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Old School Rules of Parenting

Posted by on July 22, 2011

Wesley’s 16 Rules

Right now I have six kids in my house, ranging in ages from 4-1/2 years to 1 month. I am up to the task. OK, let’s get real. The Smokin’ Hot Wife is up to the task. Though I like to think I cover it well, there are moments when I feel like Barney Fife at a gunfight. Thankfully, God’s grace — frequently supplied via Old School principles like the ones we’re about to discuss — keeps these moments from occurring too often.

Being an Old School guy, I want proven, tested Old School parenting smarts. I don’t need to hear some TV shrink blathering on for ten minutes. I need the real deal and it would be great if it came in quickly digested bite-sized chunks. To put it in legal terms, I want the Ten Commandments, not the U.S. tax code.

Enter Susannah Wesley (1669-1742).

Susannah Wesley was the mother of 19 children, including John and Charles Wesley, two incredibly influential 18th century preachers. (What do you think she would think of The Real Housewives of New Jersey? Frankly, I’m a little embarrassed I am even aware of such a show.)

Here are 16 rules she laid down in her home.

1. Eating between meals not allowed.

2. As children they are to be in bed by 8 p.m.

3. They are required to take medicine without complaining.

4. Subdue self-will in a child, and those working together with God to save the child’s soul.

5. To teach a child to pray as soon as he can speak.

6. Require all to be still during Family Worship.

7. Give them nothing that they cry for, and only that when asked for politely.

8. To prevent lying, punish no fault which is first confessed and repented of.

9. Never allow a sinful act to go unpunished.

10. Never punish a child twice for a single offense.

11. Comment and reward good behavior.

12. Any attempt to please, even if poorly performed, should be commended.

13. Preserve property rights, even in smallest matters.

14. Strictly observe all promises.

15. Require no daughter to work before she can read well.

16. Teach children to fear the rod.


Rule 1 is simple pragmatic genius. Childhood obesity is a big problem in the US. My guess is it would be cut by 90% in a year if parents enforced this one rule. (For the record: I type this as my laptop rests on my larger than should be belly. Mea culpa!)

Please don’t misunderstand the phrase “Subdue self-will in a child” from rule 4. In today’s language the words “subdue selfishness in a child” would probably be a better fit.

Rule 5 reminds me there are few joys greater in parenting than seeing young children spontaneously pray, even if it’s for a go-kart.

If rule 7 were followed, the supermarket checkout aisles with candy bars and five years olds would be much quieter.

Rules 8-12 contain pictures of justice, repentance and grace that are priceless.

Rule 13 hits home with me. I occasionally check out the cartoons my kids watch. Many of them frequently portray the importance of sharing. Yes, sharing is important, but so are property rights. This seems to be lost on most children’s programing. My four year old and three year old each have bikes. The four year old comes up to me, points to his brother and says, “Daddy, he isn’t sharing his bike.”

I reply, “Well, it’s his bike. Just like you have your bike. Work it out between yourselves.”

There’s a small part of me that thinks decades of children’s programming emphasizing sharing at the expense of property rights has contributed to much of the populace demanding other people’s money in the form of increased government freebies.

Rule 15 offers a good history lesson. She shows herself to be the opposite of the sexist and education-phobic image Christianity is wrongly labeled with today.

Rule 16 is in the perfect spot. By placing it last, “the rod” is put in its proper context of loving discipline.

These rules are great. Print them up and spend some quiet time with them and the beverage of your choice.

Keep it Old School my friend,

The Old Man

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