Bulletin of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Immigration,
published in Richmond, distributed statewide
July 1921, Bulletin No. 166, p. 74
“Have you studied this subject seriously—the nervous child?”
Should there be one rigid rule for the training of all children? I am convinced that there should not. And if there is one exception it is for the over-sensitive, over-nervous child about being put to bed.
The average country child gets too little sleep. This is partly due to living in few rooms, to busy mothers and to lack of understanding of what sleep means to children. The very nervous child should have even more sleep than the average child, but it is not always easy to get her to sleep.
In the first place, she resists going to sleep with every fiber of her being and this makes people think her cross. The more she resists the more nervous she becomes until she is in a perfect quiver. To whip her then, the natural impulse of worried adults, is to give her a shock from which she might never be quite the same again.
The over-wrought child requires the quiet methods of one who has herself under control. This is easier said than done, I grant you, but who will say that a little child’s welfare is not worth any effort of self-control? Not you and not I. When she screams take her in your arms gently and smilingly; keep a soft old blanket around her, particularly around her feet and rock her slightly, singing a low tune as soon as she quiets a little.
“But you object to rocking a child to sleep,” some one will say. The well, sturdy child, yes, but there is something about the movement of rocking that will often tempt the sick, overwrought child to slumber.
Regularity is one of the important factors in training a nervous baby to go to sleep easily. Have her bed comfortable, with sheets and all-wool covers. Quilts are heavy and overburden her.
Then lie down beside her every night and tell her stories, not exciting ones about bears and bad men, but tell her about the quiet affectionate lamb you had when you were a little girl, about its fleece and how funny it looked.
Never give her more than one story a night, string the same one out if need be. Then when she is over her nervous spell in a week or two, talk to her reasonably and explain to her that you must darn some socks for Daddy that night and you want her to see what kind of stories she can tell herself.
If often helps to wrap a soft blanket around her feet when you lay her down. Remember that the brain requires blood to think and blood that is in the feet is not in the brain. Sometimes if she has not eaten much and is restless, a glass of warm milk or a cracker or two will attract the blood from the brain to the stomach.
A soft doll is a real comfort to the nervous, restless child, especially if you do not seem to listen to her when she talks aloud to it. Some children like to hold a flower. I know one mother who sometimes puts a single drop of violet water on the baby’s pillow, and she lies there so long smelling it that she drops off to sleep.
New-born babies should sleep nearly all the time; children of about four should sleep about thirteen hours; of seven, twelve; of eight or nine, eleven; of twelve, ten. A child sleeping in the open air can get best development with a little less than this, but one with her head in the corner of a room requires a little more sleep.
Things to be avoided are:
5) Great fear.
6) Terrifying stories.
7) Violent rocking.
8) Bright sunlight in unshaded eyes.
9) Glaring windows.
10) Hard white walls.
11) Places of public gathering.
12) Food difficult to digest.