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Ten pithy sayings from John Witherspoon, Scottish Presbyterian pastor, President of Princeton (1768-1794), and signer of the Declaration of Independence, on parental authority and child rearing:

1. The best exercise in the world for children is to let them romp and jump about, as soon as they are able, according to their own fancy.

2. A parent that has once obtained and knows how to preserve authority will do more by a look of displeasure, than another by the most passionate words and even blows. It holds universally in families and schools, and even the greater bodies of men, the army and navy, that those who keep the strictest discipline give the fewest strokes.

3. There is not a more disgusting sight than the impotent rage of a parent who has no authority.

4. I have heard some parents often say that they cannot correct their children unless they are angry; to whom I have usually answered, then you ought not to correct them at all.

5. Nothing can be more weak and foolish, or more destructive of authority, than when children are noisy and in an ill humor, to give them or promise them something to appease them.

6. Let it always be seen that you are more displeased at sin than at folly.

7. Nothing is more destructive of authority than frequent disputes and chiding upon small matters. This is often more irksome to children than parents are aware of.

8. I am fully persuaded that the plainest and shortest road to real politeness of carriage, and the most amiable sort of hospitality is to think of others just as a Christian ought, and to express these thoughts with modesty and candor.

9. Many parents are much more ready to tell their children such or such a thing is mean, and not like a gentleman, than to warn them that they will incur the displeasure of their Maker.

10. It is a very nice thing in religion to know the real connection between, and the proper mixture of, spirit [i.e., matters of the heart] and form [i.e., disciplines like family worship and church attendance]. The form without the spirit is good for nothing; but on the other hand, the spirit without the form never yet existed.

All quotes are taken from Witherspoon’s Letters on the Education of Children, and On Marriage.

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21 thoughts on “Advice for Raising Godly Children”

  1. Michael Snow says:

    And here is a very important principle from Psalms

  2. Phil says:

    I am curious as to whether there is any social science research that connects how a child was raised with that person’s adult characteristics and/or behavior (such as self-esteem for characteristics, or church attendance for behavior).

    It seems like everyone has an opinion on how children should be raised. Is there any reason to think that one method is better than another? [I mean that as a serious question.]

  3. Brock says:

    You should use the link below, where the book can be read and/or downloaded for free, as it’s part of the national archive.

  4. Wesley says:

    These 10 things are money. Thanks for sharing this wisdom. Always happy to glean from the experience of others about being a better parent.
    the Ox.

  5. Robert B Fulcher says:

    Kim, I always look forward to your postings! Thanks and much love, Pop Pop

  6. Good reminders and thought provoking advice.

  7. Hope Henchey says:

    This was life-changing for me, and in God’s sovereignty it sums up a book I had been reading that very day about establishing authority with your children. My son is only 12 months old, but I have already been able to immediately apply these beautiful principles. Thank you for sharing!

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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