100 year old parenting tips (by J.C. Ryle)

Recently, the hubs passed me this book, and insisted strongly recommended that I read it. Since it’s quite a thin paperback, I agreed to give it a go. And realised that although it was written in 1888, it sounded like it could have been written this year!

Guess that’s the mark of timeless truth, applicable today as it were more than a hundred years ago.  And although it is short, it really marks out the most important advice for Christian parents.

I realised that this book can be downloaded here in its entirety, and there’s a great review on that site too.  As a reminder to self, here are some key points, some of which are paraphrased.



We live in days when there is  a mighty zeal for education in every quarter. We are told of new systems, and new books for the young. And still for all this, the vast majority of children are manifestly not trained in the way they should go, for when they grow up, they do not walk with God.

How shall we account for this state of affairs? The plain truth is, the Lord’s commandment to train a child up in the way he should go is not regarded; and therefore the Lord’s promise is not fulfilled.

This subject is one that should arise in every conscience, “Am I doing what I can in this area?” It is a subject not just for parents, but also for uncles, aunts, teachers and so on.

This is pre-eminently a point in which all can see the faults of their neighbours more clearly than their own. They will often bring up their children in the very path which they have denounced to their friends as unsafe. They will be quick-sighted as eagles in detecting mistakes in other families, yet blind as bats to fatal errors that are daily going on at home.


10 key parenting tips

1. Train your children rightly, in the way they should go, and not in the way that they would go

Because of the total depravity of mankind, if you let children choose for themselves, they are certain to choose wrong. All are born with corrupt and sinful hearts. Do not expect them to be a sheet of pure white paper.

Be consistent, and deal with his mind similarly. Train him in a way that is scriptural and right, not in the way that he fancies.

2. Train your child with tenderness, affection and patience

They are like young plants, and need gentle watering, often, but a little at a time. You must not expect all things at once. Their understanding is like a narrow-necked vessel: we must pour in the wine of knowledge gradually, otherwise much of it will be spilled and lost.

It is a dangerous thing to make your children afraid of you. Almost anything is better than reserve and constraint between your child and yourself; and this comes from fear. Fear leads to concealment, and eventually to many lies.

Remember that God is behind the promises in the bible. Good training bears fruit “when a child is old” – we may not live to see the final good fruit, so we must always sow in hope.

3. Prioritise the salvation of your child.

Are you spending the most time and energy on the salvation of their souls, or on worldly pursuits aimed at achieving temporal glory? In every step you take for them, in every plan and arrangement for them, ask yourself, “How does this profit their souls?”

A Christian parent must not be content to let them do what ‘everyone else is doing’ in the world today. He who trains his children for heaven, rather than for earth – for God, rather than for man – he is the truly wise parent.

4. Train your child to know the bible. 

You cannot make your child love the bible but you can ensure that he or she is well-acquainted with it. The child that is well grounded in the bible will not be carried about by every new wind of doctrine.  See that your children read the bible regularly and reverently, as God-breathed and able to make us wise unto salvation. Let the Word dwell in them richly. Give them the whole bible, even when they are young.

5. Train them to pray regularly.

Prayer is the turning point of a man’s soul. Ministry work and all labour is in vain if we do not get on our knees to pray. When there is much private communion with God, our soul grows like grass after rain. A strong, flourishing Christian must needs be one who speaks often with his Lord. Prayer is the simplest, yet mightiest engine that God has placed in our hands.

From a tender age, a child can be taught to repeat simple words of prayer. The manner in which they pray is most important – it should not be hasty, careless or irreverent. If there is any habit we should help them form, it is the habit of praying.

We must also water the seeds we sow in their minds with unceasing prayer. Unless the Lord touches the hearts of our children by His Spirit, we weary ourselves to no purpose.

6. Train them to prioritise weekly attendance of church.

It is a duty and privilege to enter the house of God as a community. Those who absent themselves, must expect to miss a blessing. It is important to hear the Word of God preached, and encourage all to assemble together (Hebrews 10:25). Do not allow them to grow up with a habit of making vain excuses for not coming – the Sabbath-breaker is a murderer of his own soul.

7. Train them to obey.

Obedience is faith visible, acting and incarnate. The fifth commandment’s honour requires children to obey parents cheerfully, willingly and at once. Disobedience to parents is one of the evil signs of latter days. If you want your children to be happy, train them to obey, because the human race was not made for entire independence – we are not fit for it.  Teach them to obey while young, or they will be fretting against God all their lives, and wear themselves out with the vain idea of being independent of His control.

8. Train them to always speak the truth.

Truth is a leading characteristic of our Lord. He abhors lying and hypocrisy. Teach them to be straightforward at all times, and to speak the truth, whatever it may cost them.

9. Train them to constantly fear over-indulgence.

Spoiling your children – allowing them to do wrong without punishment – is to ruin their souls. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it from him.” (Prov 22:15) “Correct your son, and he will give you rest, he will give delight to your soul.” (Prov 29:15-16).

Learn to say “no” to your children. Show that you are able to refuse whatever is not fit for them. Show that you are ready to punish disobedience, and to mete it out instead of making empty threats. Do not use words of blame for no good reason. Punish seldom, instead of frequently for slight misdeeds.

Beware of letting little faults pass unnoticed. Point them out for correction, for little weeds grow if unplucked. If you do not take the trouble to train them when young, they will give you untold trouble when older.

God withholds certain things from His children. God leads people by ways that seem dark and mysterious. God often chastens His people with trials and affliction. He sends them crosses and disappointments, He lays them low with sickness, He strips them of property and friends.

Yet, at the end, the true child of God knows that it was a blessed thing that they did not have their own way, and that God had done far better for them than they could have done themselves. However dark at times, this was the way to lasting peace.

To have our wills checked and denied is a blessed thing, it makes us value enjoyments when they come. To be indulged perpetually is to be made selfish; and selfish and spoiled children, are seldom happy.

10. Remember that you are their example.

Instruction and advice will not take root unless backed up by the pattern of your own life. Your children will never believe you or seek to obey you if your actions contradict your counsel. An Archbishop said, “To give good instruction but a bad example, is to beckon your children to heaven whilst taking them by the hand and leading them to hell.”

Imitation is a far stronger principle with children than memory. What they see has a much stronger effect on their minds than what they are told.

Be an example of reverence for the Word of God, reverence in prayer, reverence for the Lord’s day.  They may not understand your reasonings and your lecturing, but they can understand your life. Children are very quick observers, and quick to see through hypocrisy, and quick in finding out what you really think and feel.


Parenting is not an easy task, and is a constant journey of learning.  The hubs and I are also participating in a 17-week course called “Growing Kids God’s Way”, and I intend to share my thoughts on it once the course concludes next year.

Keep on keeping on!


  4 comments for “100 year old parenting tips (by J.C. Ryle)

  1. Michelle
    November 18, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I have stopped reading parenting books because we have come so far from the basics that much advice seems to be simply a band-aid. I love reading old old books, and this one is a gem. Leads us right back to the important things. Thanks for the summary, will go read it in full!

    • November 19, 2015 at 10:58 am

      That’s true… there are so many perspectives out there, and not all are applicable, as based on our beliefs too. So basics like that are a really good foundation!
      Great, I hope you find the whole book really edifying! 🙂

  2. Liverella
    November 20, 2015 at 6:41 am

    Came across your site by chance…totally love the points, I don’t have kids on my own yet but as a Sunday School teacher, I can totally relate 🙂

    • November 23, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Thanks for leaving a note, and thanks for serving the Lord as a sunday school teacher! 🙂

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