Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Raising a Delinquent or Saint

Today in the car I heard this poem which really got me thinking

12 Rules for Raising Delinquent Children
  1. Begin with infancy to give the child everything he wants. In this way he will grow up to believe the world owes him a living. 
  2. When he picks up bad words, laugh at him. This will make him think he’s cute.
  3. Never give him any spiritual training. Wait until he is twenty-one and then let "him decide for himself".
  4. Avoid the use of "wrong". He may develop a guilt complex. This will condition him to believe later, when he is arrested, that society is against him and he is being persecuted.  
  5. Pick up everything he leaves lying around. Do everything for him so that he will be experienced in throwing all responsibility on others. 
  6. Take his part against neighbors, teachers, and policemen. They are all prejudiced against your child. 
  7. Quarrel frequently in the presence of your children. In this way they won’t be so shocked when the home is broken up later.  
  8. Give the child all the spending money he wants. Never let him earn his own
  9. Satisfy his every craving for food, drink, and comfort. See that his every sensual desire is gratified.
  10. Let him read any printed material, and listen to any music he can get his hands on. Be careful that the silverware and drinking glasses are sterilized, but let his mind feast on garbage.
  11. When he gets into real trouble, apologize to yourself by saying, "I could never do anything with him."
  12. Prepare for a life of grief. You will likely have it.

Taken from a pamphlet entitled Twelve Rules for Raising Delinquent Children distributed by the Houston Police Department. 1959.(Source Snopes)

When I was googling the words for the poem I came upon a Father Alexander who wrote the following.

Although the list above certainly provides thoughtful and detailed guidelines on how to flunk at parenthood, I felt, somehow, that the conclusion was depressing, to say the least. Consequently, I wrote the following "Positive Response" - since it's not easy to be the parent of a juvenile delinquent, others might be encouraged to choose a method of parenting which, though equally arduous, is at least more positive and rewarding

 I do confess I agree with him.  He then wrote the following:

How to raise an Orthodox Christian, and, possibly, a saint
  1. When the child is yet young, begin to train him/her in sympathy and consideration for others and in unselfishness. By these means he/she will grow up to understand that the material things of this world are not the most important things for Orthodox Christians. Your life-style and example will be the greatest influence on your child in this matter
  2. Teach your child how to chant the psalms and the hymns of the Church. This will encourage him or her to learn to love the holy services, and to reject the foul language and immodest songs that are so widespread today in our society. Your example in this will have the greatest influence on your child.
  3. Never cease from finding occasions to train your child in spiritual matters and in the love of God and others, and always bring them to the Church. When we were small, we were never asked "if" we were coming to church - or anywhere else, for that matter. The fact that we were going to church was a foregone conclusion. Your child must learn this from the very earliest years. If you wait until your child reaches adolescence, it will already be far too late
  4. Teach your child the meaning of the words "right" and "wrong," "sin" and "virtue," "truth" and "falsehood" ; also teach your child to know the Church's Faith, and to recognize erroneous belief. In this manner, your child's understanding and spiritual discretion will grow as the years go by, and he/she will be prepared for the future, even if he/she has to endure hate and persecution for his/her convictions.
  5. Give your child spiritual duties appropriate to his/her age and understanding. These could include such activities as reading the Lives of the Saints written for your child's level, or reciting some of the evening prayers together with the rest of the family, or fasting and making prostrations, or helping out in church if he or she is old enough.
  6. Aside from providing your child with plenty of Orthodox spiritual literature appropriate for his/her age, make sure that material of an impure or inappropriate nature is not in your home. Unfortunately, today this includes most of television programming. Remember: whatever goes in, comes out. Your example in this matter will have the greatest influence on your child.
  7. Your own life-style, your personal tastes, your words, the books you read, the music you listen to, and the things that draw your interest and attention will all speak louder to your child than anything else. Hallow your child's eyes with the holy icons. Sanctify his hearing with the holy hymns, his sense of smell with sacred incense, and his entire body and soul with the holy Mysteries. If your home is a haven of spiritual sanity, love, and peace, your child will know where to turn when he or she inevitably encounters the blasphemous, shocking, and sordid things that fill our society. Teach your child the Jesus Prayer. In connection with this last matter, I remember the following story:

    Some twenty years ago, on the Greek island of Oinoussae, which lies opposite the large Aegean island of Chios, there was a married priest who served the spiritual and liturgical needs of the sacred Convent of the Annunciation there. This clergyman had four or five children, and every morning he lined them up for a "review." He interrogated them to learn if they had, upon arising from bed, made the sign of the cross, said their prayers, washed their faces, brushed their teeth, scrubbed behind their ears, and dressed nicely and appropriately. Then he would wave his prayer rope in front of them and ask "And now, children, what is this?" Holding their prayer ropes in their hands, the children would lift them in a salute, and cry aloud "Our weapons!"
  8. Instruct your child in alms giving and compassion towards those who are in need. And teach them also that they should help in house duties and, if they are old enough, that they should labor at various odd jobs, so that they may learn from an early age that, as the Holy Apostle Paul tells us, one who does not labor should not eat. Idleness and affluence together have, in our society, destroyed countless young people and led them into sin and even an early death. Never be ashamed to say to your child: "We can't afford it."
  9. Teach your child by your own example - and by the examples found in the Holy Scriptures and the Lives of the Saints - that abstinence from food and drink and personal comforts is a noble and beautiful thing, taught to us by our Saviour Himself and by the Saints. Aside from being good for our souls, austerity is also good for our little planet. Whenever I visit our parish of Saint Nectarios in Seattle, there is Divine Liturgy every day. After the service on weekdays, a group of us usually go to a nearby restaurant to have a cup of coffee, a muffin, etc. Over the years, the waitresses have learned about our fast days - "Oh, okay, it's one of those days," they say, when our orders are particularly small. "Yes," I reply, "it's a Low Environmental Impact Day."
  10. Be fair if it should ever happen that your child gets into a dispute with another child, or with teachers, or with other authorities. If your child is wrong, he/she is wrong, and show him/her, together with your love and support, why he/she is wrong. Your child will learn something of God's justice from your example.
  11. As the years pass, if you persist faithfully in these matters, as you must, you will discover, much to your surprise, that you have grown spiritually also. Saint Paul was quite serious when he said that "a woman shall be saved by childbearing"-and we know and understand that, especially in a society such as ours, both parents are essential for the proper kind of Orthodox Christian spiritual nurturing that is needed.
  12. Prepare yourself for a life of spiritual struggles and prayers. You and your children will need them and the grace of God, for we are not living in the world as God originally created it. We are living in occupied territory-a land occupied by the enemy. But, by our holy Faith and God's grace, we are nonetheless a free people, living in hope and expectation of our deliverance in our true and everlasting country. And if we are heedful in these matters, we will have the boldness to say to our Saviour in that last day, "Behold me, your servant, and the children which Thou hast given me."

Orthodox Christian Witness, St. Nectarios American Orthodox Church, Seattle, Washington 10300. October 27, 1996

In particular I am greatful for the 12th encouragement.  It has been a difficult few months around here as we learn new boundries and grow in relationships with eachother.  It has been bone warying at times.  I needed these words of encouragement.

I pray you will feel encouraged today too.


  1. All I can say is 'Amen'! What a great post - and it's so wonderful to see such a positive response and encouraging, helpful advice given. The first set of rules certainly made a point - the 2nd set, wow! Thanks so much for sharing this.

    1. I agree Linda :o)

      You are welcome !

  2. Yes, number 12 doesn't gloss over the fact that, despite our best efforts, our path may be difficult. I like that because I think the answers aren't always easy and we just have to keep fighting the good fight. 'By our holy Faith and God's grace' - now, that part's simple, isn't it? Simple, but not easy.

    Lots of thoughts here, after reading this, Chareen. We had to make adjustments when our two eldest were in their mid-teens. It was quite challenging - particularly sibling relationships - but, I think we are almost through the other side, now. The atmosphere of laughter and joy has returned where we were putting up with too much fighting and conflict. Take heart, dear Chareen, there is light, at the end of the tunnel:)

    Hugs and prayers:)

    1. It is definitely a simple instruction and it is really not easy at all !

      How did you end the "putting up with" situation?

      Thank you for your encouraging words

  3. Chareen, The fighting seems to have improved with maturity, as they've learnt to deal with their stresses better. We tried to be understanding and walk away if emotions became too volatile. Sometimes, the situation was so unreasonable that I remember trying to turn it to humour, and they would back down and laugh, despite themselves. I, also, remember the children taking turns to go out for a chat over coffee or a milkshake. I think that was really helpful in allowing us to enjoy each other's company, still.

    These days, the older children seem to be less intense and they've regained their sense of humour. There's more peace and love between them than there was, and we all talk a lot together - I guess they just needed patience and reassurance. For us, I think we needed to trust that it would pass, and let them know that we loved them and were proud of them, still.

    Praying for you, Chareen. God bless you all:)


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