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Mother Knows Best

. 1 min read

John Wesley’s mom raised her children in the faith. Photo by Kathleen Barry, United Methodist Communications.

A UMC.org Feature by Joe Iovino*
Few moms know what it’s like to raise ten children like Susanna Wesley.** Her son John, the founder of the Methodist movement, published a letter in which his mom shared her “principal rules” for parenting, covering things big and small.
Because our understandings of child development have changed greatly in the nearly 300 years since Susanna was raising her kids, we might not agree with all of her advice. But some still rings true today.

Religious education

Devotions – “The children of this family were taught, as soon as they could speak, the Lord’s prayer, which they were made to say at rising and bedtime constantly,” Susanna reminded her son.
Worship and Music – When the Wesley children were a little older, the day began with reading or singing a psalm, reading an Old Testament chapter, and saying private prayers—all before breakfast. At the end of the school day, they paired up to read a psalm and a New Testament chapter.
Sabbath – Sundays were special in the Wesley house. The children “were very early made to distinguish the sabbath from other days,” Susanna wrote. Even when the kids were very young, they were expected to participate in the family prayers, “which they used to do by signs before they would kneel or speak.”

Education

Focus – In the Wesley household, nine to noon and two to five were reserved for the children’s education, a top priority for Susanna. “It is almost incredible what a child may be taught in a quarter of a year, by a vigorous application,” she remembered.