Generation Cedar

Am I the only mom who wonders if she’s doing it right, reads one author’s parenting method and second guesses everything she’s ever done? There are “new and better” ways right?

Yes, I have days where I feel like the older I get, the less I know about anything. But do you want me to tell you what I have learned as I’ve gotten older? Simply this:

Hang on to the timeless truths. If we will look closely at a teaching or ideology, we can see whether it follows sound doctrine, the tenets of God’s Word. Where it doesn’t, we should be wary. Where it does, we should listen.

(Disclaimer: I have gleaned many insightful and wonderful things from non-Christian sources regarding raising children. But we should be astute enough to be able to see where a teaching strays from biblical doctrine.)

Recently I ordered “The Duties of Parents” by J.C. Ryle. You should too.

It was such a clear, fresh voice in the often-cacophony of parenting advice flying around. It went back to some basics I know and gave me clarity and inspiration to essentially reboot.

I thought I’d offer a summary in series over the next few days. There’s another great book I’ll be pulling from as well. I hope it encourages you!


“Train up your children with all tenderness, affection, and patience.”

“I do not mean that you are to spoil him…” Ryle continues.

But he reminds that a child cannot be taught, cannot have truths and values imparted to him unless it is done by affection that first draws his heart to yours. You can command a child by fear and intimidation, but you will only get his outward obedience, if you get that. You will not effect genuine respect and love for you or for His Creator.

A child disciplined in love is one who grows to understand his mother despises causing him tears, and is yet willing to suffer over his grief for his own sake.

We must carefully teach them “line upon line, precept upon precept”, which requires patience and long-term vision.

Are you feeling convicted at this point because you have been angry and frustrated at your children? Because you have parented impatiently? I have too. Far more times than I can count. And I’ll tell you like I tell me: “We cannot lament the past except where it helps us to improve in the future.” Got it? Good.

When motherhood feels too hard, I try to take a deep breath and remember it is the cord of kindness, gentleness and sympathy that will most easily lead our children to follow us. We should share with them a friendship, yet remain distinguished by respect, wisdom and our place as parents.

They should know our love for them by the attention we give to their childish wonder, the time we take to teach them a lesson, or to simply be with them. We need to enjoy them. Part of our enjoyment will depend on our diligence to train them, but still they must know that our deep love for them drives everything we do.

As you’ll see in the next few parts, Ryle distinguishes between love and indulgence, and makes it clear that love demands we expect certain things.

It is possible, then, to train our children in the nurture of the Lord, requiring what He has laid out, but doing so without exasperation. That is our duty.

“Soul love is the soul of all love. To pet and pamper and indulge your child, as if this world was all he had to look to, and this life the only season for happiness–to do this is not true love, but cruelty. It is treating him like some beast of the earth, which has but on world to look to, and nothing after death. It is hiding from him that grand truth, which he ought to be made to learn from his very infancy,–that the chief end of his life is the salvation of his soul and to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” J.C. Ryle

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12 Responses

  1. Ah yes! Some things I struggle with is giving them all that adequate love and time, while getting regular household chores done. Like when 4 of them are asking me, ‘needing priority attention’ at once, all very important…while I hear the oven beep, the washer sings it’s ‘cycle ending’ song…one has a stinky diaper…that’s the part that saps my patience. My kids are 5 under 8. Suggestions most welcome. I usually try to line them up in order of importance. Sorry kids, FIRST the dinner has to come out of the oven or it will burn! OK, here’s a bandage, what’s the math question again?!

    Thanks for the article, we all need reminders no matter how long or short we’ve been ‘in the trenches’ of motherhood.

    1. Amanda,

      I think you’re on the right track with stopping to handle things one at a time. These ARE busy times with your little ones, but remembering that is fleeting helps me to embrace the day with a little more patience. Also, cutting things like answering phone calls/emails during your busiest hours can help.

  2. I was actually just thinking about child training this morning. I was readin Proverbs 21 and verse 21 talks about righteousness and mercy. I was raised with lous and angry voices and fighting with my siblings. That is not what I want for my family. I have 5 girls ranGung in age from 4 months to 6 years old and it is hard. This came at a perfect time and I’m looking forward to reading the rest! Thank you for this!!

    1. You weren’t raised with “lots of anger” by your parents and “lots of fighting” with your siblings. Cameron was. I don’t know where you were when we raised you but you have a skewed version of everything, mostly because the moron you married convinced you that you had a lousy childhood. Because up until you met him, you told everyone you knew how great your childhood was. We love you Bec, and I’m so sorry you have gone to where you’ve gone to. Oh my little stockholm child.

  3. God is so good to have this post pop up in my e-mail literally moments after I’ve just lost my patience and spoken hatefully to a child. What an encouragement for my guilt-ridden soul! I know that the way I treated her was wrong but now that I’ve calmed down and read this I’ve realized that, once again, my Father will forgive me and inspire change in my heart! He has provided me strength to rebuke my pride and to tell this child that my response to her poor behavior was wrong; it was simply another example of poor behavior, essentially teaching her nothing. It is such a challenge to balance gentleness, affection, patience, and sympathy with correction, consequences and consistency. I definitely want to check out the book you mentioned! Thank you so much for sharing your walk with Christ, Kelly!

  4. Thanks, Kelly! Loved that book. I never stop needing reminders and refreshers, because every season of their life is an opportunity to tie new and different heartstrings.

  5. This is great, but what if I’ve already lost the child?
    My oldest is 7, youngest 17 months with 2 in between.
    The oldest is hateful – helpful a lot of the time, but the way he speaks is so angry.
    I know I’ve lost my temper and raised my voice (to put it nicely) far too many times – but how do I teach him differently – since this seems to be who he has become???
    I’m afraid he’s gone – I’ve read that by age 6, they are who they are going to be…

    1. Tashena,

      No, you have not lost him. I have a child who struggles with anger too (and I’ve lost my temper more times than I can count, and yes, that makes me often feel like a failure). He was angry from as young as I can remember. He was my only child who bit other children–for no reason, when he was very young. I have not given up, and neither will you! You tell him that you know you have failed many times by reacting in anger, and you are truly sorry and will try to respond differently, and then you love him, firmly. You praise him as much as you can, and you draw lines when you have to. If he does something to provoke you to anger, walk away and come back when you can respond more calmly. Write a letter if you have to (I’ve done this). Keep at it. Keep pointing him to Scripture and help him learn to control his emotions. Here’s an article I want you to read–it’s never too late:

    2. Tashena,

      As a mom of six, ages 7-24, let me encourage you that a seven-year-old is still very malleable. As Kelly said, it is not too late for your son’s character to be built.

      Two of my older children had definite problems with anger at that age and for years beyond, but now, as adult/near-adult, we have no anger issues whatsoever with them.

      You may find reading the book The Heart of Anger to be helpful, as I did.

      Also, you may be encouraged by the example of a friend of mine and her husband, who have taken in foster children since becoming empty-nesters (after their biological children grew up and left home). They have had as many as eleven foster children at a time, all of them from very difficult backgrounds and with challenging “labels” on them.

      Several of their children came to them later in childhood, far beyond the age of seven, but by giving their children lots of love and providing many opportunities for service to the family, neighbors, church members, and so on, my friend and her husband are seeing the blessed fruit of the children starting to overcome their strong behavioral challenges, by the grace of God.

      Let the Word of God be your guide, which commands us to “train up a child in the way he should go…” Your son has many years of childhood left; he is certainly not beyond hope — ever — even beyond childhood. Take heart, Tashena; your efforts to train him are not in vain.


  6. This book by J.C. Ryle is one of my very favorite Child training/disciple books!! Not so overwhelming, and yet chalk full of wonderful helps and direction!!

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