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Bunyan on Correcting Your Children

I’m working on a seminar dealing with discipling your kids and ran across this word from John Bunyan, Puritan author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, concerning the biblical way to correct your children. You’ll notice the language is from another slice of history, but the wisdom it contains is worth working through for the Christian parent who desires to discipline his/her child well:

The duty of correction.

  1. See if fair words will win them from evil. This is God’s way with his children (Jer 25:4, 5).
  2. Let those words you speak to them in your reproof, be both sober, few, and pertinent, adding always some suitable sentence of the scripture therewith; as, if they lie, then such as (Rev 21:8, 27). If they refuse to hear the word, such as (2 Chron 25:14-16).
  3. Look to them, that they be not companions with those that are rude and ungodly; showing with soberness a continual dislike of their naughtiness; often crying out to them, as God did of old unto his, ‘Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate’ (Jer 44:4).
  4. Let all this be mixed with such love, pity, and compunction of spirit, that if possible they may be convinced you dislike not their persons, but their sins. This is God’s way (Psa 99:8).
  5. Be often endeavoring to fasten on their consciences the day of their death, and judgment to come. Thus also God deals with his (Deu 32:29).
  6. If you are driven to  [corporal punishment], then strike advisedly in cool blood, and soberly show them, (1.) their fault; (2.) how much it is against your heart to deal with them in this way; (3.) and that what you do, you do in conscience to God, and love to their souls; (4.) and tell them, that if fair means would have done, none of this severity should have been. This, I have proved it, will be a means to afflict their hearts as well as their bodies; and it being the way that God deals with his, it is the most likely to accomplish its end.
  7. Follow all this with prayer to God for them, and leave the issue to him: ‘Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him’ (Prov 22:15).

Lastly, Observe these cautions,

  1. Take heed that the misdeeds for which you correct your children be not learned by them from you. Many children learn that wickedness of their parents for which they beat and chastise them.
  2. Take heed that you smile not upon them, to encourage them in small faults, for your behavior toward them will be an encouragement to them to commit greater.
  3. Take heed that you use not unsavory and unseemly words in your chastising of them, as insulting, name calling, and the like: this is devilish.
  4. Take heed that you do not accustom them to many chiding words and threatenings, mixed with lightness and laughter; this will harden. Speak not much, nor often, but pertinent to them with all sobriety.

HT: Grace Online Library

Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

1 thought on “Bunyan on Correcting Your Children”

  1. I’m going to have to pull out,”O do not this abominable thing that I hate.” It would definitely make an impression.
    I thought his point of reminding your kids often of death and judgment was interesting, and pretty much the opposite of what is usual in our culture – even in Christian circles.
    The cautions about not laughing at little things or mixing laughter with threats are really good too, and definitely easy for parents to fall prey to – I’ve seen Jack take me less seriously when my tone and reactions are inconsistent.
    Thanks for sharing this – would like to hear your insights and applications.

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