The best book on parenting you’ve never heard of

Back in May, Chris Backert, the director of the Ecclesia Network, gave Megan and me a gift. It was a gift (usually the best kind of gift, if you ask me). He and his wife Rachel were about to have their first child and a mentor couple had given them a book on parenting. He ordered a copy for us and handed it to me.

I distinctly remember my first thought when he gave it to me: This book cover looks horrendous.

Chris is a pretty level-headed, even keel guy, never gets too up or down. But Chris kept going on and on about how great this book was and how important it was that we read it. His eyes were getting bigger, the tone in his voice was growing more and more passionate and his volume was rising. Man, I thought, this book must be good if Backert is getting this excited…

Indeed, I had committed the cardinal sin of reading: I had judged a book by its cover. Despite the horrendous cover (and it was awful, let me tell you. I’d post the cover image to show you, but fortunately I can’t locate it) this book was amazing. Shame on me. I now completely understand why Backert was going on and on about this book. It’s the real deal. Now, here I am, going on and on about it. Thanks, Backert!

It’s called Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull.

A few elements that set this book apart:

[1] The book was first published in 1890. Yeah, you read that right: first published 120 years ago and still is in print. Most books published today don’t make it to their fifth birthday. For a book to be in print this long  you know it has to be good.

[2] H. Clay Trumbull is the grandfather of Elizabeth Elliot (wife of Jim Elliot, the famous missionary).

[3] Its written in the polished and thoughtful language. No, it doesn’t read as difficult as Shakespeare, but the reader certainly will be smiling from time to time at the ancient and yet timeless description of things from 1890.

[4] The 30 chapters are short (between 3 – 7 pages) yet are profoundly wise.

[5] H. Clay Trumbull was from Philly. HCT: way to represent!

Trumbull is so intentional in his approach to child training and speaks with an urgency of understanding the significance of the role of a mother and a father in shaping and forming the values and decisions of a young child. The book isn’t just a collection of pithy phrases or theoretical paragraphs of “you should” or “you must.” It’s full of real-life stories and practical examples of how to flesh out these values and how to model them well.

He writes directly about the idea of wisdom only sporadically, but every page communicates a clear link to training up a child to be wise and discerning. Check out some of these words from one of his chapters on denying a child wisely:

“One of the hardest and one of the most important things in the training of a loved child is to deny him that which he longs for, and which we could give to him, but which we would better no have… Next to denying a child necessary food and raiment, for the sustenance of very life, the unkindest treatment of a child is to give him everything that he asks for.”

Whoa. Now that’s deep.

Some of the topics/chapters in the book include:

  • Child Training: what is it?
  • Will-Training Rather than Will-Breaking
  • Denying a Child Wisely
  • Honoring a Child’s Individuality
  • Training a Child’s Appetite
  • Training a Child as a Questioner
  • Training Children to Observe the Sabbath
  • Training a Child to Courtesy
  • Cultivating a Child’s Taste in Reading
  • The Value of Table Talk
  • Scolding is Never in Order
  • Guiding a Child in Companionships
  • Allowing Play to a Child’s Imagination
  • Giving Added Value to a Child’s Christmas
  • Good-Night Words

If you’re a parent of young children (or about to become parents) you must pick up this book.

Seriously. This is a must-read.

Check out this link on Amazon. You can get a used copy for $1. Parents: it’ll be the best dollar you spend all year.