Yesterday we talked about “extremes” that God would go to in order to teach his children about holiness. Please understand that “extremes” must be governed within the framework of mercy and grace, and only used for those children or adults who purposely disobey after much guidance and correction have been given. Within this framework of parenting, we must never forget that God’s mercy is a thousand times greater than his judgment. A good example of “extreme parenting” is given to us by a woman named Sarah Edwards, the wife of the great preacher, Jonathan Edwards.
In Elisabeth Dodds’ book, Marriage to a Difficult Man, she writes, “Sarah knew how to make her children regard and obey her cheerfully, without loud angry words, much less heavy blows. She seldom punished them, and in speaking to them, used gentle and pleasant words. If any correction was necessary, she did not administer it in passion; when she had occasion to reprove and rebuke she would do it in few words, without noise; she had need to speak but once; she was cheerfully obeyed because she convinced her children of the reasonableness of her request; murmuring and answering again were not known among them.
The kind and gentle treatment they received from their mother, while she strictly and punctiliously maintained her parental authority, seemed naturally to . . . promote a filial respect and affection, and to lead them to a mild, tender treatment of each other. Quarreling and contention, which too frequently take place among children, were in her family unknown.
She carefully observed the first appearance of resentment and ill will in her young children . . . showed her displeasure and suppressed it to the uttermost; yet not by angry, wrathful words, which often provoke children to wrath . . . Her system of discipline was begun at a very early age and it was her rule to resist the first, as well as every subsequent exhibition of temper or disobedience in the child . . . wisely reflecting that until a child will obey his parents he can never be brought to obey God.”
Parenting books are a dime a dozen…they come and go with the winds of culture. But there are three books that remain as the most insightful and life-changing of all the parenting books I’ve read over the last twenty years–
• The Education of a Child by Fenelon
• Families Where Grace is in Place by VanVonderen (for the controlling dominant and out of control parent)
• The short but powerful insights by J.C. Ryle of the 19th century, Duties of Parents.
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