By Elder Paisius the Athonite
Part II - The children
Just pray for the grace of God to act. Now, when your child is already grown up, there is only one thing you can do: show your love and pray to God to act for the benefit of your child, because if you, the parent, treated him with love and kindness, then no matter where he goes, no matter with whom he interacts, at a certain moment he will see that the atmosphere outside the family is unhealthy and that everywhere people are hypocritical and out for gain. In this way your child will return home naturally. But if there is quarreling, anger, offensive language at home, then his heart will have no desire whatsoever to return. O, how attentive we must be, because these teen years need only love and prayer.
Be careful when you exhibit - albeit unconsciously - special love for one of your children and spend time with him exclusively, perhaps because of his illness or handicap. This may cause a serious trauma in the heart of your other child, who will probably be consumed with jealousy. At this point you will have great psychological problems in your relations with your children, and if you do not pay attention to this, you will do great harm both to your children and to yourself. And you shall be entirely to blame. Thus, pay attention!
The elder wrote to a brother in Christ: “Concerning your child, of whom you wrote to me, I am of the opinion that a stern attitude towards him will make him even worse. Talk to him of good things and in a kind manner, and afterwards do not put pressure on him, but just show him how you grieve that he has chosen another path. Fulfill your responsibility by giving him advice, and then entrust your child to God.
I believe that your effort will have great results if it is accompanied by prayer. If, when you suffer from your child’s excesses, you start putting pressure on him, there will be no result, because the child is agitated by the flesh and the devil, who is attacking him. Perhaps everything will pass of its own accord. Do not be upset, later things will get better. Try as much as possible not to push the child away from you, so that he would not break off and run away from the family, because later it may happen that he will not want to return because of his egoism, and you will lose him for good.
In general, do not be upset: God will not abandon your child. And God will not judge the sins of contemporary children on an equal footing with the sins of the children of our times.”
When children behave poorly, it is preferable to scold them in the morning, then they will have the whole day in front of them and will be distracted by other impressions. If you scold them in the evening, their mind will become clouded, which can lead to even more stupid behaviour.
Children should be treated with kindness, because modern children are filled with egoism and do not react at all to scolding. If we begin to scold them, their soul immediately becomes filled with bad thoughts. They cannot understand that we scold them for their own good, because we love them. We must “bind” our children to God and nurture within them the understanding that it is necessary to do good.
If very young children die, they go straight to heaven, for they are comparable to angels. And when, in turn, their parents die, these little angels welcome their parents with lighted candles. The father and the mother receive a spiritual reward for these angels. And, conversely, if a child grows up and chooses the wrong path for himself, his parents suffer greatly.
Small children are like angels, but when they begin to attain a certain age, at which an element of sensual pleasure appears, - they become like wild animals.
Small children should be brought to communion regularly in order to be sanctified, because, unfortunately, they are growing up in a bad, spiritually unhealthy atmosphere.
Parents who have retarded children should not be upset over it, because such children are already saved. The parents must even rejoice that their children are going to heaven without any difficulty. What else can parents wish for their children, when they are guaranteed entry into heaven? If they look at this matter in such a spiritual manner, they will both gain great benefit for themselves and will have a spiritual reward.
Of great importance in a child’s life are familial inclinations. If the child’s parents are cunning, so will the child be shrewd and cunning. Once I met a boy who had lurid photographs in his pocket. I offered him to give them to me and in exchange get a chocolate for each one. The boy firmly refused to give me the photographs, preferring the sinful sweetness of voyeurism to happiness with a small chocolate bar.
Man gives flesh to his child. God gives the child a soul. When the child grows up, the parents resign their responsibilities. God gives each baptized person a guardian angel who helps the person all through his life. Why do we hesitate to place ourselves in God’s hands? Thus, we must take care of our children up to a certain moment. Afterwards we entrust them to God for the future. And the guardian angel always remains at their side.
Even a small child, who is still not qualified for spiritual endeavors, is able to vanquish the devil through humility. The devil is, of course, quite strong, but at the same time quite rotten. He easily overcomes giants, but can himself be overcome by a child.