It may safely be said of mothers that "more evil is wrought by want of thought" than by "want of heart." Every true mother's heart is large enough to feel for her children, and we need not be afraid that she will not do her best for them as far as she sees. But not every mother thinks sufficiently about the children's welfare; and some think "not wisely but too well !"
So that, in speaking of mistakes mothers make, one is not reflecting in the least upon the mother's good feelings, for these mistakes are often made with the best intentions in the world; but they are mistakes, and. as mistakes can always be remedied, there can be no harm in thinking them over.
In many ways women are splendid with their sons, and yet, perhaps, it is just here they make the most mistakes. And unfortunately, the results of these mistakes are not noticed till bovhood is left behind and then it is too late.
Mothers who dote on their sons are ant to forget that their happiness is not the only thing that matters, and that there are other people in the family who are of some importance. Of course, the sons are apt to forget this fact, too. Is it not true to say that, in many homes, the girls—fond as their mothers may be of them— take a second place? "The Boy" is the one to be considered, even sometimes to the extent of being waited on by his sisters. Too much distinction is generally made between the boys and girls of a family in many ways. The days are past, fortunately, when girls were taught that, "little girls should never climb" and exhorted ""to cover decently their ankles." and nowadays they are permitted to be "tom-boys" without reproof. However, ideas are not so advanced as regards boys. Why not encourage them to be useful? Is -there any reason why they should not learn to be domestic enough to help in the house as much as the girls ? No reason at all, except the one stated.
Among the mistakes made by those mothers who think "not wisely but too well" is that of being over-fussy. Talk about the fastidiousness of unmarried women; it is nothing compared with that of some married women over their children. The poor little souls can't go half an hour without having their hair brushed or their hands washed, and as for muddy boots!—it must be the muddy boots of some of these families that turn the mother's hair grey!
The children must get dirty and untidy, and have muddy boots sometimes, if they are to be healthy and happy. And there is no reason why children who are allowed freedom should grow up with slovenly habits. If they are taught the value of cleanliness, and made to keep reasonably respectable, they will none the less value these lessons because they are allowed to dabble in duckponds and put blackberry juice on their faces and blackberry leaves in their hair. Freedom in such ways is necessary for children's characters as well as their health, and the mother who permits it will be repaid by the children's lasting gratitude.
Fussing over faults is another blunder made by these mothers. Faults must be corrected, of course, but constant fussing and even "nagging" is not a good corrective; indeed, it is generally the reverse; for a child grows so used to the constant harping on one string, that at last it goes in at one ear and out at the other.
It is easy to say "don't" to a child, but it never does much good. "Don't keep touching the pram wheel" will often fail of its effect, not because the child disobeys intentionally, but because there is such a fascination in touching the wheel, that he forgets. "Hold the pram handle and . help mother push," will probably be quite effective and save a great deal of trouble.
"Don't" is a favourite word in many nurseries, and a word of which they would be well rid. "Do" is a more interesting word to children, and answers much better !
One of the biggest mistakes mothers make is that of ignoring the children's bed-time.
Why is it that nowadays we see tiny toddlers out at nine o'clock at night, and little Boy Scouts strolling home at ten o'clock? Are children differently constituted in this generation that they can be kept out of bed with impunity ? It is difficult to understand how mothers can be so mistaken as to allow such a state of things! If a baby has to sleep—as every well-informed mother knows it should —twenty hours out of the twentyfour, it stands to reason that many years must pass before the child should be limited to eight or nine hours' sleep. Seven o'clock is a good hour for a child's bedtime: for it should never be forgotten that its brain as well as its body needs far more rest than does an adult's, and its brain never rests except when it sleeps.
It is sheer cruelty to keep children up till their parents' bedtime, as is often the case, and does untold harm. Mothers cannot know what they do when they allow children and growing boys and girls to lose the sleep which has always, and rightly, been considered necessary.
One sometimes hears mistaken mothers say that it does the children more good to be out in the air during the summer evenings than in bed. It is true that the children need the air, but they need sleep, too. When possible, it is splendid for their health to let them sleep out of doors, and at least the window can be kept open top and bottom all night. Good as fresh air is, sleep is equally important, and if the little ones are to be bonny and keep bonny they must not be kept up at night.
It may be more convenient in some cases not to have a separate children's bed-time, but what is convenience compared with the children's health? No true mother could hesitate for a moment about it if she realised how important the children's bed-time is.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, May 25th, 1935 (1935.pdf pp209)