H. Clay (Henry Clay) Trumbull.

Hints on child-training online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


HINTS ON CHILD-TRAINING ***













HINTS ON CHILD-TRAINING


BY

H. CLAY TRUMBULL

EDITOR OF THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL TIMES; AUTHOR OF TEACHING AND TEACHERS,
YALE LECTURES ON THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL, ETC.

PHILADELPHIA

JOHN D. WATTLES, PUBLISHER

1891

COPYRIGHT, 1890
BY
H. CLAY TRUMBULL




PREFACE.


Hints on Child-Training may be helpful, where a formal treatise on the
subject would prove bewildering. It is easier to see how one phase or
another of children’s needs is to be met, than it is to define the
relation of that phase of the case to all other phases, or to a system
that includes them all. Therefore it is that this series of Hints is
ventured by me for the benefit of young parents, although I would not
dare attempt a systematic treatise on the entire subject here touched
upon.

Thirty years ago, when I was yet a young father, a friend, who
knew that I had for years been interested in the study of methods
of education, said to me, “Trumbull, what is your theory of
child-training?” “Theory?” I responded. “I have no theory in that
matter. I had lots of theories before I had any children; but now I
do, with fear and trembling, in every case just that which seems to
be the better thing for the hour, whether it agrees with any of my old
theories or not.”

Whatever theory of child-training may show itself in these Hints, has
been arrived at by induction in the process of my experiences with
children since I had to deal with the matter practically, apart from
any preconceived view of the principles involved. Every suggestion in
these Hints is an outcome of experiment and observation in my life as a
father and a grandfather, while it has been carefully considered in the
light of the best lessons of practical educators on every side.

These Hints were begun for the purpose of giving help to a friend. They
were continued because of the evident popular interest in them. They
are sent out in this completed form in the hope that they will prove of
service to parents who are feeling the need of something more practical
in the realm of child-training than untested theories.

H. CLAY TRUMBULL.

PHILADELPHIA, _September 15, 1890_.




CONTENTS.


I. PAGE

CHILD-TRAINING: WHAT IS IT? 11


II.

THE DUTY OF TRAINING CHILDREN 17


III.

SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF CHILD-TRAINING 23


IV.

DISCERNING A CHILD’S SPECIAL NEED OF TRAINING 29


V.

WILL-TRAINING, RATHER THAN WILL-BREAKING 37


VI.

THE PLACE OF “MUST” IN TRAINING 53


VII.

DENYING A CHILD WISELY 61


VIII.

HONORING A CHILD’S INDIVIDUALITY 71


IX.

LETTING ALONE AS A MEANS OF CHILD-TRAINING 83


X.

TRAINING A CHILD TO SELF-CONTROL 93


XI.

TRAINING A CHILD NOT TO TEASE 101


XII.

TRAINING A CHILD’S APPETITE 109


XIII.

TRAINING A CHILD AS A QUESTIONER 119


XIV.

TRAINING A CHILD’S FAITH 129


XV.

TRAINING CHILDREN TO SABBATH OBSERVANCE 139


XVI.

TRAINING A CHILD IN AMUSEMENTS 155


XVII.

TRAINING A CHILD TO COURTESY 165


XVIII.

CULTIVATING A CHILD’S TASTE IN READING 175


XIX.

THE VALUE OF TABLE-TALK 187


XX.

GUIDING A CHILD IN COMPANIONSHIPS 197


XXI.

NEVER PUNISH A CHILD IN ANGER 205


XXII.

SCOLDING IS NEVER IN ORDER 217


XXIII.

DEALING TENDERLY WITH A CHILD’S FEARS 223


XXIV.

THE SORROWS OF CHILDREN 239


XXV.

THE PLACE OF SYMPATHY IN CHILD-TRAINING 247


XXVI.

INFLUENCE OF THE HOME ATMOSPHERE 257


XXVII.

THE POWER OF A MOTHER’S LOVE 263


XXVIII.

ALLOWING PLAY TO A CHILD’S IMAGINATION 277


XXIX.

GIVING ADDED VALUE TO A CHILD’S CHRISTMAS 283


XXX.

GOOD-NIGHT WORDS 291


INDEX 301




I.

_CHILD-TRAINING: WHAT IS IT?_


The term “training,” like the term “teaching,” is used in various
senses; hence it is liable to be differently understood by different
persons, when applied to a single department of a parent’s duties in
the bringing up of his children. Indeed, the terms “training” and
“teaching” are often used interchangeably, as covering the entire
process of a child’s education. In this sense a child’s training
is understood to include his teaching; and, again, his teaching is
understood to include his training. But in its more restricted sense
the training of a child is the shaping, the developing, and the
controlling of his personal faculties and powers; while the teaching of
a child is the securing to him of knowledge from beyond himself.

It has been said that the essence of teaching is causing another
to _know_. It may similarly be said that the essence of training is
causing another to _do_. Teaching gives knowledge. Training gives
skill. Teaching fills the mind. Training shapes the habits. Teaching
brings to the child that which he did not have before. Training enables
a child to make use of that which is already his possession. We teach a
child the meaning of words. We train a child in speaking and walking.
We teach him the truths which we have learned for ourselves. We train
him in habits of study, that he may be able to learn other truths
for himself. Training and teaching must go on together in the wise
upbringing of any and every child. The one will fail of its own best
end if it be not accompanied by the other. He who knows how to teach a
child, is not competent for the oversight of a child’s education unless
he also knows how to train a child.

Training is a possibility long before teaching is. Before a child is
old enough to know what is said to it, it is capable of feeling, and
of conforming to, or of resisting, the pressure of efforts for its
training. A child can be trained to go to sleep in the arms of its
mother or nurse, or in a cradle, or on a bed; with rocking, or without
it; in a light room, or in a dark one; in a noisy room, or only in a
quiet one; to expect nourishment and to accept it only at fixed hours,
or at its own fancy,—while as yet it cannot understand any teaching
concerning the importance or the fitness of one of these things. A very
young child can be trained to cry for what it wants, or to keep quiet,
as a means of securing it. And, as a matter of fact, the training of
children is begun much earlier than their teaching. Many a child is
well started in its life-training by the time it is six weeks old; even
though its elementary teaching is not attempted until months after that.

There is a lesson just at this point in the signification of the Hebrew
word translated “train” in our English Bible. It is a noteworthy fact,
that this word occurs only twice in the Old Testament, and it has no
equivalent in the New. Those who were brought up in the household of
Abraham, “the father of the faithful,” are said to have been “trained”
(Gen. 14: 14). A proverb of the ages gives emphasis to a parent’s duty
to “train up” his child with wise considerateness (Prov. 22: 6). And
nowhere else in the inspired record does the original of this word
“train,” in any of its forms, appear.

The Hebrew word thus translated is a peculiar one. Its etymology shows
that its primary meaning is “to rub the gullet;” and its origin seems
to have been in the habit, still prevalent among primitive peoples,
of opening the throat of a new-born babe by the anointing of it with
blood, or with saliva, or with some sacred liquid, as a means of giving
the child a start in life by the help of another’s life. The idea of
the Hebrew word thus used seems to be that, as this opening of the
gullet of a child at its very birth is essential to the habituating of
the child to breathe and to swallow correctly, so the right training of
a child in all proper habits of life is to begin at the child’s very
birth. And the use of the word in the places where we find it, would
go to show that Abraham with all his faith, and Solomon with all his
wisdom, did not feel that it would be safe to put off the start with a
child’s training any later than this.

Child-training properly begins at a child’s birth, but it does not
properly end there. The first effort in the direction of child-training
is to train a child to breathe and to swallow; but that ought not to
be the last effort in the same direction. Child-training goes on as
long as a child is a child; and child-training covers every phase of a
child’s action and bearing in life. Child-training affects a child’s
sleeping and waking, his laughing and crying, his eating and drinking,
his looks and his movements, his self-control and his conduct toward
others. Child-training does not change a child’s nature, but it does
change his modes of giving expression to his nature. Child-training
does not give a child entirely new characteristics, but it brings him
to the repression and subdual of certain characteristics, and to the
expression and development of certain others, to such an extent that
the sum of his characteristics presents an aspect so different from
its original exhibit that it seems like another character. And so it
is that child-training is, in a sense, like the very making of a child
anew.

Child-training includes the directing and controlling and shaping of
a child’s feelings and thoughts and words and ways in every sphere of
his life-course, from his birth to the close of his childhood. And that
this is no unimportant part of a child’s upbringing, no intelligent
mind will venture to question.




II.

_THE DUTY OF TRAINING CHILDREN._


It is the mistake of many parents to suppose that their chief duty is
in loving and counseling their children, rather than in loving and
training them; that they are faithfully to show their children what
they ought to do, rather than to make them do it. The training power of
the parent is, as a rule, sadly undervalued.

Too many parents seem to take it for granted that because their
children are by nature very timid and retiring, or very bold and
forward; very extravagant in speech and manner, or quite disinclined
to express even a dutiful sense of gratitude and trust; reckless in
their generosity, or pitiably selfish; disposed to overstudy, or given
wholly to play; one-sided in this, or in that, or in the other, trait
or quality or characteristic,—therefore those children must remain
so; unless, indeed, they outgrow their faults, or are induced by wise
counsel and loving entreaty to overcome them.

“My boy is irrepressible,” says one father. “He is full of dash and
spirits. He makes havoc in the house while at home; and when he goes
out to a neighbor’s he either has things his own way, or he doesn’t
want to go _there_ again. I really wish he had a quieter nature; but,
of course, I can’t change him. I have given him a great many talks
about this; and I hope he will outgrow the worst of it. Still he is
just what he is, and punishing him wouldn’t make him anybody else.” A
good mother, on the other hand, is exercised because her little son
is so bashful that he is always mortifying her before strangers. He
will put his finger in his mouth, and hang down his head, and twist
one foot over the other, and refuse to shake hands, or to answer the
visitor’s “How do you do, my boy?” or even to say, “I thank you,” with
distinctness, when anything is given to him. And the same trouble is
found with the tastes as with the temperaments of children. One is
always ready to hear stories read or told, but will not sit quiet and
look at pictures, or use a slate and pencil. Another, a little older,
will devour books of travel or adventure, but has no patience with
a simple story of home life, or a book of instruction in matters of
practical fact.

Now it is quite inevitable that children should have these
peculiarities; but it is not inevitable that they should continue
to exhibit them offensively. Children can be trained in almost any
direction. Their natural tendencies may be so curbed and guided as no
longer to show themselves in disagreeable prominence. It is a parent’s
privilege, and it is a parent’s duty, to make his children, by God’s
blessing, to be and to do what they should be and do, rather than what
they would like to be and do. If indeed this were not so, a parent’s
mission would be sadly limited in scope, and diminished in importance
and preciousness. The parent who does not recognize the possibility of
training his children as well as instructing them, misses one of his
highest privileges as a parent, and fails of his most important work
for his children.

The skilled physician in charge of a certain institution for the
treatment of feeble-minded and imperfectly developed children, has
said, that some children who are brought to him are lacking in just one
important trait or quality, while they possess a fair measure of every
other. Or it may be said, that they have an excess of the trait or
quality opposite to that which they lack.

One girl, for example, will be wholly without a sense of honesty; will
even be possessed with a love of stealing for stealing’s sake, carrying
it to such an extent that when seated at the table she will snatch a
ball of butter from a plate, and wrap it up in a fold of her dress.
If she should be unchecked in this propensity until she were a grown
woman, she might prove one of the fashionable ladies who take books or
dry goods from the stores where they are shopping, under the influence
of “kleptomania.”

Again, a boy has no sense of truth. He will tell lies without any
apparent temptation to do so, even against his own obvious interests.
All of us have seen persons of this sort in mature life. Some of them
are to-day in places of prominence in Christian work and influence. Yet
another child is without any sense of reverence, or of modesty, or of
natural affection. One lacks all control of his temper, another of his
nerves. And so on in great variety.

The physician of that institution is by no means in despair over any of
these cases. It is his mission to find out the child’s special lack,
and to meet it; to learn what traits are in excess, and to curb them;
to know the child’s needs, and to _train_ him accordingly.

Every child is in a sense a partially developed, an imperfectly formed
child. There are no absolutely perfect children in this world. All of
them need restraining in some things and stimulating in others. And
every imperfect child can be helped toward a symmetrical character by
wise Christian training. Every home should be an institution for the
treatment of imperfectly developed children. Every father and every
mother should be a skilled physician in charge of such an institution.
There are glorious possibilities in this direction; and there are
weighty responsibilities also.




III.

_SCOPE AND LIMITATIONS OF CHILD-TRAINING._


Child-training can compass much, but child-training cannot compass
everything, in determining the powers and the possibilities of a child
under training. Each child can be trained in the way _he_ should go,
but not every child can be trained to go in the same way. Each child
can be trained to the highest and fullest exercise of _his_ powers, but
no child can be trained to the exercise of powers which are not his.
Each child can be trained to _his_ utmost possibilities, but not every
child can be trained to the utmost possibilities of every other child.
Child-training has the fullest scope of the capacity of the particular
child under treatment, and child-training is limited in every case by
the limitations of that child’s capacity.

A child born blind can be trained to such a use of his other senses
that he can do more in the world than many a poorly trained child
who has sight; but a blind child can never be trained to discern
differences in colors at a distance. A child who has by nature a dull
ear for music can be trained to more or less of musical skill; but a
child who is born without the sense of hearing can never be trained
to quickness in the discerning of sounds. A child can be trained to
facility in the use of every sense and faculty and limb and member
and muscle and nerve which he possesses; but no training will give to
a child a new sense, a new faculty, a new limb, a new member, a new
muscle, a new nerve. Child-training can make anything of a child that
can be made of that child, but child-training cannot change a child’s
nature and identity.

The limitations of child-training are more likely to be realized than
its extensive scope. Indeed, the supposed limitations of child-training
are very often unreal ones. Many a parent would say, for example,
that you cannot change a child’s form and features and expression
by training; yet, as a matter of fact, a child’s form and features
and expression can be, and often are, materially changed by training.
The chest is expanded, the waist is compressed, a curved spine is
straightened, or a deformity of limb is corrected, by persistent
training with the help of mechanical appliances. Among some primitive
peoples, the form of every child’s head is brought to a conventional
standard by a process of training; as, among other primitive peoples,
the feet or the ears or the eyes or the lips are thus conventionally
trained into—or out of—shape. And in all lands the expression of the
face steadily changes under the process of persistent training.

As it is with the physical form, so it is with the mental and moral
characteristics of a child; the range is wide within the limitations
of possible results from the training process. A nervous temperament
cannot, it is true, be trained into a phlegmatic one, or a phlegmatic
temperament be trained into a nervous one; but a child who is quick and
impulsive can be trained into moderation and carefulness of speech and
of action, while a child who is sluggish and inactive can be trained
to rapidity of movement and to energy of endeavor. An imbecile mind
can never be trained into the possibilities of native genius, nor can
a moral nature of the lowest order be trained to the same measure of
high conscientiousness as a nature that is keenly sensitive to every
call of duty and to the rights and the feelings of others; but training
can give unsuspected power to the dormant faculties of the dull-minded,
and can marvelously develop the latent moral sense of any child who is
capable of discerning between right and wrong in conduct.

The sure limitations of a child’s possibilities of training are
obvious to a parent. If one of the physical senses be lacking to the
child, no training will restore that sense, although wise training
may enable the child to overcome many of the difficulties that meet
him as a consequence of his native lack. And so, also, if the child
have such unmistakable defects of mind and of character as prove him
to be inferior to the ordinary grade of average humanity, the wisest
training cannot be expected to lift him above the ordinary level of
average humanity. But if a child be in the possession of the normal
physical senses, and the normal mental faculties, and the normal moral
capacities, of his race, he may, by God’s blessing, be trained to the
best and fullest use of his powers in these several spheres, in spite
of all the hindrances and drawbacks that are found in the perversion or
the imperfect development of those powers at his start in life.

In other words, if the child be grievously deformed or defective at
birth, or by some early casualty, there is an inevitable limitation
accordingly to the possibilities of his training. But if a child be
in possession of an ordinary measure of faculties and capacity, his
training will decide the manner and method and extent of the use of his
God-given powers.

It is, therefore, largely a child’s training that settles the question
whether a child is graceful or awkward in his personal movements,
gentle or rough in his ways with his fellows, considerate or
thoughtless in his bearing toward others; whether he is captious or
tractable within the bounds of due restraint; whether he is methodical
and precise, or unsystematic and irregular, in the discharge of his
daily duties; whether he is faithful in his studies, or is neglectful
of them; whether he is industrious or indolent in his habits; whether
the tastes which he indulges in his diet and dress and reading and
amusements and companionships are refined, or are low. In all these
things his course indicates what his training has been; or it suggests
the training that he needed, but has missed.




IV.

_DISCERNING A CHILD’S SPECIAL NEED OF TRAINING._


Some one has said, that a mother is quite right when she declares
enthusiastically of her little one, “There never was such a child as
this, in the world, before!” for in fact there never before was such a
child. Each child starts in life as if he were the only child in the
world, and the first one; and he is less like other people then than
ever he will be again. He is conformed to no regulation pattern at the
outset. He has, to begin with, no stock of ideas which have been passed
on and approved by others. He neither knows nor cares what other people
think. He is a law unto himself in all matters of thought and taste and
feeling. He is, so far, himself; and, just so far, he is different from
everybody else.

Left to himself, if that were a possibility, every child would continue
to be himself; but no child is left to himself: he is under training
and in training continually. And so it is that the training of a child
is quite as likely to change him from his best self to a poorer self,
as it is to develop and perfect that which is best in his distinctive
self. Child-training is, in many a case, the bringing of a child into
purely conventional ways, instead of bringing out into freest play,
in the child, those qualities and characteristics which mark him as a
unique and individual personality among the sons of men. How to learn
wherein a child’s real self needs stimulating, and wherein it needs
curbing or changing, is a question of questions in child-training.

No quality of a good physician is of more importance than skill in
making a diagnosis of a patient’s case. If a master-mind in this realm
were to pass with positiveness on the disease of every patient, the
treatment of that disease would be comparatively easy. A young graduate
from the medical school, or a trained nurse, would then, in most
instances, be capable of knowing and doing that which was needful in
the premises. But until the diagnosis is accurate, the best efforts
of the ablest physician are liable to be misdirected, and so to be
ineffective for good. As it is with the physician and his patient,
so it is with the parent and his child. An accurate diagnosis is an
essential prerequisite to wise and efficient treatment. The diagnosis
secured, the matter of treatment is a comparatively easy matter. A
parent’s diagnosis of his child’s case is in the discerning of his
child’s faults, as preliminary to a process of training for their
cure. Until _that_ is secured, there is no hope of intelligent and
well-directed treatment.

Yet it is not the easiest thing in the world to say what are a child’s
peculiar faults, and what is, therefore, that child’s peculiar need of
training. Many a parent is disturbed by a child’s best traits, while
he underestimates or overlooks that child’s chief failings. And many
another parent who knows that his child is full of faults cannot say
just what they are, or classify them according to their relative
prominence and their power for evil. “That boy’s questions will worry
my life out. He is always asking questions; and _such_ questions. I
can’t stand it!” This is said by many a father or mother whose child is
full of promise, largely because he is full of questions.

But if a boy has a bright mind and positive preferences, and is ready


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 1 of 13)