"Don't slouch." "Stand up straight." "It's good for your health and posture." Perhaps these are words you heard as a child from your parents or grandparents. It's advice that has been around for a long time, as well as the admonition to not let children acquire the disagreeable habit of interrupting the conversation of adults or have long periods of physical inactivity. Such counsel given today by various experts might seem to dance around the issue so as to not offend anyone or uses sophisticated words to impress the audience, especially when compared to how it was stated more than 100 years ago. The nearly 120 year-old "Every-Day Cook-Book" by Miss Neil, has advice in the area of child-rearing in addition to what has already been highlighted in previous columns including favorite recipes, beauty secrets, first-aid and keeping house.
Look around and see who is slouching or stooping. Grandmothers do and certainly did years ago. An entire section is devoted to this bad habit in Miss Neil's book with a heading called, "Don't Stoop." Grandmother would say that such posture of bent backs was to walk around as if you had a curvature in your spine and were bearing the responsibilities of an old person, an old person of 50 years. She said that this was wrong and to stand up straight. If not corrected, you would be sure to permanently have a stooped back long before you get old.
Symmetrical development of the body was considered of the utmost importance with exercises to "draw the shoulders back, and thus secure the rectitude which is the basis of spinal and visceral tone." Obviously, Grandmother would say to throw back your shoulders, stand erect when walking, and "take the kink out of your backbone."
Sunshine and outdoor activities were healthy pursuits years ago and are still the best choices today.
According to the book, Grandmother's rule was to simply throw up your chin away from the breast which puts the head upward and backward so that the shoulders naturally settle backward in their true position. Stooping comes from looking downward. Look up like a mountaineer and take warning. The habit of stooping is bad and hard to cure.
Physical training of children was also given a high priority 120 years ago, even at a time when by today's standards, we may think their daily routine was adequate. In a section of the book called, "Children Love Games," it was recommended that mothers provide games that required muscular exercise. Activities sitting on the floor or around a table were not adequate, but rather ones that had children out into the open air and sunshine for good health and strength. A "weak and round-shouldered" child needed to be made strong and it was better to exercise than even the study of books. Quaintly and forthrightly stated 120 years ago, "Those curious little affairs which require them to sit on the floor or gathered about the table and remain in a cramped position, are not advisable." Considering the nature of video games and other sedentary pursuits in today's generation, it might be wise to examine the lifestyle and posture of our children and revisit Great Grandmother's sage advice.
Children may be the apple of our eye, but do today's parents permissively allow their children to make demands on the family and household with such unpleasant habits as how time is spent, chores not done, what is eaten for meals, and even interrupting? An interesting section of the 120-year-old book suggests that when these habits are allowed, we are "cultivating selfishness" in our children. While this topic alone is enough to address in another column, a mention of the last habit, that of interrupting, is one to think about this week. It is a bad habit and when allowed at home, teaches children that what they say always takes priority. How would they know that outside of the family and in public that such behavior is considered rude?
Making no apologies, Miss Neil's book simply says that some parents allow their children the unmannerly habit of "breaking in upon the conversation and those of older persons with questions and remarks of their own and that is very uncivil to do so." Training starts in the family among one's own siblings. Let others speak without interrupting. Interestingly, the book mentioned that most parents who allow their own children to form this disagreeable habit are "exceedingly annoyed at the same conduct in other folks' children." Simply stated, the fault is that of the parents in not teaching their children.
Next week we'll revisit the first Armistice Day of 1917 in honor of Veterans Day, and then back on how to not cultivate selfishness in our children.
Make it a good week and consider great-grandmother's advice, Mary and Rosamond
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