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The Boy And The Sunday School by Alexander of Cappadocia

I THE HOME AND THE BOY

The greatest of the three institutions affecting boy life, from the very fact that it is the primary one, is the home. The home is the basis of the community, the community merely being the aggregation of a large number of well-organized or ill-organized homes. The first impressions the boy receives are through his home life, and the bent of his whole career is often determined by the home relationships.

The large majority of homes today are merely places in which a boy may eat and sleep. The original prerogatives of the father and mother, so far as they pertain to the physical, social, mental and moral development of boyhood, have been farmed out to other organizations in the community. The home life of today greatly differs from that of previous generations. This is very largely due to social and economic conditions. Our social and economic revolution has made vast inroads upon our normal home life, with the result that the home has been seriously weakened and the boy has been deprived of his normal home heritage.

To give the home at least some of the old power that it used to have over the boy life, there must needs be recognized the very definite place a boy must have in the family councils. The general tendency today, as far as the boy is concerned, is an utter disregard on the part of the father and mother of the importance of the boy as a partner in the family. He is merely the son of his father and mother, and their obligations to him seemingly end in providing him with wholesome food, warm clothing, a place to sleep and a room in which to study and play in common with other members of the household. Very little thought is given on the part of the father and mother to the real part the boy should play in the direction of the family life. Family matters are never determined with the help of his judgment. They are even rarely discussed in his presence. Instead of being a partner in the family life, doing his share of the family work and being recognized as a necessary part of its welfare, he is only recognized as a dependent member, to be cared for until he is old enough to strike out and make a place for himself. This sometimes is modified when the boy comes to the wage-earning age, when he is required to assist in the support of the family, but even then his place in the family councils to determine the policy of the family is usually a very small one.

In the home of today few fathers and mothers seem to realize the claim that the boy has upon them in the matter of comradeship. The parent looks upon himself very largely in the light of the provider, and but very little attention is paid to the companionship call that is coming from the life of his boy. After a strenuous day's work the father is often physically incapacitated for such comradeship and only the strongest effort of will on his part can force him to recognize this fundamental need of his boy's life. It is just as necessary that the father should play with and be the companion of his boy as it is for him to see that he has good food, warm clothing, and a comfortable bed to sleep in. The father generally is the boy's hero up to a certain age. This seems to be an unwritten, natural law of the boy's life, and the father often forfeits this worship and respect of his boy by failing to afford him the natural companionship necessary to keep it alive. In addition to a place and a voice in the councils of the family, it is necessary that the boy should have steady parental companionship to bring out the best that is in him.

The ownership of personal property and its recognition by the parent in the life of the boy is fundamental to the boy's later understanding of the home and community life. Comparatively few fathers and mothers ever recognize the deep call of the boy life to own things, and frequently the boy's property is taken from him and he is deprived of its use as a means of punishment for some breach of home discipline. In many families the boy grows up altogether without any adequate idea of what the right of private property really is, with the result that when he reaches the adolescent years and is swayed by the gang spirit, whatever comes in his way, as one of the gang, is appropriated by him to the gang use. This means that the boy, because of his ignorance, becomes a ward of the Juvenile Court and a breaker of community laws. The tendency, however, today in legal procedure is to hold the parents of such a boy liable for the offenses which may be committed. Instead of talking about juvenile delinquency today we are beginning to comprehend the larger meaning of parental and community delinquency. Out of nearly six hundred cases which came before the Juvenile Court in San Francisco last year only nineteen, by the testimony of the judge, were due to delinquency on the part of the offender himself. The majority of the remaining cases were due to parental delinquency, or neglect of the father and mother. A real part in the home life may be given to the boy by recognizing his individual and sole claim to certain things in the home life.

Failure on the part of the father and mother to recognize the growth of the boy likewise tends to interfere with normal relationships in the home. Many a father and mother fail to see and appreciate the fact that their boy really ceases to be a child. Because of this, parents very often fail to show the proper respect for the personality of the boy, riding rough-shod over his feelings and will. There follows in matters of this kind a natural resentment on the part of the boy which sometimes makes him moody and reticent. This, in its turn, causes the parents to try to curb what they consider a disagreeable disposition on the part of the boy. Sometimes this takes the form of resentment at the fact that the boy wishes at times to be alone, and so fathers and mothers are continually on the watch to prevent the boy from really having any time of his own. All of these things put together have but one logical result, the ultimate break between the boy and the home, and the departure of the boy at the first real opportunity to strike out for himself, thus sundering all the home relationships.

Perhaps one of the saddest things in the home life today is the neglect of the father to see that his boy receives the necessary knowledge concerning sex, that his life may be safeguarded from the moral perils of the community. This is not always a willful breach of duty on the part of the father, but usually comes from ignorance as to how to broach this subject to the boy. A great many growing lives would be saved from moral taint and become a blessing instead of a curse if the father discharged his whole duty to his growing son, by putting at his disposal the knowledge which is necessary to an understanding of the functions of the sex life.

To recapitulate, several things are necessary to bring about real relationships in the home life between the parents and the boy. These are: a place for the boy in the family councils as a partner in the home life, the boy's right to companionship with his parents, the privilege and responsibility of private ownership, the right a boy has to his personality and privacy, and tactful and timely instruction in matters of sex. This might be enlarged by the parents' privilege of caring for and developing social life for the boy in the home, a carefully planned participation in its working life, instructions in thrift and saving, and a general cooperation with the school and the church, as well as the auxiliary organizations with which the boy may be connected, so that the physical, social, mental and spiritual life of the boy may become well balanced and symmetrical. Add to this the Christian example of the father and mother, as expressed in the everyday life of the home, and especially through family worship and a recognition of the Divine Being at meal time, and without any cant or undue pressure there will be produced such a wholesome home environment as to assure the boy of an intelligent appreciation of not only his father and mother, but of his home privileges in general, and of the value of real religion.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON THE HOME

Allen. -- Making the Best of Our Children. Two vols. ([USD]1.00 each).

Field. -- Finger-posts to Children's Reading ([USD]1.00).

Fiske. -- Boy Life and Self-Government ([USD]1.00).

Kirkpatrick. -- Fundamentals of Child Study ([USD]1.25).

Putnam. -- Education for Parenthood (.65).

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