Book Notes Christian Living Marriage and Family

When Should Training Begin?

“Do you have children? Instruct them,
and make them obedient from their youth.”
-Wisdom of Sirach 7:23

[Part 1 of a 10 part series of book notes
taken from On the Upbringing of Children by Bishop IRENAIUS

Chapter 1
When Should Training Begin?

  • Training children should begin as soon as possible “…training from infancy is possible–it is even indispensible.”
  • God’s Word declares that since the Fall, “the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (Gen. 8:12)
  • Do you have children? Instruct them, and make them obedient from their youth (Wisdom of Sirach 7:23)
  • With God’s help, it is possible to train children in godliness and doing so is obedience to Christ.

“We see in the lives of many saints that from childhood they cultivated virtues of godliness, obedience and simplicity. If the Savior says of children, ‘Let the little children come unto Me’ (Mark 10:14) and further, ‘Woe to him who offends one of these little ones’ (Matt 18:6), can we draw the conclusion that children are incapable of achieving virtue? The Savior said these things because virtue in childhood is selfless and pure, and He desires to find it in every heart.” (p 10)

  • Training children requires vigilant effort on the part of Christian parents…
  • It is also a privilege to be one of “God’s gardeners”.

Observe consistently the inclinations of your child and with proper training, uproot whatever you see that is unfitting as a gardener in the proper season prunes a tree of its barren shoots. The heart of a child can be likened to a garden, and the parents are God’s gardeners, who from infancy must cleanse the garden-the child’s heart-of the weeds and tares of sins and sinful habits. If they delay, however, and evil becomes well rooted, if the child’s heart becomes overgrown with sins, then they will not be able to pull the tares out.” (p11)

Humbling Truths

  • Christians parents are responsible to an extent for the souls of their children.
  • Christian parents will have to answer to God on the upbringing of the children God entrusted to them.

“Do you complain that your son is unmanagable? You could easily have corrected him while he was yet a child; you could have accustomed him to order, to study, to consistency in his duties; you could have treated the weaknesses of his soul. When the ground of his heart was still suitable for cultivation, you should have uprooted the thorns, before they were firmly rooted. Because of your negligence, your child’s passions will now become very difficult to overcome.”

– St. John Chrysostom

  • According to Holy Scriptures, parents must accustom their children to good from infancy.
  • “If a youth chooses his path, he will not depart from it when old..” (Sirach the Wise)
  • There is a common folk saying, “as in the cradle, so in the grave” and “What the child learns, the adult does not abandon”.

About the book…

“It was not that long ago that pious parents raised their children to become Saints, to serve God in this world and the next.  Perhaps only two generations ago, parents were still raising Saints in Orthodox countries.  But the success of anti-Christianity in our time has been so complete that concern for one’s own salvation is considered, at best, a harmless eccentricity, while concern for one’s children’s salvation is sometimes even considered dangerous by forward-looking educators…To parents struggling in this cold modern climate, we off a small book of timeless guidance on how to teach virtues to children.  The homilies in this book were originally published in Russia in 1901.  The times have changed considerably since then, but human nature has not.  We still have the age-old struggle with the passions, the world, and the fallen spirits.  We must still strive to train out own and our children’s souls to the high ideals of holiness given us by Christ.  May God grant that this book may assist parents in their difficult and delicate task of raising children fit for His Kingdom.”

– St. Xenia Skete (October 13/26, 1991)

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