Book Notes Christian Living Marriage and Family

The Developing Child

“Train the child (and ourselves!) to investigate what is considered essential for him but refrain from and avoid everything else.”

[Part 3 of a series from Raising them Right, a sub-book extracted from The Path to Salvation by St. Theophan the Recluse]

Chapter 3
The Developing Child

  • Parents can exert communication to children (infants) through feelings when unable through words. This inevitably influences the soul of the child.
  • Parents should gaze upon the child as treasure under our watch, as a vessel of grace.
  • Parents should ceaselessly pray in the spirit, aroused by hope and according to faith.
  • A Christian spiritual atmosphere consists of:
    • Parents that protect their children through piety
    • A Guardian angel that protects the child
    • The Holy Mysteries and all of Church Life which act upon a child from without and within
  • The Church, its life and the Holy Mysteries are like a tabernacle (tent) for the children, and they should be under it without leaving it.  Examples include:
  • Inward warfare begins because sin still dwells in the child.
  • The warfare is waged between the parents and the sin that dwells in the child.

Attraction to Sin

The fundamental things which arouse and draw one towards sin are:

  1. Arbitrariness of mind (or curiosity) in mental faculty
  2. Self-will in faculty of will
  3. Pleasures in faculty of feeling

Therefore parents must train the child to master the above faculties to render them harmless. The whole of upbringing can be brought into harmony with this beginning – through body, soul and spirit.

The Body

  • Food is used for development, nourishment, strength and health.
  • Avoid the two forms of the sin of gluttony:
    • love of pleasure
    • immoderate amounts of food
  • Eat and sleep at regular times, practice discipline in doing so.
  • Movement
    • Forms habit of stability, while unsteady development left to the will of the child may lead to hyperactivity or inattentiveness in some, slowness or laziness in others.
    • Let the child play at a regular time in a place and a way indicated to him.
    • The will of the parents should be imprinted upon each step – of course in a general way.
  • Senses
    • One should make a rule to train the body to endure every kind of outward influence without misfortune: whether from fresh air, water, change of temperature, heat, cold, pain, wounds and so forth.  Whoever has acquired such a habit is the most fortunate of men, capable of the most difficult actions at any time and in any place.  The soul of such a man is the full master of the body.
    • The chief evil with relation to the body is love for the body and pitying it – this makes the soul a slave to the body.
    • Do not over-pamper the body.
  • Strict discipline of the body is important for the Christian life which by its nature is remote from sensuality and every kind of pleasing of the flesh.
  • The body is the dwelling place of the passions and chiefly the fiercest ones, such as lust and anger.
  • The body is the organ through which the demons penetrate into the soul or come to settle near it. Therefore, Church life helps sanctify the body restraining sinful habits and desires.
  • The soul appears in the world naked; it grows, becomes rich with inner content and undertakes various forms of activity only later.

Imagery and Imagination

  • Let the senses receive impressions from sacred objects and hymns.
  • Let [the child] see familiarity in the objects of both the home and Church.
  • Avoid curiosity – trying to know everything out of order, without aim, without distinguishing whether it is needful or not.
  • Train the child (and ourselves!) to investigate what is considered essential for him but refrain from and avoid everything else.
  • One who is unable to master the senses and imagination will inevitably be distracted and inconstant, being overcome by curiosity, which will chase him from one subject to another until he is exhausted and all this without fruit.
  • Parents should anticipate the appearance of the passions.
  • Parents should hasten to quench the passions observed with well thought-out and tested means.
  • A recurring passion should be treated with more attention because it can become the ruling element of the child’s life.

“The most trustworthy way of treating the passions is the use of the means of grace (Holy Mysteries). One should turn to them with faith.  Entreat the Lord that He might do His work.”
– St. Theophan

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