Book Notes Christian Living Marriage and Family

Forming Attitudes

“A good attitude is not only formed by bodily discipline, but rather must be formed by positive action on all his powers: mind, will and heart.”

[Part 4 of a series from Raising them Right, a sub-book extracted from The Path to Salvation by St. Theophan the Recluse]

Chapter 4
Forming Attitudes

A good attitude is not only formed by bodily discipline, but rather must be formed by positive action on all his powers: mind, will and heart.

The Mind

The chief thing to be kept in mind is that there should be sound concepts and judgments in accordance with Christian principles, about everything the child encounters or that comes to his attention:  what is right/wrong; what is good/bad.  This is easy to do by ordinary conversations and questions.  Parents can also teach as they talk to each other, yet overheard by children.

  • Therefore let parents call things always by their proper names.
  • Communicate principles through direct discussion, or better yet stories.
  • Truth binds the mind to what satisfies it
  • Worldly thinking does not satisfy and therefore ignites curiosity.
  • One must on no account give children books with corrupt concepts.

The Will

  • A child has many desires, everything catches his attention.
  • Being unable to distinguish between good and evil he desires everything.
  • The simplest means for confining the will within its proper bounds lies in disposing the children to do nothing without permission.
  • Let them be eager to run to their parents and ask “May I…?”
  • They should be persuaded that to fulfill their own desires without asking is dangerous – to fear their own will.
  • The natural consequence of this attitude will be total obedience and submission in everything to the will of the parents.
  • Train a child to curb his own will when it is not to do good.
  • Children love to imitate, therefore parents are called to be a good example.
  • Teach them to do good deeds – teaching opportunities for these abound daily to practice:
    • almsgiving
    • compassion
    • mercy
    • yielding to others
    • patience

The Heart

If the body, mind and will are acting this way, the heart will follow [with] sound and true feelings and to acquire the habit of enjoying what is truly enjoyable.

  • The heart is the capability of tasting and feeling satisfaction.
  • When man was in union with God, he found delight in divine and sacred things by the grace of God.
  • After his fall, he lost this taste and began to thirst for what is sensual.
  • The grace of baptism has removed this, but sensuality is again ready to fill the heart. One must not allow this, one must guard the heart.
  • The most effective means for the education of true taste in the heart is a Church-centered life.
  • It is evident that theaters, shows and similar things are not suitable for Christians.
  • To the spirit belong:
    • Fear of God (corresponding to the mind)
    • Conscience (corresponding to the will)
    • Prayer (corresponding to feeling)
  • The fear of God gives birth to prayer and makes the conscience clear.
  • Children already have a predisposition for the other, invisible world.

The earlier the fear of God will be imprinted and prayer aroused, the more solid will piety be for the rest of one’s life.

  • What frost is for flowers, so is the transgression of the parents’ will for a child; he cannot look you in the eyes, he does not desire to enjoy kindnesses, he wishes to run away and be alone; but at the same time his soul becomes crude, and the child begins to grow wild.
  • It is a good thing to dispose him ahead of time to repentance, so that without fear, with trust and with tears, he might come and say, “I did something wrong.”
  • …a foundation is then placed for a future constant and truly religious character – to rise up immediately after a fall – and there is formed the capability of speedy repentance and cleansing or renewing oneself by tears.
  • The parents should follow all movements of the child’s awakening powers and direct everything to a single end.

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