“How to Make Boys Love Home” (from Arthur’s Home Magazine, February 1861; pp. 119-120)
“I wish those boys loved to stay at home in the evening,” said a mother in my hearing, last night; and the sigh and look of distress which accompanied her words told plainly that her heart was deeply pained by their oft-repeated absence, and she watched their retreating footsteps with a troubled countenance, and knew not what might be the company they sought, nor what evil influence might be thrown around them.
They were industrious boys of sixteen and eighteen, just beginning to fancy they were too large and too old to be longer subject to parental authority. They were not vicious or idle, but worked with a willing hand through the day, doing the work of men; but when evening came they sought pleasure abroad, unmindful of a father’s advice or a mother’s entreaty. I glanced around their home, a comfortable, farmer-like dwelling, where all the wants of the physical nature were well supplied, but, as is too often case, the food for the mind was less abundant. A few school books, which the boys had never learned to love, a Bible, and a hymn book, constituted the family library; and I was not surprised that they should leave the circle at home, and seek the cheerful throng that were lounging in the story, or join in the vulgar mirth and profane jests that went round the boisterous group.
“You are seeing your happiest days with your boy,” said the mother to me, as my baby clung to my arm with the sweet confidence of infancy; “you know where he is, and have no anxiety for him now; but when he is older he will be beyond your influence, and go you know not where.”
I thought of the old proverb, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it;” and I shook my head doubtingly, and said nothing. But I asked myself, is it really true, as I have often heard it remarked, that parents enjoy more pleasure in the society of their children in infancy, than in youth and maturity? If so, surely there is a reason, and that reason too often the result of parental mistakes in the early discipline of their children. We watch with delight the first dawning of intellect, await with impatience the first indistinct effort to talk, and are pleased with their infantile prattle, and it seems strange that the pleasures of social intercourse should diminish with their growing intelligence.
But we cannot expect children to be like ourselves—steady, old, and care-worn. Fun and frolic are essential to their happiness, and it is no injury to any one to join heartily in these sports. If we enter into their sports in childhood, and take the lead of their pleasures in youth, we shall keep our own hearts young and joyous, make home the centre of attractions, and while doing much to educate their mental faculties, we shall find a far greater satisfaction in their society than we can possibly find in the artless trust of infancy.
A few dollars judiciously expended in books and engravings suitable for young children, will do much to awaken a love of home; and I venture to assert, there is nothing which will have a stronger influence in keeping “those boys” quietly at home, than to cultivate a taste for reading. Begin early. Read to them before they can read for themselves; explain what you read, and encourage them to con-
verse with you about it. Teach them to observe the common phenomena of nature, and to study into the causes which produce the effects they see. A mother may do this herself without being a philosopher. She may awaken their curiosity upon the various objects around them, and direct them where this curiosity may be gratified, place within their reach useful and instructive books, and show by example as well as by precept that she appreciates them, and the pleasures of home will be purer and sweeter to every member of the family, and the children will seldom have occasion to seek evening amusement away from the charmed circle of home. It has been truthfully said, “a good book is the best of company;” and the earlier we introduce our children into the society of good books, the greater will be the benefit derived from them, and the stronger will be their attachment to the social circle around the evening fire, and there will be less danger of their seeking diversion in the society of the idle and vicious. But if we neglect to make home happy, and to furnish entertainment for the intellect, be assured that the restless desire of the human mind for “some new thing,” will frequently attract “those boys,” and girls, too, away from home in search of amusement.