It is important that we do all in our power according to God’s instructions in the important role of raising our children. But after that is done, remember that even as early as Cain’s sin, both brothers were likely raised the same and one chose to sin. But that sin occurred after Eve’s sin.
The Review and Herald
May 10, 1898
Parental Responsibility—No 1
Mrs. E. G. White
In the education of their children, parents should begin early to establish in them correct methods and habits; for the early education of the youth shapes their character in both their secular and religious life. Their minds should be directed in profitable channels of thought. Their occupations should be such as not only to benefit themselves, but to teach others the development of thought and labor that will be for their present and eternal good.
Children may be trained for the service of sin, or for the service of righteousness. Solomon says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” This language is positive. The training that Solomon enjoins is to direct, educate, develop. But in order for parents to do this work, they must themselves understand the “way” the child should go. It is impossible for parents to give their children proper training unless they first give themselves to God, learning of the great Teacher the precious lesson of obedience to his will. The mother should feel her need of the Holy Spirit, that she may herself have a genuine experience in submission to the way and will of the Lord. Then, through the grace of Christ, she can be a wise, gentle, loving teacher of her children.
Fathers and mothers are responsible for the health, the constitution, and the development of the characters of their children. No one else should be left to see to this work. As parents, it devolves upon you to co-operate with the Lord in educating your children in sound principles, keeping their minds open and impressible by the inculcation of Bible truth. This will develop strong characters.
In two many cases the parents are only grown-up children. They are not intelligent teachers; they do not realize the responsibilities that rest upon them. In their ignorance of the wants of their infants, many parents think that they can be fed upon those things which they themselves eat. They have no knowledge of what constitutes a proper diet. Many mothers have come to me, saying, “My baby does not thrive. It is poor and fretful and sick. What is the matter with it?”
“What do you give your child to eat?” I have questioned.
“The same food that we ourselves eat,—a little bit of everything,—a little tea, coffee, potato, beer, and meat.”
This variety of food is unwholesome for the parents, and is much more so for the child. The child has but a small stomach, and should have regular periods of eating, and then it should not eat too largely. Overeating crowds the stomach, and distress is the result. The “stuffing” process has placed many a little child in its narrow bed, just because of the ignorance of the parents. Let the child dress simply, and eat of the simplest and most wholesome diet. Let him not be indulged, and tempted to eat more than he should. This will ruin the digestive organs before he can become intelligent upon the important subjects of how to eat, how to dress, how to exercise, in order to retain health. The youth who are not perseveringly educated to respect the laws of their own being, will easily turn aside from the laws which God has ordained for their spiritual life.
The Spoiled Child
In some families the wish of the child is law. Everything he desires is given him. Everything he dislikes, he is encouraged to dislike. Indulgence is supposed to make the child happy, but it only makes him restless and discontented. Indulgence has spoiled his appetite for plain, healthful food, and for the plain use of his time; self-gratification has done the work of unsettling his character for time and for eternity.
A great mistake is made when the lines of control are placed in the child’s hands, and he is allowed to bear sway in the home. But this has been done, and will continue to be done, because fathers and mothers are blind in their discernment and calculation. The child who is not carefully and prayerfully disciplined will be unhappy in this life, and will form such unlovely traits of character that the Lord cannot unite him with his family in heaven. There is a very great burden to be carried all through the life of a spoiled child. When his will is crossed, he is aroused to anger. In trial, in disappointment, in temptation, he will follow his undisciplined, misdirected will.
Children who have never learned to obey will have weak and impulsive characters. They may profess to be Christians, but how sad is their experience. They seek to rule, but have not learned to submit. These half-educated children are without moral strength to restrain their wayward tempers, to correct their wrong habits, or to subdue their uncontrolled wills. That mother who, knowing what is best for the spiritual and physical help of her child, yields to his tears and importunity, will, through her own training, be pierced through with many sorrows.
The heavenly intelligences cannot co-operate with fathers and mothers who neglect to train their children, and who allow Satan to make the youthful mind an instrument through which he can work to counteract the working of the Holy Spirit. The youth may profess to be converted, but the character will reveal whether or not the neglected work of the parents has been overruled by good. What sin can be greater than that of allowing children to be spoiled by mismanagement? When these children have families of their own, they carry their defects with them, and thus the neglect of parents to deal faithfully carries evil from generation to generation. Thus the world is deprived of the moral power of rectitude and integrity which it should have.
The happiness of every child may be secured by strong, even discipline. A child’s truest graces consist in modesty and obedience,—in attentive ears to hear the words of direction, in willing feet and hands to walk and work in the path of duty. And a child’s true goodness will bring its own reward, even in this life. The early years are the time for the training process, not only that the child may become most serviceable and full of grace and truth in this life; but that he may secure the place prepared in the home above for all who are true and obedient. In our own training of children, and in the training of the children of others, we have proved that they never love parents and guardians less for restraining them from doing evil.
The future of society depends on the education and training of the youth of today. Parents, a solemn work is resting upon you. The greatest power, the efficient gospel, has its effect in the well-ordered, well-disciplined family. The children are not be treated as dolls, made to be dressed and undressed,—idols, to have affection and indulgence lavished upon them, and parental self-sacrifice cater to their impulses. They are to learn to obey in the family government. They are to form a symmetrical character, of which God can approve, maintaining law in the home life. Christian parents are to educate their children to obey the law of God. The reasons for this obedience and respect for the law of God may be impressed upon the children as soon as they can understand its nature, so they will know what they should do, and what they should abstain from doing.
God requires obedience of every human being. Upon this our eternal future depends. In obedience to the law of God we shall form a beautiful character. “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.” Children should be taught to respect every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Parents are ever to magnify the precepts of the law of the Lord before their children, by showing obedience to that law, by themselves a living under the control of God. If a sense of the sacredness of the law takes possession of the parents, it will surely transform the character by converting the soul.
Parents, never prevaricate, never tell an untruth by word or deed. If you want your child to be truthful, be truthful yourselves; be straightforward and undeviating. Even a slight prevarication should not be allowed. If the mother is accustomed to be untruthful, the child will follow her example.
The work of “breaking the will” is contrary to the principles of Christ. The will of the child must be directed and guided. Save all the strength of the will, for the human being needs it all; but give it a proper direction. Treat the child’s will wisely and tenderly, as a sacred treasure. Do not hammer it to pieces; but by precept, by true example and love, wisely fashion and mold it until the child comes to years of responsibility. Then still guide with your counsel, bringing your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
The Review and Herald
May 17, 1898
Parental Responsibility—No. 2
Mrs. E. G. White
If parents desire their children to be pleasant, they should never speak to them in a scolding manner. The mother often allows herself to become irritable and nervous. Often she snatches at the child, and speaks in a harsh manner. If a child is treated in a quiet, kind manner, it will do much to preserve in him a pleasant temper. The grandest and noblest work that parents have to do for their Master is to bring Bible discipline into their government. Mothers, teachers, and guardians of the youth, be careful. If things arise to irritate, you are not at liberty to act out your feelings. Educate yourselves to carry a pleasant countenance, and to bring sweetness and melody into the voice. The angels of God are ever near your little ones; and your harsh, loud tones of fretfulness are not pleasant to their ears. Let love and tenderness, patience and self-control, be at all times the law of your speech. Winning love is to be like deep waters, ever flowing forth in the management of your children.
All through his life, Christ performed acts of love and tenderness for the children. He took the little ones in his arms, and blessed them. On one occasion he called a little child to him, and set him in the midst of his disciples, and said: “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.”
Parents should heed the words of Christ: “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.” These words are not spoken for the benefit of those only who are young in years. They include all who are newly come to the faith, who are little children in experience, born again into the kingdom of God.
It is your duty, parents, to educate and train your children to do service for him whose they are by creation and redemption. If the Lord could present a little child in its simplicity as an object-lesson, then be careful how you treat the precious little ones, the lambs of the flock. There need be no harsh tones, no hard, painful strokes upon the little form. If, in the fear and love of God, you will do your duty, you will not deserve the pain you cause your child to suffer because of your masterly spirit that is so easily provoked. We would be much happier if we would manifest the gentleness of Christ in dealing with the little ones, who have everything to learn from the lips and character of the parents. It is a pleasant thing for God and the angels above to behold this work carried on in the families of earth in a Christlike manner, the parents fully appreciating the value of the souls of the little ones committed to their care.
The long, protracted effort made to obtain an education in books is a mistake. There is danger of arousing love for pleasure and amusement. This gives the youth an education which is deleterious and unprofitable, and which God cannot bless; for it divorces the thoughts from him, and corrupts the soul. Those who receive this training are wavering and irresolute. They crave those things that are not essential for this life, or for the future, immortal life. They are full of conceit and self-importance. Unless completely transformed in character, they will never understand and know the truth.
All are to be students in this life. We are to improve our faculties, that we may do the best kind of service for him who has given his life to redeem us. We are to think soberly, and consecrate ourselves to God day by day. Then we shall consider every hour precious, and shall purify our souls with stern resolution. Our opportunities and privileges are golden. We have a high standard to reach. We are to do missionary work for the Master, co-operating with Christ in restoring the moral image of God in men.
The glory of God is to be kept before the mind’s eye. This should be the one aim and purpose of parents. Everything that would hinder in this consecrated service is to be left. We are to separate ourselves from whatever position we have placed ourselves in that would fetter us to cheap habits, common words, common works, or littleness of purpose. Christians are to be Christlike. All who sincerely believe that the living oracles of God mean just what they say, will act that faith.
Nothing can excuse parents from their responsibility toward their children in their influence in the home discipline and education. Low, cheap, common talk should find no place in the family. When the heart is pure, rich treasures of wisdom will flow forth. The heart should be a holy temple for God, where no entrance of corrupt principles is allowed to divorce us from God, and extinguish our moral and spiritual power. In the training of their children, parents should inculcate right principles. Every action is liable to be repeated. Every course of action has a twofold character and importance. It is virtuous or vicious, right or wrong, according to the motive which prompts it. A wrong action, by frequent repetition, leaves a permanent impression upon the mind of the actor, and also on the minds of those who are connected with him in any relation, either spiritual or temporal. The parents or teachers who give no attention to the small actions that are not right, establish those habits in the youth. Principle must be firmly held by parents and teachers. They must reverence the principles of God’s holy word, and let their own lives reveal that they are pure and noble and heavenly.
On every hand we see a neglect to train children to engage in useful labor. They are allowed to grow up in ignorance of simple and necessary things. But those who are so unfortunate in their training must awake; take the burden of the matter upon themselves; and, if they ever expect to have success, find incentives to the honest employment of their God-given powers. Their own enlightened understanding must lead them to engage in useful work. Without this kind of education, this principle of action will not be established. Their work will be fitful, and their efforts in every line, feeble.
Parents are not to be slaves to their children, doing all the self-sacrifice, while the children are permitted to grow up careless and unconcerned, letting all the burdens rest upon their parents. The children are God’s precious heritage, to be disciplined, educated, and trained to lift burdens in their early years. These should be light at first; but children should be carefully educated to do their part, that they may understand how to do their work with willing aptitude. Young men and young women who have been so unfortunate as to have the idea impressed upon their minds that work is degrading to ladies and gentlemen, will in the end lose the credit of being ladies and gentlemen. There are domestic duties calling for a helping hand; in every place there are things that require energetic, persevering, skilled activity, which ready, experienced hands know how to undertake. The laws of necessity require that our missionaries, in the fulfilment of the duties of common, practical life, become wise in methods and plans.
Work is constantly being done in heaven. There are no idlers there. “My Father worketh hitherto,” said Christ, “and I work.” We cannot suppose that when the final triumph shall come, and we have the mansions prepared for us, idleness will be our portion,—that we shall rest in a blissful, do-nothing state. We have a great work to do in this our day to prepare the way for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Be sure he finds us at the occupation he has given us. To every man he has given his work,—a fitting occupation,—to prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord.