November 16, 2011

I've Never Read a Parenting Book Like This One

Last night I finished reading Hints on Child Training by Henry Clay Trumbull.

Wow, what a book.

Trumbull penned this book in his sixties in the year 1890, having raised eight of his own children and in the midst of being a grandfather to many more.  (Cool fact: He's Elisabeth Elliot's great-grandfather.)  This book came highly recommended by the Clarkson family, founders of Whole Heart Ministries; Sally Clarkson has written many books on the call of motherhood that God has used to change my life and dynamics in our family.  So I picked it up at the MomHeart conference last spring.  But, I was skeptical.  Really?  Wouldn't a book from the late 19th century be just another treatise on spanking, speak-only-when-spoken-to, authoritative parenting?

The answer to my question, as I read through chapter after chapter was a resounding, "NO!" *

I would summarize Trumbull's book with one word: tenderness.  Paragraph after paragraph I was left desiring to love and value the little ones God has put in our care each and every day, from the moment they boisterously wake to the whispers we share at bedtime.

Chapters that made me pause and think ... and already make some changes:

  • Honoring a Child's Individuality
  • Training Children to Sabbath Observance
  • The Value of Table Talk
  • Never Punish a Child in Anger
  • Dealing Tenderly with a Child's Fears
  • Good-Night Words

The influence of Trumbull's words has little to do with specific methods.  Rather, he presents child training as a journey of respect and delight shared between parent and child.  He offers some suggestions for how to train children in specific areas, how to make the Sabbath or Christmas special, how to take advantage of the bedtime routine to bless your children, how to include children in dinner conversation, etc.  However, one does not finish reading thinking, Okay, I've now got to put Trumbull's plan into action to "get it right."  I was left thinking, Wow, our relationships in our family can be so much richer, our celebration of the Sabbath can be so much more special, our work to raise these kids is such a blessed calling and God will help us do it as we turn to Him and let ourselves really love our kids and take seriously their training.

My strong opinion: you can pitch all of your other parenting books, as long is this one is on your shelf (and it has been read!)  Pittsburgh peeps, my copy is now available for borrowing if you'd like to "try before you buy!"

* I should have known better than to think the Clarksons would recommend anything but the best.  My apologies, Clay and Sally!


  1. Thanks for the recommendation, Heather. I found the book free online (yay for copyright free!) and I'm going to check it out.

  2. oooh, Heather, can you share the link here? Thanks!

  3. Yup.