24 Nuggets of Wisdom for Parents from J.C. Ryle’s “The Duties of Parents”

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1. LET THE BIBLE BE EVERYTHING IN TRAINING CHILDREN’S SOULS

“But if you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls; and let all other books go down and take the second place.”

2. GIVE THEM THE WHOLE BIBLE EVEN WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG

“Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.”

3. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN IN THE HABIT OF PRAYER

“Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them if they become careless and slack about it. Let it not be your fault, at any rate, if they never call on the name of the Lord.”

4. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR THE LORD’S DAY

“Do not allow them to grow up with a habit of making vain excuses for not coming. Give them plainly to understand, that so long as they are under your roof it is the rule of your house for every one in health to honour the Lord’s house upon the Lord’s day, and that you reckon the Sabbath-breaker to be a murderer of his own soul. See to it too, if it can be so arranged, that your children go with you to church, and sit near you when they are there. To go to church is one thing, but to behave well at church is quite another. And believe me, there is no security for good behaviour like that of having them under your own eye.”

5. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN TO HONOR THE LORD’S DAY (2)

“Be not cast down because your children see not the full value of the means of grace now. Only train them up to a habit of regular attendance. Set it before their minds as a high, holy, and solemn duty, and believe me, the day will very likely come when they will bless you for your deed.”

6. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN TO HAVE FAITH

“. . . you should train them up to believe what you say. You should try to make them feel confidence in your judgment, and respect your opinions, as better than their own. You should accustom them to think that, when you say a thing is bad for them, it must be bad, and when you say it is good for them, it must be good; that your knowledge, in short, is better than their own, and that they may rely implicitly on your word. Teach them to feel that what they know not now, they will probably know hereafter, and to be satisfied there is a reason and a needs-be for everything you require them to do.”

7. THE MARK OF WELL-TRAINED CHILDREN IS THAT THEY DO WHATEVER THEIR PARENTS COMMAND THEM

“Obedience is the only reality. It is faith visible, faith acting, and faith incarnate. It is the test of real discipleship among the Lord’s people. “Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). It ought to be the mark of well-trained children, that they do whatsoever their parents command them. Where, indeed, is the honour which the fifth commandment enjoins, if fathers and mothers are not obeyed cheerfully, willingly, and at once?”

8. PARENTS ALWAYS YIELDING AND A CHILD ALWAYS HAVING HIS WAY IS A PAINFUL SIGHT

“You will see many in this day who allow their children to choose and think for themselves long before they are able, and even make excuses for their disobedience, as if it were a thing not to be blamed. To my eyes, a parent always yielding, and a child always having its own way, are a most painful sight; — painful, because I see God’s appointed order of things inverted and turned Upside down; — painful, because I feel sure the consequence to that child’s character in the end will be self-will, pride, and self-conceit. You must not wonder that men refuse to obey their Father which is in heaven, if you allow them, when children, to disobey their father who is upon earth.”

9. OBEDIENCE SHOULD BE A MOTTO AND A WATCHWORD CONTINUALLY BEFORE CHILDREN

“Parents, if you love your children, let obedience be a motto and a watchword continually before their eyes.”

10. TEACH CHILDREN THE VALUE OF TIME

“Reader, I ask you to set these things before the minds of your children. Teach them the value of time, and try to make them learn the habit of using it well. It pains me to see children idling over what they have in hand, whatever it may be. I love to see them active and industrious, and giving their whole heart to all they do; giving their whole heart to lessons, when they have to learn; — giving their whole heart even to their amusements, when they go to play.”

11. SPOILING YOUR CHILDREN WILL RUIN THEIR SOULS

“Spoiling is a very expressive word, and sadly full of meaning. Now it is the shortest way to spoil children to let them have their own way, — to allow them to do wrong and not to punish them for it. Believe me, you must not do it, whatever pain it may cost you unless you wish to ruin your children’s souls.”

12. IF YOU NEVER PUNISH YOUR CHILDREN WHEN THEY ARE IN FAULT YOU ARE DOING THEM A GREVIOUS WRONG

“Fathers and mothers, I tell you plainly, if you never punish your children when they are in fault, you are doing them a grievous wrong. I warn you, this is the rock on which the saints of God, in every age, have only too frequently made shipwreck. I would fain persuade you to be wise in time, and keep clear of it. See it in Eli’s case. His sons Hophni and Phinehas “made themselves vile, and he restrained them not.” He gave them no more than a tame and lukewarm reproof, when he ought to have rebuked them sharply. In one word, he honoured his sons above God. And what was the end of these things? He lived to hear of the death of both his sons in battle, and his own grey hairs were brought down with sorrow to the grave (1 Sam. 2:22-29, 3:13).”

13. SELFISH PEOPLE AND SPOILED CHILDREN ARE SELDOM HAPPY

“Depend on it, there is no surer road to unhappiness than always having our own way. To have our wills checked and denied is a blessed thing for us; it makes us value enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is the way to be made selfish; and selfish people and spoiled children, believe me, are seldom happy.”

14. TRAIN YOUR CHILDREN AS GOD TRAINS HIS

“Reader, be not wiser than God; — train your children as He trains His.”

15. INSTRUCTION MUST BE BACKED UP BY THE PATTERN OF ONE’S OWN LIFE

“Instruction, and advice, and commands will profit little, unless they are backed up by the pattern of your own life. Your children will never believe you are in earnest, and really wish them to obey you, so long as your actions contradict your counsel. Archbishop Tillotson made a wise remark when he said, “To give children good instruction, and a bad example, is but beckoning to them with the head to show them the way to heaven, while we take them by the hand and lead them in the way to hell.”

16. PARENTS SHOULD WATCH THEIR CHARACTER AT HOME

“Fathers and mothers, do not forget that children learn more by the eye than they do by the ear. No school will make such deep marks on character as home. The best of schoolmasters will not imprint on their minds as much as they will pick up at your fireside. Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.”

17. HE WHO SINS BEFORE A CHILD SINS DOUBLE

“Take care, then, what you do before a child. It is a true proverb, “Who sins before a child, sins double.” Strive rather to be a living epistle of Christ, such as your families can read, and that plainly too. Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for means of grace, reverence for the Lord’s day. — Be an example in words, in temper, in diligence, in temperance, in faith, in charity, in kindness, in humility. Think not your children will practise what they do not see you do. You are their model picture, and they will copy what you are. Your reasoning and your lecturing, your wise commands and your good advice; all this they may not understand, but they can understand your life.”

18. WATCH OUT FOR HYPROCRISY IN YOUR LIFE

“Children are very quick observers; very quick in seeing through some kinds of hypocrisy, very quick in finding out what you really think and feel, very quick in adopting all your ways and opinions. You will often find as the father is, so is the son.”

19. CHILDREN ARE SINNERS TOO

“You must not expect to find your children’s minds a sheet of pure white paper, and to have no trouble if you only use right means. I warn you plainly you will find no such thing. It is painful to see how much corruption and evil there is in a young child’s heart, and how soon it begins to bear fruit. Violent tempers, self-will, pride, envy, sullenness, passion, idleness, selfishness, deceit, cunning, falsehood, hypocrisy, a terrible aptness to learn what is bad, a painful slowness to learn what is good, a readiness to pretend anything in order to gain their own ends, — all these things, or some of them, you must be prepared to see, even in your own flesh and blood. In little ways they will creep out at a very early age; it is almost startling to observe how naturally they seem to spring up. Children require no schooling to learn to sin.”

20. DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE THAT TELLS YOU THAT YOUR CHILDREN ARE GOOD

“Never listen to those who tell you your children are good, and well brought up, and can be trusted. Think rather that their hearts are always inflammable as tinder. At their very best, they only want a spark to set their corruptions alight. Parents are seldom too cautious. Remember the natural depravity of your children, and take care.”

21. CHILDREN WILL BLESS THEIR PARENTS FOR GOOD TRAINING

“Many children, I doubt not, shall rise up in the day of judgment, and bless their parents for good training, who never gave any signs of having profited by it during their parents’ lives. Go forward then in faith, and be sure that your labour shall not be altogether thrown away. Three times did Elijah stretch himself upon the widow’s child before it revived. Take example from him, and persevere.”

22. PRAY FOR THE LORD’S BLESSINGS UPON YOUR ENDEAVORS WITH YOUR CHILDREN

“Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavours will do no good. He has the hearts of all men in His hands, and except He touch the hearts of your children by His Spirit, you will weary yourself to no purpose. Water, therefore, the seed you sow on their minds with unceasing prayer. The Lord is far more willing to hear than we to pray; far more ready to give blessings than we to ask them; — but He loves to be entreated for them. And I set this matter of prayer before you, as the top-stone and seal of all you do. I suspect the child of many prayers is seldom cast away.”

23. GODLY TRAINING BEGINS AT HOME

“Fathers and mothers … you may send them to the best of schools, and give them Bibles and Prayer Books, and fill them with head knowledge:— but if all this time there is no regular training at home, I tell you plainly, I fear it will go hard in the end with your children’s souls. Home is the place where habits are formed; — home is the place where the foundations of character are laid; — home gives the bias to our tastes, and likings, and opinions. See then, I pray you, that there be careful training at home. Happy indeed is the man who can say, as Bolton did upon his dying bed, to his children, “I do believe not one of you will dare to meet me before the tribunal of Christ in an unregenerate state.”

24. GODLY TRAINING OF CHILDREN BENEFITS THE PARENTS FOR THEIR FUTURE COMFORT AND PEACE

“Fathers and mothers, I charge you solemnly before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, take every pains to train your children in the way they should go. I charge you not merely for the sake of your children’s souls; I charge you for the sake of your own future comfort and peace. Truly it is your interest so to do. Truly your own happiness in great measure depends on it. Children have ever been the bow from which the sharpest arrows have pierced man’s heart. Children have mixed the bitterest cups that man has ever had to drink. Children have caused the saddest tears that man has ever had to shed. Adam could tell you so; Jacob could tell you so; David could tell you so. There are no sorrows on earth like those which children have brought upon their parents. Oh! take heed, lest your own neglect should lay up misery for you in your old age. Take heed, lest you weep under the ill-treatment of a thankless child, in the days when your eye is dim, and your natural force abated.”

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