I took my then three-year-old grandson to the lake several years ago to fish. A man approached me from our condo association and started a conversation that lasted 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 trained not to interrupt and to wait patiently until the adults were finished talking. The man marveled that it was possible to teach a three-year-old patience and not interrupt.
Sadly, the man’s comment reflected what many parents believe today about parenting. Instead of devising a methodology for child discipline, parents today seem to gravitate to manipulation 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 for 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 found via Amazon that some, if not all, of Beery’s parenting books, are still available in reprint form. The twenty-four-page free offer, which appeared in many magazines and newspapers of the time, was designed to get parents to order and pay for the larger volumes totaling four.
The “hook” part of the ad is the section 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 the child from crying?
- To develop initiative in a child?
- To teach the child instantly to comply with the command, “Don’t touch”?
- To suppress temper in children without punishment?
- To succeed with a child of any age without display of authority?
- To discourage the “Why” habit in regard to commands?
- To prevent quarreling and fighting?
- To cure impertinence? Discourtesy? Vulgarity?
- To remove the fear of darkness? Fear of thunder and lightning? Fear of harmless animals?
- To encourage children 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 many of the items on the above list are biblically derived. Professor Beery believes a child can be trained out of a bad habit or behavior. 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
The ad has significant limitations from a Christian perspective. The author does not claim to come from a Christian perspective. Most people of the time would simply have assumed he was coming from a Christian perspective.
The most significant thing lacking is the gospel and the necessary heart change. God changes us from the inside out. Beery’s principles stress behavioral change that is 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.
Jesus tells us in multiple places in the gospels that the heart determines behavior.
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts,
fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as
well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness” 1
In practice, this means that the child must learn what they did wrong and why. Jesus understood the inner person of us all. He was teaching his disciples that the heart is the control central center of life and the why we do what we do is as essential as the what.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart puts in this way:
“Your child’s needs are far more profound than his aberrant behavior. Remember,
his behavior does not just spring forth uncaused. His behavior—the things he says and does—reflects his heart. If you are really to help him, you must be concerned with the attitudes of the heart that drive his behavior.”2
Professor Beery’s books on Amazon are still helpful as long as the parent understands that their goal is not to have well behaved children. That will be a byproduct of the child whose heart has been changed by the gospel. The parent’s goal with toddlers is to lead them in a Godward orientation and to the truth of the gospel as they grow a little older.
Professor Beery blames parents for not training their children. I agree but hasten to add that given the heart is the issue, children are responsible for their sins, and that is a heart gospel issue. Professor Beery simply believes that if parents are diligent and intentional in their parenting, chances are good the children will turn out to be responsible and exercise self-control. Perhaps he had Proverbs 22:6 in mind.
I recommend Shepherding a Child’s Heart as the best resource (next to the Bible) for the training of Children.
1 New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman
Foundation, 1995), Mk 7:21–22
2 Tripp, Tedd, (2005) Shepherding a Child’s Heart, (2nd ed), Shepherd Press
Pastor Bruce Roeder
Bruce is an Elder/Pastor at the Vine Community Church in South Milwaukee, WI. He has an M.A. in Biblical Counseling and is certified with the ACBC and IABC. He is married to his wife Elizabeth of 48 years. They have one son, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and three great grandkids.