There is a fantastic little book on parenting that every home should have on its shelves: The Duties of Parents written by J.C. Ryle in 1888.
A thin, small, 50-page booklet that is packed with wisdom and insight from the first page to the last. There is not one paragraph lacking underlines and highlights in my personal copy, and I find myself returning to it time and again. Sometimes for encouragement and sometimes - for a kick in the pants!
I am sharing these in the hopes that you will find them as encouraging, and challenging, as I do. I have yet to meet a mother or father who does not need words of encouragement and strength to keep running the race of parenthood. It is a long, hard run, and we need all of the refreshment, energy, and coaching we can get!
~ It is a wise parent who does not respond to the behavior of their children initially before responding to their hearts. Yes, behavior must be disciplined, but unless the heart is reached, there can be no lasting change.
~ Never confuse character flaws with purposeful disobedience.
~ Children are weak and tender creatures, and, as such, they need patient and considerate treatment.
We must not expect things all at once. We must remember what children are, and teach them as they are able to bear.
Truly there is need of patience in training a child, but without it nothing can be done.
~ If, then, you would deal wisely with your child, you must not leave him to the guidance of his own will.
It must not be his liking and wishes that are consulted.
Train him in the way that is Scriptural and right, and not in the way that he fancies.
Self-will is almost the first thing that appears in a child's mind; and you must resist it.
~ Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls. No interest should weigh with you so much as their eternal interests.
This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, "How will this affect their souls?"
~ He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for earth, - for God, rather than for man, - he is the parent that will be called wise at last and throughout all eternity, enjoy each other's love and fellowship.
~ Train your children to a knowledge of the Bible.
They cannot be acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.
If you love your children, let the simple Bible be everything in the training of their souls.
See that your children read the Bible regularly. Train them to regard it as their soul's daily health.
Fill their minds with Scripture.
~ Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies in your power to train them up to a habit of prayer.
~ Train them in the duty and privilege of going to the house of God, and joining in the prayers of the congregation.
Tell them of the importance of hearing the Word preached ... not to forsake the assembling of themselves ... to exhort and stir one another up.
~ Train them to a habit of obedience.
Let there be no questioning, reasoning, disputing, delaying, and answering again. When you give them a command, let them see plainly that you will have it done.
Teach them to obey while young, or else they will be fretting against God all their lives long, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control.
~ Train them to the habit of always speaking the truth.
Encourage them in any circumstance to be straightforward, and, whatever it may cost them, to speak the truth.
You will find it a mighty help indeed, to be able always to trust their word.
~ Train them to a habit of always redeeming the time.
Service and work is the appointed portion of every creature of God.
Work attached to purpose excites the soul and drives the spirit in its creative powers.
Work mixed with service brings joy.
The active moving mind is a hard target for the devil to shoot at.
But if you love them well, let idleness be counted a sin in your family.
~ Fear not to withhold from your child anything you think will do him harm, whatever his own wishes may be. This is God's plan.
Hesitate not to lay on him commands, of which he may not at present see the wisdom, and to guide him in the ways which may not now seem reasonable to his mind. This is God's plan.
Shrink not from chastening and correcting him whenever you see his soul's health requires it, however painful it may be to your feelings; and remember medicines for the mind must not be rejected because they are bitter. This is God's plan.
Reader: be not wiser than God; - train your children as He trains His.
~ 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 the home.
The parent who tries to train without setting a good example is building with one hand, and pulling down with the other.
~ Children require no schooling to learn to sin.
But you must not be discouraged and cast down by what you see. You must not think it a strange and unusual thing, that little hearts can be so full of sin.
Let it rather make you more diligent ... let it make you more and more careful.
~ Without the blessing of the Lord, your best endeavors 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.
And then ask the Lord, with a holy boldness, to be gracious and merciful to His own gifts.
You cannot name their names before the mercy-seat too often. - J.C Ryle