Saturday, August 06, 2011

Three Rules for the Home

A Victorian Mother Surrounded by Her Children

I grew up in an era when parents were their children's authority,  protectors and teachers of values. They were concerned with some basic things that would guide us throughout our lives.  Having a conscience before God was a priority in our training, and that involved learning concepts like understanding, wisdom, instruction, in the Biblical sense. Two important things were taught by many families of the time: stay out of trouble with the law, and earn your own living.

From the New Testament comes this command, written to the members of the church in Thessalonica in the year 50 A.D. Written to people on how to behave once they become Christians, it is perfect for the home : to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;

That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing.

 First Thessalonians 4:11-12

From this passage, many parents of the era found three rules for the home: learn to be quiet, mind your own business, and get busy.

They believed that idle hands produced mischief, and if young people were not busy, they would meddle in the lives of others or get into serious trouble in the community.  Leisure time was not considered idleness, as resting, reading, writing, sketching, walking, or in our case, a row-boat ride, was using the time productively and minding your own business.

Reading, 1865
by Jerry Barret

Study to Be
Studying is an essential part of maturing and interacting within the home, but it must be a productive type of study, not based upon worldly wisdom, but on sound doctrine, intended for learning how to behave in life. Study human behavior in the Bible, study a situation before entering into a conversation or involving yourself in a project, study the old paths, where the good walk is (Jeremiah 6:16). Observe and study the consequences and rewards of certain speech, behavior and character of people around you. 

 Learn from the distant past and the not-so-distant past, the effect of speech, a busy or idle life, meddling or minding one's own business.  The Bible says to think about these things and to meditate on them. (First Timothy 4, verse 15)

Lady Looking at Drawings 1894
by Adolphe Balimbau

 Learning to be quiet is more than just keeping your mouth shut. It means studying a situation and determining whether or not to even mention a certain subject, or whether it is necessary to bring up a sore point or talk about a past offense, or any kind of inappropriate talk about vile or gross subjects.

We tend to enjoy  the out-going, fun-loving, talkative personality, and there is nothing wrong with that, but the quiet and gentle personality is praised by God:

...a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.
First Peter 3, verse 4

The person who has studied to have a meek and quiet spirit does not necessarily quit talking, but rather, they use wisdom in what they talk about, knowing what will produce arguments and understanding what will cause someone to stumble. A meek and quiet spirit is not a say-nothing, do-nothing attitude. It means that a person has learned when to speak, to whom to speak, and what to say, that is appropriate.  It means learning what is private and should not be spoken out loud, and not making flippant conclusions and not saying things before hearing the entire matter.Some children have the habit of walking in when a conversation is being conducted, and contributing their opinion without knowing the entire matter. Sometimes they come in at the end of a conversation and assume that it is about something that it is not, and draw false conclusions.

If you will watch the making of the film series "Wives and Daughters," you will see one of the main actresses who plays "Molly" say that her character was a young girl in the past, who, like young girls today, needed to learn what was appropriate and what was not appropriate to say, and that she had to learn not to just blurt out whatever she thought.

Mother and Son
by Pam McCabe

These things all take instruction, study, learning and understanding. Parents at home have a big job to do to train their children how to think, and they should remember the old adage: Use your mind to develop their minds.  Mothers sometimes say they are bored, lonely, lacking in adult conversation, but there is a great opportunity at home to talk to your children in an adult way to develop their thinking and train children in righteousness and the admonition of the Lord.

 A mother who longs to talk to someone needs to talk to her children, within certain appropriate boundaries, about life, about how to analyze behavior and attitudes and how to draw scriptural conclusions. The way a person speaks has a lot to do with how a person behaves. When talk is allowed to go on unfettered, and no quietness is enforced in the home, it can, at times, lead to unrestrained behavior. The tongue must be governed by wise teaching, for, as the Bible says, it guides the whole body, as a small rudder guides a great ship. (James 3) 
Just as the admonition to study to be quiet works in the body of believers, it creates harmony in the home. Parents need to understand that sometimes it takes a bit of effort to correct the speech of their children, from improper grammar and pronunciation to faulty beliefs, in order to establish quietness and peaceful behavior in the home. 
Hanging the Clothes
by Mildred Heatherington

Mind Your Own Business
Minding your own business begins with the previous principle of studying to be quiet.
To teach children to mind their own business, they must first be told what is not their business, and learn to distinguish between meddling and helping.  Parents are the best people to determine this within their own individual families.  To be able to mind your own business, you have to have some work and some interests that will keep you out of trouble. Minding your own business means to be busy at something that is so absorbing that the things other people are doing are faded into the distance in your mind.  To mind your own business means to think of ways to improve your manners, your skills, your thoughtfulness, your contribution to the home. To meddle means to monitor what everyone else is doing and to interfere with their progress. Parents of course are authorized to monitor their children's speech and behavior and to use it as opportunities to teach them.
Being courteous is one form of minding your own business. When you see someone happily going about their own business of working hard, being helpful, and in general helping the family, be courteous enough to either help them in their goal or leave them alone.
Minding our own business is an age old tradition in a free country.  Most people want to be left alone to work at the things that interest them, and want to raise their families without government interference or regulation.  When children are raised to know how to mind their own business and not meddle or control others, they are less likely to encourage meddlesome practices in the community or government. A child raised to mind his own business is less likely to oppress others or become a tyrant.
Learning to mind your own business will prevent discord in marriage. When men and women learn what their own business in the home really is, they can prevent many conflicts. While it all depends on the individual, there are some women who like to be left alone to make decisions in the kitchen or the house and garden, while men might like to be left alone to work in their office, land,  shop or garage. Minding your own business involves the previous principle of being quiet when the other person is concentrating on their own work at home.
Work With Your Own Hands
Working with your own hands begins with the previous principles of studying to be quiet and to mind your own business.
No matter what your situation in life, it is important that you put your hand to something that is good and useful and productive.  Whether it is work or leisure, the important thing is that you keep your hands occupied in your own business.  A mother will be using her hands to guide her little children and teach them how to work with their own hands. A homemaker will be using her hands to clean her house. Children should not grow up having everything done for them, but should learn to be busy with their own hands. Children are eager to help and love order. Parents should seize such moments when their children want to help them fold clothes, water the garden, sweep floors or wash dishes, and avoid the tendency to think that because it is faster to do it yourself, you should not let them help. That is what a mother is home all day for: to develop her children's minds and to teach them to do things that are worthwhile.
Teach children to do something creative that might one day bring them a living. It is not wise to depend on future jobs being available through large companies, as so many of them may not even be there when the child is grown.  Teach them to take things apart and learn to repair them. Teach them how to create things of use, and how to work. Working with your own hands is more than giving a swipe at a table to clean it or pushing the broom carelessly to sweep. It means doing the most excellent job, above and beyond what is just necessary, and not trying to  get by with the least possible effort.

 Working with your own hands is in a sense, putting your signature on your work, as if it was an original painting or story. Your work tells others about your character, whether you are weak and not trying to do well, or whether you are trying to do the best you can and trying to make good use of time.
Certainly, there are volumes to be said about the concept of working with your own hands, but these are just a few things regarding working at home.  A woman who truly wants to be noble and good, will give her house the very best of herself, turning it into a masters painting with her signature on it.
Interior With Woman Reading
by Carl Larssen
That Ye May Have Lack of Nothing
When you have laid a good foundation of being quiet, minding your own business, and working with your own hands,  you'll find that you can either make what you need or sell what you have made, and will suffer less hardship in life.  To have no need of anything, one must first learn to be attentive to things that concern him, and not be wasting time being idle or meddling in other people's lives.   One thing builds upon another. Without initially learning to be quiet and mind your own business, one will find it difficult to work with his own hands.  Without working with his own hands, one will always be needy.
In the Lord's church, there is less suffering among the members, and less discontent, when each member finds something to do and takes his focus off others and tries instead to improve himself.
One of the things I am most grateful for is the early teaching I had to be resourceful and to make things from materials that were available, and to look for possible ways to do , make, invent, create, and think. The previous generation would have been too proud to ask for anything to be done for them or given to them, without first trying to find a way to do it themselves. They did not want to be a burden on anyone, and they taught their children the same beliefs.
These three rules for the home are not as simple as they look. Home school parents could study for months on each one and still not reach the limit of knowledge and understanding of them.
Study, be quiet, mind your own business, get busy, and you will find peace in the home, contentment and fulfillment in life, and you will be able to stay out of trouble with authorities and earn your own living.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for expressing this all so very eloquently. I couldn't agree more. I was listening to Little Women on a Radio Theatre cd
whilst doing my ironing this week, and similar sentiments were expressed by "Marmee". I am inspired to reread the whole series I believe.

Margaret in VA said...

Lady Lydia,
May I print a copy of this? I'm making a notebook for myself and for my daughter, often referring to different articles for us to read together and discuss. I think that you have this blog safeguarded against copying? If that is so, would you be willing to send it to me in an email? It is a most excellent article! Thank you.

Lydia said...

On the upper left part of the side bar links, there is one that says "how to print articles" which helps you print from this blog. Anyone is welcome to print things out to add to their notebooks.

Lydia said...

I should go listen to Little Women online. I forgot that was in there. I suppose it was advice from long before my own parents as it was the way they raised children, passing down their knowledge to the next generation.

There is no need of nannies, day care, public schools or babysitters, if parents know how much they are needed at home to teach their children about life!

Anonymous said...

Lady Lydia, I loved this post. It echoed what my own parents taught me. There is one other point that I learned, and that was some things were "family business" and were not to be discussed outside the family. As I grew up, I was included in some "family business" discussions, but I was taught that these discussions were not anyone else's business, and not to talk about them. I speak here of future plans, like my parents perhaps building a home in another area to move to, or perhaps my father's disability pension being possibly raised, etc. Also, "family finances" were not to be discussed outside the family. It was no one else's business what my father's income was, or wasn't, and what we paid for this or that. Instead of feeling deprived that I could not share, I felt quite grown-up that I was included in "adult" discussions. Nowadays, children seem to discuss such things quite freely, and not always in a positive manner. And not just children! What has happened to "family business" and "privacy"?

Kathleen in IL

Lydia said...


I agree with you: children should not blab their family business all over the community or with friends. Family disagreements or times of guidance and discipline can be unpleasant and it is not wise to report it all over the world. Family finances or even financial trouble should not be broadcast. Families should be able to take care of themselves and not whine or beg. As a nation, we need to be aware of the reputation we are building for ourselves and for our claim that God cares for us. We give God and the Bible a bad reputation if we "tell all" about our parents and tell the dirty laundry. There was an old saying that appears to be lost in modernity: never air your dirty laundry to the public. Personal things are nothing to be ashamed of, like what your income is and how much you weight--but they are to be kept private. We have a generation that wants an x-ray of your life so they can see every single detail. Being quiet doesnt mean just having a shy personality--it means knowing what to keep your mouth shut about.

Alexandra said...

Amen to minding one's own business! If people did more of this, they'd be much more productive and content.

Anonymous said...

I have now slowly read through this post three times and will again I am sure. It contains so much meat for study. I was talking to a family prior to thanksgiving last year and the children were standing among us. I asked about the desert. The mother said the girls had that part of the meal. She left it completely up to them. The girls were 11 and 13. They said they had decided to make two different pies from scratch. They had done so many times and felt very confident doing it. This same family has other children that are in higher piano and guitar classes that give classes to beginners. The 13 year old is beginning to do so too. With this money they buy their own books and classes and help a missionary the children know. They love doing it. They also have come up with many other little jobs and are always designing things using articles they already have. I am so happy to see families like this. This is just one family of many of the home schooled families we know and all of them have remarkable families. Sarah

Anonymous said...

Grown-up children should also be quiet about family business. Just because their parents are aged doesn't mean that they cease to have feelings. Some of the stories that seem fun to tell about your parents may actually be damaging to them as it can get turned into gossip by people in town who love to "dig" into other's pasts.
Also doctors offices are now really careful not to reveal any info about patients, etc. because of privacy; maybe we should not gab about the latest health challenge of an aged parent or grandparent that they would not have revealed themselves.

Anonymous said...

My children attend public schools and the schools are incredibly intrusive. One of the first things they do is have the littlest children keep "journals", where they write anything they please for the teachers and others to read. I was shocked at how many details of our personal lives were in the journals. Everything from what we had for supper to one child writing that she was "mad at Mommy" for making her clean her room! I started teaching my children what "private" meant. The public schools continually intrude on private family lives and family time. These lessons are excellent for homeschoolers, but even more needed by those of us who cannot or do not homeschool!

Lydia said...

In the Book "Maria" by Maria Von Trapp, she wrote of an incident in Austria where the teachers were replaced by government teachers who asked questions about the parents' beliefs. When the youngest child told her teacher, "My father does not believe in the new government," the teacher summoned the parents to the school to ask questions. Maria told the children not to reveal anything to the teachers about their beliefs or their home life.

In one state I know of, a child who is not happy, or "uncomfortable" at home, can report their parents to the school, and the school will contact social services and have them removed from their home and relocated to a foster home.

All the more reason to learn about privacy.

Margaret in VA said...

Thank you so much! And what a neat site that is.

Far Above Rubies said...

Such wise thoughts on being quiet and busy. I have enjoyed these past few years of hardship because it has taught me to be resourceful and busy at home.

I'm sewing and teaching my girls sew. We have sold four quilts in the last three months. I enjoy conversations with my children that I never did before. Lessons of frugality and prudence are abundant.

We have quiet time everyday where we are resting with a book or a sketch pad.

I'm so grateful for your mentorship.

Such good writing, Lydia.

Thank you,


Kelley Folsom said...

I really love this post. It's all so true. If everyone followed these principles, what a better world it would be for all of us. Thank you, Lydia.

Anonymous said...

I hope many many families read this article and teach it. I am surprised there are not many more comments on it. This is a very important subject. Thank you for taking the time to write so concise a post on these basic rules. I thought this was a very special article! I still wish you would come out with a book containing as many of your posts as you can. Sarah

JES said...

WOW! How refreshing to see this written! Excellent! This is probably the best thing I have read in awhile. Just stumbled onto this site and really appreciate it already! Love the paintings too! I think I have found a kindred spirit in you...

Anonymous said...

AMEN, AMEN AND AMEN. Beautifully written Lydia. I really appreciate your blog. Such things of beauty and truth.

I agree with you 100%!!!!