The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
By The Way

Volume 2, 1891/92, pgs. 714-717

The following extract bears upon the question of food treated by "Anna," and "Another Anna," in the Parents' Review for February and June:--

"'Feed me with food convenient for me, lest I be full and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord?'--Prov. xxx. 8,9.

"A most fit subject for prayer. And if the feeding of an adult like Agur has a connection so intimate with his religious life and character, how much more the feeding and the physical nurture of a child!

". . . The principle as regards the religious import of feeding and bodily nurture in the case of children is the same on which the child Daniel and his friends acted in the choice of their very simple and temperate diet. . . The body grew toward perfect health because it was burdened and distempered by no excesses, and the soul was just as much more open to God and the sense of unseen things as the body was more serenely and blissfully well in its physical condition. In this manner the child's nature grew apace in the moulds of a perfectly evened judgment, and was also wonderfully opened to God and all highest dicoveries of His will. In a certain sense he became a great prophet by his physical nurture. 'God gave him knowledge thus and skill in all learning and wisdom, and he had understanding in all visions and dreams.' His feeding stood with his health, and with all purest affinities and the deepest openings toward God.

". . . Nine-tenths of the intemperate drinking begins, not in grief and destitution, as we so often hear, but in vicious feeding . . .

"Nor is it only in some high-conditioned family, where wealth is steeping itself in luxury, that this kind of woe is put upon the children. It quite as often begins at the coarse, low table of the sensually-minded of the poor. Thses are even more likely to live, and teach their children to live, for what they may eat.

"The humble Christian mother, it may be, having no luxuries of dress and show to give her children, makes it a great point to have them enjoy the feeding of their bodies; and so, instead of fining them to a nobler pleasure in the virtues of frugality, order, gentle society, and good action, she graduates them into just that coarsest sensuality which is the bane of all character for this life and the next.

"It is a much greater point in this connection than is commonly supposed that children should be trained to good manners in their eating. Good manners are a kind of self-government which operates continually to keep the body under and hold the sensualising tendency of food in check. Animals have no manners, and the higher gift of manners is allowed to man to keep him from the coarseness and lowness to which his animal nature would otherwise run. In this view good manners are even a sort of first-stage religion for the reduction of the body.

"If the child is practised carefully at his food in deferring to superiours and seniors, in the restraint of haste and greediness, in the properieties of positions and the handsome use of tools, in the limitation of his feeding by his wants, and good natural submission and restriction when restriction is needed for his good, he will not grow sensual in that manner, but his mind will be all the while getting sovereignty over the body."--"Christian Nurture," Rev. H. Bushnell, D.D. --From a Mother's Note-book. VERA.


1. Have not companions and other people who are round about children a vast influence upon them for good or for evil?

Yes. We have already seen that children are so imitative and impressionable that, without any thought or intention on their part, they copy the sayings and doings, acquire the character and imbibe the spirit, of those persons with whom they associate. We all know how easily men and women are influenced by their companionships; and this is far more likely to be the case with regard to children. Intercourse with a stranger, sometimes for only a single day, will make a mark upon the character of a child which will endure for years to come; while anyone whom the children very much admire, if brought into close communion with them, will be imitated right off. Therefore, you can always calculate with certainty that the people, whether young or old, whom you allow to be round about your children, will have an immense influence in moulding and fashioning their character.

It should also be borne in mind, in considering the influence of one child upon another, or of one man upon another, that there is in all character, whether good or bad, a kind of instinct which, so to speak, makes its possessor take pleasure in propagating it in others. A good man has a delight in making others good; a bad man not only instinctively hates goodness and loves badness, and finds pleasure in the company of those who do the same, but seizes every opportunity of making others like himself.

2. To what class of the associations of children do these remarks specially apply?

Of almost first importance, they apply to servants.

(1) The influence of servants over the minds of children, for good or evil, is almost boundless. Servants have often a far greater power to form the characters of the children than have the parents themselves. This will be seen by considering that children are necessarily thrown so much into the company of servants and their friends in their walks out of doors and elsewhere. If children are imitative, and do copy the examples of those with whom they are most thrown, then it follows, as a matter of course, that what the servants are, the children are very likely to be also.

(2) The position of authority in which servants are placed inevitably leads the children to look up to them, and think they must be right in all they do and teach. What more natural to the little child, who knows next to nothing of the world outside, than for him to imitate the sayings and doings of the servants?

(3) The greater age of servants, and the power they possess to make children happy or miserable, gives them a great influence over their minds and lives. A child will be very likely to suppose that age and experience mean wisdom, and therefore, take as pure gospel everything a servant tells him.

3. From what has been said, I can easily see that the influence of servants upon children must be very great. Can you state any particulars in which such influence is likely to be exerted in a wrong direction?

Yes. The following are only some of the varied ways in which the influence of bad servants is often directly against such a godly training as I wish you to give your children:--

(1) Servants will wrongly influence children by foolish indulgences, which will often go far to counteract the labour of those parents who are striving to make their children obedient and humble.

(2) Servants with impure minds will, and do often, inform children of uncleanness and also of matters far beyond their years, which they ought never as children to hear about.

(3) Ungodly servants will frequently inculcate deception and falsehood, teaching and encouraging children to practise the same.

(4) Ungodly servants will often make children object to anything like strict parental control. They will make them think that they are more hardly done by than other children, leading them to kick against correction or chastisement, and thus sowing in their minds the seeds of future rebellion and misery.

(5) They will often lead the children into bad company or places.

How common it is for servants to take children, as a special favour, where their parents would not wish them to go, after getting a promise not to tell!

4. Seeing that servants have so powerful an influence in moulding the character of children, ought not parents to exercise great care in their selection?

Undoubtedly they ought. Nevertheless we fear that very little anxiety is felt on this subject. A mother will make most exact inquiries as to the capacity of a servant for doing her work; as to her honesty in dealing with her money; her truthfulness, sobriety, civility, and personal appearance-- in order that she may attend to the business of the family and cut a good figure at the table--but, alas! often she will scarcely make any inquiry at all as to those qualities which have to do with the formation of the character of her children, with whose daily lives that maid will be as much mixed up as herself, and on whose influence their happiness, both for time and eternity, will so much depend. Thus she will place her children under the care and control of perfect strangers without concern, and with very little supervision or investigation afterwards.

5. Ought parents, when they act thus, to be surprised to find all manner of false, mean, and unclean habits generated and practised amongst their children?

Not in the least. Would it not indeed be a miracle if it were otherwise? I have no doubt that multitudes of children are inoculated with all manner of moral diseases by servants--diseases of mind and soul, far more to be deplored than any bodily diseases could possibly be. If parents do not want such a result, if they wish their children to be good and godly, they must seek godly servants; and if they will not be at the trouble to do this, they must suffer the consequences--at least their poor children must.

6. Then do you recommend the employment of godly servants only?

Most emphatically we do. That is, we think parents should use every possible means to obtain such, and should be very careful that they are not deceived by mere profession. --From "On the Training of Children, by the General of the Salvation Army." --From a Mother's Note-book.


Typed July 2013