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

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