On Training the Will of the Child

Post by Daniel Forster


I love the feel and smell of old books. I’m in the middle of reading one right now. It has a plain brown cloth cover, with small gold letters on the spine:


Inside the cover, there’s a note from 1952, when my great great grandfather gave the book to his youngest daughter. There’s another note from 2006 when my parents gave it to me. Somewhat like my faith in Christ, this book has been passed down for many generations.

I’m finding that these daily devotionals for parents take some serious concentration. They aren’t written in today’s easy-to-follow, simple language; the author really takes his time to make a point and to bring in relevant Bible teaching. It takes time to find them, but I’m discovering some beautiful treasures of godly wisdom.

Peek over my shoulder for a minute, and see how Murray’s thoughts on the 5th Commandment fly in the face of so much of today’s popular parenting “wisdom”:

“Man was created free that he might obey; obedience is the path to liberty.

“On this point parents often err; they often say that to develop the will of the child the will must be left free, and the child left to decide for himself. They forget that the will of the child is not free—passion and prejudice, selfishness and ignorance, seek to influence the child in the wrong direction…

“But are we not in danger of repressing the healthy development of a child’s moral powers by thus demanding implicit submission to our will? By no means. The true liberty of the will consists in our being master of it, and so our own masters. Train a child to master his will in giving it up to his parents’ command, and he acquires the mastery to use when he is free. Yielding to a parent’s control is the path to self-control, and self-control alone is liberty.

“The child who is taught by a wise parent to honour him and his superior wisdom will acquire, as he gives up his own way, the power over his will, as he never can who is taught to imagine that he need do nothing unless the parent has first convinced him of the propriety of the act, and obtained his consent.”

Andrew Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 111-112.

This is why it’s important for us to lovingly but firmly require first-time obedience from our little ones. Our children aren’t just learning simple obedience to their earthly parents and to God now — they’re learning the self-control that equips them to live in true liberty and heartfelt obedience to God as they grow up and leave our homes.

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