One of the highly amusing aspects of the first three chapters of this novel is the way that Huck is presented as a first person narrator whose view, because of his age and experience in life, is very partial. This is why he interprets everything from his viewpoint and understanding, which leads to some hilarious mistakes regarding prayer and also his identification of the hypocrisy of adults, shown when he spots Miss Watson taking snuff but he is not allowed to smoke. The main approach to childrearing at this moment in history seems to be captured by the following quote:
The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize me; but it was rough living in the house all the time, considering how dismal regular and decent the widow was in all her ways...
The attempts of Widow Douglas to "sivilize" Huck are built around dressing him in new clothes, which Huck finds uncomfortable and constraining, and trying to bring him up to be a good Christian boy, which again Huck does not respond well to. The views of the time concerning childrearing seem to be aimed at producing adults as quickly as possible, whereas contemporary views today are much more directed towards allowing children to be children and to have fun, play and use their imagination.