Children have a sense of sin, acute in proportion to their sensitiveness. We are in danger of trusting too much to a rose-water treatment; we do not take children seriously enough; brought face to face with a child, we find he is a very real person, but in our educational theories we take him as “something between a doll and an angel.” He sins; he is guilty of greediness, falsehood, malice, cruelty, a hundred faults that would be hateful in a grown-up person; we say he will know better by-and-by. He will never know better; he is keenly aware of his own odiousness. How many of us would say about our childhood, if we told the whole truth, “Oh, I was an odious little thing!” and that, not because we recollect our faults, but because we recollect our childish estimate of ourselves. Many a bright and merry child is odious in his own eyes; and the “peace, peace, where there is no peace,” of fond parents and friends is of little comfort.
Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children
How should children be regarded, vis-à-vis sin, in their development? Is the legal concept of an “age of accountability” really satisfactory when it comes to pedagogy– in virtue, or elsewhere? The quote above leaves enough to ruminate on, so I will continue with another, following, rather than manufacture my own:
It is the primal impulse to habits of thought which children must owe to their parents; and, as a man’s thought and action Godward, is “the very pulse of a machine,” the introduction of such primal ideas as shall impel the soul to God is the first duty and the highest privilege of parents. Whatever sin of unbelief a man is guilty of, are his parents wholly without blame?
Bryan Wandel works in government finance and has studied history, accounting, and religion. He is a member of the editorial board at Humane Pursuits. Bryan’s writing has appeared at Comment Magazine, First Things, and elsewhere.