Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Susannah Wesley

On one of the blogs I check in with at times there was a conversation about child discipline. I left a comment which mentioned dealing differently with childish foolishness and mistakes, as opposed to defiance. So, anyone not in on that conversation (and not interested!) can pass this right by, but for anyone who cares, the ideas was expressed by Susannah Wesley (mother of SEVENTEEN - including John and Charles Wesley) like this:

In order to form the minds of children, the first thing to be done is to conquer the will, and bring them into an obedient temper. To inform the understanding is a work of time, and must with children proceed by slow degrees as they are able to bear it; but the subjecting of the will is a thing which must be done at once, and the sooner the better!

For by neglecting timely correction, they will contract a stubbornness and obstinacy, which is hardly ever after conquered, and never without using such severity as would be painful to me as to the children. In the esteem of the world, those who withhold timely correction would pass for kind and indulgent parents, whom I call cruel parents, who permit their children to get habits, which they know must afterward be broken. Nay, some are so stupidly fond as in sport to teach their children to do things, which in the after while, they must severely beat them for doing.

Whenever a child is corrected it must be conquered; and this will be no hard matter to do, if it be not grown headstrong by too much indulgence. And, if the will of a child is totally subdued, and if it be brought to revere and stand in awe of the parents, then a great many childish follies and inadvertencies may be passed by. Some should be overlooked and taken no notice of, and others mildly reproved. But no willful transgressions ought ever to be forgiven children, without chastisement, more or less as the nature and circumstances of the offense shall require.

I cannot dismiss this subject. As self-will is the root of all sin and misery, so whatever cherishes this in children insures their after wretchedness and faithlessness. Whatever checks and mortifies, promotes their future happiness and piety. This is still more evident if we further consider that Christianity is nothing less than doing the will of God, and not our own; that the one grand impediment to our temporal and eternal happiness being this self-will. No indulgence of it can be trivial, no denial unprofitable.

Not exactly anything like what you'll hear at most parenting classes or forums today!


Ambulance Mommy said...


well, i guess she means well, but not the way i choose to look at life and child-rearing.

but then again, this is America, and we have the right to agree to disagree.

but seriously, if i had 17 children i would probably need to crush their spirit too to survive.

Julie said...

Free to disagree :0)

But to clarify, she is distinguishing between the will and the spirit.

They way that plays out for me and my kids is simplified like this -

"Understanding can wait, obedience can't."

I don't want to be a tyrant. I want my boys to develop the internal self-control to make their own good choices and manage their own behavior. Still, there are plenty of times they need to be obedient even when they don't understand why.

For instance, imagine your son as a toddler, running across the yard toward the street... I'm sure you kept your son from running in the street before he could understand the danger, right? Of course, you explain to him WHY he has to stay out of the street... probably after you got hold of him, to protect him!

The writer is just living that principle out, on a larger scale.