Parenting: Will Training, Rather than Will Breaking

We should guard sacredly [our children’s] privilege of personal choice; … The final responsibility of a choice and of its consequences rests with the child, and not with the parent.
-H Clay Trumbull

parenting training

Mr. Trumbull suggests that it is a parent’s responsibility to train a child to be and do what they should be and do, rather than what they want to be and do. He goes on to say that each child may have a special lack that need be stimulated and that each child may have a trait in excess that need be restrained; and that to know the child’s needs and train them accordingly is the duty of the parent.

Mr. Trumbull’s concept of will training is one I find most prudent. This idea that the will of the child is to be trained and by no means broken. I have come to believe God has given us all free will and that no one would do well to take this away from another; even a parent a child; perhaps especially a parent a child.

Many people have issue with the ills of this world. Why do bad things happen to good? and so on. In my estimation God understands His creation, He understands what is needed, and He understands the ills of this world worth the price for a true love. While I may not, He does. God says to us “My will or yours?” The choice is ours. God does not force us to obey him. We obey Him because we love Him; because He first loved us. As the Creator, His creation is set up to His will or laws or word or what have you and I have come to believe these do well with His creation. If a self goes another way it does not do well for the fact that the creation was not created that way. It is a matter of alignment, if one is out of line it grinds the gears so to speak and thus the ills (Deuteronomy 30:15, really all of chapter 30 is better to reference). As parents we have come alongside God in creation. Through His blessing we create and have dominion over creation (Genesis 1:26-28). Put another way we have children and make the rules, “while you’re in my house…” and so forth. Perhaps we as parents might look to our Father in heaven in this matter of force of will.

I agree with Trumbull that we ought to guard sacredly our children’s matter of choice, their free will, given by God and not ours or anyones to take. That no matter our preference or our estimation of aright, in the end the choice need be theirs; and that the final responsibility of the choice and its consequences ‘rests with the child, not with the parent.’ And still the parent must use every good measure to train their child to do what they should. What then are we to do when the child’s will is not in order? When their will does not align.

Are not most standoffs a matter of control? A parent wants their will done, the door shut let us say. So a quick command is given, “Shut the door.” The child feeling that their will is threatened, wants to stay in control of themselves and is inclined to say no. This is not about the door. At this point there is a standoff of wills. The fathers to the child’s and thus an issue is created, the showdown, the battle of the wills. Another way is to take care not to give a command. Rather, “I should like the door shut, would you please shut the door?”. The choice is theirs, their will is not threatened and your will is still clearly stated. Still the child may say no for they have that choice in the matter. What then?

As God gives us free will, the choice in every matter, so I believe we ought to give our children that same. Your will or mine, your choice. As the creation is set up with consequences so also I believe ought the choices of a child have their due consequences. In life when someone makes a poor choice there are consequences. Often those consequences do not set on right away and one can venture so off the right course before they realize the matter that they find themselves with a long hard journey back to right. Choose not to brush your teeth before bed today and tomorrow there is not much the matter. The next day, the same, not much doing. The next week, no problem. They next year, and now there may be a serious problem that could stay with all the way on. A parent’s responsibility is to expedite the consequence of poor choices, so the path back to right is as brief can be. In the matter of the child who chose not to obey his father, the father may say to himself “what would come of a person who chose not to obey those in authority over time?” He may come to the conclusion, “Why they may end up incarcerated if this habit of choice perpetuates to adulthood.” The father may then chose to help the child understand this consequence in expedited fashion by way of a time out. He then presents the child with a reasonably good or a reasonably undesirable outcome and lets the child choose. “I must let you have the choice of this matter. You can either shut the door or take a timeout, the choice is yours, what will it be?”


-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.