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How Modern Children Compared to The Puritans

Updated on February 17, 2015

Puritans were highly dedicated to education

Straight to the point

The life of a Puritan would be considered now days as abusive and extreme because of what the followers of the Puritan religion would do for God. Puritan minister Eleazar Mather was one of the most confident followers in the Puritan religion at that time. He had defended their actions of leaving England to start the Puritan religion by stating, “To ensure their children’s spiritual welfare-‘To leave God in the midst of them.’” The puritans felt that if they did not allow God to enter every aspect of their children’s life that they will fall prey to the temptations of Satan himself. The Puritans were very persistent when it came to the relationship between God and their children. The decision to disobey any of God’s commands, or anyone whose mission it was to spread the word of God will ultimately result in a painful death regardless of age, sex, color, or anything else to describe a Puritan at that time. The lives of the Puritans were discovered by the children’s journals, as well as, other documents that they wrote. This was the result of the necessity to read and write for the Puritan people.

In order to be able to compare the childhood of a Puritan child to a modern human being in today’s society, we first need to look at how the Puritans lived and how their way of life, although sometimes extreme, can relate back to us modern children. The Puritan children were taught at a very young age that family is important in a Puritan society. This includes listening to all of the “wisdom” the parents might bestow upon them, doing everything their parents say without any question or lack of enthusiasm, and rely solely on their parents for their religious and economic success. In the article, Childhood in Puritan New England, the author comments on the role of the parents by stating, “They were expected to teach their children basic tenets of the ‘first principles and grounds of government.’” This gave full authority of the children and the household to the father, who was normally a land owner and involved in religious politics. Although the father has the last decision and the power of what goes on in the house, it is the mother’s responsibility to stay at home with the children and ensure that the have a plentiful relationship with god. The children were sent away to live with another family at the age of fourteen so that they will gain the experience needed to become prosperous as adults. The female children might be sent to another home to be taught how to be proper and appealing housewives, while the males of the family might go out and participate in a job involving labor. This was conceived by me as a type of Puritan transition into adulthood. We modern day children have something similar to this which I will mention later in the paper. The process of leaving their parents and starting an apprenticeship at such an early age will lead many to believe that the children of the Puritan religion were pushed too hard towards adulthood.

Understanding the basic morals of the Puritan religion is one of the major aspects to observe, but what happens of a Puritan forgets these morals? Massachusetts Court Records reported, “If any child, or children, above sixteen years old, and of sufficient understanding, shall curse, or smite the natural father, or mother; he or they shall be put to death.” This suggests that Puritan children must always follow what their parents say or risk something more than a slap on the wrist. It was up to the parents to teach the children everything they know. This included, reading, writing, understanding the laws, their religion as a whole, as well as a handful of other “important” lessons. The parents themselves could receive punishment if their children fail to attain the knowledge that the Puritan religion expects them to have. The influence of the children as a result of the parent’s teachings would not seem to be a hard challenge because of the lack of privacy that most Puritan houses had. Most Puritan houses normally had two to four rooms, including a sleeping area and a cooking area, and in most cases would suggest that the children, as well as the parents, would all sleep in the same room every night. The close quarter living might also be the result of the need for heat during the winter months which was supplied by multiple fireplaces around the house.

Now although my childhood was nothing like the lives of the Puritans, I did notice some similarities between our two times. As I had mentioned before, at the age of fourteen, a Puritan child would be sent to another family for the purpose of learning a trade or skill. This method of education I feel has been modernized into what we call now days as college. We are separated by our parents for anywhere between two to seven years on average so that we can learn the skills needed in order to produce a sufficient living when we are older. The only major difference between our form of learning and the Puritans way is the age at which we begin this journey. Upon further reading of the article “Childhood in Puritan New England”, I found that the puritans have similar rituals that invite children into the religion and calls on the parents to guide them through their spiritual journey. The parents were expected to teach their children the basic tenents of the religion. My religious Christian journey began during my baptism where my god parents claimed responsibility to guide me along a spiritual path and show me the tenents of my religion. In other words, it is no longer the parent’s job to provide me spiritual guidance, but rather someone who my parents have appointed. Finally, I feel that the difference in privacy that I had as a child and the amount of privacy a Puritan child might have could affect our behaviors when we are older. As a child I had my own room and my own space to be able to develop my own forms of interests and influences. I feel that because of this, I had become more rebellious as a child. The Puritan children on the other hand, had very little privacy and very little opportunity to do anything that might be considered as corrupt during that time. The Puritan children were always with their parent because of this reason also and most likely influenced them to become more well behaved around their parents, as well as, follow in their footsteps.

The life of a Puritan child was no easy life. Their path to adulthood had begun much earlier than it would for any child during today’s times. Some might argue that the way that these children were brought up caused them to develop more discipline that they would have today. The difference between today, and the 1600’s, is that children now days wouldn’t be put to death for talking back to their parent about chores.

Typical Puritan children


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    • Adam Palm profile image

      Adam Palmer 2 years ago from New York

      Thank you! You learn something new every day I guess! It's crazy to think that some parents could have the emotional capacity to banish their children.

    • Molly Layton profile image

      Molly Layton 2 years ago from Alberta

      Wow! This is very interesting. I never knew much about the Puritans. Your article taught me so much. Some things really haven't changed.