Advice to Parents
by Saint Alphonsus Liguori
The Gospel tells us, that a Good Plant cannot 'Produce' Bad
Fruit, and that a Bad One cannot 'Produce' Good Fruit.
We Learn from this, that a Good Father brings-up Good Children. But, if the
Parents are Wicked, how can the Children be Virtuous? Have you ever, says
Our Lord in the same Gospel, seen Grapes gathered-from Thorns, or Figs from
Thistles? Do Men gather Grapes-from Thorns, or Figs-from Thistles? (Matthew 5:16).
So, it is Impossible, or rather very-Difficult, to find Children
Virtuous, who are Brought-up by Immoral Parents. Fathers and Mothers, be
Attentive-to this Sermon, which is of Great Importance-to the Eternal (∞)
Salvation of Yourselves, and of your Children. Be Attentive, young-Men and young-Women, who have not as yet 'Chosen',
a State-in Life. If you Wish-to Marry, Learn the Obligations which you 'Contract', with-regard-to the Education-of your
Children, and Learn also, that if you do not 'Fulfill' them, you shall 'Bring' Yourselves, and all your Children,
to-Damnation. I shall 'Divide' this into Two (2) Points. In the
First (1st), I shall 'Show' how Important it is to Bring-up Children, in Habits-of
Virtue; and, in the Second (2nd), I shall Show with what Care
and Diligence a Parent ought-to 'Labor', to-Bring them up Well.
A Father 'Owes' Two (2) Obligations to his Children; he is Bound-to Provide-for their
Corporal Wants, and to Educate them in the Habits-of-Virtue. It is not Necessary
to say anything else about the First (1st) Obligation, than, there are some Fathers more-
Cruel than the most-Ferocious-of Wild Beasts; for these Squander-away in Eating, Drinking, and Pleasure, all their Property, or all the
Fruits-of their Industry, and 'Allow' their Children to Die-of
Hunger. Let us 'Discuss' Education, which is the Subject-of this Article.
It is certain, that a Child's Future Good or Bad Conduct, depends-on his being
Brought-up Well, or Poorly. Nature itself, 'Teaches' every Parent to-attend-to the
Education-of his Offspring. God gives Children to-Parents, not that they may
'Assist' the Family, but that they may be Brought-up in the Fear-of-God, and be Directed-in the Way-of
Eternal (∞) Salvation.
"We have", says Saint John Chrysostom, "a Great Deposit in Children, let us Attend to them
with Great Care". Children have not been Given-to Parents as a Present, which they may Dispose-of as they Please, but as a Trust,
for which, if Lost through their Negligence, they must
Render an Account to God.
One of the Great Fathers says, that on the Day-of-Judgment, Parents will have to Render an Account for all the
Sins of their Children. So, he who 'Teaches' his Son to-Live Well, shall
Die a Happy and Tranquil
Death. He that 'Teaches' his Son ... when he Died, he was not
Sorrowful, neither was he Confounded-before his Enemies
(Ecclesiasticus 30:3,5). And he will Save his Soul by-means-of his Children, that
is, by the Virtuous Education which he has given them. She shall be
Saved-through Child-bearing (1Timothy 2:15).
But, on the other hand, a very Uneasy and Unhappy Death will be the Lot-of
those who have Labored only-to Increase the Possessions, or to Multiply the Honors-of their Family, or who have sought only to-Lead a Life-of-Ease and
Pleasure, but have not Watched-over the Morals-of their Children. Saint Paul says that such Parents are
Worse-than Infidels. But if any Man have not Care-of his Own, and especially-of those of his House, he has
Denied the Faith, and is Worse-than an Infidel (1Timothy 5:8).
Were Fathers or Mothers to-Lead a Life-of Piety and Continual Prayer, and
to-Communicate every Day, they should be Damned, if they
Neglected the Care-of their Children.
If all Fathers 'Fulfilled' their Duty-of Watching-over the Education-of their Children, we should have but
Few Crimes. By the Bad
Education which Parents give-to their Offspring, they Cause their Children, says Saint John Chrysostom, to Rush-into many
Grievous Vices; and thus they Deliver them up to the Hands-of the Executioner. So it was, in one Town, a
Parent, who was the Cause-of all the Irregularities-of his Children, was Justly
Punished-for his Crimes, with Greater Severity,
than the Children themselves. Great indeed is the Misfortune-of the Child that has
Vicious Parents, who are Incapable-of Bringing-up their Children in the Fear-of-God; and who, when they see
their Children Engage-in Dangerous Friendships and in Quarrels, instead-of
Correcting and Chastising them, they take Compassion-on them, and say:
"What can I do? They are Young; Hopefully they will Grow out of it". What Wicked
Words, what a Cruel Education! Do you Hope-that when your Children Grow-up,
they will become Saints? Listen to what Solomon says: A Young Man, according-to his Way, even
when he is Old, he will not Depart from it (Proverbs 22:6). A Young Man, who has 'Contracted' a Habit-of-Sin,
will not Abandon it, even in his Old Age. His Bones, says Holy Job, will be Filled-with the
Vices-of his Youth, and they will Sleep-with him, in the Dust (Job 20:11).
When a Young Person has Lived-in Evil Habits, his Bones will be Filled-with the
Vices-of his Youth, so that he will Carry them to the Grave, and the
Impurities, Blasphemies, and Hatred, to-which he was Accustomed-in his
Youth, will Accompany him to the Grave, and will Sleep-with him, after his Bones are Reduced-to Dust and Ashes. It is
very-Easy, when they are Small, to-Train Children-to Habits-of-Virtue, but, when they have Come-to Manhood, it is
Equally Difficult to-Correct them, if they have 'Learned'
Let us come-to the Second (2nd) Point -- that is, to the Means-of Bringing-up Children in the Practice-of
Virtue. I 'Beg' you, Fathers and Mothers, to Remember what I now Say-to you, for on it depends the
Eternal (∞) Salvation-of your own
Souls, and of the Souls-of your Children.
Saint Paul Teaches-sufficiently, in a Few Words, in what the Proper Education-of Children Consists. He says that it
Consists-in Discipline and Correction. And you, Fathers, Provoke not your
Children to Anger, but Bring them up in the Discipline and
Correction-of the Lord (Ephesians 5:4). Discipline,
which is the same as the Religious Regulation-of the Morals-of Children, implies an Obligation-of Educating them in
Habits-of-Virtue, by 'Word' and 'Example'. First (1st), by 'Words': a Good Father
should often Assemble his Children, and Instill-into them, the Holy Fear-of-God. It was in this manner that Tobias
Brought-up his little Son. The Father taught him from his Childhood, to Fear-the-Lord and to Fly-from
Sin. And from Infancy, he Taught him to Fear-God, and Abstain-from
Sin (Tobias 1:10). The Wise Man says, that a well-Educated Son, is the Support and
Consolation-of his Father. Instruct your Son, and he will Refresh you, and will
give Delight-to your Soul (Proverbs 29:17).
But, as a well-Instructed Son, is the Delight-of his Father's Soul, so an Ignorant Child is a Source-of
Sorrow to a Father's Heart, for the Ignorance-of his Obligations-as a
Christian, is always Accompanied-with a Bad Life.
It was Related-that, in the Year 1248, an Ignorant Priest was 'Commanded', in a Certain Synod, to make a Discourse.
He was Greatly Agitated-by the Command, and the Devil, Appearing-to him, Instructed him to say:
"The Rectors-of Infernal Darkness, Salute the Rectors-of Parishes, and Thank them for their Negligence-in Instructing the People;
because from-Ignorance, Proceeds the Misconduct and the Damnation-of Many".
The same is True-of Negligent Parents. In the First (1st) Place, a
Parent ought to Instruct his Children in the Truths-of the Faith, and
Particularly-in the Four (4) Principle Mysteries:
First (1st), that there is but One (1) God, the
Creator and Lord of all-Things;
Secondly (2nd), that this God is a Remunerator,
Who, in the next-Life, will Reward the Good
with the Eternal (∞) Glory-of-Paradise, and
will Punish the Wicked, with the Everlasting
(∞) Torments-of Hell;
Thirdly (3rd), the Mystery-of the Most-Holy-Trinity --
that is, that in God there are Three (3)
Persons, Who are only One (1) God,
because They have but One (1) Essence;
Fourthly (4th), the
Mystery-of the Incarnation-of the Divine Word
-- the Son-of-God, and True God, Who became
Man in the Womb-of-Mary, and Suffered and
Died-for our Salvation.
Should a Father or Mother say, "I myself do not-Know these Mysteries"; can such an Excuse, be Admitted? Can One
Sin 'Excuse' Another? If you are Ignorant-of these
Mysteries, you are Obliged-to Learn them; and afterwards, to-Teach them
to your Children. At least, 'Send' your Children to a Worthy Catechist. What a
Miserable Thing to see so-many Fathers and Mothers, who are unable-to Instruct their Children in the most-Necessary
Truths-of the Faith, and who, Instead-of Sending their Sons and Daughters to
Christian Doctrine, Employ them in Occupations-of little-Account; and when they are Grown-up, they do not know what is Meant-by
Mortal Sin, by Hell, or Eternity
(∞). They do not even Know the Creed, the
Our Father, or the Hail Mary, which every Christian is Bound-to
Learn-under Pain-of Mortal Sin.
Religious Parents not only Instruct their Children in these things, which are the most-Important, but they also Teach them the Acts which
Ought-to be made every-Morning, after Rising. They Teach them:
First (1st), to-Thank God for having Preserved their Life during
Secondly (2nd), to Offer-to God all their
Good Actions which they will Perform, and all the Pains which they will
Suffer during the Day;
Thirdly (3rd), to Implore-of Jesus Christ and
Our Most Holy Mother Mary, to 'Preserve' them from all Sin during the Day.
They Teach them to-Make, every-Evening, an Examination-of Conscience and an
Act of Contrition. They also Teach them to make every-Day, the Acts-of
Faith, Hope and Charity; to-Recite the
Rosary; and to-Visit the Blessed Sacrament. Some Good Fathers of-Families, are Careful-to get a Book-of
Meditations to-Read, and to have Mental Prayer in-common, for Half-an-Hour every
Day. This is what the Holy Ghost 'Exhorts' you to Practice. Do you have Children? Instruct them, and Bow-down their
Neck from their Childhood (Ecclesiasticus 7:23). Endeavor to Train them from their Infancy, to these Religious Habits, and when they Grow-up, they will
'Persevere' in them. Accustom them also to go-to Confession and Communion
It is also very useful to 'Infuse' Good Maxims into the Infant Minds-of Children.
What Ruin is Brought-upon Children, by their Father, who 'Teaches' them Worldly
Maxims! "You must", some Parents say to their Children, "seek the Esteem and
Applause-of the World. God is Merciful, He takes Compassion on certain Sins". How Miserable the Young Man is,
who Sins in-Obedience-to such Maxims. Good Parents Teach very different Maxims,
to their Children. Queen Blanche, the Mother-of Saint Louis, King-of-France, used to say to him: "My son, I would rather see you
Dead in my Arms, than in the State-of-Sin". So then, let it be your Practice also, to Infuse-into your Children, certain
Maxims-of-Salvation, such as:
What will it Profit us to-Gain the Whole World, if we
lose our own Souls?
Everything on this Earth has an End, but Eternity never Ends.
Let all be Lost, provided God is not Lost.
One (1) of these Maxims, well Impressed-on the
Mind-of a Young Person, will Preserve him always, in the Grace-of-God.
But, Parents are Obliged to Instruct their Children in the Practice-of Virtue, not only by-Words, but
still-more by-Example. If you give your Children Bad Example, how can you Expect-that they will Lead
Good Lives? When a Dissolute Young Man is Corrected-for a Fault, he
answers: "Why do you Censure me, when my Father does Worse"? The Children will Complain-of an
Ungodly Father, because-for his Sake, they are in-Reproach (Ecclesiasticus 41:7). How is it
possible-for a Son to be Moral and Religious, when he has had the Example-of a
Father, who uttered Blasphemies and Obscenities, who spent the entire-Day in the
Tavern, in Games and Drunkenness, who was in the Habit-of 'Frequenting' Houses-of Bad Fame, and of
Defrauding his Neighbor? Do you expect your Son to go Frequently-to Confession,
when you yourself Approach the Confessional scarcely Once-a-Year?
It is Related-in a Fable, that a Crab on-day, Rebuked its Young for walking-Crookedly. They replied, "Father, let us see you
Walk". The Father Walked-before them, more-Crookedly than they did. This is what happens-to the Parent, who gives
Bad Example. Hence, he has not even Courage, to-Correct his Children for the Sins
which he himself Commits.
According-to Saint Thomas, Scandalous Parents 'Compel', in a Certain Manner, their Children to-Lead a
Bad Life. "They are not", says Saint Bernard, "Fathers,
but Murderers, they Kill not the Bodies, but the Souls of their Children". It is useless for Parents to-Say: "My
Children have been Born with Bad Dispositions". This is not True, for, Seneca says, "You Err, if you think that
Vices are Born-with us; they have been Engrafted". Vices are not Born-with your Children, but
have been 'Communicated'-to them by the Bad Example of the Parents. If you had given Good
Example to your Sons, they would not be so-Vicious as they are. So Parents, 'Frequent' the
Sacraments; 'Learn' from the Sermons; 'Recite' the Rosary every-day;
'Abstain'-from all Obscene Language, from Detraction, and from
Quarrels; and you will see that your Children 'Follow' your Example. It is particularly Necessary-to 'Train' Children to
Virtue, in their Infancy, Bow-down their Neck from their Childhood, for when they have Grown-up, and Contracted Bad
Habits, it will be very Difficult for you to-Produce, by-Words, any
Amendment-in their Lives.
To Bring-up Children in the Discipline-of the Lord, it is also Necessary-to take-away from them, the Occasion-of
doing Evil. A Father must-Forbid his Children to go-out at Night, or to-go-to a House in-which their
Virtue might be Exposed-to Danger, or to-keep Bad
Company. Cast-out, said Sarah to Abraham, this Bondswoman, and her Son (Genesis 21:10). She Wished-to have Ishmael, the Son-of Agar, the
Bondswoman, Banished-from her House; that her Son Isaac, might not Learn his Vicious Habits.
Bad Companions are the Ruin-of Young Persons. A Father should not only
Remove the Evil which he Witnesses, but he is also Bound-to Inquire-after the Conduct-of his Children, and
to-Seek information from-Family and from-Outsiders, regarding the Places which his Children frequent, when they leave Home, regarding their Occupations
and Companions. A Father ought to-Forbid his Children ever to Bring-into his House, Stolen Goods. When Tobias heard
the Bleating-of a Goat, in his House, he said, Take Care, perhaps it is Stolen, go, Restore it to its Owners
Parents should 'Prohibit' their Children from all-Games, which bring Destruction-on their Families and on their own
Souls; and also Dances, Suggestive Entertainment, and certain
Dangerous Conversations and Parties-of-Pleasures. A Father should Remove-from his House, Books-of-Romances
which Pervert Young Persons; and all Bad Books which contain
Pernicious Maxims, Tales-of-Obscenity, or of Profane Love. He should
not 'Permit' his Daughters to be Alone with-Men, whether Young or Old. But some will say: "But this Man Tutors my Daughter;
he is a Saint". The Saints are in-Heaven, but the
Saints that are on-Earth, are Flesh, and by Proximate Occasions, they may become
Another Obligation-of Parents, is to-Correct the Faults-of the Family. "Bring them up in
the Discipline and Correction-of the Lord". There are Fathers and Mothers who Witness Faults in the Family,
and remain silent. Through Fear-of Displeasing their Children, some Fathers neglect-to Correct them; but, if you saw your Child Falling-into a Pool-of-Water,
and in Danger-of being-Drowned, would it not be Savage Cruelty not to-Catch him by
the Hair, and Save his Life? He that Spares the Rod, Hates his Son (Proverbs 13:24).
If you Love your Children, Correct them; and while they are Growing-up, Chastise
them, even with the Rod, as-often-as it may be Necessary.
I say, with the Rod, but not with a Stick; for you must Correct them like a Father, and not like a Prison Guard. You must be Careful not to Beat
them when you are in a Passion, for you will then be in Danger-of Beating them with
too-much Severity, and the Correction will be without Fruit, for then they
Believe-that the Chastisement is the Effect-of Anger, and not-of a Desire on your
Part, to see them 'Amend' their Lives. I have also said, that you should Correct them, while they are Growing-up, for when they Arrive-at Manhood, your
Correction will be of Little use. You must then Abstain-from Correcting them with the Hand, otherwise, they will become more-
Perverse, and will Lose their Respect-for you. What use is it to Correct Children with Injurious Words, and
with Imprecations? Deprive them of some Part-of their Meals, of certain Articles-of
Dress, or Shut them up in their Room. I have said enough. Draw-from this Discourse the Conclusion, that he who has Brought-up his Children
Badly, will be Severely Punished, and that he who has Trained them in the
Habits-of-Virtue, will Receive a Great Reward.