St. Paisios' hermitage in Sinai, Egypt
(Father Paisius was a noted Athonite elder. The following conversation with Father Paisius took place in August 1990.)
Q. Yeronda (Gk. for elder), there are so many temptations and dangers for young people today. And although we see to it as much as we can to have our children within the church, we worry. Is this concern justified?
A. For children who have been watered from a young age on piety-do not have fear for them and if they stray a little due to their age or because of temptations-they will come back...
Q. From which age, Yeronda, do you believe that children become "receptive" and how can we as parents take action without endangering them by chance of excessiveness?
A. First of all, children imitate us and of course it starts from infancy. From there onwards we have to have the same concern over them as with watches. We wind them as quickly as their spring will take andthen later on slowly, being careful not to break their spring with force.
Q. Many times they aren't obedient on some important issues and they rebel very badly for their age. Shouldn't we insist especially on things like piety?
A. When something isn't going well, something is always to blame. Maybe our example is to blame? Maybe it's some bad issues, some bad actions, or bad words within the home. However, piety is given to children with their milk and not with solid food. Never with pressure or force. And especially by example.
Q. In cases of wrong actions does spanking bring good results?
A. We must avoid it as much as possible. And also all those continuous "no's" and "don'ts". Make the child understand why he shouldn't do something. Only then can we bring them around.
Q. Even though we try and follow all these things as much as we can, they become rebellious and disobedient. Do you think that it could be because of bad company at school-perhaps it is our fault?...Sometimes, however they surpass every limit and we don't know what to do.
A. Why don't we give the screwdriver to Christ sometimes-let him take care of things and tighten a few screws. Let's not expect to do everything ourselves.
Q. In the case where the child is in the church yet at a certain age he starts to change his ways and stray, how should we handle this?
A. Calmly. If they do something serous, we should intervene. With younger children we should overlook something so we don't turn things around and make things worst.
Q. When a child gets involved with a bad crowd and deserts his home and in the meantime doesn't have much of Christ with him, because unfortunately we are weak- do you think there is much hope that they'll come round?
A. Did they take love with them? Where there is love in the home and the child himself was surrounded by love himself, even if he leaves and gets involved with bad crowds and having a good time, he will see eventually that there is no love outside. He'll see that there is hypocrisy everywhere and he'll return home. But if he remembers hostility and hatred he won't have it in his heart to return home.
Q. When we ourselves have come to know Christ late, that is, when our children have already grown up, what can we do to put them on the right path?
A. In this case, only prayer can bring results. We must ask God with a lot of faith to have mercy on these children who are not responsible for their unbelief. We must recognize that the responsibility is totally ours to humble ourselves and to have genuine repentance, and God will help. He has His way. He'll send them a life jacket to save them.