I had an “ah-ha”parenting moment. I picked up the book “Hints on Child Training” by H. Clay Trumbull. Two older moms (including Sally Clarkson) recommended the book. H. Clay Trumbull, father of eight children & the great-grandfather of Elisabeth Elliot, wrote it in 1890. The advice he gives is Bible-centered, wise & applicable to children of any generation.

In my usual non-fiction reading habit, I flipped through the book and started reading a chapter that caught my eye. The chapter was entitled: “Letting Alone as a Means of Child Training.”

“Child training is a necessity, but there is a danger of overdoing in the line of child training.  The neglect of child training is a great evil. Overdoing in the training of a child may be even a greater evil.” -H. Clay Trumbull

Let that sink in for a second. No training is evil BUT over-training may be a greater evil.

I always judged those who gave their children no boundaries or discipline, as “bad parents”. But in reality I’m the one to be judged in my “over-training”.

“The young parents who are exceptionally conscientious, and exceptionally desirous of being wise and faithful in the discharge of their parental duties, are liable to err in the direction of overdoing in the training of their children.” -H. Clay Trumbull

In this stage of adding a new baby, I desire control over my kids more than ever. So I increase my training & direction. Fooling myself into the belief that I’m actually in control. The reality is that the more I direct & correct the more I push them to misbehavior. I don’t end up training their hearts.

Here is the advice of one father in his experience with his oldest child:

“I thought I must be training her all the time, and I forced issues with her, and took notice of little things, when I would have done better to leave her alone… I saw my mistake afterwards, and I allowed my other children more freedom, by letting them alone except when they must be interfered with; and I’ve seen the benefit of this course”

After reading this chapter I made a pact with myself…I would turn a “blind eye” to minor infractions of my boys. When one was too rough I would NOT remind him to be gentle. When they use potty talk I would NOT remind them to use “life-giving” words. I would NOT remind them to shut the back door.

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Oh my goodness is it hard! It’s become such a habit for me to correct all day long. AND it’s become a habit for them to wait for me to correct before they change their behavior. 

I realized they’ve become dependent on my words to direct their actions. Their internal monitors for behavior control were turned “off”. All behavior control was external. Not what I want. I can’t be with them at all times. They need to regulate their own behavior.

I also realized that when I didn’t direct them and allowed them to make the right choice, I could reinforce their good choice. Give them credit & positive reinforcement. In the past they were just doing what I asked, now they were doing it on their own…which is true training.

My mentor, Leslie, gave me the advice: “Use fewer words. Pray more.”  In those moments when I’m trying to hold my tongue, I pray.

I pray for the particular character quality. I pray for wisdom to know whether I should intervene. I pray for God to put a guard over my mouth and give me self-control.

Do you struggle with over-training your children? Are you primarily directing/correcting? Will you join me in the “pact” to say less & pray more?