about.
But I never robbed a bank or had any desire to; I never craved the
career of a detective keenly enough to try my hand at it, and while at
one time I did yearn for a chance to battle single-handed with a band
of Sioux warriors, the desire never led me into more dangerous quarters
than a seat at the Wild West Show. Was I different from other boys? My
mother says certainly I was, and very much better. God bless her! My
father says I was about like the rest. My teacher--he is a prominent
member of the New York bar now, and I put the question to him squarely
just the other day--tells me frankly that I was the worst boy in
school. The three estimates, averaged, would make me an average boy,
and I think my experience as to the effect of reading material was
about the usual experience of boys in general.

They pass through the age of blood-and-thunder literature just as they
have mumps, measles and marbles, and are none the better and but little
the worse for having gone through it. As water finds its level, so the
temperament eventually finds its affinity in reading matter.

“There is no book so bad,” said the elder Pliny, “but that some good
might be got out of it.”

I know that some boys who read cheap literature go to the bad. But I
have never seen it established that the reading was responsible for the
waywardness. I do not deny that, granting the existence of a tendency
toward a life of crime, certain types of stories might encourage
the tendency. But the influence of this stuff is so slight that the
avoidance of it would not prevent the downward step.

Many a boy, fascinated by the glamour of the circus, has run away with
one. Still, this does not make the circus reprehensible nor would I,
because of that circumstance, deny my boy the pleasure of attending it.
On the contrary, I go with him to the circus and sit beside him. We
munch peanuts joyously, but I warn him to beware of the red lemonade
and tell him why it is sometimes unwholesome. He sees the show from
start to finish--under my direction. And when he has seen it I reveal
to him the reverse side of the picture--I give him a peep behind the
scenes. I tell him of the hardships and privations of a showman’s life,
the long night rides, the harsh discipline, the perils and dangers of
it.

This is exactly my attitude toward the boy’s early reading. I do not
throw wide open the doors of the paper-cover library and push him into
it. But if he shows a desire to explore it, I go with him. Wherever I
can save him time and eyestrain by a friendly suggestion, I am there to
make it. When I find him reading “Cut-Throat Charley, the Terror of the
Spanish Main,” I do not pooh-pooh the book or make sport of the boy.
I do tell him that the best pirate story ever written is Stevenson’s
“Treasure Island” and tell him that if he wants a shipwreck story that
will make his hair stand up he ought to read Poe’s “Arthur Gordon Pym”
or Reade’s “Foul Play.” Once he has read either of these, you may
depend upon it that “Cut-Throat Charley” will never ring true.

When he takes up Mr. Nicholas Carter I suggest “The Mystery of the Rue
Morgue,” “Les Misérables” and “Sherlock Holmes,” and other detective
stories of the better class.

My boy had been learning from other boys something of the exploits
of Jesse James and asked me if I would get the book. I agreed to it,
readily. Somewhat to my surprise I found that since my time the list
of James books had been increased to thirty-six. Thirty-five of these
were “pot-boilers”; “Jesse James’ Nemesis,” “Jesse James’ Revenge,”
“Jesse James’ Long Chance,” “Jesse James’ Mistake,” and so on. I passed
these over, of course, and invested fifteen cents in “The James Boys,
Jesse and Frank,” which was the book I had read when I was a youngster.
It was a plain record of the men’s exploits, compiled from newspaper
clippings of that period. I explained to the boy that the others were
largely imaginative--unreal. We read the book together. Then we read
the story of Cole Younger and his brothers and later that of the
criminal career of Harry Tracy, the infamous outlaw of the Northwest.
Together we enjoyed the romance, such as there was, of their exploits;
together we discussed the animal courage and moral cowardice of their
careers; and together we followed them to the punishment which they so
richly deserved.

Had my boy evinced a desire to read the remaining thirty-five James
books, I would not have restrained him, farther than to suggest a
change. It so happened that when he had finished the three books
mentioned he had had enough of these distinguished gentlemen and their
ilk, and began casting about in other directions.

So my message on the reading subject is, don’t think that the boy’s
craving for the nickel library is an indication of depravity, or that
indulgence in it will start him on the road to perdition. The appetite
for these books is a normal one. It develops at a time when his
appreciation of romance is in full bloom but while big words, subtle
phrasing and genuine ingenuity are not yet within his comprehension.
It demands quick action and quick results, stripped of the artistic
setting and higher polish which are demanded by the refinement of
matured intellect.

Do not regard this kind of reading as a menace to the boy’s morals,
but as a stepping-stone to something better and more beneficial. Do
not, either by rule or ridicule, drive the boy from his home to seek
it, but stay with him and guide him through it. Keep him well supplied
with good books and good magazines that approach, as nearly as you can
judge, the requirement of his fancy. Watch him, but do not worry him.
Have the better things at hand and accessible and point the way to
them. Rest assured that in due time Cut-Throat Charley will have lost
his charm, and a hero more worthy of emulation will stand in his shoes.



VI

THE SIN OF SEX SECRECY


Let us suppose that our country has become involved in a war. At the
edge of your town a battle rages. You can hear the roar of cannon and
clash of steel as columns of men fall in their blood, cut down by the
flashing sabres and flying canister. Re-enforcements are hurrying
to the scene. Up the street comes a regiment of soldiers with flags
waving, drums beating and arms gleaming in the sunshine. Your son, your
boy, standing in the doorway, laughs and cheers as they approach. The
band strikes up a lively air. The boy beats time with his feet, starts,
hesitates and then, with a wave of his cap, falls in line with the gay
procession and marches joyously toward the scene of death and carnage.

Madam, at such a moment what would you do? Would you sit calmly at your
window and see him go innocently, blindly on to the danger that you
knew lay just beyond the turn of the road?

Would you not fly to his side and draw him back and hold him tight in
your arms? And if he were big and strong and insistent, though still
your boy, would you not at least tell him that war is not all music and
drum-beats and bright uniforms? Would you not warn him of its dangers,
of its horrors? If he must go and you could not hold him, would you let
him go unwarned of its realities--and unarmed?

Well, there is a war in progress--in our country, in your town; a war
more terrible, more revolting than any chronicled in history. The youth
of America are marching toward the battleground, and the splendid
column is passing your window now, to-day and every day. Perhaps you
do not see the conflict yourself, for the battlefield is always just
around the corner.

As sure as you have a son, just so sure will he some day turn that
corner. Just so sure will he some day stand on your doorstep, and feel
the lure of the passing show, and just so sure will he some time be
drawn into the conflict, when he will have to fight his way through as
best he can. At six he is in your arms; at sixteen he will be on the
firing-line; at twenty-six the ordeal will have passed and the battle
will have been lost or won. Can you then look backward into the past
and feel that you had warned and fortified him?

I can. Whatever may be in store for my boy, he goes to meet it with
more than my prayers--he has, also, a full knowledge of life’s
mysteries. He shares with me a thorough understanding of the evils
that may beset him. If my affectionate admonitions can help him, he
has them; if my mistakes of the past serve as danger signals along
his pathway, he knows of them; if my longer experience and broader
knowledge of the world’s ways can save him, he shall escape the snares
and pitfalls that await the heedless step of the untaught and untold
young.

Before he was seven I had told him whence we come. Scraps of
conversation overheard on the street between his own playfellows warned
me that the time had come and made my duty clear. I saw the pity of it!
My boy, whom I had taught to look trustfully to me for the truth at all
times and about all things; my boy hearing distorted and vulgarised
bits of knowledge that should have come to him solemnly and sacredly
from the parent whom he had learned to look upon as the fountainhead!

This is what I told him:

“God made everything, as you know. He made the sea and the land, the
sky and the stars and the sun and the moon. He makes the trees and the
plants and the animals and the boys and the girls who grow to be men
and women. But when I say God makes these things I do not mean that
He makes them with tools, as you would make a playhouse, or with His
hands, as you would make a snow-man. He makes all of these things by
a great plan which He has laid out and by which all things, with His
help, spring up and grow, over and over again, so that the world may go
on just as it is for years and years. By this plan all living things
come from a seed. This seed is within all grown-up plants and grown-up
animals. When a new plant is needed, a seed falls from the grown-up
plant and falls into the soil, where it sprouts and becomes a young
plant. Every kind of animal is composed of two sexes, the male sex and
the female sex. The fathers are of the male sex; the mothers of the
female sex. As the seed of plants is within the flower, so the seed of
animals is within the mother animal. When a new animal is needed the
seed within the mother slowly grows into a young animal like the father
or mother, and while it is still very small it comes out into the light
and sunshine; and that is what we mean when we say it is born. Men and
women are animals. They are different from all other animals in that
they can talk and think and are much higher and better in every way.
But the seed forms within the mother just as it does within the plants
and birds and animals of all kinds. And when another child is needed
the seed begins to grow and takes the form of a little child and after
awhile it comes into the world to be dressed and fed and cared for;
that is what we mean when we say that a babe has been born. That is how
you came into the world and how I came and how all of us came. It is
all a part of God’s wonderful plan to keep the world growing greater
and better and more beautiful. It is not good for boys to talk about
these beautiful things in a rough way, and I hope you will not do so.
I tell them to you because I want you to know the truth. If there is
anything you do not understand, ask me and I will explain it. Whatever
you may hear, no matter whether it is good or bad, if you want to know
the truth about it come to me and I will tell you.”

That was all. Science in words of two syllables. Science is truth, and
truth is what your boy demands.

My boy took me at my word. He came back for further enlightenment
more than once. But every time I answered him soberly, freely and
truthfully. And when he knew everything he was immune to that
contamination which mystery breeds. And what is more, the parent
had measured up to the child’s ideal. The father was still the
fountainhead; and no boy will drink from the stagnant pool of vulgarity
when the clear crystal water of truth is close at hand.

       *       *       *       *       *

Revealing the science of propagation to the child-boy is, after all,
only the first step toward unfolding the many facts of sex--facts that
are made mysteries through the inexcusable selfishness--or modesty,
if you prefer to call it that--of mothers and fathers. If sealing the
secrets of sex is an injustice to the boy of six, it is a scarlet sin
against the youth of sixteen. At six he is looking at life curiously
from the family dooryard--within the mother’s call; but at sixteen
or soon thereafter, he strides out into the street, marches down the
highway and turns the corner. He is on the firing-line. Now comes a
crisis in the boy’s life so acute, so grave that I approach the subject
with trepidation. My poor pen, tempered by that delicacy demanded of
printed words, seems incapable of the task before me. And I approach
it also with reverence because I look upon it as an almost divine
privilege to be permitted to discuss with an army of mothers a problem
which I regard as the great tragedy of American youth.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nature is good, Nature is provident, but above all Nature is
self-preservative. Go to your naturalists, your entomologists, and they
will all tell you that the law of perpetuation is first and foremost
among all living things. Man is no exception. Your boy, just coming
into his maturity, is in this respect like unto all other growing
things that God has made. As he ripens toward manhood this instinct
becomes more manifest within him. Vaguely, perhaps, he recognises its
import, but in the main it is a mystery. In a general way he may reason
out its purpose; but how can he know its humanised limitations? How
can he know that the refining process of civilisation has demanded a
check upon the exercise of Nature’s functions? And--here is the vital
issue--how shall he know of the dread penalties Nature sometimes exacts
when these restraints are violated? Why is it that the loving father
and mother, who labour with him and watch over him and shield him
through childhood, decline to raise a finger of warning against the
grim spectre of disease that stalks behind the painted faces of the
underworld? Must it be written, to the shame of human parenthood, that
the very horror of this evil stays the warning hand? Or does the mother
fall into that too common error of thinking that this evil of evils is
open to every boy but her own? Then listen to this, which I quote from
an eminent authority:

    “Take a group of one hundred young men--those from eighteen
    to twenty-five years of age--and seventy-five of these will
    be found to be suffering either from the effects of venereal
    diseases or still in an acute stage of one of them.”

Mothers, let not your eyes be blinded to a condition that medical
records have proven to be a fact. It may be your boy and it may be mine.

The chances of its being mine are reduced to the minimum--_because my
boy will know_. The revelation, as I make it, is so simple and yet so
complete, that it could be accomplished with equal ease by mother or
father. When he is about sixteen I place in his hand a book that tells
him all, and I say to him: “My boy, when you are alone, read this.[1]
There are truths in it which you should know.” From that hour the
“great social peril” must fight my son in the open. He knows all that
science can teach--all that parents can tell.

    [1] There are several good books designed for this purpose.
    “Confidential Chats with Boys,” and “Plain Facts on Sex
    Hygiene,” are two in a series on this subject by Wm. Lee
    Howard, M.D., and published by E. J. Clode, 156 Fifth Avenue,
    New York.

I am going to say now what I should have said at the outset--that the
father, though he may leave every other phase of the boy’s development
to the mother, should take the initiative in sex enlightenment. He
should regard it as his peculiar right, his sacred privilege, to point
out the devious paths through which he himself may have threaded his
way from youth to man’s estate. There are no barriers between me and my
boy. The oneness of affection and the sameness of sex easily compass
the disparity in years. He grows older but I do not, for I am waiting
for him. In fact I am going back to him--I am meeting him halfway. Our
play is as boy with boy. Our talks are as man to man.

In a relationship like this there are no “sex secrets.” There is no ice
to break, because the transmission of knowledge is consistent, gradual
and unconscious. But when the father fails in his duty and the mother
has to step into the breach, it is different, I concede. There is a
certain reserve which is womanly, and perhaps not unmotherly. Still,
mother’s love is a poor thing if it cannot break down that slender
wall to save the boy. And mother’s love is not a poor thing, but a
great power. So if mothers can only be made to see why it must be done,
and when and how, I believe they will do it.

This is an appeal not to parental love only, but to parental reason. It
is made not by a purist, but by one who has travelled the road by which
all boys must go, and who knows its every crook and turn. It is a plea
in behalf of the American boy, who asks only that he be given a torch
to light his way.



VII

THE WEED AND THE WINECUP


In the past fiscal year there were smoked in the United States nearly
two million cigarettes more than in any previous year of the nation’s
history; and the consumption of distilled spirits, exclusive of wines
and beers, broke the record of the preceding year by twenty-three
million gallons.

Now, there is nothing particularly remarkable about these figures
except as they signify that we, as a nation, are smoking and drinking
considerably more than we used to, which in turn suggests the question:
To what extent are our boys responsible for the increase? I’m sure I
don’t know, and I can’t see any way of finding out. But I do know,
from daily observation, that the tobacco and strong drink habits are
formed in boyhood more commonly than there is any need of. I do know
that a great many young men acquire a taste for cigarettes and whiskey
while yet in their teens, purely through lack of the proper parental
influence and instruction.

To me this seems pitiable, especially because it is so obviously
unnecessary. The parents’ duty is clear. It is amenable to a hard and
fast rule to which there need be no exception, from which there should
be no deviation. The boy should be made to abstain from liquor and
tobacco until he is twenty-one.

How can you keep him from them? Facts, logic, reason. By these means
and only these, can you get the boy on the right track and be sure that
he will stick. Threats, coercion, exaggerations, bribes or pleadings
will accomplish nothing dependable. At this stage in his career you
can tell him what to do, but you must also tell him why.

A lady once said to me: “You believe that the parent should live
according to the principle he teaches the child. Then, how can you deny
your son tobacco, with a lighted cigar between your lips?”

The answer to this brings us to the nib of the tobacco question. The
child is put to bed at seven o’clock, although the parents may not
retire until eleven. The child takes milk at breakfast and the parents
may have coffee. The father may devote ten hours of the day to work,
but this would not be well for the child. Many things that the man may
do with impunity are not good for the growing boy.

This is exactly what I tell my boy, and he sees the logic of it: While
a boy is growing he should take nothing into his system that is not
nutritious and he should particularly abstain from anything that may
retard the development of his bodily organs, even in the slightest
degree. Every pulsation of the heart, every expansion of the lung
cells, every function of the nerves must do its work unimpeded while
the frame is lengthening and broadening into the proportions of a man.
Once the frame is completely developed the organs merely have to renew
the old tissues. But during the growing period they have not only to
renew the old but to create additional flesh, blood and bone to meet
the demands of the increasing bulk. There are two chemicals in tobacco,
pyridine and nicotine, that have a restraining effect upon the heart,
lungs and nerves. If you give them the additional burden of carrying
off these two poisonous chemicals, the building up of the tissues is
sure to suffer. If you do not feel bad results from it in youth, you
will certainly feel them in later years.

Said my boy to me: “I know a chap who smokes cigarettes; and he does a
hundred yards in eleven seconds.” “That’s too bad,” said I, “for just
so sure as he does it in eleven seconds with the cigarette handicap, he
could do it in ten and a half without it. And if this boy is running
for an organised athletic department like that of a college or an
established club, the training rules will forbid him the use of tobacco
for a certain period before the day of the contests. Ask any athletic
coach about tobacco and he will tell you to ‘cut it out.’ Ask any
physician about it--even one who is himself a smoker--and he will tell
you that no matter how strong and well a growing youth who smokes may
be, he would be a good degree stronger and better if he did not use
tobacco. You would like to arrive at manhood, as nearly physically
perfect as you can, wouldn’t you? You have not as yet acquired a taste
for tobacco, have you? Well, then, do you not see that by abstaining
from it you have something to gain and absolutely nothing to lose? Let
tobacco alone until you are twenty-one. I might better say twenty-five,
for that is the accepted age of maturity. But we will put it at
twenty-one and perhaps by that time you will add a few years’ more
abstinence of your own volition.”

Mothers, do not go beyond facts in pleading against the cigarette. Do
not tell your boy that cigarettes contain opiates, because they do not.
I have been through dozens of cigarette factories and have followed
the process of manufacture from the raw leaf to the finished article.
The better grades contain absolutely nothing but pure tobacco of the
mildest kind. In the cheaper grades a little harmless glycerine is
sometimes used to relieve the harsh taste of the tobacco. No harmful
drugs are employed. The paper wrappers are purer and less irritating
than the tobacco. Cigarette paper is the purest paper manufactured. The
danger of the cigarette is, first, that its cheapness appeals to the
boy who would not think of buying cigars; and second, its very mildness
encourages the young man to increase his smoking until he drifts into
excessiveness without knowing it. Consumed in moderation, it is the
least harmful form in which tobacco is used. But cigarettes or cigars,
or tobaccos in any shape whatever, are not good for the growing boy.

Mothers, this is the truth about tobacco, and this is what you
should tell your boy. Do not say that cigarette smoking leads to the
penitentiary or the madhouse, because it doesn’t, and the boy knows
better. The principal of my boy’s school walks by every day with a
cigar in his mouth. He is near seventy and a good citizen. Do not say
tobacco creates an appetite for strong drink, because it is not true,
and the boy will not believe it. Do not say that smoking wrecks the
nervous system, because in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred it does
nothing of the sort, and the boy, who is constantly observing the man,
will not be convinced. Tell him the plain truth as I have written it,
and he will see the consistency of your reasoning.

       *       *       *       *       *

Strong drink is no relative of tobacco. The only similitude between the
subjects is that they are both unnecessaries, if I may coin the word,
to the boy’s career. I have little to say about strong drink, because,
while it is a matter of vital importance to the boy, it is a problem
which our mothers appear to have pretty well in hand. The great
majority, I believe, proceed on the theory that alcohol is not good
for anybody, is ruinous to many, and, therefore, should be kept out
of the home and away from the boy. There are a minority, however, who
reason differently--thuswise: That drink is not harmful except to those
who make it so by excessive use; that the boy who is carefully guarded
against it in the home will the easier fall a victim to it when he gets
beyond the home influence and the home restraint; and, _per contra_,
that the boy who is permitted to become familiar with the use of it
moderately in the home, will acquire temperance at the same time and be
the better fitted to combat with its attending evils when he eventually
goes out into the world.

To the majority first mentioned I have but this to say: Go on; you are
doing well.

But to this minority I want to say: Stop! For the love of the God who
made you, stop! You are on the wrong track. And I’ll tell you why.

If alcoholism were only a habit, like the use of tobacco, there might
be a thread of practicability in your line of reasoning. But alcoholism
is more than a habit--it is a disease. There are alcoholic wards in
the hospitals, there are sanitariums devoted exclusively to persons
afflicted with it, there are physicians who specialise in the treatment
of it. Some people are immune to it; others are not. I am, it so
happens, and perhaps you are--but is your boy?

Science has lately ascertained that none are born consumptives. Some
may be born with a tendency for the disease, or they may be born
without that tendency and subsequently acquire the disease. The same is
true of alcohol.

I have no reason to believe that my boy would be particularly
susceptible to tuberculosis. Nevertheless, I do not propose to expose
him to it. His window is kept open while he sleeps, he is encouraged to
spend much time out of doors, he is given breathing exercises daily,
he is taught to take precautions against infection when near any one
afflicted with the disease.

Nor have I any grounds for believing that my boy has inherited the
condition that develops alcoholism. Looking back into his ancestry, I
find some non-abstainers but no drunkards. I, his father, am absolutely
immune to it. Neither a total abstainer nor, in my youth, even a
temperatist, I have walked arm in arm with it, but found nothing to
attract or allure.

But does this justify me in deliberately exposing my boy to it?

I do not know how he is equipped for it and there is no way of
ascertaining. You can take your boy to the doctor and he will tell
you whether or not his condition is favourable to consumption. But
alcoholism is more insidious. Physicians can diagnose it but they
cannot foretell or forestall it. There are some sanitariums for
alcoholism, but there are no preventoriums.

“But,” I am told, “if it is in him it will come out sometime. Might it
not better show itself under the watchful eye of the parents, rather
than after the boy has gone out from the home?”

If it is in the boy, then every year that will put breadth to his
shoulders, brawn on his arm, pride in his heart, judgment into his
head and force into his character, makes him better able to cope with
the disease. No, no, a thousand times no! Do not have on your soul the
guilt of giving your boy his first taste of wine.

We must consider latent alcoholism as a possibility in bringing up our
boys. Remember, alcoholism is not a habit only, but also a disease. It
is much more prevalent than smallpox, but for alcoholism there is no
vaccine; science offers no preventive serum. It is your sacred duty,
then, to prevent the contact, to keep out the contagion until your son
has his full growth and strength, and it is your duty to tell him the
situation as I have outlined it, so that he may know the real danger of
rum.

Then, if the tendency is not in him, nothing has been lost, and if it
is in him, you have brought him to man’s estate well equipped to give
the evil a fair fight for supremacy.



VIII

OUT INTO THE WORLD


A young man of my acquaintance, who had just finished his schooling,
came to his father one morning, flushed with pride, and holding an open
letter in his hand.

“Father,” he said, “I’ve got a situation, and the man says I may start
to work in the morning.”

The father took the letter and read it.

“Do you know all about this man?” he asked.

“Do I know him? Why, no; I don’t know him at all. But he knows all
about _me_. He looked up all my references.”

“Of course he did,” replied the father, putting the letter into his
pocket; “and before you go to work for him I’m going to look up _his_.”

It was a homely, up-state father who said that, but he was a wise and
a good man and I revere him. He was a father who knew the boy from the
skin in. He knew that the boy’s first employer is, in the boy’s eyes,
the greatest man in the world. He perceived that his son, who for
twenty years had looked upon him, the father, as the man of men, was
about to have set before him a new pattern, a new ideal. And out of his
heart came the question:

“What is this man like?”

It is a fine thing to know that you have brought your boy through that
plastic period between his cradle-hood and his majority, and to know
when he comes of age that he is clean and straight and true. It must
be gratifying indeed, when the last text-book is closed and laid away,
to see him start into the world, a man grown, with keen aspirations
and high ideals, ready and eager to grapple with the world on his own
account, and capable of taking care of himself with his own hands.

If you have brought him through safely to this momentous hour, you have
done much. But is your task quite ended? Does your responsibility stop
here?

That up-state father whom I have just referred to thought that it did
not; and I agree with him. I believe that the father and mother yet
have that one last touch to give to the character they have helped to
form. I believe it is their duty to see, not that the boy has a good
situation, but that he starts under a good man.

Naturally, the employer, in most cases, is a man who has met with
some success in his business or his profession. He sits apart from
his subordinates. However much they may use their ingenuity, it is
he who shapes the policy of the business and dominates the concern.
Every one about him defers to him. Everything that is done is subject
to his approval. He is, in fine, the head and front of the entire
establishment. There are clerks and salesmen and accountants and
confidential advisers in the place, some with long experience and grey
hairs, but none are as great as he, and all look up to the place he
occupies as a position worthy of aspiring to.

The youth enters the employ of this man fresh from school or college.
Here he gets his first insight of the career he intends to follow. If
the employer is a good man, a man of high principles, all is well.
But if he is a man of sharp practices, the boy is in danger. Having
no other standard of comparison in business life, he may fall into
the error of accepting his employer as a true type of the successful
man. He has come to this place in a receptive frame of mind. Here the
foundation of his chosen career is to be laid. Is it not probable that
he will absorb something of the morals of his superior, even though
they may not agree with the higher ideals raised in the home? When the
boy first strikes out he is, after all, only a fledgling. The family
nest has been feathered with love and care and kindness and protecting
influences. You have told him of the outside world and you have tried
to give him a clear vision. But there are some things about flying
alone that only experience can teach. You cannot always extend the home
atmosphere beyond the home, but you can do something akin to it. You
can make it your business to see that his first glimpse into the new
life reveals nothing contrary to the morals of the home.

You can see to it that his first employer is the kind of man you would
be satisfied to have your son emulate.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the selection of the boy’s calling it is admitted, of course, that
the boy himself is, in a large measure, the best judge. The vocation
that he inclines to most strongly is likely to be the one for which he
is best fitted. I think, however, that this rule is made too elastic at
times.

A young man of my acquaintance thought that the stage was his calling.
The father, telling me of it in confidence, said that in his, the
father’s opinion, the boy was best suited to the law, but added that
he would say nothing, believing it to be a matter for the young man
to decide alone. The young man had an exceptionally good memory, a
fine speaking voice and the gift of oratory in a remarkable degree. He
was much of a student, prepossessing in appearance and magnetic in
personality.

That was ten years ago and the young man has never risen above
mediocrity--and he never will. He lacked one essential to the
drama--imagination. The truth is that he should have gone into the law.
He saw the mistake in course of time, and told me so, but it was too
late. Time had elapsed and he could not turn back.

The boy is not always a good self-analyst. He is too prone to measure
his talents perfunctorily. It does not follow that your son’s calling
is art because he can chalk a caricature on the wall; that he should be
a poet because he can dash off a sentiment in rhyme; that he is suited
to the clergy because he is of a pious turn of mind. It does not always
follow that the thing he does the most easily he can do the best. This
is the mistake that parents must guard against when the time comes for
choosing a profession for the boy.

They have studied the boy from infancy, while he has studied himself
but little, and that with an immatured mind. Is it unlikely, then,
that the parents often know his latent capabilities better than he
himself knows them? It goes without saying that the son shall not be
driven by parental authority into a profession that is distasteful to
him; but I think in most cases the parents can aid the boy in finding
the true thread of his bent. With no attempt at coercion they can help
him to accurately analyse those natural leanings which, in the embryo,
are many times conflicting and misleading. It appears to me that the
counsel of the parents is needed at this time no less than at any other
period in the boy’s life.

       *       *       *       *       *

Having seen the boy well reared and started in the career for which he
is best equipped, and under the direction of a superior whose influence
will be uplifting, I think the parents may rest in that peace and
tranquillity of mind that comes with the consciousness of a duty well
done. They may now sit quietly by and watch while the boy works.

I would caution them against expecting too much of him. Of the
million-and-a-half of American boys born every year, all cannot be
famous--all cannot be rich. Only a few can be President of the United
States. But all can be good citizens, and that is the kind of material
that the country needs. We have plenty of great men, and too many
very rich men. A great man is merely a good man picked haphazard from
thousands of others just as good--picked by Opportunity whenever the
occasion demands. A rich man is one who has more money than he needs.
Either of these, beyond a certain stage of self-progress, is a child of
chance.

What you have a right to expect from your son, if you have trained him
conscientiously, is success. I do not mean the success that is measured
by the dollar sign, or by the size of the type in which the newspapers
print his name.

The successful man, in the true sense of the word, is the law-abiding
citizen who gives unto the world enough of his brain and brawn to pay
the way of himself and his family through it.

I believe there is the making of such a man in every healthy boy
that is born into the civilised world. I believe that every healthy
boy is brought into the world a good boy. If one of these develops
into a bad boy it is because he is made to; not affirmatively, but
negatively--through the want of proper training. All the boy needs is
to be treated as a boy. He is not a god, to be worshipped, or a girl,
to be coddled, or a dog, to be driven. The boy that I know is a sturdy
little human being, distinctly masculine in gender, with a desire to be
doing something and a want of direction; in fine, an embryotic man.

Give him the light, tell him the truth, show him the way. Do this
consistently, conscientiously, and he will measure up to the highest
standard of good citizenship.

More than this I do not ask of my boy.


       *       *       *       *       *


 Transcriber’s Notes:

 --Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 --Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 --Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.





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