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If you tell a child that God is able and ready to give him everything
that he prays for, the child is prompt to accept your statement as
a truth, and so he prays for a pleasant day, when a pleasant day is
desired by him. If the pleasant day comes accordingly, the child’s
faith in prayer is confirmed; but if the day be a stormy one, the
child’s mind is bewildered, and a doubt is likely to creep into his
mind whether prayer is always so effective as he had been told to
believe it to be. And the case is similar when the child prays for
the health of one whom he loves, or for some gift which he longs to
receive, or for success in some personal endeavor, and the issue is not
in accordance with his petition.

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. On every side, children are being taught
to have faith in prayer, rather than to have faith in God; and, in
consequence, their faith is continually subject to shocks which would
never have disturbed it if it had been trained to rest on God instead
of resting on prayer.

If you tell a child that God loves good children, and that he does
not love bad children, the child will believe you; and then, when he
thinks he is a good child, he will be glad that there is a God who can
appreciate him; but when he knows he is a bad child, he will perhaps
be sorry that there is a God in the universe to be his enemy. So far
as your training does its legitimate work, in this instance, the
child is trained, not to have faith in God, but to have confidence in
his own merits as a means of commending him to the God whom you have
misrepresented to him. If, on the other hand, you tell a child that
God is love, and that his love goes out unfailingly toward all, even
toward those who have no love for him, and that, while God loves to
have children good, he loves them tenderly while they are very bad, the
child will take in that great truth gratefully; and then he is readier
to have faith in God, and to want to be good because the loving God
loves to have him good. And in this way a child’s faith in God may be
the means of quickening and shaping his desires in the direction of
well-doing.

As a means of training a child’s faith in God more intelligently and
with greater definiteness, the fact of the Incarnation may be disclosed
to him in all the fulness of its richest meaning. A very young child
can comprehend the truth that God in his love sent his Son into this
world as a little child, with the name Jesus—or Saviour; that Jesus
grew up from childhood into manhood, that he loved little children,
that he died for them, that he rose again from the dead, and ascended
into heaven, that still he loves children, that he watches over them
tenderly, and that he is ready to help them in all their trials and
needs, and to be their Saviour forever. With this knowledge of Jesus
as God’s representative, a child can be trained to trust Jesus at all
times; to feel safe in darkness and in danger because of his nearness,
his love, and his power; to be sure of his sympathy, and to rest on
him as a sufficient Saviour. That a child is capable of such faith as
this, is not fairly a question. The only question, if question there
be, is whether any one but a child can attain to such faith. One thing
is as sure as the words of Jesus are true, and that is, that “whosoever
shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child shall in no wise
enter therein;” or, in other words, that a little child’s faith is a
pattern for the believers of every age.

The training of a child’s faith is the most delicate and the most
important duty that devolves upon one who is set to the work of
child-training. More is involved in it for the child’s welfare, and
more depends upon it for the child’s enjoyment and efficiency in life,
than pivots on any other phase of the training of a child. He who would
train a child’s faith aright has need of wisdom, and yet more has need
of faith,—just such faith as that to the exercise of which he would
train the child of his charge. Peculiarly has a parent need to watch
lest he check or hinder unduly the loving promptings of a child’s
faith; for it is our Lord himself who has said: “Whoso shall cause one
of these little ones which believe on me to stumble, it is profitable
for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and
that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.”




XV.

_TRAINING CHILDREN TO SABBATH OBSERVANCE._


Every day in the week is the Lord’s day, for children; but one day
in the week is peculiarly the Lord’s day, for children as well as
for older persons. How to train a child to wise and faithful Sabbath
observance, on the Lord’s day, is a question that puzzles many a
Christian parent; and, as a rule, the more true and loving and
Christ-like the parent, the greater the practical puzzle at this point.
The difficulty in the case is not so much, how to secure the observance
of the Sabbath by a child, as it is to decide what should be the proper
observance of the Sabbath by a child.

If, indeed, it were simply a question of compelling a child to
conform to certain fixed and rigid rules of Sabbath observance, any
able-bodied and determined parent, with a stern face, and the help of
a birch rod and a dark closet, could compass all the difficulties of
the case. But while it is a question of bringing the child to enjoy
the loving service of God on God’s peculiar day, it requires other
qualities than sternness on the parent’s part, and other agencies
than a birch rod and a dark closet, to meet the requirements of the
situation. And so it is that a right apprehension of the nature of a
wise and proper observance of the Sabbath is an essential prerequisite
of the wise and proper training of children to such an observance.

Love must be at the basis of all acceptable service of God. Any
observance of the commands of God which is slavish and reluctant, is
sure to lack God’s approval. The Sabbath is a sign, or a token, of the
loving covenant between God and his people. It is to be borne in mind,
it is to be remembered, it is to be counted holy, accordingly. One day
in seven is to be given up to loving thoughts of God, to a loving rest
from one’s own work and pleasure, and to a loving part in the worship
of God. On that day, above other days, the thought of God’s children
should be:

“This is the day which the Lord hath made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.”

How to train children to a joyous observance of the Lord’s day, to a
joyous looking forward to its coming, and to a joyous looking back upon
its memories, is a weightier question, with thoughtful and intelligent
Christian parents, than how to conform the conduct of children to the
traditional ideas of legitimate Sabbath observance. An utter disregard
of the Sabbath in the training of children is a great wrong; but even a
greater wrong than this is the training of children to count the Lord’s
day a day of irksome constraint instead of a delight.

As a child’s occupation on other days of the week is different from
the occupation of his parents, so a child’s occupation on the Lord’s
day ought to be different from his parents’ occupation on that day. It
would be cruel, indeed, to insist that on the Lord’s day alone a child
should be forced to do the same things that his parents do, and that so
that day above all others should be a day of toil and of discomfort to
a child. For parent and for child alike, the Lord’s day should be a day
of rest and of worship; but neither for parent nor for child is simple
inaction rest; nor is hard Bible-study, or merely sitting still in
church-time, worship. Rest is to be secured by a change of occupation,
and worship is to be performed by turning the thoughts God-ward. How to
help children to refreshing rest and to joyous worship on the Lord’s
day, is the practical matter at issue.

To bring a child into habits of loving and reverent Sabbath observance
is a matter of training; and that training ought to begin at a very
early age of the child, and continue throughout the years of his
childhood. Long before a child can know what is the distinctive idea
of the Sabbath, or why it is to be observed in a manner peculiar
to itself, he can be trained to perceive that one day in seven is
different from the other six days, and that its standard is higher and
its spirit more joyous; that its tone is quieter, and its atmosphere
more reverent. And all this ought to be secured to every child in a
Christian home, from the very outset of the child’s training to its
close. Even a dog, or a horse, or an ox, learns to know and to prize
some of the privileges and enjoyments of the Sabbath; and an infant
in arms is as capable as one of the brutes of receiving an impression
of truth in this realm of fact and sentiment. But in the case of the
infant or of the brute everything depends upon those persons who have
it in training.

A common cause of trouble in this matter is, that the training does
not begin early enough. A child is permitted to go on for months, if
not for years, without any direct suggestion of a difference between
the Lord’s day and other days of the week; and when the first attempt
is made to show him that such a difference ought to be recognized, he
is already fixed in habits which stand in the way of this recognition,
so that the new call on him breaks in unpleasantly upon his course
of favorite infantile action. Yet it ought to be so that a child’s
earliest consciousness of life is linked with the evidences of the
greater light and joy and peace of the day that is above other days of
the week, in his nursery experiences, and that his earliest habits are
in the line of such a distinction as this. And thus it can be.

It is for the parents to make clear the distinction that marks, in the
child’s mind, the Lord’s day as the day of days in the week’s history.
The child may be differently dressed, or differently washed, or
differently handled, on that day from any other. Some more disagreeable
detail of his morning toilet, or of his day’s management, might on that
day be omitted, as a means of marking the day. There may be a sweeter
song sung in his hearing, or a brighter exhibit of some kind made in
his sight, or a peculiar favor of some sort granted to him, which links
a special joy with that day in comparison with the days on either side
of it. As soon as the child is old enough to grasp a rattle or to play
with a toy, there ought to be a difference between his Sabbath rattle
or other toy, and his week-day delights in the same line. By one means
or another he should have the Lord’s day to look back upon as his
brightest memory, and to look forward to as his fondest anticipation.
And in this way he can be trained to enjoy the Lord’s day, even before
he can know why it is made a joy to him. A child is well started in the
line of wise training when he is carried along as far as this.

When the anniversary of a child’s birthday comes around, a loving
parent is likely to emphasize and illustrate to the child the parental
love which should make that season a season of gladness and joy to the
child. Special gifts or special favors are bestowed on the child at
such a time, so that the child shall be sure to welcome each successive
return of his birthday anniversary. So, again, when the Christmas
anniversary has come, the Christian parent sees to it that the child
has a cause of delight in the enjoyments and possessions it brings.
It is not that the parents are lacking in love at other times; but
it is that the child shall have fresh reminders, at these anniversary
seasons, of that love which is unfailing throughout the year. So it
ought to be, in the effort to make clear and prominent, on the return
of each Lord’s day, the love of God which is the same at one time as at
another. As the parents will treasure little gifts as loving surprises
for their children on the birthday and the Christmas anniversary,
so the parents ought to plan to make each new Lord’s day a better,
brighter day than any other of the week; and to this end the best
things for the child’s enjoyment may well be kept back until then, as a
help to this uplifting of the delights of the day above the week-days’
highest level.

It is customary to keep a child’s best clothing for use on the Lord’s
day. It might well, also, be customary to keep a child’s best toys,
best pictures, best books, best enjoyments, for a place in the same day
of days in the week’s round. This is a custom in many a well-ordered
Christian home, and the advantages of it are apparent there.

The Sabbath closet, or Sabbath cabinet, or Sabbath drawer, ought to be
a treasure-house of delights in every Christian home; not to be opened
except on the Lord’s day, and sure to bring added enjoyment when it is
opened in the children’s sight. In that treasure-house there may be
bright colored pictures of Bible scenes; Sunday-school papers; books
of stories which are suitable and attractive above others for Sabbath
reading; dissected maps of Bible lands, or dissected pages of Bible
texts, of the Lord’s Prayer, or of the Apostles’ Creed; models of the
Tabernacle, or of Noah’s Ark and its inmates. Whatever is there, ought
resolutely to be kept there at all other times than on the Lord’s
day. However much the children may long for the contents of that
treasure-house, between Sabbaths, they ought to find it impossible to
have a view of them until that day of days has come round again. The
use of these things should be associated inseparably, in the children’s
minds, with the Lord’s day and its privileges, and so should help to
make that day a delight, as a day of God’s choicest gifts to those
whom God loves and who love him. By such means the very plays or
recreations of the children may be made as truly a means of rest and of
worship on the children’s part as are the labors of the parents, in the
line of Bible study or of Sunday-school teaching, a means of Sabbath
rest and of Sabbath worship to _them_ on each recurring Lord’s day.

Even for the youngest children there may be a touch of Sabbath
enjoyment in a piece of Sabbath confectionery, or of Sabbath cake, of
a sort allowed them at no other time. There are little ones who are
not permitted to have candy freely at their own homes, but who are
privileged to have a choice bit of this at their grandmother’s, where
they visit, after Sunday-school, on every Lord’s day. And there are
grown-up children who remember pleasantly that when they were very
little ones they were permitted to have a make-believe Sabbath visit
together in their happy home, with a table spread with tiny dishes of
an attractive appearance, which they never saw except on the Lord’s
day. There are others who remember with what delight they were
accustomed, while children, after a certain age, to sit up and have a
place at the family table at tea-time, on Sundays; although on other
days they must be in bed before that hour.

If, indeed, the Lord’s day is, in any such way, made a day of peculiar
delight to children, with the understanding on their part—as they come
to years of understanding—that this is because the day is peculiarly
the Lord’s day, there is a gain to them, so far, in the Lord’s plan of
the Sabbath for man’s welfare in the loving service of the loving God.
But if, on the other hand, the first impressions in the children’s mind
concerning this day of days are, that it is a day of harsh prohibitions
and of dreariness and discomfort, there is so far a dishonoring in
their minds of the day and of Him whose day it is; and for this result
their unwise parents are, of course, responsible.

As children grow older, and are capable of comprehending more fully the
spiritual meanings and privileges and possibilities of the Sabbath,
they need more help from their parents,—not less help, but more,—in
order to their wise use of the day, and to the gaining of its greatest
advantages. The hour of family worship ought to have more in it on the
Lord’s day than on any other day of the week. Its exercises should be
ampler and more varied. Either at that hour, or at some other, the
Sunday-school lesson for the week should be taken up and studied by
parents and children together.

There are homes where the children have a Sunday-school of their own,
at a convenient hour of the day, in the family room, led by father
or mother, or by older brother or sister, with the help of maps and
blackboard, or slates. There are other homes in which the father leads
a children’s service of worship, in the early evening, and reads a
little sermon from some one of the many published volumes of sermons
for children. Wherever either of these plans is adopted, there should
be a part for each of the children, not only in the singing and
reading, but in asking and answering questions.

Apart from such formal exercises as these, one child can be showing
and explaining a book of Bible pictures or of Scripture cards to
younger children; or one group of children can be picking out Bible
places or Bible persons from their recent lessons and arranging them
alphabetically on slates or on slips of paper, while another group is
studying out some of the many Bible puzzles or curious Bible questions
which are published so freely for such a purpose. Variety in methods is
desirable from week to week, and variety is practicable.

The singing of fitting and attractive songs of joy and praise will
naturally have larger prominence, at the hours of family worship, and
at other hours of the day and evening, on the Lord’s day, than on
other days of the week. And parents ought to find time on the Lord’s
day to read aloud to their children, or to tell them, stories suited
to their needs, as well as to lead in familiar conversation with them.
For _this_ mode of training there can be no satisfactory substitute. Of
course, it takes time, and it calls for courage, for high resolve, or
self-denial, and for faith. But it is worth more than all it costs.

All this is apart from the question of the attendance and duties
of the little ones at the Sunday-school or at the place of public
worship. When a child is of suitable age to have an intelligent part
in the exercises of the Sunday-school, he should be helped to find
those exercises a means of sacred enjoyment. When, at a later day, he
is old enough to be at the general service of worship without undue
weariness, it is the duty of the parents to make that place a place of
gladsomeness to him, as often as he is found there. Not wearisomeness,
but rest, is appropriate to the holiest Sabbath services of the Lord’s
day. Not deepened shadow, but clearer sunlight, is fitting to its
sacred hours.

The spirit of the entire day’s observances ought to be a reverent
spirit; but it should be understood by the parents that true reverence
is better shown in gladness than in gloom. Where the Lord’s day is
counted a dismal one by the children, it is obvious that the parents
have failed to train their children to hallow that day, as the day
which is peculiarly sacred to the love of their loving Father in
heaven. Whether at home, or at Sunday-school or any other church
service, the children should be helped to realize that the day is a day
of brightness and of cheer; that while differing in its occupations
and enjoyments from all other days, it is the best of them all. When
a little boy, out of a home thus ordered, heard one of his companions
express, on Sunday, a wish that it was already Monday, the little
fellow said, with evident heartiness, “Why! don’t _you_ like Sunday?
I like it best of all the days.” And so it ought to be in the case of
every boy and girl in a Christian home.

The difference is not in the children, but in the mode of their
training, when in one home the Sabbath is welcomed and in another home
it is dreaded by the little ones. Such a difference ought not to exist.
By one means or another, or by one means and another, all children
ought to be trained to find the Lord’s day a day of delight in the
Lord’s service; and parents ought to see to it that _their_ children,
if not others, are thus trained. It can be so; it should be so.




XVI.

_TRAINING A CHILD IN AMUSEMENTS._


Amusements properly belong to children. A child needs to be amused
while he is a child, and because he is a child. It may be a question
whether a grown-up person, of average intelligence and of tolerable
moral worth, does really need amusements, however much he may need
diversion or recreation within due limits; but there can be no fair
question as to the need of amusements for a child. And if a child has
need of amusements, he has need to be trained in his choice and use of
amusements.

How to amuse a child wisely and with effectiveness, is a practical
question with a nurse or loving parent, from the time that the little
babe first begins to look up with interest at a ball or a trinket
swung before his eyes just out of reach of his uplifted hands, or to
look and listen as a toy rattle is shaken above him,—all the way along
until he is old enough to choose his own methods of diversion and
recreation. And on the answering of this question much depends for the
child’s character and happiness; for amusements have their influence in
shaping a child’s estimates of life and its purposes, and in fitting or
unfitting him for the duties he has to perform in life.

There is a wide range in a child’s amusements; in their nature, in
their tendency, and in the companionships which accompany them. The
differences between some of these which may seem but slight at the
start, involve differences of principle as well as of method; and they
need to be looked at in view of their probable outcome, rather than as
they present themselves just now to the surface observer. Indeed, it
is the looking for the underlying principle in the attractiveness of a
given form of amusement, and for the obvious trend of its influence,
that is the primary duty of a parent who would train his children
wisely in their amusements, from the earliest beginning of effort to
amuse those children.

The center of companionships in a child’s amusements ought to be the
parents themselves. In the nature of things it is impossible for the
parents to be a child’s only companions in this line, or to be always
his companions; but parents ought, in some way and at some time, to
evidence such an interest in their every child’s amusements that he
will feel that he is as close to his parents, and that his parents are
as much to him, in this thing as in any other. If, indeed, a child had
no companionship with his parents in his amusements, there would be
reared a sad barrier between him and his parents in that sphere of his
life which is largest and most attractive while he is at an age to be
most impressible.

“One of the first duties of a genuinely Christian parent,” says
Bushnell, “is to show a generous sympathy with the plays of his
children; providing playthings and means of play, inviting suitable
companions for them, and requiring them to have it as one of their
pleasures, to keep such companions entertained in their plays, instead
of playing always for their own mere self-pleasing. Sometimes, too,
the parent having a hearty interest in the plays of his children, will
drop out for the time the sense of his years, and go into the frolic of
their mood with them. They will enjoy no other time so much as that,
and it will have the effect to make the authority, so far unbent, just
as much stronger and more welcome, as it has brought itself closer to
them, and given them a more complete show of sympathy.”

A true mother will naturally incline to show a hearty interest in her
child’s amusements, and she ought to encourage herself to feel that the
time taken for this exhibit of her loving sympathy with him is by no
means lost time. It may be harder for the father, than for the mother,
to give the time or to show the interest essential to this duty; but he


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Online LibraryH. Clay (Henry Clay) TrumbullHints on child-training → online text (page 6 of 13)