Teaching Character

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 4 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, How To Rear Infants)


Someone has said that character is the subconscious doing of right. It is when right and the doing of right becomes a reflex. This can happen only by continued practice of doing right in response to certain stimuli. Basically, it is the forming of proper habits. Naturally, the earlier these habits are formed and the earlier the doing of right becomes a matter of reflex and enters into the subconscious, the stronger will be the character of the adult. Hence, proper habits should be started at birth.

1. Proper eating habits. Babies are people, and all people enjoy eating. We learn very early in life that eating brings us pleasure and delight. This pleasure is caused not only because eating brings relief from hunger, but also because of the byproducts that eating brings. In the infant, for example, eating will bring the joy of being close to Mother, the warmth of the mother's breast, the feeling of being loved and cared for, and the joy of being held and rocked. As the baby grows older, there are other extras he receives from eating. Because of this, it is very important that proper eating habits are developed so that the child can derive these pleasures from the eating of good, nourishing food along with other proper eating habits.

The first development of proper eating habits is the first nursing from his mother's breast. The baby will no doubt be hungry and perhaps will be crying. Hence, the first nursing should be a happening. The baby will at least by instinct enjoy such a feeding. Let him snuggle for awhile; do not hurry him, and when he is ready he will begin to eat. Let him hear soft words. Commune from your heart to his. Sing gently to him, and let his first association with nourishing eating be that of many other pleasantries. At each nursing that follows, make it a real happening for the child. Then as he grows older, is weaned, and settles down to a child's diet, continue making mealtime one of the most delightful of the day.

Remember, taste is cultivated. The reason that our generation loves junk food instead of good, nourishing food is that we have cultivated a taste for food that is less healthful. During infancy is the time when children should be led to develop a spiritual appetite. A child can learn to like nuts more than he likes junk snacks if his taste is so trained. He can learn to like fruit more than he likes candy if he is trained properly. Good vegetables can appeal to him as much or more than excessive starches if he is led to develop the proper eating habits from infancy.

The child should also be trained to eat on schedule. One of the great secrets of life is to live by schedule, and the healthy person is one who eats by schedule. A good little slogan for the feeding of an infant, and for that matter for the feeding of people at any age would be, "Eat the proper food at the proper time in the proper environment.

2. Sleep habits. Sleep habits are developed just like eating habits and should be established in early infancy. These habits, like eating habits, will only be developed and maintained if pleasure is derived. Hence, the wise parents will make the sleep time as pleasant as possible. Sleep habits, like eating habits, should be on schedule. A very young baby will probably sleep 18-20 hours out of the 24. This need for sleep gradually diminishes until a six-month-old baby is likely to sleep 14-15 hours of the 24. During the first year of life, most babies require one long nap during the day and one short one. At 12-15 months of age the child usually gives up the short one and has one long nap a day plus the night sleep. The number of hours a child sleeps or the number of hours of sleep he requires is not as important as the fact that his sleep is regularly scheduled. The child is learning in infancy to live by discipline and by schedule. The child should go to bed the same time every night, get up at the same time every morning and take his daily naps at the same time, and the naps should be for the same length of time. Many mothers could have avoided nervous problems in their own systems had they worked a little harder at first in securing the baby's schedule.

Now, let us get back to the happening of sleep. A child should learn to associate sleep with being comfortable, being at the right temperature, being changed, being loved and being fed. If extra affection and attention can be given at sleep time, then the sleep time can become one of the highlights of the day for the child. He soon develops a positive association with sleep. This is vital.

Several things should be avoided in making the child's sleep habits desirable.

a. Do not let the baby get into the habit of going to sleep with a bottle. Under such circumstances neither eating or sleeping is as pleasant as it should be.

b. Do not let the baby sleep alone in the house. In fact, an infant should not be left alone in the house at any time, even if he is sound asleep.

Once the baby has gone to sleep, do not wake him up. Oh, yes, friends will come in to see him; let them see him asleep. Do not wake him up to show him off after he has gone to sleep.

After dark, do not take the baby out for too much excitement. Taking him to the church nursery is certainly proper, but too much noise and too many bright lights before bedtime will cause him to be restless.

By all means, do not give the baby any kind of medicine to make him sleep unless it is done with doctor's orders.

There is so much in the subconscious and in the instincts that it is very important not only to let a baby have a daily schedule but also a weekly schedule. He can look forward to the nursery on Sunday and on Wednesday night and to other pleasant activities that are regularly scheduled each week.

Few of us as adults know our own bodies. Few of us know how much sleep our bodies need. Much of this is due to the fact that from infancy we have led undisciplined, unscheduled lives and among these undisciplined activities are our sleeping habits.

3. Toilet training. Every young mother anticipates the day when her baby can stay clean and dry. Because of this, many begin this training too early. A baby is nearly a year old before his nervous system is developed enough to warrant the beginning of toilet training. At this time, the child usually is becoming aware when you praise him for doing well. It is then time to begin serious toilet training. Subject to schedule and discipline, the child should be put on the toilet at certain regular times. These times should be when he wakes up in the morning, at the conclusion of each meal, before he takes a nap, when he wakes from his nap, etc. If the mother will keep a record for a week or two of the hours the baby is wet or has had a bowel movement, it will help her in planning a schedule so as to anticipate his needs. Do not use the scolding method. Do not be negative. Do not spank him. Rather, use the praise incentive. Let him associate proper elimination with Mother's pleasure and praise. Be patient with him, it will take time and understanding.

Keep the baby in diapers until he learns to walk, and then replace them with pants. This will help him get the idea there is a change in his elimination habits. By the way, do not leave the child wet. If he has an accident, go ahead and change him. Do not scold him. When he does wait until potty time, give him such praise that he will want to earn this praise again.

4. Thumb sucking. Sucking is natural with a child. He began his life by getting his food that way, and since he is a born explorer, he usually puts an object to his mouth quickly after birth. Thumb sucking is a prevalent problem for babies. It usually becomes intense somewhere around 6 months of age. Occasionally the baby also finds that he can suck his fingers. Usually he will overcome his habit if the parents do not make too much fuss over it. It is never wise to punish for this. It is often wise to use a toy or other attention-getters with which to divert the attention of the baby from his sucking.

Thumb sucking becomes a problem usually while the baby is being weaned. Since babies are born with a tremendous instinct to suck, even apart from the instinct of hunger, it is often difficult to cure him quickly from his sucking desire. Hence, when the cup takes the place of the bottle or the breast, the most convenient thing for the baby to do is suck his thumb.

A mother came to me and told me that her 3-year-old son was still sucking his thumb. She told me she had done everything she could do to stop him. I asked her what she had tried. She said she had tried to make the boy ashamed. She had made such statements as, "I'm ashamed of you, and your daddy is ashamed of you." She then told me she had ridiculed him, calling him a "little bitty baby." Then she tried the tactic of the fear of father: "I'm going to tell your daddy when he comes home! What will he think?" Then she had tried spanking the thumb after she had worked it out of his mouth. At night she had tied his thumbs in mittens. There are other things she had tried which she included in her statement of, "I have tried everything!" I reminded her that thumb sucking itself was not nearly as dangerous as the improper handling of the situation by the parents and that the most dangerous thing about the child's thumb sucking was the action that it had prompted the parents to take.

Then the mother told me of the fears she had concerning her son's thumb sucking. She was afraid of a permanent injury to the thumb. She was afraid that it would spoil the shape of his teeth and his jaw. She was afraid that it would cause the child to be withdrawn and introverted and, of course, she was afraid that it would go on and on and on into his school days. Now in rare cases, such damage is possible, but in more cases, the damage is done by the parents' overreaction.

The matter that should occupy our time is that of learning WHY the child sucks his thumb. There are many reasons. The thumb becomes a comfort to the child. He turns to thumb sucking when he wants comforting or when he feels he is not loved enough or safe enough or not good enough. The thumb comforts and assures him. The wise parent will realize this and will give the child sufficient comfort, assurance, self-confidence, self-esteem, etc. Again, the positive approach is the best one.

When you see the child not sucking his thumb, brag on him, make him feel like he has done something great. Reward him for it with the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. What the child has been doing subconsciously is telling you that he is not completely satisfied with everything about life. There is something missing which he needs. Asking, pleading and scolding will not solve his problem, for it is not his problem. Putting pressure on it only adds to his need and to the frame of mind which caused the thumb sucking in the first place. Hence, the parents' efforts prolong the habit.

Some feel that if a child is allowed to suck his thumb all he chooses, he will relinquish his thumb sucking sooner than if he is urged to stop it. Let the parent be comforted in the fact that most children give up their thumb sucking shortly after they enroll in school. When they come in contact with other children, pride develops and the child is embarrassed to have his peers see him with such an infantile habit. The wise parent will not try to stop the thumb sucking but will rather try to stop the causes for the thumb sucking. Remember that alarm and force will lengthen rather than abbreviate the longevity of this habit. Do not punish. Do not remind him constantly. Do not threaten him that he will injure his fingers or buck his teeth. Do not remind him that if he loves you, he would stop sucking his thumb. Do not use such phrases as, "You are a big boy now!" "Aren't you ashamed of yourself!" "You are such a baby!" Do not wrap his hands or use mittens. Do not use elbow splints or anything to keep his arm from bending. Do not use sleeping garments which hold his arms down. Do not put bitter, disagreeable, distasteful substances on his fingers. Let him know that you love him so much and are so proud of him that he will have so much assurance and security that he will not need his thumb. Have him trade the comfort of his thumb for the comfort of a secure relationship with Mom and Dad. By all means, do not panic.

There are some things that can be done. Let the child suck longer when he eats. Let him nurse as long as he wishes. If he is bottle fed, get another nipple with a smaller hole so that it will take him longer to drink his milk. As he grows older, don't let him get bored. Be sure he has enough toys, enough things to stimulate his mind and to attract his attention. Also notice when he sucks. Does he suck when he is lonely? Does he suck when he is frightened? Does he suck when he feels deserted? Once you have found the cause, then you can satisfy his need and over a period of time eliminate the thumb sucking altogether.

As he gets older, see if you think he gets too much or too little attention, has too many or too few companions, is mothered too much or too little, gets more or less attention than the other children. Take an intelligent survey and set up a diligent plan to eliminate excesses and fill voids.

5. Bedwetting. By the time the average child reaches the age of 2, he can stay dry during the daytime. However, it is usually a year or more before he can stay dry while asleep. The average child is able to stay dry during the nighttime by the time he is 3, but not all children are average. Approximately 25% of all children wet the bed after the age of 7. It is thought by some that boys have some more difficulty in bed wetting than girls. It is comforting to know that usually this problem is hereditary and that the parent of such a child had the same problem when he was a child.

Because the problem is such a messy one, parents become excessively alarmed and overreact in an effort to execute its cure. It may be true that early training in an effort to correct bedwetting may actually be the cause of bed wetting later on. Take it easy; don't rush; a few extra months of diaper washing when a child is one or two may save months of panty and sheet washing two or three years later. Accept the fact that children differ in this as they do in other things. Some achieve success many months before others. Keep in mind the following things when wetting is a problem.

a. Do not ridicule or give the child the idea that you would love him more if he would stop wetting.

b. Do not show annoyance. Try not even to feel annoyed. The child needs your help. No doubt he is nervous and insecure. He does not need to feel your nervousness or insecurity.

c. Try to be casual. Build his confidence. Assure him that he will do better someday. Give him extra affection. Praise him more than usual. Brag on him when he does well. Brag on other things he does perhaps better than other children. Do not make him feel inferior. You will help him a lot more by leaving him to be relaxed than making him tense because he feels he is a failure.

d. Do not give him prizes for being dry. Give him praise and love at all times but especially when he does well.

e. Do not make a big deal of toilet training. By all means, don't use threats, shaming, rewards, punishment as methods with which to train your child.

If you will follow these suggestions, you are not going to make the child dry right away, but you will make him happier, you will make him more relaxed, you will make him more of an extrovert, and you will give him more security. A secure, confident, happy child will achieve dryness much earlier than one who is made tense and high-strung by overly anxious parents.

If the child who has become dry has an accident, treat it casually. Do not scold. Follow the advice given concerning thumb sucking. Do not be as concerned about the act itself as by the cause of the act. Correct the causes; fill the voids; stop the excesses; give security, love and praise, and unless there is a medical reason (and there usually is not) the problem will be solved in due time. By all means, be patient. The child is like you. His troubles pile up on him. Too much is expected from him and he becomes frustrated. This is when things fall apart. Bear in mind that his problems are as serious to him as yours are to you. Calm, rational, tender treatment will win out in the long run.

A number of things could cause his insecurities. Something in his life could be troubling him, making him tense and anxious. Perhaps he is not on schedule in other activities of his life. Maybe his parents create tension in the home. Maybe the child lacks self-confidence. Maybe he has an inferiority complex because of older brothers and sisters. Maybe he does not feel approved. Maybe he does not feel he excels in any area.

Of course, there are a few things that can be done. Some parents take the child to the bathroom when they retire. This often enables the child to go through the night dry. The best thing to do is take it in stride, not make an issue of it, and soon the problem will solve itself.

6. Fingernail biting. Children have many nervous habits. Many of these are typical such as blinking the eyes, picking the nose and, the most common of all, fingernail biting. It must be understood that children are perpetual motion. Freedom of movement is necessary part of their development. To tell a child to sit still is asking for a miracle. Hence, if a child is forced to be still for a long period of time and if he is asked to keep from talking, he becomes fidgety. Habits like nail biting soon develop. If you will notice carefully, nail biting usually occurs when the child is repressed or is unduly excited or unhappy. There are several sets of circumstances that usually increase nail biting. Anything that causes the child inner tension such as fear or worry make conditions right for the habit. A nervous mother, an anxious parent, or quarreling in the home can upset a child and lead him to nail biting. If too much is expected of him, he may turn to his fingernails. The wise parent should watch the child to see when he bites his nails and then seek a trend. Parents will notice there are certain things, times or experiences that prompt the biting of the nails. After such a study has been made, the parent can eliminate the conditions that warrant the nail biting.

There are several things that can be done after the cause of the strain has been eliminated. The child can be given something to do with his hands that will keep him busy. The child's nails should be kept in good condition. They should be short and smooth with no hang nails, which will help remove the temptation to bite them. It is not a good idea to put bitter tasting substances on the nails. However, sometimes some clear nail polish on a little girl's nails will give her pride in them and often eliminate the nail biting.

The biting of the nails is another one of those nervous habits which are likely to develop when a child is not serene and happy, whose routine is not planned and who is put under strain, giving him too much with which to cope. Sometimes having to play with older children can stimulate nail biting.

Living in an unhappy home where there is fussing can have the same result. If a child is not allowed to play outdoors enough, it can drive him to this habit. One thing that must be remembered is that children are often too overprotected, over-mothered and over-managed. Once again, assurance, love and security can go a long way toward correcting the biting of the nails. Do not resort to scolding and threats. Do not make constant mention of the biting; that will only make it worse. Nail biting, like bedwetting and thumb sucking, is best corrected by a quiet study of the conditions surrounding the habit and then eliminating them. Once again, the wise parent should not make a big issue over it, for big issues are causes, not cures.

Try bragging on the child when he does well. Tell him how pretty his fingernails are when he does not bite them, but even then, a calm type of complimenting should be carried out. Do not panic. Set out to provide a serene, assuring, securing atmosphere by eliminating boredom, tense or overly emotional radio and television programs, insecurities, etc.

7. Temper tantrums. You will find excellent cooperation in a normal baby. However, when the baby is becoming a child and is walking and talking, probably in the late part of his second year or the early part of his third year, some changes take place. He suddenly has a tremendous desire to assert himself and to be heard! This assertion may show itself in temper tantrums. What is happening is that the child is becoming a human being. He is walking and talking now, and he suddenly has a desire to make some of his own decisions. He expresses this desire with temper tantrums. He decides that he is restricted too much. He may decide not to dress when you want to dress him or he may choose not to give up some object that you want him to surrender to you. He may decide he doesn't want to eat, and if he does eat, he doesn't want to eat what you want him to eat. He wants to do things by himself. Now there are several things that can be done.

    a. The parent must set a good example by having an even disposition. You yourself must not have a "short fuse." If the child sees you losing your temper, he will soon decide that is the way to express one's self when he is not pleased. On the other hand, if the child sees the parent manifesting behavior that is calm and quiet, he is more likely to perform in the same manner. Avoid having a nervous, loud environment, for the child will eventually pattern his behavior after that of his parents and his home atmosphere. If you do not control your temper, he will not control his. If you are loud and angry when you do not have your way, he will be loud and angry when he does not have his way.

    b. Do not let your child's temper tantrums cause you to lose your temper. Never reward his tantrums. If a child cries to get something, never give it to him. Let him know that the way to get what he wants is by behaving properly, not be exposing his temper. Never, never, never reward him for his temper tantrum. Many parents become so exasperated by the child's behavior they attempt to bribe him to be good by giving him what he wants or what he would enjoy. This is a tragic mistake. Reward goodness, not badness. Reward a pleasant personality and disposition, not an unpleasant one.

    c. Build such a close relationship with the child that the breaking of fellowship with the parents will be the worst punishment possible. The worst thing about a punishment and the worst punishment should be the fact that fellowship is broken between the child and parent. When there is a relationship that is sweet and enjoyed by both, the child does not want to have that relationship broken. Hence, the parent can simply ignore the child when he is having a temper tantrum (that is, if the tantrum is not caused by some health problem or severe discomfort). Make the child realize that fellowship with the parent is good when he is quiet and bad when he is throwing a temper tantrum. It is often good to let the child cry it out. In the case of a baby, the parent should see if the diaper is dry. He should be sure no pins are sticking the child's body. He should convince himself that the child is not crying excessively because he is ill. He should be sure the child is not crying because he is hungry or covered too tightly. He should be sure the child is not crying because of a stomach ache. Once he is convinced these things are all in order, he should then let the child cry. Simply close the door to his room, go in the other room and be about your responsibilities. When he does stop his crying and is quiet for a few minutes, go to his room and brag on him for being quiet. Let him realize that the fellowship is restored when he does not cry and that it is broken when he does cry. Do not let him think the way to get picked up and be babied is to scream. It is better to prevent the temper tantrums than to cure them.

    It is wise, as has been stated previously, for a child to live by schedule, thereby developing lifetime habits. It will help his disposition tremendously if he is getting enough sleep and sleeping on schedule, if he is having his meals on time and is living a scheduled, disciplined life. Sometimes the parent spends too much time with the child. This time should also be scheduled time. A child should learn to be alone. He should learn to enjoy being alone. It will give him security and assurance for the rest of his life. Suppose, for example, that he wakes up around 7:00 in the morning. His mother gives him some words of assurance, a hug and a kiss, feeds him, bathes him, changes his clothes and puts him back to bed. He should be taught to spend some time alone then. Perhaps at mid-morning the mother could come in at a scheduled time, take the child up and spend 30 minutes playing with him and loving him. The child could then be put back to bed to spend some more time alone. Soon comes lunch time. After lunch the child can be changed and put to bed for his afternoon nap.

    After his nap Mother can take 30 minutes more and play with him and love him. Then he should be put back to bed or in his playpen or in his room if there is an accordion door to keep him from escaping, where he can spend some more time alone before Daddy comes home. This means that Mother has not only spent some time bathing and feeding him, but she has spent 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon playing with him and loving him. It is my feeling that many children go bad because their parents spend too much time with them. It is not how much time a parent spends but what kind of time he spends. A child needs to feel the security of genuine love and interest from his parents and the security of the enjoyment of being alone. Both are important.

    Many parents spend much time with all their children and little or no time alone with each child. I think it is best for there to be a scheduled time for each child. The child thereby gets to know his parent on personal basis. He doesn’t feel like one of a group but one that is very special. This not only enables the child to know the parent better but it enables the parent to know each child as an individual. This does not have to be a lot of time. When our children were small I would take them on dates. For example, I would take one of the girls up to the shopping center. Then I would purchase for her whatever her need was at the time-a dress, a pair of shoes or some underclothing. Sometimes I would even buy her a little toy. Then we would go to the park to swing. An hour is a long time to a child. It does not seem very long to an adult, but when a parent spends an hour alone with a child, it seems to him a very long time. This planned fellowship should start in infancy.

    A planned time when the child is alone should also start in infancy. He should get to know himself. When our children were small, I would go outside and the child and I would sit on a quilt in the front yard together. I would then, after awhile, tiptoe into the house and watch him through the window. I would let him play alone for awhile. This would help teach him not to be afraid of being alone. He also needs to learn not to be afraid of the dark. Both are lessons a child needs to learn early in life.

    It is usually best not to spank the child for throwing a temper tantrum. Brief isolation would be better. Especially is this a tremendous form of' punishment when the child is close to his parent. A spanking would be more in order if there is direct disobedience. I am not saying that spanking is wrong. Quite to the contrary, spanking is right, and we are admonished in the Scriptures to do so, but during these early days of life, a child is using a temper tantrum to get what he wants. He wants Mom to pick him up; he wants attention. If he learns that he does not get the attention by crying and exposing his temper, he will soon try other methods. It is the parent's responsibility to let him know what methods will work. When he finds that goodness will work, he will then use goodness to get his desired result. However, if the parents' actions let him know that being bad will work, he will then be bad for the rest of his life to get what he wants.

    A generation ago noted child psychologists who knew little about psychology and less about children advanced the theory that the child should not have his progress retarded. "Give him what he wants," they said. "He is only trying to express himself." We gave these children what they wanted because we did not want to impede their progress. That generation is now grown up. They are still getting what they want! They are rioting, demonstrating, burning buildings, destroying property, infringing on the safety of society, and in general, are ruining the greatest country on the face of the earth! They were taught to get what they wanted by bad behavior. We gave it to them then and we are giving it to them now, and the greatest nation on the face of the earth is crumbling before our eyes. If a nation's character is salvaged, we will have to begin where its deterioration began-in the crib. It was in the crib where this generation of lawlessness was spawned. It will be in the crib where another generation of law and order is conceived. Through all of this a child MUST learn to respect his parents. This respect will be caused by a parent being firm but calm, manifesting the spirit of Christ in gentleness yet firmness. A parent who responds by jerking a child or throwing a temper tantrum of his own is joining the child in his crime and mixing wrong with wrong.

    d. Brag on the child when he is good. I remember my mother saying to a neighbor while I was in another room (she made a special point to say it loudly enough so I could hear her), "My Jack is a good boy! I know some boys who are bad boys who scream and cry, but my son is a good boy. I'm so proud of him!" I would hear her from the other room, and my hat size would double as I would hear my mother brag on me to a neighbor. She was setting for me a reputation that I wanted to fulfill. When I did enter the room, I would be the picture of goodness, a model son, for I was trying to live up to my reputation and prove to the neighbor lady that my mother was right. Sometimes my mother would set me on her knee and tell me, "Son, I was in another home the other day, and they had a boy about your age. He was so rowdy and loud we could hardly talk. I am so proud of you because you are such a fine fellow. You are never rowdy and you never interrupt. You never embarrass me when we have company. I'm sure glad that little boy isn't my little boy; I'm glad you are my little boy because you are not like him." Once again she was setting for me an ideal and a reputation that I wanted to uphold. This tactic certainly is far better than a slap across the face or the jerk of the arm or the screaming voice.

8. Speech defects. Since speech is the means humans use to communicate one with another, anything that interferes with this type of communication becomes a real handicap. Most speech defects can be cured in the home by the loving help of wise parents. Children begin to use words during their second year. Much care should be taken to help the child speak properly. If a child should go into his third year or even very far beyond his second birthday without developing normal speech, the parents should examine the following possibilities. The child may not need to talk to get what he wants. Perhaps he can grunt and the parent knows what he wants. Perhaps he can simply make a gesture to receive his desires. The parent should in such cases require the child to speak before he gets what he wants. In other words, the parent should see to it that the child needs to talk. Mother and Dad should lead him to make his wants known by the communication of speech.

Some parents give too much attention to the child's words and speaking. In some cases they even show off the child for visitors, and he may be asked to repeat the same words over and over again. This often leads the child to become embarrassed and in many cases it slows up his speech progress. When this is true, the wise parents will leave the child alone and try not to show him off to guests. When a child does speak, the parent should show definite interest, but not undue excitement.

Sometimes the parents do not talk enough. Many children do not talk because they do not hear enough talking. Read to the child. Talk to him. Let him hear you talk. This will stimulate the child to join you in conversation. The child of a non-talkative parent will usually talk later than children whose parents communicate often with them and read to them.

Sometimes a child may talk for awhile and then slow down his talking. This may be because he has other interests. Perhaps he has found some other avenue of development that temporarily intrigues him more. Maybe he is learning to do something else for the first time, and talking is not new to him any more. In such cases, do not be alarmed; simply keep talking, singing and reading to the child. Keep on loving him. He will return to his vocabulary after he has mastered the thing that is occupying his mind.

An undisciplined life can cause the child to talk later than normal. So many things depend on schedule. The child that gets up on time, eats on time, sleeps on time, is bathed on time, is dressed on time, is loved on time, etc. will be in general more normal and more healthy. He will come nearer talking on time.

Some children talk late because of strife in the home. If a child hears fussing and screaming, he will not be interested in developing the art of speaking because the spoken word will become distasteful to him. If, however, kind words are spoken, and if speech is an expression of love, kindness and gentleness, the child will be impressed by its use and will usually want to talk earlier. Of course, there is always the possibility of some illness which makes it difficult for the child to talk. If he is nearing his third birthday and still is not talking much, his hearing should be tested. He should be given a thorough check-up and maybe be taken to a neurologist. Of course, sometimes the child has a speech impairment due to a harelip or a cleft palate. In this case he should be taken to a speech therapist for special training.

There are three times in life when stuttering is a temptation: (1) When a child is around 2˝ years old and is just beginning to talk freely, (2) When he enters school, and (3) When he becomes an adolescent. These are times of big adjustments and because of this, stuttering may develop. Speech difficulty is caused by emotional strain and frustration. When a child is 2 or 3 years of age, he is so desirous to make himself understood. He is just beginning to talk freely and does not have a large enough vocabulary to express his thoughts. He is not able to put into words what he wants to ask or tell. Because of this bother he sometimes stutters. It is a good idea not to have him in close contact with an adult or teenager who stutters. At least such a person should not be a constant companion to the child.

Do not correct or scold the child for stuttering. Repeat or talk more slowly. Do not fuss at him. If he appears to be looking for a word, fill in the extra word for him. Listen to him carefully and patiently. Do not make him feel that he must hurry when he tries to express himself. The stuttering child feels he will not have time to give his expression. Do not tell him he has plenty of time; simply show him by being patient. Rearrange his schedule; keep tension from his life. Lessen the rush-rush atmosphere of the home.

Sometimes the stuttering will take place after he has been playing with several children and has become too excited. If this is the case, let him play with one or two children at a time. In other words, take away from him temptations to nervousness and frustration. Act like nothing is wrong. Take him as he is. Don't lead him to think you wish he would hurry up and say what he is trying to say. Like bedwetting, thumb sucking, nail biting and other nervous expressions, stuttering is usually caused by a home situation that is too tense, too hurried, or where there is too much strife. Its cure comes by eliminating these causes. The parent should not expect miracles. It may take some time. Do not panic. Be calm, loving, patient and understanding. In almost every case in due time victory will come. If the stuttering is not cured when the child is nearing four or five, professional help should be sought.

If a child is left-handed, let him be left-handed. It has been thought by many that there is a connection between left-handedness and stuttering. There are those who believe that when the left-handed child is encouraged to use his right hand, this causes stuttering. This is probably not necessarily true. Rather, the type of parent who would be embarrassed to have a left-handed child and who would attempt to coerce him to use his right hand might be the type of parent who would cause stuttering anyway and to whom a child would usually speak with caution and tension. It would be far better for the parent, with patience, to lead the child to become efficient with his left hand rather than causing him to become nervous by being a less-than-average right-hander.

There are other speech problems besides delayed speech and stuttering. There is the problem of omission of a sound in words. For example, a child may say "pease" for "please," which means he is omitting a certain sound. Then sometimes the child will have an enunciation problem. There is also the problem of careless and inaccurate sounds such as misuse of the letter "5." Sometimes the child will even add unnecessary sounds. Regardless of the problem, unless it is a physical one, the parent should first attempt to have a quiet, peaceful setting in the home. He should be the type of person to whom the child likes to speak. He should not expect the child to act like an adult or speak like an adult. He should avoid undue excitement, hurry and pressure. He should not expect the child to recite too much, and he should not show off the child. In other words, just a normal, kind, peaceful atmosphere in the home and a sweet relaxed atmosphere with the child is the best treatment. Add to this, proper pronunciation by the parents, and you will usually find the answer. This, of course, is the best cure and should be tried at length before consulting professional help.

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