Robert Louis Stevenson on Child Rearing

One of the books we frequently check out from the library to read to the kids is Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses. Published in 1885, it is a collection of short poem verses about children and childhood — most notably The Land of Nod. There may come a time when our kids memorize some of these short poems, but for right now, we just read and enjoy them. There are some that bring a particularly smug smirk to our faces and I’d thought I’d share them here.

From Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson’s thoughts on child rearing:

Whole Duty of Children

A Child should always say what’s true

And speak when he is spoken to,

And behave mannerly at the table;

At least as far as he is able



Every night my prayer I say,

And get my dinner every day;

And every day that I’ve been good,

I get an orange after food.

The Child that is not clean and neat,

with lots of toys and things to eat,

He is a naughty child, I’m sure —

Or else his dear papa is poor.


Good and Bad Children

Children, you are very little,

And your bones are very brittle;

If you would grow great and stately,

You must try to walk sedately.

You must be bright and quiet,

And content with simple diet;

And remain, through all bewild’ring,

Innocent and honest children.

Happy hearts and happy faces,

Happy play in grassy places–

That was how, in ancient ages,

Children grew to kings and sages.

But the unkind and the unruly,

And the sort who eat unduly,

They must never hope for glory–

Theirs is quite a different story!

Cruel children, crying babies,

All grew up as geese and gabies,

Hated, as their age increases,

By their nephews and their nieces.


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