Parenting: Giving Added Value to a Child’s Christmas

He who would make children happy must do for them and do with them, rather than merely give to them. He must give himself with his gifts, and thus imitate and illustrate, in a degree, the love of Him who gave Himself to us, our needs, and who, with all that He gives us, holds out an expectation of some better thing in store for us: of that which passeth knowledge and understanding, but which shall fully satisfy our hopes and longings when at last we have it in possession.
-H Clay Trumbull

The story told in this chapter on Christmas was a story of anticipation. Children gathered round swelling stockings with suggestive outlines. Threads strung throughout the home for children to follow creating moments bursting with suspense as they race to see what mystery awaits them at their journey’s end. What cherished memories such experiences create.

This week I asked Jamie if she remembered what she was gifted last Christmas. She did better than I as I could hardly recall a thing. As we reflected on Christmases past, the memories were not of things to hold in our hands but of things to hold in our hearts. I realized then that my focus had been just off. Too material. The spirit of a gift given is undoubtedly a wonderful thing; focused on the other, a habit to exercise the wondrous joy of coming out of self. Still, something was missing or quite the opposite rather: something had been perverted along the way and was now in excess.

This Christmas we have set out to reverse the reality that the value placed on each gift amidst the abundance thereof is greatly diminished. To replace the abundance of things to hold in hand with an abundance of things to hold dear in our hearts as cherished memories. To replace the money leaving our account with self leaving our soul. We thought to ourselves what if we simply gave one gift? How could it not then be special? We are going to try to head this way, uncertain that the outcome will align with the longing for the cherished, but one thing is present already, anticipation is building.

Merry Christmas and may God bless you with the fruit of the Spirit, when we are less and He is more, shone through to all you enjoy His celebration with this year. May your Christmas abound in love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, meekness and temperance. Amen.


-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

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 as much as we could.

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, 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 words 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 the 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

Parenting: the Kitchen Table

In proportion as man rises in the intellectual scale, does he give prominence to mental and moral enjoyments in conjunction with his daily meals.
-H Clay Trumbull

ParentingTable Talk

The kitchen table is, in my estimation, of the very best of tools a parent has at their behest in raising their children. While I’ve been a parent for but a little over two months, I’ve been a child all my life.  In my experience,  intentionally is required; people coming when they may and if they will, a non priority but more a means to an end, is not using it well. When used well, it is a wondrous thing. A true delight. The family comes together in more than just physical proximity. They come together in spirit. They anticipate the experience. They linger and truly enjoy and profit from the gift of family communion. 

Table talk ought to be such, in every family, as to make the hour of home mealtime one of the most attractive as well as one of the most beneficial hours of the day to all the children. But in order to make table-talk valuable, parents must have something to talk about at the table, must be willing to talk about it there, and must have the children lovingly in mind as they do their table talking.

I agree with Mr. Trumbull’s suggestion: the kitchen table should be much more though than just a place to enjoy family, it should be a place for family to grow. He notes that some of Jesus’s most profound truths were departed  when sat down to eat. He goes on to point out that the “table talk of great men has, for centuries, been recognized as having a freeness, a simplicity, and a forcefulness, not to be found in their words spoken elsewhere.” What if our kitchen tables were the intellectual and moral center of our homes?

Here are a few practical ideas from Mr. Trumbull and others on how we might make it so:

  • One father has been known to read over the morning paper before breakfast and bring to the attention news of particular interest to the application of family values during table talk.
  • Another father will set a topic for supper table talk in advance and challenge the children to learn all they can for the discussion.
  • One family keeps a dictionary within reach of the kitchen table so that table talk can continue on when a word needs learning.
  • Another family has been known to make a habit of asking God what He wants of each of them throughout the day and writing it down. Asking and sharing and discussing what was heard, how it went and what can be learned has led to most profitable and enjoyable conversation.
  • Another family takes time to read and memorize Scripture in a fun and engaging way.
  • Another family reserves good news, announcements and the like for table time.

Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine By the sides of thine house: Thy children like olive plants Round about thy table. – Psalms 128:3


-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: A Child’s Faith

As soon as a child is capable of learning that his voice can be heard by his loving mother or his loving father in another room, he is capable of learning that his voice can be heard by a loving Father whom he has never seen; who is always within hearing, but never within sight; who is the loving Father to his father and mother, as well as of himself and of everybody else; who is able to do all things, and who is sure to do all things well.
-H Clay Trumbull

parenting a childs faith

Mr. Trumbull suggests that the first lesson in this matter of training a child’s faith is that a child is to have faith in God. An important distinction is made that this is different from having faith something else, say in prayer. He believes that faith should rest wholly and absolutely on God and God alone.

For example, let us say that a child is told to have faith in prayer and that God can do all things. Then let us say a child prays for a certain so-and-so and receives it, his faith in prayer is then increased. But let us say a child prays for a certain so-and-so and does not receive it, what is of his faith then? Is the child left to question God? Mr. Trumbull believes the child’s faith was misplaced. Instead he urges parents to consider that faith be placed in God alone.

Mr. Trumbull says, “If, however, on the other hand, you plainly tell a child that God knows what is best for us better than we know for ourselves, and that, while God is glad to have us come to Him with all our wishes and all our troubles, we must leave it to God to decide just what He will give to us and do for us, the child is ready to accept this statement as the truth; and then his faith in God is not disturbed in the slightest degree by finding that God has decided to do differently from his request to God in prayer.”

-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 false reputation as all knowing.

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 therein lies 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 there is a proper and improper time to ask a question that the child needs to be trained in.

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 in the process.  Referring to others as stores of knowledge that are there to help them but that may also be closed up to them at times or if the stores feel misused.

He believes within these limits the privilege of questioning should be encouraged. A couple closing hints from Mr. Trumbull. If a child asks a question that the parent does not know the answer to, 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?”, asks the child. “I do not know.” answers the parent, 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?” the child asks. The parent may respond, “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.

Parenting: Training A Child Not to Tease

‘To tease’ is ‘to pull,’ ‘to tug,’ ‘to drag,’ ‘to vex [or carry] with importunity.’ A child teases when he wants something from his parents, and fails to get it at the first asking. He pulls and tugs at his parents, in hope of dragging them to his way of thinking, or to consent to his having what he wants in spite of their different thinking.
-H. Clay Trumbull

temper tantrum

Mr. Trumbull opens this chapter with a strong opinion:

If a child never secured anything through teasing, he would not come into the habit of teasing; for there would be no inducement to him to tease.

Mr. Trumbull suggests this area of child training can be quite difficult to adhere to and in the same breath quite simple to administer. As to the administration he points to a simple rule that a one Mrs. Susannah Wesley, the mother of John and Charles Wesley, used to say of her children; “that they all learned very early that they were not to have anything that they cried for, and that so they soon learned not to cry for a thing they wanted.”

A good logical rule. Easy to understand. Easy to see how it might result in desired outcomes. Adhering to this rule in my estimation is where we need to think a while. In my limited observations with children who tease, as Mr. Trumbull calls it, the teasing tends to let on as soon as a child is told no. While this isn’t always the case, (some children will tease right from the outset), this is the moment that we will consider.

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, It is folly and shame unto him. – Proverbs 18:13

This word folly comes from the same Hebrew word that we derive foolish. and confusion from. I wonder if answering a child without understanding the matter fully is foolish and will confuse them into thinking something something is aright that is actually quite off? As inadvertently teaching them, “I tease to get what I want.” 

It appears as if at this moment of answering a child lies the whole of whether they may come to learn to tease. Let us take in a simple example.

A child comes to his father and asks for a quarter. For whatever reason the father says no. The child then teases and pulls and says “oh but father please will you, I need it so.” The father then gives his full attention to the matter and asks; “What will you do with the quarter, should I give it to you?” Innocent enough is this exchange, no crying or tantrums or yelling or losing of tempers, and still at this moment the child learns the need for teasing as a way to get his father’s full attention in a matter. Let us continue. The child answers that his teacher has asked him to bring a quarter to school to buy an eraser. The father then replies, “But of course my child, here is a quarter.” Again no anger abounds nor frustration takes hold, a fairly insignificant interaction on the surface. Still, at this moment I wonder does the child not start to believe that teasing is an important and even necessary skill in their progress in life. If so we see that it is not the parents failure to stick to their guns that trains a child to throw fits, but rather the parent’s foolishness to answer too quickly in the negative without understanding the matter.  When the understanding comes the affirmative is found to be apropos.

So therein perhaps lies an opportunity to set up for proper training in tantrums. This idea that parents ought not to give their decision until they have given due consideration and ‘heareth it.’  Mr Trumbull puts it this way, “In order to give promptly, to a child’s request, an answer that can rightly be insisted upon against all entreaties, a parent must do his thinking before he give that answer, rather than afterwards. Too often a parent denies a child’s request at the start without considering the case in all its bearings; and then, when the child presses his suit the parent sees reasons for granting it which had not been in his mind before. The child perceives this state of things, and realizes that the question is to be settled by his teasing, rather than by his parent’s independent judgment; and that, therefore, teasing is the only means of securing a correct decision in the premises.”

Another tip Mr. Trumbull gives at the close of this chapter on training a child not to tease is that when the answer is given, in proper consideration, that it be given with such “kindly firmness” that the child will not think of pressing his suit by teasing. There is something in my estimation about the countenance of a parent who is unwavering that is comforting to a child.

One last piece of piratical habit to consider is this.  When a parent receives a request that requires decision consider one of the following approaches.  Both I think will lend themselves to the reality of the situation.

  1. Do not render a decision until at least two or three questions have been asked and answered.  Perhaps having a set of go-to questions would aid the parent who may need some time to come out of what they were doing and come in to their proper consideration of the matter.  After all it is not about the quarter, or the treat or whatever the requests topic may be, this is indeed about the appropriate rearing of the child for their own goodly nature.  Here is a generic question:  “Why that is an interesting question my dear, why do you ask that?” more simply put, why?
  2. Delay the decision. Should the parent recognize that they are too deeply involved at the moment to give the child’s request due consideration or should the parent recognize that the request in and of itself requires council, simply delay the decision rather than giving an hasty reply.  “That is an important question my dear child, your father will require some time to consider such an important question. We will talk more about this latter.”

-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: 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 is ‘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 (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 others 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. So then we arrive at this place where we are told that reputation is on God’s law for relating to Him and others. So how are we as parents to deal with our child’s reputation? their spirit? 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.

Here is how Mr. Trumble put it, “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’. Out of the mouth of babes as it were. To this belief Mr. Trumbull references the following scripture to which I will draw this post to a close.

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 18:3-6

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. – Matthew 18:10


-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.