It is not that a child is to be denied what he wants, merely for the sake of the denial itself; but it is that a child ought not to have what he wants merely because he wants it.
-H Clay Trumbull
Mr. Trumbull suggests here that things in the 1890’s were getting out of control. That children were receiving too much in the way of indulgences. The quantity of presents was too many in these days, he held. Interesting. I can not help but imagine how many more presents a child receives in a year now than vs then.
Mr. Trumbull suggests this is quite harmful to a child who needs to learn self denial. A most important characteristic for a Christian. I agree. Self denial is at the core of self control, a topic that is elemental in this study of Mr. Trumbull’s book, Hints on Child Training. Mr. Trumbull goes on to suggest that, “It is every parent’s duty to deny a child many things which he wants; to teach him that he must get along without a great many things which seem very desirable; to train him to self-denial and endurance, at the table, in the playroom, with companions, and away from them; and the doing of this duty by the parent brings a sure advantage to the child.”
Without self denial, or from the parents perspective plain denial, a child, Mr. Trumbull explains is at a great disadvantage of happiness, “The average child of the present generation receives more presents and more indulgences from his parents in any one year of his life than the average child of a generation ago received in all the years of his childhood. Because of this new standard, the child of today expects new things, as a matter of course; he asks for them, in the belief that he will receive them. In consequence of their abundance, he sets a smaller value upon them severally. It is not possible that he should think as highly of any one new thing, out of a hundred coming to him in rapid succession, as he would of the only gift of an entire year.”
And so we come to the takeaway: a practical, here is a way to do it, piece of advice for parents who desire a child to understand self control. Denial. Here’s a practical way to impart self denial to a child. Say the child request a candy. “Papa, may I please have a marshmellow.” The father could reply, “Of course my dear, you may have one marshmellow now or you may wait five minutes and than enjoy two marshmellows, the choice is yours my child.” Delaying gratification is a simple way such as this is an exercise in denial. A child’s ability to deny them self is directly linked to their ability to inherit anything. Here are a few practical examples in this world: saving for an emergency, budgeting, planning ahead, etc. Now when it comes to the most important thing, that is following Christ, one must consider the critical nature of this ability to deny one’s self.
Self denial is Christian. We are often referred to as Christ followers and as Jesus puts it self denial is the very first step.
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away? -Luke 9:23-24
Often I hear this referred to as a sort of burden “this is my cross to bear” and so forth. Though I have come to believe it quite the opposite. In the days of Jesus, it is my estimation, if you saw someone walking around with “their cross” it meant one thing. They were on their way to die. Their life was coming to an end. This mindset accompanied with Jesus’ command to deny yourself I think is an important one to consider. So much of what keeps us from following Christ is being wrapped up in our self; “but I like my sin” and so forth.
James 1:18-20 shows us clearly that selfishness is the beginning of sin. But in this case, someone who had taken up his cross, their mind I imagine would be so far from the worries of this world, which so often are wrapped up in self. Worrying about the distant future or the distant past is often a case of being consumed with self. So in turn this idea of denying self is quite freeing and peaceful.
One of great mysteries of life if this concept of letting go something you care so much about. Our nature screams ‘hold on tight’ that money, that preference, etc. but God says let go my first fruits and your vats will overflow. Much the same I believe is this concept of freeing yourself from being consumed with self. Letting go of self, not a burden but a measure of true freedom and peace on earth.
This is essential to being a Christian, that is you can’t follow Christ without letting go of this world. Of course, it is a cornerstone habit we need to impart to our children.
-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.