From Three to Five ~ Christ in the Home


From Christ in the Home, Fr. Raoul Plus, S.J., 1950’s


At this period of their life, children have not in general arrived at an awakening, at least not a complete awakening, of their moral sense. They are midway between the unawareness of their first years and a completely rational contact with life; their principal occupation is play–the little boy will be busy building and tearing down; the little girl will be busy scribbling away at indefinite designs or dressing and undressing her sawdust doll, the first in a series of many dolls.

They will have just the beginning of a contact–depending upon their family, their mother particularly–with the invisible world. They will learn their prayers, know that there is a God who is good and they will hear about little Jesus.

They will also know that there are things that are forbidden, but they will not as yet see the wickedness of sin; they take what belongs to mamma without knowing that they are stealing; they do not always tell the truth without knowing really that it is an evil thing to lie and when they do speak untruly it is much more through an instinct of self-defense than through innate perversion.

They would go to the end of the world for a kiss and much further still for a piece of candy. But if they must give up the piece of candy to a little brother or sister, they will do it with not too bad a grace but they will see to it that they get a lick of it themselves before parting with it; after all, aren’t they being quite generous already?

And if for Christmas mother has suggested that they sacrifice some of their sweets to little Jesus, they do it eagerly but see nothing wrong with coming back quietly later to eat up their sacrifices.

It is important to capitalize on this marvelous period of the child’s life.

Since the child loves to imagine, it is necessary to suggest images to its mind and since the child needs to be educated, these images should be elevating. That can be done very early by using the lives of the saints, the life of Mary and of Jesus.

Why not? How many details of Scripture are most picturesque and quite within the grasp of the child’s mind; this is especially true if the Gospel episodes have first come by way of the mother’s heart; she will know how to awaken without straining, instruct without fatiguing, and adapt it all to the mentality of the child.

A prime guiding principle here is Never anything inexact! Children at this age are extremely docile. “Papa said it or Mamma said it,” makes it sacred. Therefore, great attention to the stories they are told, to the allusions made or the conversations held in their presence.

At this age the child is inclined to refer everything to itself, but very likely to be disinterested in goodness. By nature it is selfish; it has a terrific sense of ownership; will share nothing; wants everything.

Since it has numerous needs and knows itself to be little, it seeks to surround itself with the greatest possible number of things to its own advantage. But if little by little it is taught to look about to see that there are others less privileged, that to give up things for love of another is something fine, it will be found capable of remarkable generosity.

The child at this age has not since the time of its baptism become incrusted with the shell of negligence and the faults an adult might commit; simplicity is inherent in it; it is pure; it has infused Faith and the Holy Spirit in its soul is at ease.

But it is essential to avoid scandalizing the least of these little ones, giving them the example of evil, of impurity even material impurity, of lying, of anger.

Further, the child is readily distracted, forgetful, has its head in the clouds. You speak to it and it listens or does not listen as fancy strikes; it follows its own thought and interior emotion. Your commands fall on its ears like water on marble. You must catch its attention, reiterate your suggestions or commands without impatience on your part or fatigue for the child.

Constant attention is necessary to train them in manners, in proper sleeping habits, in conduct at table; to check the first symptoms of greediness, laziness, lack of discipline, sensuality. The child is still thoughtless but the educator must not be. Long explanations are not needed; a word, simple look go a long way and speak volumes at times.

Parents should never lose courage even if the results are imperfect. Let them examine their methods and change them if necessary. Let them see in these little ones only Christ– “Whatsoever you do to these, the least of My brethren, you do unto Me.”

Patience connotes a “self-possession, especially under suffering or provocation,” and it brings to one a quiet confidence. The patient wife is master of her own soul. She, and not every imp to come flying into her mind, is in charge of her own fort.

Since no one can be truly successful without patience, it should be expected that the possession of the virtue is a requisite for every desired wife.

Indeed, no vocation or profession in life requires patience more than that of husband and wife.

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