Word Magazine September 1970 Page 17
THE FAMILY AND GOOD BREEDING
By The Very Reverend P. Pamukov
Pastor of St. Clement’s Orthodox Church, Dearborn, Michigan
Ill bred people are not desirable in our society. For this reason, cultivating good manners cannot be stressed too strong enough to have education without good-breeding. These two qualities do not necessarily go hand-in-hand. Even before formal education begins, we must instill in our children, not only the knowledge of, but also the meaning and belief in, good-breeding.
Good-breeding is more than just the common etiquette, good manners, and courtesies involved in dealing with people. It is an organizing of the best qualities of the young people to help them avoid the pitfalls of life, to make their path through life a little smoother. Good-breeding is an influence on the thinking and behavior of young children. Good-breeding can be called the education of the mind and heart, education of the whole spiritual and emotional system of the child, education of his convictions, ethics, and morals.
St. John Chrysostom says: “There is no higher art than good-breeding. The painter and the sculptor create only a lifeless figure, but the wise tutor creates a life image, at which God and the people can look and rejoice.” (Lecture 60 of the Gospel of Matthew).
Children come in contact with the qualities of good-breeding long before they begin school, through the family unit. The family is the first school, the first tutor. The main factor involved in teaching good-breeding is the love of the mother and the authority of the father: the two
eternal sources of good-breeding. The child spends the best part of twenty-four hours with his family and it is in the family unit that he gets his ideas, notions, habits, and acquires an elementary knowledge about the world which surrounds him. The family unit can be equated to a “little world” which molds the characters of its inhabitants. In the warm family shelter, the children learn to love. Their first social feelings are born here. They gain a knowledge of their moral obligations and cultivate a love for their country and work.
Parents should maintain constant watch over their children in order to guide them along the proper path. Children should he reminded to “Pass to the side, that way is dangerous.” “Don’t hurry so much, you will stumble.” “Be careful. Before you there is danger.”
In order for children to be brought up properly, parents, themselves, must be refined and well-bred. To give something of worth to another, you, yourself, must first be worthy— you must first possess it—isn’t that true?
It is the duty of both parents to share in the responsibility of raising the child. Every time one of the parents shirks his responsibility, or “passes the buck” to the other parent, it is not only a violation of the moral contract between the two parents, but it is also a hindrance to the spiritual development of the child.
In some families, the responsibility of teaching good manners to the children is left exclusively to the mother. The father is “absent without leave” from his sacred duty. Or, equally as bad, the father is present only to dole out physical and verbal punishment. This is a gross abuse of the child and of the role of the father. The father then becomes only a figure of discipline and abuse:
someone to be feared rather than loved and respected. It is only logical that this method will yield poor results rather than the desirable good-breeding.
It is no secret that there are children whose parents have been remiss, leaving the children like orphans; that there are parents who hear children, but do not bring them up: that there are spouses who consider only the delights and pleasures of marriage (which are often illusionary) without regard to their duties and responsibilities! The role of parents is not only important, it is critical to the formation of well adjusted, happy, healthy individuals who will contribute to the future, and lead a happy productive life. The Bible tells us that. “. . as ye sow, so shall ye reap.” How true this is in relation to raising children. Just as the farmer, the parent plants his seed, nurtures it, watches it grow, protects it from danger (whether that danger be from wind, drought, preying animals as in the case of the farmer, or lies, stealing, rude behavior, bad influence from other children in the case of the parents).
The seedling must he fed properly, both physically and psychologically and spiritually. If all these things are done with the right amount of care, firmness, discipline, and love, then, just as the farmer who reaps his harvest of a full, ripe, praiseworthy crop — the parent will reap strong, up-right children who are admirable in all respects. Such is the grave and wondrous responsibility of parenthood.
The family is the basic cell of society. If it is ill, the whole public organism will suffer. That’s why our task as Orthodox Christians is to work towards building strong families and firm homes, where prudent and conscientious fathers and mothers devote all their love, care, and self-sacrifice before the altar of the family!
Children, according to how they have received their good-breeding, according to how they have been planted, nurtured, and tended, will either be the prize or the punishment of their parents.