Parenting: Giving Added Value to a Child’s Christmas

He who would make children happy must do for them and do with them, rather than merely give to them. He must give himself with his gifts, and thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave Himself to us, our needs, and who, with all that He gives us, holds out an expectation of some better thing in store for us: of that which passeth knowledge and understanding, but which shall fully satisfy our hopes and longings when at last we have it in possession.
-H Clay Trumbull

Rustic Christmas wreath on old weathered door with Christmas lights in a snow storm.
Rustic Christmas wreath on old weathered door with Christmas lights in a snow storm.

 

The story told in this chapter on Christmas was a story of anticipation. Children gathered round swelling stockings with suggestive outlines. Threads strung throughout the home for children to follow creating moments bursting with suspense as they race to see what mystery awaits them at their journey’s end. What cherished memories such experiences create.

This week I asked Jamie if she remembered what she was gifted last Christmas. She did better than I. I could hardly recall a thing. As we reflected on Christmases past the memories were not of things to hold in our hands but of things to hold in our hearts. I realized then that my focus had been just off. A bit or the whole way wrong, I am not yet sure I know. Nonetheless, too material for certain. The spirit of a gift given is undoubtedly a wonderful thing; focused on the other, a habit to exercise the wondrous joy of coming out of self. Still, something was missing or quite the opposite rather: something had been perverted along the way and was now in excess.

This Christmas we have set out to reverse the reality that the value placed on each gift amidst the abundance thereof is greatly diminished. To replace the abundance of things to hold in hand with an abundance of things to hold dear in our hearts as cherished memories. To replace the money leaving our account with self leaving our soul. We thought to ourselves what if we simply gave one gift? How could it not then be special? We are going to try to head this way, uncertain that the outcome will align with the longing for the cherished, but one thing is present already, anticipation is building.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you with the fruit of the Spirit, when we are less and He is more, shone through to all you enjoy His celebration with this year. May your Christmas abound in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and temperance. Amen.

 

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciate

Parenting: Good-night Words

Good night words to a child ought to be the best of words, as they are words of greatest potency. The last waking thoughts of a child have a peculiar power over his mind and heart, and are influential in fixing his impressions and in shaping his character for all time.
-H Clay Trumbull

Parenting Good night words

Before Eleanor arrived and since her arrival, in small talk, folks seem to gravitate to a common place. In jest, advice, and curiosity Eleanor’s sleep seems to be thee topic of interest. It became clear to Jamie and I that this was an important issue before Eleanor came to us and so we asked and sought out and knocked on the door of scripture, books and friends to learn.

Here are some of the larger takeaways from Mr. Trumbull’s chapter on laying a child down to rest:

  • This is an hour unlike others in a child’s day where they are particularly left to themselves and so a child craves sympathy and appreciates kindness and is grieved by harshness and cold neglect at this hour where they are most alone.
  • Children are particularly malleable just before they sleep and so it is at this hour that a parent’s word and presence are most potent.
  • A wise parent will prize this hour as the golden hour of good impressions on the child’s heart. There should be no severity then, no punishment. Every word should be one of gentleness and affection.
  • The last waking thoughts of a children’s are of particular importance in the shaping of the child’s character through all time.

Eleanor has nearly outgrown her bassinet and so we are preparing her for her crib. A bedtime blessing was prepared. In our studies on sleep we found there are some 139 verses on sleep in our Bible. Most all of them point to this idea of trusting in a God who is worthy of our trust. I believe Mr. Trumbull came to a similar conclusion through his studies and perhaps that is what lead him to include this story in his chapter on good night words:

A sensitive, timid little boy, long years ago, was accustomed to lie down to sleep in a low “trundle-bed,” which was rolled under his parents’ bed by day, and was brought out for his use by night. As he lay there by himself in the darkness, he could hear the voices of his parents, in their lighted sitting room, across the hallway, on the other side of the house. It seemed to him that his parents never slept; for he left them awake when he was put to bed at night, and he found them awake when he left his bed in the morning. So far this thought was a cause of cheer to him, as his mind was busy with imaginings in the weird darkness of his lonely room.

After loving good-night words and kisses had been given him by both his parents, and he had nestled down to rest, this little boy was accustomed, night after night, to rouse up once more, and to call out from his trundle-bed to his strong-armed father, in the room from which the light gleamed out, beyond the shadowy hallway, “Are you there, papa?” And the answer would come back cheerily, “Yes, my child, I am here.” “You’ll take care of me tonight, papa; won’t you?” was then his question. “Yes, I’ll take care of you, my child.” was the comforting response. “Go to sleep now. Good night.” And the little fellow would fall asleep restfully, in the thought of those assuring good-night words.

A little matter that was to the loving father; but it was a great matter to the sensitive son. It helped to shape the son’s life. It gave the father an added hold on him; and it opened up the way for his clearer understanding of his dependence on the loving watchfulness of the All-father. And to this day when the son, himself a father and grandfather, lies down to sleep at night, he is accustomed, out of the memories of that lesson of long ago, to look up through the shadows of his earthly sleeping place into the far-off light of his Father’s presence, and to callout, in the same spirit of childlike trust and helplessness as so long ago, “Father, you’ll take care of me tonight; won’t you?” And he hears the assuring answer back, “He that keepeth thee will not slumber. The LORD shall keep thee from all evil. He shall keep thy soul. Sleep, my child, in peace.” And so he realizes the two fold blessing of a father’s good-night words.

When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid:
Yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
– Proverbs 3:24

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep:
For thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
– Psalm 4:8

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills,
From whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD,
Which made heaven and earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:
He that keepeth thee will not slumber.
Behold, he that keepeth Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is thy keeper:
The LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil:
He shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth, and even for evermore.
-Psalms 121

Trusting in the LORD is a beautiful thing. From my studies, I have come to believe that so much of my sin has come from wanting things for myself. Adam and Eve in the garden; the apple, a way to say “If I have the knowledge I won’t need God. I will make my own way. I won’t need to depend on the LORD.” What a complicated mess. A simpler way to rely completely on the LORD. To trust completely in the LORD for He is completely trustworthy. May our children know that the LORD always watches over them, that He alone is enough for them, that they can trust in Him in all things and sleep sweetly and always go in peace.

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciate

Parenting: the Kitchen Table

In proportion as man rises in the intellectual scale, does he give prominence to mental and moral enjoyments in conjunction with his daily meals.
-H Clay Trumbull

ParentingTable Talk

The kitchen table is, in my estimation, of the very best of tools a parent has at their behest in raising their children. While I’ve been a parent for but a little over two months, I’ve been a child all my life. I have spent many an hour at the kitchen table. I have seen it used well and not. I have participated in and contributed to both. In my experience, not is when it is used merely as a place to rest food for eating. Not is when the family uses it non intentionally; people coming when they may and if they will, a non priority but more a means to an end. When used well it is a wondrous thing. A true delight. The family comes together in more than just physical proximity. They come together in spirit. They anticipate the experience. They linger and truly enjoy and profit from the gift of family.

Table talk ought to be such, in every family, as to make the hour of home mealtime one of the most attractive as well as one of the most beneficial hours of the day to all the children. But in order to make table-talk valuable, parents must have something to talk about at the table, must be willing to talk about it there, and must have the children lovingly in mind as they do their table talking.

I agree with Mr. Trumbull’s suggestion: the kitchen table should be much more though than just a place to enjoy family, it should be a place for family to grow. He notes that some of Jesus’s most profound truths in teaching are found in His words with those whom he sat with eating. He goes on to point out that the “table talk of great men has, for centuries, been recognized as having a freeness, a simplicity, and a forcefulness, not to be found in their words spoken elsewhere.” What if our kitchen tables were the intellectual and moral center of our homes?

Here are a few practical ideas from Mr. Trumbull and others on how we might make it so:

  • One father has been known to read over the morning paper before breakfast and bring to the attention news of particular interest to the application of family values during table talk.
  • Another father will set a topic for supper table talk in advance and challenge the children to learn all they can for the discussion.
  • One family keeps a dictionary within reach of the kitchen table so that table talk can continue on when a word needs learning.
  • Another family has been known to make a habit of asking God what He wants of each of them throughout the day and writing it down. Asking and sharing and discussing what was heard and how it went and what can be learned has lead to most profitable and enjoyable conversation.

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine By the sides of thine house: Thy children like olive plants Round about thy table. Psalms 128:3

What are some ideas to get us all headed in that direction? What challenges have you faced in this endeavor?

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Parenting: A Child’s Courtesy

Courtesy is the external manifestation of a right spirit towards others. Its basis is in an unselfish and fitting regard for the rights and feelings of those with whom one is brought into intercourse;
-H Clay Trumbull

Parenting a child in courtesy

Mr. Trumbull argues that courtesy is a sort of cardinal habit that we ought to take the opportunity to train our children in while they are still young. He suggests that a child who posses all other good qualities but lacks courtesy will struggle in life. Courtesy then can be thought to be quite the advantage. Pride has been labeled as the root of all sin. A focus on self over others can certainly lead astray and bring to a dark place of self absorption and loneliness in self. A great disadvantage. I am of the belief that God wants us to focus on others and on Him. Mr. Trumbull gives some practical advice for parents looking for ways to help their child to courtesy.

In training a child to courtesy, it is of little use to tell him to be forgetful of himself; but it is of value to tell him to be thoughtful of others. The more a person tries to forget himself, the surer he will be to think of himself. Often, indeed, it is the very effort of a person to forget himself, that makes that person painfully self-conscious, and causes him to seem bashful and embarrassed. But when a child thinks of others his thought go away from himself, and self-forgetfulness is a result, rather than a cause.

To tell a young person to enter a full room without any show of embarrassment, or thought of himself, is to put a barrier in the way of his being self-possessed through self-forgetfulness. but to send a young person into a full room with a life-and-death message to someone already there , is to cause him to forget himself through filling him with thought of another. And this distinction in methods of training is one to be borne in mind in all endeavors at training children to courtesy.

Another way described is to ensure that a child gains the habit of focusing on their playmates. The principal matter when they are with them is to discover what interests them and make what they say and do surround their discovery. What a useful and pleasant habit this would be. A good way to start to build this habit is to inquire from the little one what interests their friends until they can tell you. Then once they can tell you inquiring still on what was talked about and done to ensure the other was enjoying themselves.  

If a child has show any lack of courtesy, Mr. Trumbull urges parents to instruct their children to be frank and outspoken in expression of their regret for their actions and their desire to be forgiven, no matter how slight the discourtesy. He holds that true courtesy involves a readiness to apologize for any and every failure.

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Parenting: A Child’s Faith

As soon as a child is capable of learning that his voice can be heard by his loving mother or his loving father in another room, he is capable of learning that his voice can be heard by a loving Father whom he has never seen; who is always within hearing, but never within sight; who is the loving Father to his father and mother, as well as of himself and of everybody else; who is able to do all things, and who is sure to do all things well.
-H Clay Trumbull

parenting a childs faith

Mr. Trumbull suggests that the first lesson is that a child is to have faith in God. An important distinction is made that this is different from having faith something else, say in prayer. He believes that faith should rest wholly and absolutely on God and God alone. For example, let us say that a child is told to have faith in prayer and that God can do all things. Then let us say a child prays for a certain so-and-so and receives it, his faith in prayer is then increased. But let us say a child prays for a certain so-and-so and does not receive it, what is of his faith then? Is the child left to question God? Mr. Trumbull believes the child’s faith was misplaced. Instead he urges parents to consider that faith be placed in God alone.

If, however, on the other hand, you plainly tell a child that God knows what is best for us better than we know for ourselves, and that, while God is glad to have us come to Him with all our wishes and all our troubles, we must leave it to God to decide just what He will give to us and do for us, the child is ready to accept this statement as the truth; and then his faith in God is not disturbed in the slightest degree by finding that God has decided to do differently from his request to God in prayer.

Since taking Jamie as my wife and now with the arrival of Eleanor Jean, God has continued to show me more and more about Himself. Praise God that He seeks to let us know Him! Throughout the Bible God shows us Himself. We learn what He is like, to the best of our ability. In Ephesians chapter five we learn that the marriage relationship is like Christ’s relationship with the church. All throughout the Bible we are shown that God is our Father in heaven and so we learn that the relationship between God and us is like that of a parent to a child. What is so interesting about all this to me is that when we consider advice from Mr. Trumbull on faith and on prayer we are considering advice on how to relate to God. How to trust and how to communicate. So in my estimation, inherent in this advice is how our children should relate to us and our responsibilities to them.

And so we receive a lesson in how we are to trust our heavenly father and place our faith in him and not in ourselves actually, as would be if we thought something of the sort “why, that this-or-that I prayed for didn’t come to, and after all I do know what is best for me. Who else would?”  When thought about and considered a bit, I think, placing faith in prayer is like placing faith in our own estimation of what is right for us. And so in this same lesson Mr. Trumbull gives to us an understanding of how a child ought to follow his parents in spirit, knowing that, as the old saying goes, “father knows best”.

My son, keep thy father’s commandment, And forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, And tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; When thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; And when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; And reproofs of instruction are the way of life: -Proverbs 6:20-23

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Parenting: Training a Child to Question

Sooner or later the average child comes to feel that, the fewer questions he asks, the more of a man he will be; and so he represses his impulse to inquire into the nature and purpose and meaning of that which newly interests him; until, perhaps, he is no longer curious concerning that which he does not understand, or is hopeless of any satisfaction being given to him concerning the many problems which perplex his wondering mind.
-H Clay Trumbull

Training a child to question

There is a certain humility in asking questions, a certain state of childlike vulnerability. I have come to believe these traits help one in accumulating knowledge and power. It is a sad state when a body would rather live ignorantly in a vain attempt to maintain their credit. Mr. Trumbull believes all children are born questioners, that a parent only need train them in how to be a questioner so that the parent is not tempted to discourage their questions.  

So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, And apply thine heart to understanding; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, And liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, And searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, And find the knowledge of God. -Proverbs 2:2–5

Mr Trumbull believes that the “beginning of all knowledge is a question” and because of this the parent need resist the temptation to repress the child as a questioner. He admits that if a parent were to answer every question a child asks, that may be all they ever do. In times it seems as though the answering of ten questions leads to fifty more, and so the temptation to repress the little questioner. His hint on this matter is that questions, as every privilege, are to be under the control of reasonable limits. In this case two; the timing and direction of questions, rather than the extent of the questioning.

On timing: a child ought not to interrupt someone to ask a question and also it may not be appropriate for him to question his parents in the company of guests. So the there is a proper and improper time to ask a question.

On direction: a child ought not question his mother’s guest on how old she is or how she got that thing on her arm. Nor should a child question to no end or in other words ask silly questions. If these silly questions come about Mr. Trumbull suggests the child be reminded of their responsibility to seek knowledge and that questions be under control. That they should use the power of questions to gain knowledge and to respect others time.

He believes within these limits the privilege of questioning should be encouraged. A couple closing tips from Mr. Trumbull. If a child asks a question that the parent does not know the answer, it is far better to simply humbly say “I do not know” than to let your pride present a different answer. “Why is the sky blue? I do not know.” rather than “because that’s God’s favorite color.” or “It has to do with something beyond you.” Which leads to Mr. Trumbull’s next hint. If a child asks a complex question answer with a simple truth for often a bit of knowledge is all they are after and just what they need. “Why does the sun come through these windows in the morning and those in the evening? Why because God made the sun to rise in the east and set in the west my dear.”

 

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.

Parenting: Training A Child Not to Tease

‘To tease’ is ‘to pull,’ ‘to tug,’ ‘to drag,’ ‘to vex [or carry] with importunity.’ A child teases when he wants something from his parents, and fails to get it at the first asking. He pulls and tugs at his parents, in hope of dragging them to his way of thinking, or to consent to his having what he wants in spite of their different thinking.
-H. Clay Trumbull

temper tantrum

Mr. Trumbull opens this chapter with a strong opinion:

If a child never secured anything through teasing, he would not come into the habit of teasing; for there would be no inducement to him to tease.

Mr. Trumbull suggests this area of child training can be quite difficult to adhere to and in the same breath quite simple to administer. As to the administration he points to a simple rule that a one Mrs. Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, used to say of her children; “that they all learned very early that they were not to have anything that they cried for, and that so they soon learned not to cry for a thing they wanted.” A good logical rule. Easy to understand. Easy to see how it might result in desired outcomes. Adhering to this rule in my estimation is where we need to think a while. In my limited observations with children who tease, as Mr. Trumbull calls it, the teasing tends to let on as soon as a child is told no. So this is the moment that we will consider.

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, It is folly and shame unto him. – Proverbs 18:13

This word folly comes from the same Hebrew word that we derive foolish. This word folly comes from the same Hebrew word that we derive confusion from. Interesting. I wonder if answering a child without understanding the matter fully is foolish and will confuse them into thinking something not good? 

It appears at this moment of answering a child lies the whole of whether they may come to learn to tease. Let us take a simple example. A child comes to his father and asks for a quarter. For whatever reason the father says no. The child then teases and pulls and says “oh but father please will you, I need it so.” The father then gives his full attention to the matter and asks; “What will you do with the quarter, should I give it to you, that you need it so my dear?” Innocent enough is this exchange, no crying or tantrums or yelling or losing of tempers, and still at this moment the child learns the need for teasing as a way to get his father’s full attention in a matter. As if before the child’s concerns we lower or lessor in the eyes of the father. Let us continue. The child answers that his teacher has asked him to bring a quarter to school to buy an eraser. The father then replies, “But of course my child, here is a quarter.” Again no anger abounds nor frustration takes hold, a fairly insignificant interaction on the surface, both parties can go back to their interests. Still, at this moment I wonder does the child not start to believe that teasing is an important and even necessary skill in their progress in life. If so we see that it is not the parents failure to stick to their guns that trains a child to throw fits, but rather the parent’s foolishness to answer too quickly in the negative without understanding the matter so that when the understanding comes the affirmative is quite right. Interesting. So therein perhaps lies an opportunity to set up for proper training in tantrums. This idea that parents ought not say no until they have given due consideration and ‘heareth it.’  Mr Trumbull puts it this way:

In order to give promptly, to a child’s request, an answer that can rightly be insisted upon against all entreaties, a parent must do his thinking before he give that answer, rather than afterwards. Too often a parent denies a child’s request at the start without considering the case in all its bearings; and then, when the child presses his suit the parent sees reasons for granting it which had not been in his mind before. The child perceives this state of things, and realizes that the question is to be settled by his teasing, rather than by his parent’s independent judgment; and that, therefore, teasing is the only means of securing a correct decision in the premises.

Another tip Mr. Trumbull gives at the close of this chapter on training a child not to tease is that when the answer is given, in proper consideration, that it be given with such “kindly firmness” that the child will not think of pressing his suit by teasing. There is something in my estimation about the countenance of a parent who is unwavering that is comforting to a child.

 

-A takeaway from Hints on Child Training by H Clay Trumbull

As always good books, takeaways, stories, and/or lessons learned on the subject are most appreciated.