Training Children: It Starts With Love (The Duties of Parents, J.C. Ryle) Part 1

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


Technology: What is Convenience Costing Us?

It’s interesting to think about the challenges each generation faces. Our grandparents probably couldn’t have imagined a world where we have access to virtually every source of information, every buying opportunity and every social conversation in the world. And while this advancement is good in so many ways, like everything else, it has grave pitfalls.

The worst part, to me, of our Internet Age is that these things have access to us in a way that makes it feel impossible to resist. Most of us carry a phone around because it’s convenient. But the trade off to convenience is that we are expected to be available to anyone who needs us, 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week. (The only way I’ve found to avoid this dilemma is to simply not carry a phone. Believe it or not, one can survive in the 21st century without one unless it is needed for work. Most of the human race has survived for centuries.)

So we’ve created a great irony. For the sake of convenience and/or saving time:

  • we’re expected to be constantly available to throngs of people, making us busier than we’ve ever been, negating the original purpose of the technology.
  • We’re in touch with more people, and lonelier than ever.
  • We have access to more information but think less than ever because of distraction and stimuli.

Perhaps even worse, it puts our face-to-face relationships in jeopardy.

The one texting you doesn’t know you’re in a conversation with your husband. But if you don’t answer, you know they’ll feel ignored. And ignoring people is rude. And we don’t want to be rude. So to avoid being rude to our friend who texted, we are rude to our husband by interrupting the conversation we’re having to answer our friend.


For one of the most powerful, eye-opening books about this subject, go and get Simplicity Parenting. It is so, so good.






Even where we use our devices for work–and many people truly depend on them–it allows our clients, employers/employees to have constant access to our personal lives and interferes with our family relationships, as opposed to the old-fashioned 8 hour work day.

And when our children, who have less self-control than we do are given devices–when our whole family is now consumed with looking, playing, texting, shopping, answering–we stand to lose so much more than what we were supposed to be gaining.

And sometimes, more is less. A lot less.

We are no longer able to be “all there” wherever we are. We are scattered, with attentions split, 16-tabs-open-at-a-time people. And ironically, as advancements in technology do buy us more time, we just fill it up with more activities or browsing, or connections. We don’t like to admit it because it might mean drastic change.

I fear for our children who are losing the gift of solitude, who hardly know such a thing exists (much less why it’s important) because they rarely see it modeled. What becomes of the next generation who has no focus, who are alive but not really living because they’ve been distracted to death?

(I could insert here the studies about what all this does to our brains, but there’s enough to talk about without it.)

Can we use the benefits of technology for the glory of God in our lives? Yes, absolutely! But we need to be extremely aware of how easily it can rob us of the important, simpler things in life.

I may be the meanest mamma in the world because I haven’t bought my kids a smartphone (I’m sure by now “smartphone” is so last month but I don’t know the newest cool thing). But maybe one day they’ll think I’m smart and not so mean after all.

“What DO You Believe About Men’s & Women’s Roles in Marriage & Family?” (On Patriarchy and Stuff.)

An email I received said:

“Dear Kelly,

I am so confused. There seem to be so many beliefs about marriage and roles and one group villainizes another group for their stance, and vice versa. I’m particularly confused about what is called “patriarchy.” I thought that was another term for what the Bible taught about husbands and wives, but many Christians I know, who I agree with on things, are denouncing it. What do you believe?”

Frankly, I’ve been confused too. For years I would have agreed with this person about patriarchy. I wrote a post about it (which I have since taken down because the word itself evokes so much vitriol and I didn’t care for the keyword search attention it brought). In that post, I said that I believed in patriarchy, provided that patriarchy is the same definition as I find in the Bible about marital roles.

To quote one of my favorite movies, “I do not think that word means what you think it means.” And I have come to understand that words change meanings over time and we can’t define our terms with them anymore. As such, I am not a proponent of patriarchy because it doesn’t mean what I believe.

To use an example, it would be useless for me to say, “I support being gay” if I meant that I support being “happy.” It wouldn’t matter what I meant by the word anymore.

The thing that made me realize I don’t subscribe to the word and therefore have to ditch it, is seeing other people (who don’t know me but think they do from reading my blog) describe me. They said things like, “Kelly is brainwashed, fearful and weak. She is in a cult. She can’t help it, she doesn’t know any better. She only does what she is told.”

Which is funny. Because that doesn’t describe me at all. (In a cult?! What even?) In fact, when my husband read it, he laughed. And not just chuckled. My husband has an infectious laugh so notorious among our friends, they try to catch it on video. That kind of laugh. I think I should be offended.

My detractors like to paint me as someone who is legalistic (at best), and therefore imprisoned by my own beliefs and living a sad and narrow existence. It is their grotesquely distorted descriptions of my proposed life that throws up big red flags about anything else they say. When once you see yourself being falsely maligned and defaced publicly, you aren’t prone to give their other words much credence. Just keep that in mind in this great big Internet gossip cess pool.

Here is what I believe about marriage: you can open your Bible at this point to find out. Genesis 2, Proverbs 31, 1 Corinthians, Colossians, Hebrews, Ephesians.

It’s the same thing I’ve ALWAYS believed. Wives are to submit to their husbands, but only as husbands are to love their wives as their own flesh, submitting themselves to God. Where a husband fails to do this, and exercises abusive power over the wife, she is freed by her submission to honor Christ. I don’t believe the Bible teaches a philosophy that allows women to be abused. She has, and should use her recourse of the local Body.

Admittedly, I’m married to a fabulous man. Not every woman is. My hearty embrace of what Scripture teaches is very easy because of my husband. He is a servant. That’s what real leaders are. There isn’t contention. We are a team and he prioritizes me above everything. His having a leadership role that God has given him doesn’t diminish me or remove my right to speak up about things, disagree with him or offer counsel. It only makes him more careful and tender.

And about women, roles, daughters and careers: from Scripture I see that a woman’s first calling and priority is her home and family. (Proverbs 31, 1 Timothy, Titus 2)

I do not think it’s a sin for a woman to work outside the home or attend college. (I have many close friends and daughters who do these things.) I do think it can easily become a snare, especially in our day, given the emphasis put on career and lack of it devoted to the role of women at home. Also, it’s difficult to shift gears once a couple is accustomed to living with two full time incomes and they are receiving little, if any, encouragement for her to make family her first job. I know, I’ve been there.

I certainly support women (young and old) working to help with the income, especially if that job helps them keep their families a priority, instead of enslaving them to a schedule they can’t control. It is getting increasingly difficult for a family to survive without multiple incomes, but I don’t think that fact negates our first duty to the calling on our lives. I offer caveats that I believe line up with Scripture’s emphasis on women helping their husbands, raising their children, keeping their homes and ministering to the community.

Where Scripture is silent, we cannot erect commands. Where Scripture speaks, we must apply it to our lives as clearly as we know how, submitting to the authority of Christ above all.

I hope this is helpful to others who may be confused.


Is it Right to Shelter Our Children? (A Litmus Test)

A friend of mine and I were discussing how to teach our children about the sins and dangers of the world we live in without harming them in the process. We disagreed some about the way to go about it. She talked about being glad her children, who are at public school, are seeing the “real world”, even though some of the tough questions they ask concern her. (She has to define adult terms just to be able to have conversations about what her children learn.)

This argument bolsters many parents’ opinion that homeschooling is bad for children, believing they should learn to deal with the negative influences now because they will face them later.

I refer to the alternative in the title as “sheltering” simply because that’s the catch phrase for it.

One misconception I’ve learned about this debate: none of our children are isolated from “the world” or its ways. There really isn’t a “sheltering.” They are simply exposed from different angles. And that makes all the difference.

One effective way I have found to approach an ethical/moral dilemma is to think of it with an exaggerated hypothesis. In this scenario, I thought of how I want my kids to learn to deal with pornography.

Pornography is packaged beautifully. It is marketed to be full of pleasure and fun and excitement. We’re never shown the broken homes and hearts that lie in the wake of its path. It’s typical of sin: it lies.

For that reason, I want them to learn about it differently than the producers would teach them. And at the appropriate time. It would be foolish to try to have a conversation with my 4 year-old about words and images he doesn’t need to know. But it’s not wise to try to pretend, indefinitely, that pornography doesn’t exist.

Based on my friend’s opinion, taking this exaggerated example (though I’m not sure “exaggerated” is the right term since it is a reality), we might leave a stack of pornographic magazines in his bedroom to peruse at his leisure. We might even tell him “they’re bad”, but still give him access to process it on his own. To do that would be to let the lying marketers teach my children about this poison.

Not many parents would agree with this approach.

Because the truth is, I can teach my children about the sin and damage of pornography without willingly exposing them. Does that mean they won’t be exposed at some later time? No. Does my unwillingness to expose them now make them ill-prepared to deal with it later? I don’t think so.

What our job as parents should be is teaching what is right to our children, securing their moorings to God’s Word as they grow up, giving them the moral compass they need to evaluate any number of situations in the future.

Will a child be “shocked” as an adult to see pornography for the first time? I hope so. Does that make him less suited to deal with it? I can’t imagine how. This idea that if our children aren’t submerged in all the darkness of the culture they will somehow be unequipped to handle darkness is not a concept I find to be Scriptural.

The wise father in Proverbs pleaded with his son to “enter not into the path of the wicked.” Does that reconcile with the idea that parents who prefer to not immerse their children in depravity are too guarded and sheltering?

By the way, depravity resides in us all. There is certainly no such thing as shielding our kids from sin when we live in sin-wrapped flesh. There is a difference, though, in being redeemed by His blood, and seeking to “eschew evil” and do what is right. Our job isn’t to pretend the world around us isn’t depraved, but to examine it through a filter of truth.

I think we are responsible for teaching our children about sin, the same way Jesus taught his (adult) disciples about sin. It’s not a hiding away and shielding their eyes, neither is it a releasing them into territory before they are fully discipled. But as we walk with them, giving them a right lens through which to see, cultivating a right heart with which to discern.


Why Is this Generation Leaving the Church? A Conference Not to Miss.

Homeschooling does not a Christian make. I fear too many have put their stock solely in homeschooling and have forgotten key elements of raising a faithful generation of children who truly love the Lord.  The GEN2 conference is an important one. Men and women who care deeply about the next generation are gathering to talk about how we carry the torch, how we finish strong, how we keep the vision and love our kids through so many things that would distract them from Jesus Christ.

I will be there with a panel of other women answering questions from the heart of being a homeschooling mother. I hope you can too!

Hurry and register HERE! January 30, 31. Save 10% off using the code: SAVE10

The Virtuous Woman: A Force to Be Reckoned With

Jump over to Raising Homemakers today and get a fascinating glimpse of the virtuous woman!














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