On the Education of Children

I don’t write much about child raising.  Not that I don’t have a lot of opinions on the subject, which I believe are Biblically founded . . . it’s just that parents today, even Christian parents, have been so brainwashed by mindless liberal sentimentality that they cannot discern, or else do not have the courage to embrace, their God-given responsibilities.  Besides this essay, though, if it doesn’t aggravate you too much, you might check out Chapter 5 of my book, How Should a Man Live?, in the free ebook store on this site, plus my essay, “How to save your children.”

“On the Education of Children” is the title of a sermon preached by John Wesley about 230 years ago.  It seems that children haven’t changed since then and neither have Biblical principles.  Since I find myself so much in sync with him I’ll use his discourse as an outline to encourage you in this matter or, perhaps,  provoke you or rile you up, depending on your disposition.

John Wesley

John Wesley

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.  Proverbs 22:6 

Wesley recognizes that this is not an absolute guarantee, but yet contains an unquestionable truth, that as physicians and medicines may be the only hope for one very sick, so godly training on the Biblical pattern is the only hope to establish a rational nature in the growing child.  The characters of virtue, temperance, justice, mercy, and truth, along with an understanding that it is folly to indulge wicked passions, can develop only if parents pay full attention to the child’s education.  “For those who educate us should imitate our guardian angels; should suggest nothing to our minds but what is wise and holy; help us to discover every false judgment of our minds; and to subdue every wrong passion in our hearts.”

The goal of a Christian education is not merely to command obedience and respect, not merely to motivate good behavior via fear or appeals to duty or even love of mom and dad, but rather to bring the child into agreement with God, convincing her to joyfully embrace a Biblical worldview, so when you launch her into the world she may go forth as a shining light, a witness, a personal evangelist with Good News that she wholeheartedly believes.  For this to be possible, the child must be born again and growing in grace years before she faces the world.  For her to be born again she must, at an early age, understand God’s laws, which are rooted in the reality of God’s character and man’s responsibilities, the consequences of sin and judgment, why the Gospel is the only remedy, and what a converted life looks like.  Dad, Mom . . . Who do you think is responsible to represent God to your son, your daughter?  Who is going to model for them the born again life?  Who is going to teach them that breaking righteous laws brings judgment?  Who will teach them what repentance and trust mean, not just in a theoretical sense, but on a day-to-day basis in the context of their own behavior?

noisy kids 2I can imagine so many Christian parents nodding and agreeing – in theory –  while every day overlooking rebellion in their children, tolerating whining and griping and disrespect and demands, even negotiating with their kids, hoping to bribe some temporary peace with a piece of chocolate or the promise of a treat, occasionally threatening some discipline but rarely following through, living in an environment of noise and confusion, even yelling repeatedly in futile attempts to correct behavior, showing the strong-willed youngsters that they need not take mom and dad seriously.  Strong willed?  Yes, those little bodies are packed with wills much stronger than those of the tired, stressed-out parents, who suffer only because they ignore or despise God’s instructions on disciplining children.  Yet the children suffer, too.  Made in the image of God, their conscience is continually afflicted by their own rebellion which, when rewarded, then multiplies.  The kids are miserable, the parents are miserable, and the Holy Spirit is grieved that you defy His counsel.  Are your children accountable for their lies?  Do they get away with selfishness and unkindness to their brothers and sisters?  Are you ‘too busy to deal with them’ time and time again?

And you hope that your children will grow up to be saved?!?  How can they possibly understand God and His laws and judgment and forgiveness and mercy and the value of righteousness when they so rarely see it in practice?  So more than 90% of Millennials who grew up in church have rejected the Gospel and live as atheists, whether or not they use the label.

Have you noticed that our nation is filled with whining, griping, lying, immoral and amoral liberals?  How do you think they got that way?

liberal protestWesley describes an atheist as one who is “his own god.  He worships himself.  He is, in his own conception, absolute lord of himself.  He seeks himself in all things.  He pleases himself.  And why not?  Who is lord over him?  His own will is his only law; he does this or that because it is his good pleasure.”  Even Christian parents today spoil their children, strive to build their self-esteem, and in permitting rebellion reinforce the child’s conviction that he is lord of his environment.  Wesley warns on a Biblical basis that pride is a deadly disease that must be trained out of a child.  Pride:  “a continual proneness to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.”  Dad, are you fostering pride or humility in your son?

How about love of the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life?  Are you continually finding ways to entertain your kids?  Are they already addicted, some in their infancy, to the screen in their little hands, colorful images flashing rapidly by, training their brains to demand exciting yet dreadfully shallow content . . . every waking moment?  Is there not value in periods of quietness, thought, reading, prayer, and patience?  Is adult life on planet Earth just one silly video or game after another?  Don’t you want them to grow up to be mature adults?  How can they be saved if they are trained to avoid thinking?

Wesley has some specific counsel for parents whose children will grow up to be atheists if they don’t repent.  He asks whether parents “spend hours, perhaps days with their children (but) they hardly name the name of God!  Meantime, they talk of a thousand other things in the world round about them . . . Do not parents feed the atheism of their children further by ascribing the works of creation to nature?”  Do they talk about fortune or chance as if God is absent and as if man is not accountable for his actions?  Do they talk “of their own wisdom or goodness or power to do this or that without expressly mentioning that all these are the gift of God?”

self esteemWhat about the child’s self-will?  “And how few parents are to be found even among Christians, even among those who truly fear God, who are not guilty in this matter!  Who do not continually feed and increase this grievous distemper in their children!  To let them have their own will does this most effectually.  To let them take their own way is the sure method of increasing their self-will sevenfold.  But who has the resolution to do otherwise?  One parent in a hundred!  Who can be so singular, so cruel, as not, more or less, to humor her child?  ‘And why should you not?  What harm can there be in this, which everybody does?’  The harm is that it strengthens their will more and more, till it will bow to neither God nor man.  To humor children is, as far as is in our power, to make their disease incurable.”

Wesley advises to break the child’s will, but not the spirit.  “The will of the parent is to a little child in the place of the will of God.”  Do you want your child in Heaven or Hell?  You won’t break their self-will if you start in their teens.  “You will need incredible firmness and resolution, for after you have once begun, you must never again give way . . . you must never intermit your attention for one hour; otherwise you lose your labor.”

The temptation to parents is relentless.  Day by day, the child rebels.  You’re too tired to deal with it right now.  The child’s will grows stronger in rebellion.  You’re too lazy to invest in discipline and instruction right now and it never does seem to be convenient.  Ironically, a little consistent investment early on saves thousands of painful and noisy and stressful encounters in later years.  But if you don’t invest right now and with perfect consistency, you never win.  You raise yet another liberal, out of touch with reality, unrepentant, full of self-esteem.

children's fashions

children’s fashions

Specific counsel from Wesley:  “Never, on any account give a child anything that it cries for . . . if you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying; and then he will certainly cry again.  ‘But if I do not give it to him when he cries, he will scream all day long.’  If he does, it is your own fault, for it is in your power effectually to prevent it.  For no mother need allow a child to thus cry aloud after it is a year old.”  Wesley was one of ten children, all of whom had spirit enough in his view . . . “yet not one of them was ever heard to cry aloud after it was a year old.”  Wesley observed like results in other families when discipline was intentional and consistent.  Yet such children can be raised with spirits intact, well-suited for mature adulthood.

Regarding pride, Wesley counsels to “beware of adding fuel to the flame, of feeding the disease which you should cure.  Almost all parents are guilty of doing this by praising their children to their face.  If you are sensible to the folly and cruelty of this, see that you sacredly abstain from it.”  Also, watch out that others don’t build what they call ‘self-esteem,’ but is actually self-damning pride in your children.  Don’t “teach them to value what is dung and dross in the sight of God.”  Rather, teach them humility, show them the sins in their lives, teach them what righteous behavior is.  Wesley points out that it is Scriptural to commend your children; after all, the Lord commended His disciples and Paul commends the churches which did well.  Yet commendations must be made with “utmost caution, directing them at the same moment to look on all they have as the free gift of God,” praising and thanking Him.

kids eating candyOn love of the world, Wesley encourages simple food and simple and modest clothes.  Remember that he lived in the 18th century!  How incredibly varied are the pleasures of the world today!  Yet parents fill their kids with junk food and candy and doll them up with a myriad of fabrics and colors, fueling the youngsters’ desires for more and more and more.  I won’t belabor this point.  You can figure out where the lines should be.  I guarantee that 9,999 out of 10,000 who would read this are far beyond the boundaries of godly sense in this.

Here’s a timeless issue:  “Your mother or your husband’s mother may live with you; and you will do well to show her all possible respect.  But let her on no account have the least share in the management of your children.  She would undo all that you had done; she would give them their own will in all things.  She would humor them to the destruction of their souls, if not their bodies too.  In fourscore years I have not met with one woman who knew how to manage grandchildren.  My own mother, who governed her children so well, could never govern one grandchild.”

child reading BibleWesley covers additional topics, but the above is sufficient to deliver the challenge.  Perhaps you see yourself as striving, and striving Biblically, in these matters.  Yet you deliver your children over to public school teachers – atheists, Marxists, liberals, anti-Christians – who then proceed to indoctrinate your children in evolution, abortion, the LGBT agenda, unrestrained fornication, etc., and work hard to build pride in your little rebel.  Are you insane?  Or do you simply despise your children after all?  Oh, perhaps you send them to a ‘Christian school.’  Are the teachers genuinely born again, committed to live godly lives?  How do you know?

Your children are your responsibility.  This will be a major topic in your interview at the Judgment Seat of Christ.  Don’t wait until then to find out whether you’re on course.

  • drdave@truthreallymatters.com

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