The sermons written for the first Sunday after the epiphany, according to the medieval order of the pericopes, are based on the story of 12-year-old Jesus teaching in the temple (Luke 2:41-52). Therefore, the duties of parents and children are usually presented in these sermons. A following of this pericopal tradition can be found among 16th-century Hungarian publications in the books of the pastors Péter Bornemisza, István Beythe and György Kulcsár, and the priest Miklós Telegdi. Through their sermons, I examine how these authors wrote about the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ child as well as what methods they offered for improving the behaviour and morals of said ‘bad’ child.
In describing the duties of children and parents, we do not encounter conflicting places among different authors; even if they belong to different denominations they seem to complement each other. in the case of a good child, obedience and acceptance are key values, while a bad child is primarily characterized by disrespect and ingratitude towards the parents. The parental duty of taking care of a child is described in three main guidelines: knowing God and nurturing faith; getting used to good morals; discipline and chastisement.
Apart from these duties, children and childhood are represented in a contradictory way throughout these texts. on the one hand, the child appears to be a blessing from God, but on the other hand, childhood is viewed as a time of weakness, foolishness and worthlessness.
In these sermons, the focus is on the parents and parenting is described as the duty of supervision and control. The fate of children is in the hands of those who raise them. If parents pray to God and give thanks to him, accustom their children to true faith and good morals, and discipline them regularly, then children can embark on the path to a better childhood and justification.