The Puritans were a Protestant sect most active in the 16th and 17th centuries in England and in countries such as Ireland and areas of what is now the United States, such as Massachusetts. The Puritans have become well-known for their strict adherence to Old Testament teachings and for their subsequent conservative outlook on life. This viewpoint affected how they raised and taught their children.
The two genders were separated according to where they were expected to apply themselves during the day. Young boys were expected to take to outdoor tasks, such as hunting, while they also learned craft skills, including carpentry. Girls were kept to the confines of the house and assisted their mothers in chores and other household tasks such as cooking meals.
Puritan children were taught not to publicly express emotion. This included fear or anger, as well as excessive joy.
As the Genealogy Today website suggests, Puritans believed that the will of children was something that first had to be broken down. In particular, children were thought to be born with a certain amount of unacceptable pride, being naturally stubborn, as the Digital History website suggests. Both this will and stubbornness was worked on by each child's parents; disobedience in children was frowned upon. Parents supervised their child in many tasks, and the child was often mentally and, if necessary, physically disciplined.
If Puritan children were particularly willful, their parents had the option of sending them out. Children were sometimes sent to stay with other families in the same neighborhood. These adults taught them lessons and were free to discipline the children in an appropriate manner. The practice of sending out was also used to teach children craft and trade skills in a manner similar to an apprenticeship.
Toys and games were not typical and were in short supply in Puritan settlements. Children had to get their parents' permission to go out and play, since games were seen as distractions by Puritans.
All Puritans attended church, so children were not able to miss a single church service. Since church attendance was seen as such an important facet of Puritan life, some churches were even patrolled by men with sticks, which had knobs at one end for punishing children who fell asleep or were otherwise distracted during the service.
- new england church image by Salvatore Coppola from Fotolia.com