I’ve been reading a couple of books from the late 1800’s lately. They have offered me an interesting historical perspective on family dynamics.

One common, historical fallacy that I have learned thus far is that things “back in the day” were not rosy or perfect by any means and the very things that are deficient today are the things that were deficient back then. Things just haven’t just gotten worse over time, they haven’t even gotten better… they are just continually bad.

The alarms and the pleas for change often went unheard and un-practiced. Hmm? I wonder if that is how it will always be? Anyway…

Samuel Clarkson wrote a book called The Church at Home: A Plea for Family Religion (available for free @ Google Books) circa 1860.

There is a common saying we say now that seems to have been true back in 1860: More is caught than taught. Here is how Clarkson put it:

“Who does not know… that there is a teaching of the life louder than that of the lip. Children are practical logicians. They are, in their way, inductive philosophers. They will draw inferences from facts. Might not many say,

‘My father often speaks and acts as if “the one thing needful” were to make money, to gain position of worldly influence, to seek these things first – though I have heard him read in the Bible that “the kingdom of God and his righteousness” are first to be sought, and “all other things shall be added.”‘

“Is it a surprising thing that such children learn to prefer the world to God?”

It’s sounds a lot like: Do as I say, not as I do.

I wonder when we as parents will wise up, recognize the things we say (and even teach), and actually do them ourselves. Because, and we all know this, our children and those who are watching our lives, will mimic what we do, not what we say to do.

Reading this exhortation in a modern book carries some weight to it because it’s just good wisdom. Hearing this exhortation in a much older book, almost in the same way, makes these sorts of pleas much more historic and the root problems that much more sinister and deeply held.

Hmmm… I wonder what will the impetus be for us as parents to realize the error of our ways and let others (our spouses, our friends, even our enemies) hold us accountable to change how we behave into what we really believe?

Or maybe the problem is that we don’t really believe.


  1. I think the situation goes back to the stability of the Family.
    Today there is a higher percentage of children who are living with just one parent and not seeing what a true love relationship is. That certainly is not true of the many young families I know, but throughout the US and the whole world, the importance of a strong marriage relationship has seemingly dropped. A child needs parents who deeply love one another and they need a mother and a father who truly love each other and the children. They need both parents’ influence and guidance.and the feeling of security that stems from that.

  2. The kids are “almost” always right in their judgment of adults.

    Right living is not an easy road to travel!

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