A few years ago I was taking my then 3-year-old grandson down to the lake to fish. A man approached me from our condo association and struck up a conversation that went on for about twenty minutes. My grandson patiently sat down on the grass and uttered not a word other than to say hello to the man and tell him his name. At the end of our conversation the man commented on my grandson’s patience. I replied that he was being trained to not interrupt and to wait patiently until the adults were finished talking. The man marveled that it was even possible to train a three-year-child patience and to not interrupt.
Sadly, the man’s comment reflected what many parent’s seem to believe today about parenting. Instead of devising a methodology of child discipline parents today seem to gravitate to psychology or screaming to get their children to obey.
All that and more came to mind as I discovered an ad in the July 27th, 1918 issue of The Literary Digest. The ad is titled, Mistakes Parents Make-How to Avoid Them.
The ad encourages parents to send a coupon in order to receive a free 24 page book titled New Methods in Child Training by Professor Ray C. Beery.
From what I could Google, I discovered that Professor Beery was part of a group called the Parent’s Association. I also discovered via Amazon that some, if not all of Beery’s books on parenting are still available in reprint form. The twenty-four page free offer which appeared in many magazines and newspapers of the time was obviously designed to get parents to order and pay for the larger volumes which totaled four in number.
The intriguing part of the ad that was designed to “hook” the parent is titled, “Do you know how…”
- …to instruct children in the delicate matters of sex?
- …to always obtain cheerful obedience?
- …to correct mistakes of early training?
- …to keep child from crying?
- …to develop initiative in child?
- …to teach child instantly to comply with command, “Don’t touch”?
- …to suppress temper in children without punishment?
- …to succeed with child of any age without display of authority?
- …to discourage the “Why” habit in regard to commands?
- …to prevent quarrelling and fighting?
- …to cure impertinence? Discourtesy? Vulgarity?
- …to remove fear of darkness? Fear of thunder and lighting? Fear of harmless animals?
- …to encourage child to talk?
- …to teach punctuality? Perseverance? Carefulness?
- …to overcome obstinacy?
- …to cultivate mental cultivation?
- …to teach honesty and truthfulness?
Judging from the ad and the reprint book descriptions on Amazon it seems clear that Professor Beery and the Parent’s Association wished to help parents develop moral character in children.
It’s easy to see that the items on the above list are biblically derived. Professor Beery believes a child can be trained out of a bad habit or behavior. In fact, Professor Beery blames the parents if they are not.
“When a child is straightforward, obedient and willing—when it is courageous, generous, and fine in every way, it is that way because the parents made it so. And the reverse is equally true. When a child is untruthful, selfish and disobedient, it is not the fault of the child but of the parent.”
The ad has some limitations from a Christian perspective although it should be pointed out the author doesn’t claim to come from a Christian perspective. I think most people of the time would simply have assumed he was coming from a Christian perspective.
Nevertheless, the first limitation is the absence of the gospel as the motivation for the necessary inner change. God changes us from the inside out. Beery’s principles stress behavioral change that is certainly vital in parenting small children (who do not yet understand the gospel) but less effective in teens who may simply conform to stay out of trouble.
The second limitation that I’d comment on is that while I do believe parents are to blame for not training a child, I’d hasten to add that children are responsible for their own sin and that of course is related to the gospel. Professor Beery simply believes that if parents are diligent and intentional in their parenting chances are good the children will turn out responsible. Perhaps he had Proverbs 22:6 in mind.
Recently our Senior Pastor taught extensively on parenting and biblically derived principles to be used in child training. The series harkens back to a time when most parents would have assumed a Christian approach to parenting.
The series can be found here under The Drama of Parenting…