A Word to Parents
by A. 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, 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 inflict discomfort upon all who come into contact
with them, and foreshadow evil things for the days to come.
In the vast majority of cases the children are not to be
blamed nearly so much 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 considers that he has fulfilled his
obligations by providing food and clothing for his children, and by acting
occasionally as a species 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, performing many a task which her
daughters should do, in order to allow them freedom for the frivolous. The
consequence has been that the home, which ought to be—for its orderliness,
its sanctity, and its reigns of love—a miniature heaven and 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 be a very large degree reproduced in their offspring—"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 they may lawfully expect obedience from their little ones. This
principle is enforced in Scriptures again and again—"You therefore who teach
another, teach you not yourself?" (Rom 2:21). Of the bishop or pastor it is
written that he must be, "One who rules well his own house, having his
children in subjection with all gravity. For if a man knows not how to rule
his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?" (I Tim 3:4,5).
And if a man or woman knows not how to rule their own spirit (Pro 25:28),
how shall they care for their offspring.
God has entrusted to parents a most solemn 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, such will be their fruitfulness
hereafter. How prayerfully and carefully should they discharge their trust.
Most assuredly God will require an account of the children from the parents’
hands, for they are His, and only lent to their 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 here as elsewhere. 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.
Instruct your children
We have space to mention but four of the principal duties
delegated to parents. First, to instruct their children. "And these words,
which I command you this day, shall be in your heart—and you shall teach
them diligently unto your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in
your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when
you rise up" (Deut 6:6,7). This work is far too important to allocate unto
others. Parents, and not Sunday School teachers, are divinely required to
educate their little ones. Nor is this to be an occasional or sporadic
thing, but one that is to have constant attention. The glorious character of
God, the requirements of His holy law, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, the
wondrous gift of His Son, and the fearful doom which is the certain portion
of all who despise and reject Him, are to be brought repeatedly before the
minds of the little ones. "They are too young to understand such things" is
the devil’s argument to deter you from discharging your duty.
"And you fathers, provoke not your children to wrath—but
bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). It is to
be noted that the "fathers" are here specifically addressed, and this for
two reasons—because they are the head of the family and its government is
especially committed to them, and because they are prone to transfer this
duty unto their wives. This instruction is to be given by reading to them
the Holy Scriptures and expounding upon those things suitable for their age.
This should be followed by catechizing them. A continued discourse to the
young is not nearly so effective as when it is diversified by questions and
answers. If they know they will be questioned on what you read, they will
listen more closely—the formulating of answers teaches them to think for
themselves. Such a method is also found to make the memory more retentive,
for answering definite questions fixes more specific ideas in the mind.
Observe how often Christ asked His disciples questions.
Be a Good Example
Second, good instructions are to be accompanied by good
example. That teaching which issues only from the lips is not at all likely
to sink any deeper than the ears. Children are particularly quick to detect
inconsistencies, and despise hypocrisy. It is at this point parents need to
be most on their faces before God, daily seeking from Him that grace which
they so severely need and which He alone can supply. What care they need to
take lest they say or do anything before their children which would tend to
corrupt their minds or be of evil consequence for them to follow! How they
need to be constantly on their guard against anything which might render
them contemptible in the eyes of those who should respect and revere them!
The parent is not only to instruct his children in the ways of holiness, but
is himself to walk before them in those ways, and show by his practice and
demeanor what a pleasant and profitable thing it is to be regulated by the
In a Christian home the supreme aim should be household
piety-the honoring of God at all times-everything else being subordinated
thereto. In the matter of family life, neither husband nor wife can throw on
the other all the responsibility for the religious character of the home.
The mother is most certainly required to supplement the efforts of the
father, for the children enjoy far more of her company than they do of his.
If there is a tendency in fathers to be too strict and severe, mothers are
prone to be too lax and lenient, and they need to be much on their guard
against anything which would weaken her husband’s authority—when he has
forbidden a thing, she must not give her consent to it. It is striking to
note that the exhortation of Ephesians 6:4 is preceded by "be filled with
the Spirit" (5:18), while the parallel exhortation in Colossians 3:21 is
preceded by "let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly" (v. 16), showing
that parents cannot possibly discharge their duties unless they are filled
with the Spirit and the Word.
Discipline Your Children
Third, 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 judgment;
that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him" (Gen
18:19). Ponder this carefully, Christian fathers. Abraham did more than
offer 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
properly 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
Rules should be simple, clear, reasonable and flexible
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 arbitrary, due to a parent who is a perfectionist. 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 youth. The least offense of a child against the rulers of the home
ought not to pass without due correction, for if it find leniency in one
direction toward one offense, it will expect the same towards others, and
then disobedience will become more frequent until the parent has no control
except that of brute force.
The teaching of Scripture is crystal clear on this point.
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of the 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 who spares the rod hates his son—but he who loves him chastens
him betimes" (Prov 13:24). And again, "Chasten your son while there is yet
hope, and let not your soul spare for his crying" (Prov 19:18). Let not a
foolish fondness stop you—certainly God loves His children with a 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 brings his mother to shame"
(Prov 29:15). Such severity must be used in their early years, before age
and obstinacy have hardened the child against the fear and sting of
correction. Spare the rod, and you spoil the child. If you don't use the rod
on him—you lay up one for your own back.
It should hardly need pointing out that the above
Scriptures are far from inculcating that a reign of terror is to mark the
home life. Children can be governed and punished in such a way so that they
do not lose their respect and affections toward their parents. Beware of
souring their temper by unreasonable demands—or provoking their wrath by
smiting them to vent your own rage. The parent is to punish a disobedient
child not because he is angry, but because he 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 to make the home attractive—not by producing
carnal and worldly things—but by noble ideals—by inculcating a spirit of
unselfishness—by gracious and happy fellowship. Separate the little ones
from evil associates. Watch carefully the periodicals and books which come
into the home, the occasional guest which sits at the table, and the
companionships your children form. Parents carelessly let people have free
access to their children who undermine their authority, overturn their
ideals, and sow seeds of frivolity and iniquity before they are aware. Never
let your child spend a night among strangers. So train your girls that they
will be useful and helpful members of their generation, and your boys that
they will be industrious and self-supporting.
Pray For Your Children
Fourthly, the last and most important duty, respecting
both the temporal and spiritual good of your children, is fervent
supplication to God for them. Without this all the rest will be ineffectual.
Means are unavailing unless the Lord blesses them. The Throne of Grace is to
be earnestly implored that your efforts to bring up your children for God
may be crowned with success. True, there must be a humble submission to His
sovereign will—a bowing before the truth of Election. On the other hand, it
is the privilege of faith to lay hold of the divine promises and to remember
that the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Of holy
Job it is recorded concerning his sons and daughters that he "rose up early
in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them
all." (1:5) A prayerful atmosphere should pervade the home and be breathed
by all who share it.