Parenting: Honoring our Child’s Individuality

A child’s rights as an individual are as positive and as sacred as a man’s; and it is never proper to ignore these rights in a child, anymore than it would be in a man.
-H. Clay Trumbull
Honoring a childs individuality
Children are people. Of course everyone knows this. And while they have not the same demands on their life as an older person may they have the same God given rights. God gave us what we have come to call the 10 commandments as a blueprint for relating to others. Hidden in these 10 commandments are 5 truths, each with an example of how that truth relates to those above us (the first tablet) and those our peers (the second tablet). After all where is the command in I AM the LORD your God? It is a truth. For brevity I will list these five truths here in order of their occurrence on the two tablets. A more full look at them can be found in this post, The Ten Commandments for Relating to Others.

  1. Others exist and have a right to,
  2. certain relationships are sacred,
  3. others have a right to their property,
  4. reputations are a form of property, and
  5. our rights have limits.

These five truths, in my estimation, like all truths work with creation, that is they do well with God’s design. They do not ‘grind the gears’ as it were. Like all creation the truth of the matter was gifted by God, that is, looking at it from the second tablet perspective; God gave life, marriage, possessions, reputation and our lot in life. And. No one can take these things away without working against God’s design. Grinding the gears. So what does all this have to do with child rearing? A lot I believe. We talked about how God gave free will and how important that is to consider when training a child. That is to guard sacredly that the choice of a matter remain with the child. Here in this, his next chapter, Mr. Trumbull encourages parents to consider that children are all individuals and that their individualism should be recognized and honored.

In the creation account we see something mysterious on the sixth day when God creates mankind. In the first five days God creates many things. We read these creation events and see a one to one ratio, Genesis 1:1 reads

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

God goes on creating with this pattern. God created and it was. God said and it was. And then we get to man and everything changes, Genesis 1:27 reads:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

Interesting. Here we find a 3:1 ratio. Unlike anything else in the creation account. God created, created, created and it was. God said let us create them in our image. God, the three person God, creates man in His image; 3:1. Perhaps this is soul, spirit, and body. Perhaps more likely I do not have the words to express these three parts. But certainly there is something here. A great mystery.  Put another way, we are a spirit with a body not a body with a spirit. Certainly not just a body. There is something core to all us that is much more than a body. I like how the song I’m building me a home put it;

I’m building me a home. This earthly heart, oh is goin to soon decay, and the soul has got a have someplace to stay. When you hear me prayin, I’m buildin me a home. 

 

This idea of our core is what Mr. Trumbull suggests we as parents need understand. I believe Mr. Trumbull is recognizing that these 3 parts exist and urging parents to recognize that they exist no matter age. Here I come back to the five principles. The fourth: reputation is a form of property. On the first tablet we are called to remember the sabbath to keep it holy. Notice it does not say remember the sabbath and keep it holy. The act of remembering or observing the sabbath is what does keep it holy. When Christ teaches us how to pray we start with our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. This is a declaration of God’s reputation followed by a blessing that His reputation, His name, be maintained as it should unto the future. When Christian’s observe the sabbath they are upholding God’s reputation as the Creator.  Pointing to God by the way they live and saying with their actions, “Today is different than the other days because He is the Creator.” On the second tablet we see this truth more plainly. Thou shalt not bear false witness. We are not to slander our fellow’s reputation by lying about them. Furthermore, I have come to believe that this principle calls us to defend our fellow’s reputation. “No he did not do it, I know it so, he was with me at that time.” So then we arrive at this place where we are told that reputation is on God’s top 5 list. So how are we as parents to deal with our child’s reputation? their sprit? their soul?

Mr. Trumbull refers to it as honoring our child’s individuality. He argues that small children are often dismissed in this respect, almost dealt with as lesser people and that we would be wise to treat them in such a manner that these truths exist. These God given truths such as free will and reputation exist in people at their core no matter age.

…so many children are deprived of their right as individuals, by inconsiderate parents or others. When seats are lacking for new comers in a room or a street car, and two or three children are seated together by themselves in absorbing chat, the temptation is to speak quickly to the little one, telling them to vacate those seats for their elders, in a tone that seems to indicate that a child has no right in comparison with a grown person; instead of showing by the very manner of address that the children’s attention is called to their privilege of showing courtesy to their elders. in the one case, every child of that party feels aggrieved through being made to feel that his rights are not recognized as rights. In the other case, he is gratified by the implied confidence in his gentlemanliness, and in his readiness to yield his right gracefully. A child’s rights as an individual are as positive and as sacred as a man’s; and it is never proper to ignore these rights in a child, anymore than it would be in a man.

Children are not to be thought of as lesser men. Questions of a conversation brushed aside as to say; this is a topic for real people, which you yet are not. Concerns to be brushed aside as to say; your concerns are so very small in comparison to real people. Instead he believes a child’s perspective on a matter a sacred thing that if heeded would be to quite the benefit to the ‘real people’. To this belief Mr. Trumbull references the following scripture to which I will draw this post to a close.

Matthew 18:3-6:

And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:10:

Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.

 

-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.

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