A Word to Parents

By Arthur W. Pink

One of the saddest and most tragic features of our twentieth-century "Civilization" is the awful prevalence of disobedience on the part of children to their parents during the days of childhood, and their lack of reverence and respect when they grow up. This is evidenced in many ways, and is general, alas, even in the families of professing Christians. In his extensive travels during the past thirty years the writer has sojourned in a great many homes. The piety and beauty of some of them remain as sacred and fragrant memories, but others of them have left the most painful impressions. Children who are self-willed or spoiled, not only bring themselves into perpetual unhappiness but also inflict discomfort upon all who come into contact with them, and auger, by their conduct, evil things for the days to come.

In the vast majority of cases the children are not nearly so much to be blamed as the parents. Failure to honor father and mother, wherever it is found, is in large measure due to parental departure from the Scriptural pattern. Nowadays the father thinks that he has fulfilled his obligations by providing food and raiment for his children, and by acting occasionally as a kind of moral policeman. Too often the mother is content to be a domestic drudge, making herself the slave of her children instead of training them to be useful. She performs many a task which her daughters should do in order to allow them freedom for the frivolities of a giddy set. The consequence has been that the home, which ought to be - for its orderliness, its sanctity, and its reign of love - a miniature heaven on earth, has degenerated into "a filling station for the day and a parking place for the night," as someone has tersely expressed it.

Before outlining the duties of parents toward their children, let it be pointed out that they cannot properly discipline their children unless they have first learned to govern themselves. How can they expect to subdue self-will in their little ones and check the rise of an angry temper if their own passions are allowed free reign? The character of parents is to a very large degree reproduced in their off- spring: "And Adam lived a hundred and thirty years and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image" (Gen. 5:3).

The parent must himself or herself be in subjection to God if he would lawfully expect obedience from his little ones. This principle is enforced in Scripture again and again: "Thou therefore which teachest another, teachest thou not thyself?" (Rom. 2:20). Of the bishop, that is, elder or pastor, it is written that he must be "one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity. For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (i Tim. 3:5, 6). And if a man or woman knows not how to rule his own spirit (Prov. 25:28), how shall he care for his offspring.

God has entrusted to parents a most solemn charge, and yet a most precious privilege. It is not too much to say that in their hands are deposited the hope and blessing, or else the curse and plague, of the next generation. Their families are the nurseries of both Church and State, and according to the cultivating of them now will be their fruitfulness hereafter. Oh, how prayerfully and carefully should you who are parents discharge your trust. Most assuredly God will re- quire an account of the children from your hands, for they are His, and only lent to your care and keeping. The task assigned you is no easy one, especially in these superlatively evil days. Nevertheless, if trustfully and earnestly sought, the grace of God will be found sufficient in this responsibility as in others. The Scriptures supply us with rules to go by, with promises to lay hold of, and, we may add, with fearful warnings lest we treat the matter lightly....

 

Discipline Your Children

Instruction and example is to be enforced by correction and discipline. This means, first of all, the exercise of authority - the proper reign of Law. Of "the father of the faithful" God said, "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord to do justice and judgement; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him" (Gen. 18:19). Ponder this carefully, Christian fathers. Abraham did more than proffer good advice; he enforced law and order in his household. The rules he administered had for their design the keeping of "the way of the Lord" - that which was right in His sight. And this duty was performed by the patriarch in order that the blessing of God might rest on his family. No family can be brought up without household laws, which include reward and punishment, and these are especially important in early childhood, when as yet moral character is unformed and moral motives are not understood or appreciated.

Rules should be simple, clear, reasonable, and inflexible like the Ten Commandments - a few great moral rules, instead of a multitude of petty restrictions. One way of needlessly provoking children to wrath is to hamper them with a thousand trifling restrictions and minute regulations that are capricious and are due to a fastidious temper in the parent. It is of vital importance for the child’s future good that he or she should be brought into subjection at an early age. An untrained child means a lawless adult. Our prisons are crowded with those who were allowed to have their own way during their minority. The least offense of a child against the rulers of the home ought not to pass without due correction, for if he finds leniency in one direction or toward one offense he will expect the same toward others. And then disobedience will become more frequent till the parent has no control save that of brute force.

The teaching of Scripture is crystal clear on this point. "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (Prov. 22:15; and cf. 23:13, 14). Therefore God has said, "He that spareth the rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes (speedily)" (Prov. t 3:24). And again, "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying" (Prov. 19:18). Let not a foolish fondness stay thee. certainly God loves His children with a much deeper parental affection than you can love yours, yet He tells us, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Rev. 3:19; and cf. Heb. 12:6). "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). Such severity must be used in his early years, before age and obstinacy have hardened the child against the fear and smart of correction. Spare the rod, and you spoil the child; use it not on him, and you lay up one for your own back.

It should hardly need pointing out that the above Scriptures are by no means teaching that a reign of terror is to mark the home life. Children can be governed and chastened in such a way that they lose not their respect and affection for their parents. Beware of souring their temper by unreasonable demands, or provoking their wrath by striking them to vent your own rage. The parent is to punish a disobedient child not because he is angry, but because it is right - because God requires it, and the welfare of the child demands it. Never make a threat which you have no intention of executing, nor a promise you do not mean to perform. Remember that for your children to be well informed is good, but for them to be well controlled is better.

Pay close attention to the unconscious influences of a child’s surroundings. Study how to make your home attractive, not by introducing carnal and worldly things, but by noble ideals, by the inculcating of a spirit of unselfishness, by genial and happy fellowship. Separate the little ones from evil associates. Watch carefully the periodicals and books which come into your home, the occasional guests which sit at your table, and the companionships that your children form. Parents often carelessly let others have free access to their children who undermine the parental authority, over-turn the parental ideals, and sow seeds of frivolity and iniquity before they are aware. Never let your child spend a night among strangers. So train your children that your girls will be useful and helpful members of their generation and your boys industrious and self-supporting.