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.