In his Something of Myself for My Friends Known and
Unknown, Rudyard Kipling uses as the keynote for
the first chapter, the following quotation:
“Give me the first six years of a child’s life; you can have the rest.”
How parents ought to meditate on those words!
Why did Rudyard Kipling speak in this vein?
Before these first six years there is of course the question of heredity. Every man is an heir and every man is an ancestor. Children do resemble their parents.
There is a second kind of hereditary influence—the formation that is given even before marriage by the father and the mother.
“When does the education of the child begin?” Napoleon was asked. He replied, “Twenty years before its birth in the education of its mother.”
From its mother? From its father, too. But the mother is unquestionably a prime influence because until the child is at least six, the principal care of the child is in the hands of the mother.
What a mistake to let a child give in to all its whims!
“But he doesn’t understand,” people say. “You can’t
reason with a baby in the cradle.”
No, of course not, but from the cradle on, the child
can be taught many things well. Not by reasoning but
by forming good habits.
Here are two mothers; both of them have a baby.
Naturally both babies cry when they want their desires
known. In one case, the mother who knows that
all the needs and legitimate wants of the baby have
been satisfied, let’s it cry.
The baby would like to advance the time for its bottle, but no, it will be served at the right time, not before. The little one soon perceives that no one pays any attention to its demands and
ceases its tempestuous howling.
In the other case, the minute the other baby cries, the mother dashes to soothe it. She cannot resist her baby’s cry. Instead of rearing it for itself, she rears it for herself, because she suffers too much from hearing it call or because its tears unnerve and disturb her. She gives in. She is lost. The little one is going to become
Later, she will not be able to control it. “Cry away my little man; you don’t need a thing,”
It would be a more wholesome attitude than yielding, provided of course, she knows that the baby is all right and that her conduct is motivated by a true desire to train the child.
That is only one detail. But in everything she should be guided by the same principle—the true good of the child. Then, at six years, the child will know how to obey.
And if the mother follows through progressively with the
development of the child, helping it to use properly its young liberty, she has the game in her own hands.
All is not finished. It might be more correct to say that all is beginning; Nevertheless the mother has successfully come
through a vital stage.
Up to this point it is properly called training, a most necessary period indeed. This training will develop into real education. If the early training has been lacking, the succeeding education becomes almost impossible; for how can one erect a stable structure on a volcano; how to build a firm will on a nature perpetually wavering and swayed by caprice?
Adapted from Raoul Plus, S.J.’s Christ in the Home (Colorado
Springs, Colorado: Gardner Brothers, 1951), 205–
206. Christ in the Home is a treasure chest of advice for
Catholics on the practical and spiritual concerns of raising
a family. To obtain a copy of Christ in the Home, visit