Kevin DeYoung|5:31 am CT

Advice for Raising Godly Children

Ten pithy sayings from John Witherspoon, Scottish Presbyterian pastor, President of Princeton (1768-1794), and signer of the Declaration of Independence, on parental authority and child rearing:

1. The best exercise in the world for children is to let them romp and jump about, as soon as they are able, according to their own fancy.

2. A parent that has once obtained and knows how to preserve authority will do more by a look of displeasure, than another by the most passionate words and even blows. It holds universally in families and schools, and even the greater bodies of men, the army and navy, that those who keep the strictest discipline give the fewest strokes.

3. There is not a more disgusting sight than the impotent rage of a parent who has no authority.

4. I have heard some parents often say that they cannot correct their children unless they are angry; to whom I have usually answered, then you ought not to correct them at all.

5. Nothing can be more weak and foolish, or more destructive of authority, than when children are noisy and in an ill humor, to give them or promise them something to appease them.

6. Let it always be seen that you are more displeased at sin than at folly.

7. Nothing is more destructive of authority than frequent disputes and chiding upon small matters. This is often more irksome to children than parents are aware of.

8. I am fully persuaded that the plainest and shortest road to real politeness of carriage, and the most amiable sort of hospitality is to think of others just as a Christian ought, and to express these thoughts with modesty and candor.

9. Many parents are much more ready to tell their children such or such a thing is mean, and not like a gentleman, than to warn them that they will incur the displeasure of their Maker.

10. It is a very nice thing in religion to know the real connection between, and the proper mixture of, spirit [i.e., matters of the heart] and form [i.e., disciplines like family worship and church attendance]. The form without the spirit is good for nothing; but on the other hand, the spirit without the form never yet existed.

All quotes are taken from Witherspoon’s Letters on the Education of Children, and On Marriage.


  1. And here is a very important principle from Psalms

  2. I am curious as to whether there is any social science research that connects how a child was raised with that person’s adult characteristics and/or behavior (such as self-esteem for characteristics, or church attendance for behavior).

    It seems like everyone has an opinion on how children should be raised. Is there any reason to think that one method is better than another? [I mean that as a serious question.]

  3. You should use the link below, where the book can be read and/or downloaded for free, as it’s part of the national archive.


  4. These 10 things are money. Thanks for sharing this wisdom. Always happy to glean from the experience of others about being a better parent.
    the Ox.

  5. Robert B Fulcher

    Kim, I always look forward to your postings! Thanks and much love, Pop Pop

  6. [...] Following on from the previous post, Kevin DeYoung lists 10 items originally by  John Witherspoon on raising children and parental authority here. [...]

  7. [...] Kevin DeYoung) Rate this:Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrintMoreDiggRedditStumbleUponLike this:Like [...]

  8. [...] Advice For Raising Godly Children This entry was posted in Random Thoughts and tagged 9Marks, asinine, Barry Cooper, Challies.com, cheap grace, child rearing, common sense, culture, disciples, discipleship, discipline, dresses, entrust, faithful men, Family, godly, Government, Great Commission, high school, illogical, Jesus, leadership, learn grow, ludicrous, make disciples, parenthood, parents, prom, raising children, school board, strapless, stupidity, teach, Tim Challies, Timmy Brister on April 25, 2013 by aclutteredmind. [...]

  9. [...] Advice for Raising Godly Children – Ten pithy sayings from the impeccable John Witherspoon. I especially love this one: “The best exercise in the world for children is to let them romp and jump about, as soon as they are able, according to their own fancy.” [...]

  10. Good reminders and thought provoking advice.

  11. [...] Continue Reading by window.fbAsyncInit = function() { FB.init({appId: "", xfbml: true}); FB.Event.subscribe('comment.create', function(response) { }); }; (function() { var e = document.createElement('script'); e.async = true; e.src = document.location.protocol + '//connect.facebook.net/en_US/all.js'; document.getElementById('fb-root').appendChild(e); }()); [...]

  12. [...] April 27, 2013Photo by @drewrodgersHere’s a recap of blog posts you may have missed this week:Advice for Raising Godly Children - Kevin DeYoung shares ten sayings from John Witherspoon on parental authority and child rearing [...]

  13. [...] great advice on raising Godly children (even if it is over 200 years old — or is it especially because it is over 200 years old?). [...]

  14. [...] In today’s world, the words love and intolerance are not interchangeable. And yet without intolerance of evil we cannot truly love our husbands, wives, children, neighbors…let alone God. If we do not hate sin we are against Jesus. In Proverbs God says, “Do not hold back discipline from the child[...]And rescue his soul from Hell! Paul tells us, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I just read Kevin DeYoung’s article at Gospel Coalition, Advice for Raising Godly Children. [...]

  15. This was life-changing for me, and in God’s sovereignty it sums up a book I had been reading that very day about establishing authority with your children. My son is only 12 months old, but I have already been able to immediately apply these beautiful principles. Thank you for sharing!

  16. [...] a varied lot. Some were farmers (John Adams), others were ministers (John Witherspoon). Here is advice for raising godly children from the later of those two. Numbers 5, 6, 9, and 10 are especially applicable in our [...]

  17. [...] Advice for Raising Godly Children [...]

  18. […] Advice for Raising Godly Children […]

  19. […] Kevin DeYoung:  […]

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