This article was written by a godly Christian mother in 1899.
Home Training (1899)
God has given to every man and woman talents to be used to his name's glory. All have not the same gifts; all are not called to do the same work; but to each God has given the ability to do the work appointed him. There are some who think that unless they are directly connected with public religious work, they are not doing the will of God; but this is a mistake. Every one has a work to do for the Master. Just as verily as the minister has his appointed work, the mother has hers. By educating their children to love God, and fear to offend him, parents can just as surely serve God as can the minister in the pulpit.
It is a wonderful work to make home pleasant, and all that it ought to be. If the heart is given to God, the humblest talents will make the home life all that God would have it. In the home a bright light will shine forth as the result of whole-hearted service to God. The mother is to bring her children to Jesus for his blessing. She is to cherish the words of Christ and teach them to her children. From their babyhood she is to discipline them to self-restraint and self-denial, to habits of neatness and order. The mother can bring her children up so that they will come with open, tender hearts to hear the words of God's servants. The Lord has need of mothers who in every line of the home life will improve their God-given talents, and fit their children for the family of heaven.
The Lord is served as much, yes, more, by the faithful home worker than by the one who preaches the Word. Fathers and mothers should realize that they are the educators of their children. Children are the heritage of the Lord, and they should be trained and disciplined to form characters that the Lord can approve. When this work is carried on judiciously and with faithfulness and prayer, angels of God will guard the family, and the most commonplace life will be made sacred. All heaven recognized Abraham's faithfulness in this respect, and he who blesses the habitation of the righteous said, I know Abraham. He is the priest of his household, and patriarch in his home. He will command his children and his household after him, to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.
Symmetry of character is to be restored in men and women, and God calls upon parents with all their capabilities to co-operate with him in this work of restoration. Uncleanness in the home is a great mistake; for it is educating in its effects, and casts its influence abroad. Even in babyhood a right direction should be given to the habits of children. Teach them to keep their bodies clean by bathing in the morning and at night. Show them that uncleanness, whether in body or dress, is offensive to God. Constant vigilance must be exercised, that these habits may become second nature to the youth. There must be no lax methods in the home; for the children will never outgrow what they have become familiar with in their childhood. If they have been trained to habits of neatness and order, untidiness and slackness will be offensive to them; and impurity will be despised, as it should be.
The Lord commanded the children of Israel to wash their clothes, and put away all impurity from their encampment, lest in passing by he should see their uncleanness. God is passing by our homes today, and he sees the unsanitary conditions and lax methods of families. Should we not reform, and that without delay? Parents, God has made you his agents, that you may instil right principles into the minds of your children. You have in trust the Lord's little ones, and that God who was so particular that the children of Israel should grow up with habits of cleanliness will not sanction any impurity in the home today. And in training your children in habits of cleanliness, you teach them spiritual lessons. They see that God would have them clean in heart as well as in body, and will be led to understand pure principles, which God designs should prompt every act of our lives.
Oh, that all would understand that these apparently small duties are not to be neglected! Children are peculiarly susceptible to impressions; and the lessons which they receive in the early years, they will carry with them through life. All the learning they may acquire will never undo the evil resulting from lax discipline in childhood. One neglect, often repeated, forms habit. One wrong act prepares the way for another. That act, repeated, forms habit. Bad habits are more easily formed than good ones, and are given up with more difficulty. It takes far less time and pains to spoil the disposition of a child than it does to imprint upon the tablets of the soul principles and habits of righteousness. It is only by constantly watching and counterworking the wrong that we can hope to make the disposition right. The Lord will be with you, mothers, as you try to form right habits in your children. But you must begin the training process early, or your future work will be very difficult. Teach them line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Bear in mind that your children belong to God, and are to become his sons and daughters. He designs that the families on earth shall be samples of the family in heaven.
Children should be clad in plain garments without ruffles or ornaments. The time spent in needless sewing, God would have devoted to educating them or in devotional exercises. That garment you are sewing on, that extra dish you plan to prepare, let it be neglected rather than the education of your children. The labor due to your child during the first years of his life will admit of no neglect. No time in his life should the rule be forgotten, Line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, and there a little. Parents, the Lord knows what kind of work you are doing in the formation of the characters of your children. Will you consider the responsibilities resting upon you as their natural guardians?
Overindulgence always proves an injury to children. It is the veriest cruelty to allow wrong habits to be formed, to give the lines of control into the hands of the child, and let him rule. Children are not to be taught that everything in the house is their plaything, to do with as they please. Instruction in this line should be given even to the smallest children. God designs that the perversities natural to childhood shall be rooted out before they become habit. In the discipline of your children, do not release them from that which you have required them to do. Do not allow yourself to be so absorbed in other things as to become careless. And do not become weary in your guardianship, because your children forget, and do that which you have forbidden. If you lose your temper, you forfeit that which no mother or father can afford to lose,--the respect of your children. Never scold, nor permit scolding, in the home. Never give your child a passionate blow unless you wish him to learn to quarrel and fight. As parents, you stand in the place of God to your children, and you are to be on guard.
Parents, never act from impulse. Never correct your child when you are angry; for if you do this, you will mold him after your own image,--impulsive, passionate, and unreasonable. You can be firm without violent threatenings or scoldings. I have seen a mother snatch from the hand of her child something that was giving it special pleasure. The child did not know the reason for this, and naturally felt abused. Then followed a quarrel between parent and child, and a sharp chastisement ended the scene as far as outward appearances were concerned. But that battle left on the tender mind an impression that could not be easily effaced. I said to the mother: "You have wronged your child deeply; you have hurt his soul, and lost his confidence. How this will be restored, I know not." This mother acted unwisely. She did not reason from cause to effect. Her harsh, injudicious management stirred up the worst passions in the heart of her child, and on every similar occasion these passions are aroused and strengthened. This is the worst policy that can be used in family government; advanced age and maturity of strength warring against a helpless, ignorant little child confirms rebellion in the heart.
But, you ask, Shall I never punish my child? Whipping may be essential when every other resort fails; but before you cause your child pain, you will, if you are a Christian father or mother, let your erring little one see that you love him. You will manifest real sorrow because you are compelled to cause him suffering. You will bow before God with your child, and with a heart full of sorrow ask the Lord to forgive. You will pray that Satan may not have control of his mind. You will present before the sympathizing Redeemer his own words, "Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." That prayer will bring angels to your side, and your child's heart will be broken in penitence.
It is a very nice work to deal with human minds. All children can not be treated in the same way; for that restraint which must be kept on one would crush out the life of another. Study the minds and characters of your children. During the first years of their lives is the time to work and watch and pray and encourage every good inclination. This work must go on without interruption. You may be urged to attend mother's meetings and sewing circles, that you may do missionary work; but unless there is a faithful, understanding instructor to be left with your children, it is your duty to reply, "The Lord has committed to me another work, which I can in no wise neglect." You can not overwork in any line without becoming disqualified for the work of training your little ones, and making them what God would have them be. As Christ's co-worker, you must bring them to him, and ask for grace to discipline and train them for the kingdom of heaven.
Both parents and children should be under the government of God. They are to be ruled by him. By combining the influences of authority and affection, parents can rule in their homes after the order of God has given in his word. There should be no ruling by impulse, no parental oppression; but at the same time, no disobedience is to be overlooked. We are not to reach the standard of worldlings, but the standard which God himself has erected. We are diligently to inquire, What hath God said? God's holy word is to be our rule, and from this we must never turn aside. No waywardness must be permitted on the part of the children, no disregard of obligations on the part of the parents. Our motto must be, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Review and Herald, EG White, 1899 December 5th.