John Chrysostom (c. 347–407), On Vainglory and the Education of Children, 22:

Just as an artist who paints pictures and portraits exercises great care in his work, so each of you, mothers and fathers, must be attentive to these wonderful images [children]. Each day, a painter adds what is necessary to the picture. Sculptors do the same, removing excess stone and adding what is lacking. You should do the same: as makers of images, devote all your time to the task of fashioning wonderful images for God. Remove the excess; add what is lacking. Each day, examine the images closely. Cultivate the natural excellence that each one has, removing what is by nature inferior. Take care to root out first the thought of licentiousness, for sex is especially troublesome to young souls. Instead, before they encounter this temptation, teach them to be sober, vigilant, watchful in prayer, and to place everything that is said and done under the sign of the cross.

3 thoughts on “Parenting

  1. Respect for Chrysostom notwithstanding, I wonder whether his artist analogy’s appropriate. Of course Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream would like his daughter to be the wax to his seal, but so would Malvolio like the world to be the wax to the seal of his own image: in both cases we see libido dominandi at work, as the mark of a man curved in upon himself. Though I’m probably one of the last people to assert the autonomy of the child (or, for that matter, of the individual Christian in matters of ecclesiastical polity), on the parent’s end the Pygmalion complex seems to be a problem. Does Chrysostom also say something, then, about the vainglory of the parent, and how to so turn one’s eyes upon Christ as to do justice to God’s image in the child?

    On the side, I can’t resist observing that the Sign of the Cross for Chrysostom must be a reference to the literal manual gesture, a practice that contemporary Protestants have readily maligned, with far too little reflection on significantly more dangerous practices in our own midst, particularly Semipelagian devices that have inflamed us since the Second Great Awakening.

  2. SO long as this teaching is done from a sign of love and respect for the child and not for the ‘sign’ under which you are governing these rules. By that I mean, give the child a chance to choose for themselves.

    Nice thought provoking post, thank you

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