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: 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.

Empty to Filled: Simplicity

“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”

-C.S. Lewis

barbed wire fence, Kansas pasture

There was a point in my life where after a long day, I regret to say, I sometimes felt emptied to a point of toxicity. I felt I had nothing left to give. This is not true of course. I was being deceived. Mistaken indeed. Other times I have equally demanding days, yet I am filled.  Ready to serve. The difference seems to be one of attitude and perspective. Resentment seems to breed toxicity and emptiness. Thinking something was not fair. Someone did not do their part. Focusing on self.

The better way, I have come to believe, is to focus on gaining perspective.  True wisdom, I believe, is seeing things as God sees things.  We tend to get glimpses from time to time.  Understanding, I believe, is obeying God’s commands. Thinking of the long-term effects instead of the short-term.  The eternal perspective providing all understanding.

Reflection seems to be a tool for gaining perspective. Anyone can look back on yesterday and say ‘I was foolish’ but who can look in to the next minute and say ‘that would be foolish.’?  To say. To do. To think. Who can be so aware to notice feelings setting in?  Subtle attitudes taking hold?  Who can notice and change their course?  Reflection and pause and sensitivity are habits that make us wise.  Discipline and humility, I believe, aid in understanding.


-A takeaway from Simplify by Bill Hybels

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