by J. C. Ryle
1) Training Your Child to Love God Depends on You
“We heavily depend on those who bring us up. We get from them a taste and a bias which clings to us most of the days of our lives. We learn the language of our mothers and fathers, and learn to speak it almost without thinking, and unquestionably we catch something of their manners, ways, and mind at the same time. Time will tell, how much we all owe to early impressions, and how many things in us may be traced back to the seeds sown in the days of our infancy, by those who were around us.
“And all this is one of God’s merciful arrangements. He gives your children a mind that will receive impressions like moist clay. He gives them a disposition at the starting-point of life to believe what you tell them, and to take for granted what you advise them, and to trust your word rather than a stranger’s. He gives you, in short, a golden opportunity of doing them good. See that you do not neglect such an opportunity. Once you let it slip, it is gone forever.
“I know that you cannot convert your child. I know that they who are born again are born, not of the will of man, but of God. But I also know that God specifically says, ‘Train a child in the way he should go,‘ and that He never gave a command to men and women which He would not give them the grace to perform. And I also know that our duty is not to stand still and dispute the command, but to go forward and obey it. It is only when we move out in obedience that God will meet us. The path of obedience is the way in which He gives the blessing. We only have to do as the servants were commanded at the marriage feast in Cana, to fill the water-pots with water, and we may safely leave it to the Lord to turn that water into wine.”
2) Training Your Child Means Watching Over Their Soul
“Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you truly love them, then often think about their souls. Nothing should concern you as greatly as their eternal destiny. No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die.
“This is the thought that should be uppermost on your mind in all that you do for your children. In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out that mighty question, ‘How will this affect their souls?’
“A true Christian must not be a slave to what’s currently ‘in-fashion,’ if he wants to train his child for heaven. He must not be content to teach them and instruct them in certain ways, merely because it is customary, or to allow them to read books of a questionable sort, merely because everybody else reads them, or to let them form bad habits, merely because they are the habits of the day. He must train with an eye to his children’s souls. He must not be ashamed to hear his training called odd and strange. What if it is? The time is short—the customs of this world are passing away. He that has trained his children for heaven, rather than for the earth—for God, rather than for man—he is the parent that will be called wise in the end.”
3) Training Your Child To Know The Bible
“You cannot make your children love the Bible, I admit. No one but the Holy Spirit can give us a heart to delight in the Word. But you can make sure that your children are acquainted with the Bible; and remember that they can never become acquainted with that blessed book too soon, or too well.
“See that your children read the Bible reverently. Train them to look upon it, not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the Word of God, written by the Holy Spirit Himself—all true, all profitable, and able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ.
“See that they read it regularly. Train them to regard it as their soul’s daily food—as something essential to their soul’s daily health. I well know that you cannot make this anything more than a form; but there is no telling the amount of sin which a mere form may indirectly restrain.
“See that they read it all. You need not shrink from bringing any doctrine before them. You need not assume that the leading doctrines of Christianity are things which children cannot understand. Children understand far more of the Bible than we are apt to suppose.
“Fill their minds with Scripture. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the Bible, the whole Bible, even while they are young.”
4) Training Your Child to Have a Habit of Prayer
“Parents, if you love your children, do all that lies within your power to train them to have a habit of prayer. Show them how to begin. Tell them what to say. Encourage them to persevere. Remind them that if they become careless and slack about it. Let it not be your fault, if they never call on the name of the Lord.
“Remember, that this is the first step in religion which a child is able to take. Long before he can read, you can teach him to kneel by his mother’s side, and repeat the simple words of prayer and praise which she puts in his mouth. And as the first steps in any undertaking are always the most important, so is the manner in which your children’s prayers are prayed, a point which deserves your closest attention. Few seem to know how much depends on this. You must be careful that they don’t say their prayers in a hasty, careless, and irreverent manner.
“Oh, dear friend, if you love your children, I charge you, do not let the early impression of a habit of prayer slip by. If you train your children to do anything, train them, at least, to have a habit of prayer.”
5) Training Your Child to Love the Church and the Lord’s Supper
“Tell your children of the duty and privilege of going to Church, and joining in the prayers of the congregation. Tell them that wherever the Lord’s people are gathered together, there the Lord Jesus is present in a special way, and that those who are absent must expect, like the Apostle Thomas, to miss out on a blessing.
“Tell them of the importance of hearing the Word of God preached, and that it is God’s ordained way of converting, sanctifying, and building up the souls of men. Tell them how the Apostle Paul commands us not to “give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but to encourage one another—and all the more as we see the Day approaching.” [Hebrews 10:25]
“It is a sad sight in a church when nobody comes to the Lord’s Table but the older people, and the young men and the young women all turn away. But it is a sadder sight still when no children are to be seen in a church, except those who come to the Sunday School, and are often obliged to attend. Let none of this guilt lie at your doors. There are many boys and girls in every city, besides those who come to Sunday School, and you who are their parents and friends should see to it that they come with you to church.
“Do not allow them to grow up with a habit of making vain excuses for not coming. Make them clearly understand, that so long as they are under your roof, it is the rule of your house for every one in good health to honor the Lord on the Lord’s day, and that you believe that the healthy person who refuses to go to church on the Lord’s Day brings great harm to his soul.
“Do not be discouraged because your children do not see the full value of church and the Lord’s Supper now. Just train them to have a habit of regular attendance. Set it before their minds as a high, holy, and solemn duty, and believe me, the day will very likely come when they will bless you for your efforts.”
Excerpts from The Duties of Parents by J. C. Ryle available as a free eBook