Sample Pages Orthodox Christian Parenting
While with Child
Elder (Saint) Paisios the Athonite — †1994
When a woman is pregnant she must be calm, read the Gospels, pray, say the Jesus Prayer. Thus, the child is also sanctified. The child’s upbringing begins in the womb. One should be careful not to upset a pregnant woman for any reason. When my wife was expecting a child the Elder [Paisios] told me: “Be careful not to upset her now in any way! Be very careful!! Tell her to say the Jesus Prayer and to chant. That will help the child a lot! She should do this later on as well.”
Call your priest on the way to the hospital (or when you go into labor)! He may be able to come and say the Prayers on the Birth of a Child which are for the recovery, protection and well being of the mother and newborn baby on the day of birth. [Especially call the priest if there is any type of health problem for Mom or the child.]
It is traditional to have your new baby blessed and named on the eighth day. Call your priest and make an appointment as soon as the baby is home. Dad, bring the baby to church yourself since moms don’t return to church for forty days. It does not take long and perhaps the new mom can have a nap while you spend special time with your new baby. [Grandparents can bring the baby too.]
It is critical for us as parents to give our children Christian names and for them to have an icon of their patron saint to always remind them of living a faithful Orthodox Christian life. You can give them an obscure saint’s name if you want something unique but they need real examples by which to live. We know there are many fads in naming children, like currently using last names for first names, but hopefully Orthodox parents will not follow such trends and will see the importance of giving a Christian saint's name to their child.
The Church tradition of having a woman who gives birth stay at home with the baby for forty days is considered by some to be antiquated. But think about it; you’ve just given birth; you and the baby are tired. Wouldn’t you want to rest and play with the baby, get to know each other instead of getting up after delivery and getting back to the housework and job, travel, whatever, all of which expose you and your baby to any sort of viral/bacterial infection? At the end of the forty days you and your baby come to church and are blessed to continue on in the world together, rested and stronger. Not so antiquated.
Water the Tree
Saint Kosmas Aitolos — † 1779
As soon as you cut a tree down, the branches go dry forthwith, but as soon as you water the root, the branches refresh. Likewise, you parents are like the tree. When the father and the mother—you who are the root of the children—are “watered” by fasting, prayers, almsgiving, and by good deeds, God safeguards your children. Once you, the parents, dry out through sin, God deadens your children and puts you into hell with them. If an apple tree brings forth sour apples we blame the tree not the apples. So, you parents who are the apple tree, do well that the apples also become sweet.
Nourishing Your Child
Father Alexander Elchaninov — †1934
Why are childhood impressions so important? Why is it essential to fill a child’s mind and soul with light and goodness, starting from the very earliest stages of its life? In childhood we find a natural gift for faith, simplicity, gentleness, a capacity for tenderness, compassion, imagination, an absence of cruelty and hardness. Now this is precisely the kind of soil that yields a harvest thirty-fold, sixty-fold or an hundred-fold. When, later in life, the soul has become hard and dry, a man can be cleansed anew and saved by the continuing presence of his childhood experience. That is why it is so important to keep children close to the Church—it will provide them with nourishment for their entire lifetime.
Nurturing Your Children
Mother S. read from a book at our last visit to the skete. One thing I caught was that raising children was like nurturing a garden. How you have to take care of a garden every day—watering, weeding (planting is the easy part!)—is like nurturing children in the Orthodox faith: holy oil, prayers, blessed bread, holy water, church services. I thought that was beautiful and helpful.
Elder (Saint) Paisios the Athonite — †1994
Adam and Eve had the gift of foresight, but they lost it when they fell away from Grace. If the Grace of holy Baptism is preserved, children will get with it spiritual foresight. But this requires watchfulness, vigilance and spiritual work. Today, so many mothers—having lost their spiritual bearings—preoccupy themselves with worthless and frivolous things; and they come and ask me, “What am I to do, Father? I am losing my child.”
Discipline and Obedience
Archimandrite Athanasios Mitilinaios — †2006
In the New Testament, guardrails also exist: you may not do this or that. The reasons for this, which we always see in the word of God, is that while God gives a certain freedom of movement, opportunities for expression, He also places certain restrictions on us. If only parents would use this most wise method! If they only knew the importance of this from a pedagogical point of view. When they give some freedom to their children, some breathing room, they should always add some limitations. They could say, “This you can do, but not that. You can eat this, but not that.” If we eliminate all restrictions, our sense of discipline becomes very counter-productive and anti-pedagogical. I am afraid that we want to be smarter and more modern than God and His apostles who gave these commandments. I’m very much afraid of this.
Obedience Before the Fifth Year
Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica — †2002
The spirits of evil interfere with children’s minds and try to disturb them. A child should be taught obedience, especially before the fifth year because that is the period in which the child’s character develops. In this manner, learned character traits remain for the rest of the child’s life. Parents should teach their children absolute obedience during that period. When a parent says something, the answer should be, “Amen.” But today, unfortunately, parents do not know this, and teach their children quite the opposite and just so they grow up.
Obedience Leads to Happiness
Saint Theophan the Recluse — †1894
Children who are submissive and faithful to God in their obedience to His law will have found an abundant source of happiness, even in this temporal life. A poor man with Christian morals inspires respect and love from others. Meanwhile, with an evil and depraved heart, all your riches will not save you from the displeasure and aversion of everyone around you.