12 Things Parents Need to Teach Their Children

I’ve just come across William Plumer’s 1836 booklet, “Thoughts on Religious Education and Early Piety.” I’ll try to transcribe it if I get some time, for though it’s a bit dated, it has some incredibly relevant and helpful directions for parents. Here’s a sneak peek – 12 things parents need to teach their children. But first, hear Plumer’s challenge to our tendency to be passive parents: “If we must train them up and bring them up, [as Ephesians 6:4 and Prov. 22:6 command,] we certainly have more to do than to let them come up or grow up. A child merely fed, and clothed, and left to himself, bringeth his mother to shame.”

1. Submission to just authority, the authority of the parent – “It is most painful to see how many children are permitted, even at an early age, to become headstrong, turbulent, selfwilled, and ungovernable, except as brute beasts.”

2. Modesty/humility and self-distrust – “It is the shame of the age in which we live, that so many young persons, swollen with self-conceit, perpetually dogmatize. They possess the forwardness and unblushing confidence of the man of fifty years of age, without the caution and mellowness of character derived from age and experience…They are, in their own estimation, men and women before they enter their teens, and they are in fact children ever after.”

3. Patience, self-denial, and equanimity – “To do this effectually, they must not be indulged in all, or in half their wishes…A wish may not always be gratified because it is not unlawful. All lawful things are not expedient or useful. It is incalculably important for all persons to learn in early life, what they must learn sooner or later, that enjoyment cannot keep pace with desire, that loss and pain must be endured, that, for the sake of a higher good, self-denial must be exercised, and that, in the whole of life, a meek and quiet spirit is an ornament of invaluable excellence. Quietly to bear a defeat of purpose, and meet successful opposition without discomfiture, is to be dignified and free from some most distressing emotion.”

4. Habits of industry in some lawful calling – “He who is not industriously employed in something lawful and profitable, will be the minister of evil to himself and others.”

5. The strictest sobriety and temperance – “Moderation in eating is no less a duty [than refraining from drunkenness]. Gluttony is a gross and beastly sin, punishing its perpetrators in time and eternity. Even an approach to it is a shame.”

6. The most sacred regard to truth – “To inspire a horror of lying and a love of truth is not easy. Man is naturally a liar (Ps. 58:3). A proneness to practice deceit and deny true charges of criminality, is one of the earliest and strongest symptoms of depravity. Yet it must be eradicated.”

7. The exercise of all that is liberal, and generous and frank in sentiment, speech and behavior – “Teach them that bigotry, and selfishness, and stinginess, and all narrowness of feeling, are among the objects most accursed of God, as well as spoken against, however practiced, by men…In the matter of charitable donations, let them understand that they are to give out of their own earnings or savings, and not from money just received from you for the particular purpose. Otherwise you will but teach them to be generous with other people’s property.”

8. Acts of humanity and mercy – “There is a sort of tenderness much in vogue at the present day, which weeps over the misery and pities distress as portrayed by a novelist, but which turns away from real suffering and present wretchedness with a coldness that is as chilling as the northern tempest of winter.”

9. A becoming respect for their superior, and especially a reverence for the aged – “However unworthily of their age old people may act, or however low may be their rank in society, we ought never forget that there is a degree of respect due to grey hairs alone.”

10. Candor, fairness, and undoubted integrity in their dealings with others – “Give to your children this motto, to be inscribed on the frontlet of each of them: ‘It is not necessary that I should be rich, or be keen in trade; but it is necessary that I should be honest, and maintain an unimpeachable integrity of character.”

11. Great reverence for the name, word, people, worship, ordinances, and Sabbath of God – “Let them know that ‘the Lord will not hold him guiltless who taketh his name in vain.’ Teach them that the Bible is the book of God, and as such is to be received, studied, obeyed heartily and cheerfully. When you can with safety, point them to one and another whose lives accord with the evangelical standard, and let them know that there are living cases of genuine piety, and that God yet has witnesses on earth. Let them know, too, that there are excellent people in other branches of the Christian church besides that to which you belong. Let them know also, that God’s house is different from other places, and demands special gravity and seriousness of deportment. Let them be present at the administration of the sacraments, and take pains to have them understand their solemn nature and spiritual meaning. See to it that they ‘remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy,’ not profaning it in any manner.”

12. A correct and adequate knowledge of the great doctrines of Christianity – “Teach them that ‘there is none righteous, no not one;’ that they and all men are wholly depraved, and ‘by nature the children of wrath’ – destitute of any holiness – perverse in will, and strangers and aliens from the God of all hope. On this great doctrine let there be no doubt. Then tell them of the nature, necessity and agent of that great work to be wrought in them, denominated in Scripture, Regeneration. Teach them that religion is a reality, and that it is spiritual, not consisting in forms and observances, however numerous or painful. Explain to them the nature, objects, author and importance of the Christian graces. Leave them not in ignorance of the ground and method of a sinner’s acceptance before God, and that it is solely in virtue of Christ’s obedience and death that we can be pardoned and receive the adoption of sons of God.

Some final thoughts from Plumer: “These instructions will be but feeble in their operation, unless parents statedly and frequently pray with and for their children. A child ought not to be able to remember the time when God was not statedly worshiped in its father’s house. There are, too, many occasions when it is proper and profitable to retire with one or more of our children to a secret place, and there pray with and for them. They also ought to be taught to pray in secret and alone, not merely agreeably to some form of sound words, but in words of their own selection in view of their wants. Even before they can read, they may learn suitable expressions of religious worship, and may be told that God’s ear is as open to their cry as to that of the aged.”



One response to this post.

  1. […] 12 Things Parents Need to Teach Their Children — Caleb points out this great list from an 1836 parenting booklet. Absolutely still relevant today! […]


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