Wesley On Child Training
As a rule those who have never had any children of their own can tell exactly how they ought to be trained. But there are exceptions and we believe John Wesley inherited from his godly mother principles concerning child training that are worth repeating. Hear him:
1. “What can we do to cure their self-will? It is equally rooted in their nature, and is, indeed, the original idolatry, which is not confined to one age or country, but is common to all the nations under heaven. And how few parents are too be found even among Christians, even among them that truly fear God, who are not guilty of this matter? Who do not continually feed and increase this grievous distemper in their children?” To let them have their own will does this most effectually. To let them take their own way is the sure method of increasing their will sevenfold. But who has the resolution to do otherwise? One parent in a hundred? Who can be so singular, so cruel, as not more or less, to humor her child? “And why should you not? What harm can there be in this, which everybody else does?” The harm is, that it strengthens their will more and more, till it will neither bow to God nor man. To humor children, is, as far as in us lies, to make their disease incurable. A wise parent, on the other hand should begin to break their will the first moment it appears. In the whole art of Christian education there is nothing more important than this. The will of a parent is to a little child in the place of the will of God. Therefore studiously teach them to submit to this while they are children, that they may be ready to submit to His will, when they are men. But in order to carry this point, you will need incredible firmness and resolution; for after you have once begun, you must never more give way. You must hold on still in an even course; you must never intermit your attention for one hour; otherwise you will lose your labor.
2. “If you are not willing to lose all your labor you have been at, to break the will of your child, to bring his will into subjection to yours, that it may be afterwards subject to the will of God, there is one advice, which, though little known, should be particularly attended to. It may seem a small circumstance; but it is this: Never, on any account, give a child anything that it cries for. For it is a true observation (and you may make the experiment as often as you please), if you give a child what he cries for, you pay him for crying; and then he will certainly cry again. ‘But if I do not give it to him when he cries, he will scream all day long.’ If he does, it is your own fault, for it is in your power effectually to prevent it, for no mother need suffer a child to cry aloud after it is a year old. ‘Why, it is impossible to hinder it.’ So, many suppose; but it is an entire mistake. I am witness of the direct contrary; and so are many others. My own mother had ten children, each of whom had spirit enough, yet not one of them was ever heard to cry aloud, after it was a year old. And yet not of their spirits were so broken as to unfit them for any of the offices of life. This therefore may be done by any woman of sense, who may thereby save herself abundance of trouble, and prevent that disagreeable noise, the squalling of young children, from being heard under her roof. But I allow, none but a woman of sense will be able to effect this. Yea, and a woman of such patience and resolution as only the grace of God can give. She that is able to receive it, let her receive it!
3. “It is hard to say, whether self-will or pride be the more fatal distemper. It was chiefly pride that drew down so many stars from heaven, and turned angels into devils.
“Beware of adding fuel to the flame; of feeding the disease which you should cure. Almost all parents are guilty of doing this, by praising their children to their face. If you are sensible of the folly and cruelty of this, see that you sacredly abstain from it, and in spite of either fear or complaisance, go one step farther. Do not suffer others to do what you dare not do yourself. How few parents are sufficiently aware of this? Or,, at least sufficiently resolute to practice it – to check everyone at the first word, that would praise them before their face. Even those who would not, on any account, sit attentive to their own applause, nevertheless, do not scruple to sit attentive to the applause of their children. Yea! And that to their face! Oh, consider! Is not this the spreading a net for their feet? Is it not doubly hurtful, if they are praise for things not truly praiseworthy; things of an indifferent nature, as sense, good breeding, beauty, elegance or apparel? It has a manifest and direct tendency to infuse pride and folly together; to pervert both their taste and judgment; teaching them to value what is dung and dross in the sight of God.
4. “If on the contrary, you desire without loss of time to strike at the root of their pride, teach your children as soon as you possibly can, that they are fallen spirits, that they are fallen short of that glorious image of God, wherein they were first created; that they are not now, as they were once, incorruptible pictures of the God of glory; bearing the express image of the wise, the good, the Holy Father of Spirits; but more ignorant, more foolish and more wicked, than they can possibly conceive. Show them that, in pride, passion, and revenge, they are now like the devil. And that in foolish desires and groveling appetites they are like the beast of the field. Watch over them diligently in this respect, that whenever occasion offers, you may check the very first appearance of pride.
5. “Possibly you may have difficulty to encounter, and one of a still more trying nature. Your mother, or your husband’s mother, may live with you; and you will do well to show her all possible respect. But let her on no account have the least share in the management of your children. She would undo all you had done; she would give them their own will in all things. She would humor them to the destruction of their souls, if not their bodies, too. In fourscore years I have not met with one woman that knew how to manage grandchildren. My own mother, who governed her children so well, could never govern one grandchild. In every point obey your mother. Give up your will to hers. But with regard to the management of your children, steadily keep the reins in your own hands.
6. “Your pains will be well requited if you can inspire them early with a contempt of all finery, and, on the other hand, with a love and esteem for neat plainness of dress. Teaching them to associate the ideas of plainness and modesty; and those of a fine and a loose woman. Likewise, instill into them, as early as possible, a fear and contempt of pomp and grandeur; an abhorrence and dread of the love of money, and a deep conviction that riches can not give happiness. Wean them, therefore, from all these false ends, habituate them to make God their end in all things.”