The GOSPEL TRUTH
THE TRAINING OF CHILDREN ....OR,
HOW TO MAKE THE CHILDREN INTO
SAINTS AND SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST
GENERAL OF THE SALVATION ARMY
1888 - SECOND EDITION
AMUSEMENTS AND RECREATIONS.
1. Is it allowable that children should be merry and have a certain part of their time set apart for play?
Yes, certainly. Their nature demands it. It is a condition of the happiness of children-almost as much a necessity as their daily food. Play is to children what change of employment, and scene, and friendly intercourse, and exercise are to grown-up people. They must play, and those in authority should recognise this necessity, and be glad to have it so.
2. Ought due consideration to be given this subject?
Yes; amusements of the right class are perfectly consistent with the formation and growth of Christian character; but children should be as carefully watched in their games as in their other pursuits. Numbers are ruined by being left to themselves in their play. Incalculable damage has been done to children in this respect in the playgrounds of schools; or by what is far worse, allowing them to run wild in the streets. In the latter case, they are left with no oversight at all, and in the former are often put in charge of some elder boys, or junior teachers, who all the while have their heads in a newspaper or a novel, or are engaged in some game on their own account, while all sorts of miseries are being wrought, and all sorts of bullying and cheating are being done in holes and corners round about, and in the grounds, right under the eyes of those professedly watching them. Hence, in the leisure hours of children, the good imparted in lessons or religious instruction is in many instances more than lost.
A careful eye should also be kept on the kind of games played, the nature of their toys, and the influence exercised by companions and playmates on the character of the children. This may mean a little trouble, but it will pay well in the long run. You cannot rightly correct the errors, or form the habits, of children without knowing the children themselves, and nowhere can you more readily get at their real character than at their play. There you can soon see whether they are benevolent or selfish, patient or hasty, gentle or overbearing, lazy or industrious, false or true. Watch them a little, and then treat them accordingly.
3. What do you recommend with regard to the amusements and recreations of children?
We recommend that they should be selected, or allowed, in the same spirit and by the same rule as all the other instrumentalities of training. That is, with a view to making the children good and true, and getting them to follow Jesus Christ, in the work of saving the world.
4. Have you any practical suggestions to make on the subject of amusements?
(1.) A portion, at least, of their toys and games should be made to teach some useful lesson. For instance, there are toys that will help them in learning their letters; others will teach them figures, and how to count, and so on with many other things.
(2.) Too much time should not be spent in play. When children are old enough to undertake tasks, let them be employed; otherwise habits of idleness will be formed which will be difficult to destroy in the future.
(3.) Preference should always be given to those games likely to promote health. Therefore, as far as possible, such amusements should be selected as can be taken in the open air, and whether taken indoors or out, those exercises should be chosen which are most calculated to give vigour to the body and sprightliness to the mind.
(4.) Those games and modes of recreation should be regarded with less favour, if they are not positively forbidden, which, however they may be boasted of as being manly and healthy, are absolutely dangerous to life and limb.
(5.) Keep away from children as far as possible such toys and amusements as are calculated to lead to the formation of those evil dispositions and habits which it is one of the main objects of godly training to prevent and to destroy.
For instance, if you do not want to create a warlike spirit in the breasts of your children, keep from them all models of soldiers, guns, and cannons, together with pictures of bloody battle-fields or only let the children see them in order that you may, from them, illustrate and explain your detestation of the cruel and fiendish character of earthly war. We frequently observe, and that with regret, in the homes of parents professing to be followers of the Prince of Peace, toys of this character given to young children-toys which, when explained and used, as it is probable they will be by nurses and attendants, are only adapted to fire the susceptible hearts of the children with the spirit and ambition of war. In this way we are quite sure that, very frequently, seed is sown which, if it does not produce any large quantity of bitter fruit, will necessitate much labour if its evil tendency is to be counteracted in the future.
It is recorded that the first toy the mother of the first Napoleon gave her son was a cannon. We all know what a terrible crop of cruelty, tears, and bloodshed, and all the other hellish fruits and consequences of war were reaped by poor humanity in this man's history, and in the years that followed him. Perhaps this little seed had something to do with this awful harvest.
If mothers do not wish to foster a spirit of pride and vanity in their children, why supply them with dolls dressed out in all the styles and fooleries of the latest fashions? We cannot imagine any method more likely to inculcate the spirit so opposite to true godliness than to give them these models and expressions of worldliness to play with, when at the most impressionable age of their lives. We suppose the little darlings must have dolls, but let them be dressed and got up after the fashion you approve in living children, seeing that they will presume that these are the patterns you wish them to copy, whether you consider them such or not. In other words, the mimic life of children lived amidst their toys, games, and associations, should be made, as early as possible, a picture of that adult life--with that separation from worldliness, and that imitation of the life of Christ-which you desire should be their ultimate earthly destiny.
We think that those amusements which are everywhere admitted to be "worldly" in their character, such as are found at the theatre, the opera, the race-course, concerts (either "sacred " or secular), the circus, and the ball-room must be absolutely prohibited in any form whatever; and moreover, that all imitations and approaches to any of these, got up publicly or privately, should be carefully avoided, as calculated to create the appetite for the greater evil.
But this counsel will be quite superfluous after the chapter on "Companionships," and to those who make any consistent profession of acting on the advice given there. "Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing."-2 Cor. vi. 17.
(6.) We think that all games of chance should be forbidden, because calculated to foster an appetite which may in after life develope into gambling. We therefore recommend that all playing with dice, dominoes, cards, or other implements of gambling should be kept away from children.
(7.) We think that games of skill, which necessarily involve strife for the mastery, are of doubtful value to children. They promote the desire to master others, and foster pride and vainglory.
By this we do not mean that such amusements and recreations should be kept from children as involve and lead up to the exercise of skill and the development of superior physical and mental qualities, such as running, leaping, and the like. What we want you to guard against is the encouragement of the spirit in children which makes them find happiness simply in excelling other children, whether in games or any other thing. Cultivate in your children the beautiful spirit which will make them look not only on their own things, desiring their own success or victory, but which will make them rejoice in the success and advancement of the other children about them. The one is the spirit of Jesus Christ, who became poor in order that we might become rich; the other is the spirit of the devil, who cares not whose interests he sacrifices to advance his own. You can foster this spirit in the games of your children, or you can discourage it. Lead the children so to love their companions, and brothers, and sisters, that they shall prefer to see them win rather than themselves.
(8.) Children should be brought to despise the habit-sadly too common-of making sport of the deformities or physical peculiarities of other children.
If a boy is lame, or has a cast in his eye, or stammers in his speech; if he has a limping walk, or an unnatural growth, or a peculiarly delicate look, children should be taught to pity and assist and benefit such an one, showing him particular kindness and notice at every opportunity.
Instead of this, we all know how common and painful a custom it is with many children to look down upon any of their companions whom they consider thus imperfect, to hold them up to ridicule, and to call them nicknames descriptive of what they consider their deformity, weakness, or misfortune.
We believe that it is impossible to imagine the tortures which many children of sensitive natures pass through in the schools, the playgrounds, and meeting-places of children, through this cruel, thoughtless system of making amusement out of the bodily imperfections and peculiarities of others. The guardians and parents of children ought to take every opportunity of coming to the help of these unfortunate ones, and showing up the selfishness, heartlessness, and cruelty of this custom.
(9.) All games and recreations that inflict annoyance and injury on animals should be sternly forbidden and made impossible.
We are not speaking of that fiendish and unnatural Pleasure which some children derive from the direct infliction of pain upon animals; such practices are too manifestly of the devil to need condemnation here, and would, we are sure, never be repeated a second time by any children under the control of Salvationist parents. We are speaking, however, of those amusements, games, recreations, or whatever else they may be called, which cannot be carried on without the infliction of suffering on any creature whose welfare God has directly put in our power. This view will make it at least questionable whether, for their own amusement merely, children ought to be allowed-
1. To take any part in racing or other competitions which overstrain or inflict unnecessary suffering upon horses, dogs, or any other animals.
2. To participate in any sports whatever which torture God's creatures and destroy life when not rendered necessary to supply our own actual wants, or the needs of others. These and all other modes of amusement which cause unnecessary pain to the animal creation in order to gratify the passing moment, tend to blunt the feelings and harden the hearts of children, and so-instead of leading them up to that blessed and tender disposition which prepares them for receiving the Saviour and following His example-strengthen the selfish disposition already inherited, and establish the devil in whatever position he may have got within their hearts.
5. The questions may here be asked, "How, then, are children to be amused? How are they to pass their time away?"
We reply that it must ever be borne in mind that the main purpose in training children is not their amusement, or that they should be supplied with the means of getting the time over pleasantly. The only rational end which godly parents can have in view for their children is to make them good, useful and happy, not only in their present but in all their after life. Therefore, if the training we recommend should fail to amuse them, if it succeeds in saving them and qualifying them to be good Soldiers of Jesus Christ, it must be not only endured, but prized, and that in proportion to the greatness of the end secured.
But there need be no anxiety on this score. We have never in our own home found any difficulty in making the children happy and keeping them well amused by methods perfectly consistent with their real welfare. If there is that in God's Salvation which can make men and women happy all the time-if they can be made to rejoice evermore-then surely it cannot be difficult for Him to make the hearts of the little children glad, and to fully meet their need in this and every other respect.
6. But will you please explain more particularly how this is to be done, with all the restrictions and reservations which you have laid down, seeing that this is a very serious question to those who have the charge of children?
(1.) Children in Salvation Army homes will find endless occupation in holding meetings, singing, praying, and exhorting each other. And that not in mimicry, but in all earnestness and reality. For years it was a regular thing in our own nursery for the children to have a service amongst themselves, at any and every available hour. Many a time their mother has been blessed while listening at the door. When children are good and true, they believe in each other, and the prayers and exhortations of brothers and sisters will often help them more than any others.
(2.) To those old enough, music and the singing of sweet songs are of unfailing interest. Musical instruments of various kinds are cheap enough, from the tin whistle upwards, and it is surprising at how early an age children may be taught to play them. In many families there might be quite a little band taught and practised in playing together, so as to do effective service in our Salvation public meetings. Anyway, by being exercised in this direction, the children would be preparing for more extended usefulness when grown up. Here again we can speak from experience, for no matter what other interests were afloat, we always found our children, young and old, ready to take their places in the little musical band which for years was kept up in our home, the youngest generally playing the triangle. In this way, amusement and usefulness can be admirably combined.
(3.) The elder children will take pleasure in books; and the laying out of a little money wisely expended in this way, will be found one of the best investments that father or mother can make.
(4.) Pictures are a continual source of interest; and the little ones will go over and over them and never tire. A good scrap-book, though got up in the roughest style, made with strong paper and filled up out of the various illustrated periodicals always knocking about, will be very useful, especially if you get pictures about which you can give them plenty of good talk, showing them what Salvation is and what it leads to, and all sorts of other useful and general information.
(5.) The imitations of the various occupations of home life never wear out with children.
When rightly trained, even if left to their own ingenuity, they will find no difficulty in amusing themselves for hours together and day after day after this fashion. How much more so if you give them some little instruction and furnish them with a few materials for playing music, keeping shop, running trains, having a doll's house, and all that kind of thing? When father or mother will condescend to this plan, it can be done with very little outlay of money, be perfectly innocent, and ten thousand times more effective than heaps of toys that have to be purchased and which scarcely hold together until you get them home.
(6.) A box of paints, a fernery, or an aquarium will be useful, but to be of any service some one must teach the children how to use and manage them.
(7.) Gardening. Where possible, let the children have a little piece of ground that they can call their own. If but a square yard or two, this, with one or two tools and a few seeds and plants, will be of unfailing interest. From this you may teach children many useful things, and if you can find them a plot large enough, they will in very early life learn practical lessons in industry as well.
(8.) Keeping animals. Where possible, and where it is convenient, this surpasses all other methods of amusing children. Rabbits, guinea-pigs, birds, a dog, or a kitten will fill a child's mind with delicious joy, and will tend to the development of the kindly feelings of his nature, which will be of use to him in after years. Very little trouble will suffice to give the necessary directions for considerate care and cleanliness, and here again habits of industry will be assisted.
(9.) A few carpenter's tools will occupy a large amount of the leisure time of most boys and of most girls as well, as far as that goes. We have seen girls really skilful in the use of the plane and saw, and anyway, carpentering is quite as sensible an occupation for the girls as the everlasting dressing and undressing of their mimic babies, and some other modes of recreation that are thought quite the thing for them.
Added to these, there are numerous other recreations and amusements ordinarily used by children, to which no exception can be taken, and which indeed are perfectly innocent in themselves, and many of them well calculated not only to amuse children, but to promote their health. In these matters, however, as we have already said, the children will very much look after themselves. If you watch them, and keep their hearts and principles right before the Lord and with each other, they will be humble and easily pleased, and never make it very difficult for you to make and keep them happy.
It is the unnatural, conceited, spoiled, little would-be "lady" or "gentleman" that is so difficult to amuse. Their proud notions will not allow them to be happy themselves, and consequently they will not allow anyone around them to be so, but, on the contrary, spoil every game and recreation with which they have to do. Do not let this spirit have any existence in your children. Kill it at the first appearance, and keep those away from your families who you have reason to believe are possessed of it, and then your children will not only be readily pleased, but they will be a constant source of joy and gladness to everybody about them, and to none more than to yourselves.
7. But ought we not to teach children at as early an age as possible the same sentiments that we teach grown-up people-that they are not to live for HAPPINESS, but for USEFULNESS?
Certainly we ought; and you will not find it very difficult to make them learn this lesson. Children can be so interested in the Salvation War that they shall find unfailing amusement in doing good. Like their Master, it shall not only be as much a necessity to them as their meat and drink to do their Father's will in getting sinners saved and made ready for Heaven, but it shall be their joy and gladness also.
8. Do you think, then, that children can find pleasure in Salvation services?
Certainly I do, and that in the following particulars:--
(1.) All children will be interested in Salvation Army meetings, even before they have any understanding of what is going on. When quite infants they will be interested, and, as their minds develope to perceive the meaning of what is being said and done, and as their hearts open to know and love God and His people, they will be as pleased to go to an Army Free-and-Easy, or an Open-air Meeting, or a Council of War, as the children of this world are to attend a concert, an evening party, or a theatrical performance.
(2.) Saved children will find bodily exercise and stimulus to their natural spirits, as well as indescribable pleasure, in a good march, with or without flying Colours or the stirring strains of the Army Band.
(3.) Saved children will find recreation in selling the "Little Soldier" and the "War Cry" in the streets or roads near their own dwellings, or in taking a walk with a servant, or with some elder Soldiers, into adjoining neighbourhoods or villages for the same purpose. We know several children in different parts of the country who look forward to their holiday afternoons with the highest glee, because of this occupation, and have sometimes been present when they have burst into the room to tell to mother or father how many they have sold, and how much profit they have made for their Corps. Surely this must be better exercise for both body and mind than playing at leap-frog or "cat " with ill-trained schoolfellows. Here will be exercise combined with training in courage, good address, and readiness in reply, while all the time they will be engaged in the great business of life, which is to make known the Saviour of mankind, and spread the blessings of His Salvation.
9. But may it not be objected that to sell "War Crys" would be beneath the position and respectability of some children?
We reply that the same objection may be made with equal force, not only to their fathers and mothers selling it, but to the same parents marching, speaking, or doing any Salvation work whatever in the street. The doing of any thing in earnest to save men from the wicked rebellious spirit of this world and from the punishment of the next, is far from respectable in the eyes of everybody filled with worldly ideas of respectability, but such objections will have no power with-much less will they justify-Salvation Soldiers in the neglect of their duty.
10. Is not the question as to how children are to be amused on the Sabbath often a perplexing one to parents?
Yes; and especially so with regard to very little children, who are not able to understand why they should not go on with their little business on that day, as well as any other. On this subject Mrs. Booth, in her pamphlet on the training of children, says as follows:--
Now, it you want your child to love and enjoy the Sabbath you must make it the most INTERESTING day of the week. If you want him to love and read his Bible you must so tell him its stories, and elucidate its lessons as to make it INTEREST him. If you want him to love prayer you must so pray as to interest and draw out his mind and heart with your own, and teach him to go to God, as he comes to you, in his own natural voice and manner to tell Him his wants and to express his joys or sorrows. The themes of religion are of all themes most interesting to children when dealt with naturally and interestingly.
I used to take my oldest boy on my knee from the time when he was about two years old and tell him the stories of the Old Testament in baby language and adapted to baby comprehension, one at a time, so that he thoroughly drank them in and also the moral lessons they were calculated to convey. When between three and four years old I remember once going into the nursery and finding him mounted on his rocking-horse in a high state of excitement finishing the story of Joseph to his nurse and baby brother, showing them how Joseph galloped on his live "gee-gee" when he went to fetch his father to show him to Pharaoh. In the same way we subsequently went through the history of the flood, having a Noah's ark, which was kept for Sabbath use; making the ark itself the foundation of one lesson, Noah and his family that of another, and the gathering of the animals of a third, and so on until the subject was exhausted.
When my family increased, it was my custom, before these Sabbath lessons, to have a short lively tune, a short prayer in which I let them all repeat after me, sentence by sentence, asking the Lord to help us to understand His Word, and to bless our souls, and so on. After the lesson another short prayer, and then another tune or two. After this they would adjourn to the nursery, where frequently they would go through the whole service again, the eldest being the preacher. When baby was asleep their nurse would read interesting infantile stories to the elder ones, or teach them suitable bits of poetry, by letting them all repeat it together after her. Thus the Sabbath was made a day of pleasure as well of instruction and improvement. I never allowed my children to attend public services till they were old enough to take some interest in them. We had no Army services then, or they would have been able to understand and enter into a great part of them, but I deemed it an evil to make a little child sit still for an hour and a half, dangling its legs on a high seat, listening to what it could neither understand nor appreciate, for, alas! there is little in the ordinary services of our day to interest or profit children, and I am satisfied that a great deal of the distaste for religious services, so common among them, has been engendered in this way. My experience has been that my children have come so highly to appreciate the privilege of attending service, that a promise of it during the week would ensure extra good behaviour and diligence.
In addition to this, we would recommend that some restrictions of the amusement of very little children should be made for the day, and a part, if not all, of their ordinary toys should be removed. Or a distinct set of playthings might be kept for Sundays only -- toys, as Mrs. Booth suggests, which might constitute texts for a series of lessons suited to the understanding of the little ones.
(1.) Don't bore the children with meetings, or lectures, or lessons about religion that are tedious and uninteresting because too lengthy, too numerous, or above their comprehension. By so doing, you will make them hate religion before they understand it, and create an aversion which, unless corrected before they pass from under your control, will drive them off from its influences, services, and ministries when they become the masters of their own movements.
We would like to know how many men there are who not only never go near church or chapel, but feel positive pity for those who are compelled by their own consciences, or the consciences of other people, to do so, who attribute this aversion to being made to attend meetings, when young, that inspired them with no kind of interest.
(2.) For elder children, pictures and books relative to Scripture and Salvation subjects, might be kept, and portions of the same, with Salvation songs, should be committed to memory.
(3.) To Salvation Army children accounts of the Salvation War will be of great interest. If they are old enough to understand geography, the countries can be pointed out to them in which the Colours are flying, and accounts of the history and habits of the people can be given. This is equally true of all mission operations in which parents wish to interest their children.
(4.) The history and geography of the Bible, the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Salvation War which followed, as reported in the early history of the Church, will form stories of surpassing interest to the children.
(5.) The children can hold meetings amongst themselves.
(6.) The children should always be taken, when old enough, during some part of the day, to a public religious service.
(7.) During the day one of the parents should take the children alone, read the Bible, pray, and deal faithfully with them about their souls.
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