OPINION: Child training isn’t for the faint of heart

The first column upon my return to northwest Arkansas after a decade in southeast Missouri, on Jan. 11, 2006:

"'Out of my mind' was coined many years ago as a double entendre -- signifying either that I was writing about whatever came out of my mind or that I was 'going out of my mind.'

"At the time, I had many small children. I wrote the column for The Benton County Daily Record and usually addressed issues concerning parenting, although not always. Now, I still have many children -- but not all small. My second daughter turned 20 yesterday (today, as I write). I believe the title will still be appropriate for this column in The Times. I still am consumed by my family -- both old and young. There are no vacations from parenting. Now as I write, my eldest had just returned from a two-week trip to Haiti and I awaited the midnight call that she had arrived back in the country safely."

Now, 16 years later, my children are grown, ranging in age from 20 to 37. Many are married and are parents themselves. My 15 grandchildren range in age from eight months to 14 years of age.

I have made mistakes. But, by God's grace, all of my children are responsible, hard-working, faithful adults devoted to their families. They, too have made mistakes. They have also succeeded.

That's human -- there are none who have not failed.

I have learned I neither can nor should accept responsibility for their choices as adults, neither the good nor the bad. Sometimes, when overcome by feelings of inadequacy, I question whether I should even offer parenting advice.

I am reminded of the oft repeated statement: "Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories." The quote is attributed to John Wilmot, 2nd Earl of Rochester (1 April 1647 – 26 July 1680), but has been repeated in various forms for centuries.

Henry Clay Trumbull, editor of the Sunday-school times and author of Teaching and Teachers, Yale lectures on the Sunday-school, wrote a book entitled "Hints on Child-Training" published in 1890.

In the preface, Trumbull wrote: "Thirty years ago, when I was yet a young father, a friend, who knew that I had for years been interested in the study of methods of education, said to me, 'Trumbull, what is your theory of child-training?'

"'Theory?' I responded. 'I have no theory in that matter. I had lots of theories before I had any children; but now I do, with fear and trembling, in every case just that which seems to be the better thing for the hour, whether it agrees with any of my old theories or not.'"

Whether through wisdom, experience or fatigue, I have different thoughts on child training today than I did 40 years ago. And yet, some standards are timelessly true. We as parents, and grandparents, can and should help train and teach our children to be truthful, to be kind, to be responsible and respectful of others.

That darling 2-year-old will one day be a 20-year-old and we should consider that the character traits instilled in them early will be magnified in the years to come.


Editor's note: Annette Beard is the managing editor of The Times of Northeast Benton County, chosen the best small weekly newspaper in Arkansas for five years. The opinions expressed are those of the author. She can be reached at [email protected].