I wish to arouse parents to see the importance of their position. Few parents take time to think of how much depends on the instruction and training a child receives during the early years of its life. It is at this time that the foundation of a child’s character is laid. “Train up a child in the way he should go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it,” are the words of the wise man. [Proverbs 22:6.] The lessons a child learns at the mother’s knee determine its future experience.
How few parents realize this as they should. As I have called mothers’ attention to the wrong habits they were encouraging in their little ones, some have listened indifferently, while others have said, with a smile, “I can not bear to cross my children. They will do better as they grow older. They will then be ashamed of these passionate outbursts. It is not well to be too strict with little ones. They will outgrow the inclination to tell untruths, to meddle, to be indolent and selfish.”
A very easy way truly to dispose of the matter, but a way that is not in harmony with the will of God. If a field is left uncultivated, a crop of weeds is sure to appear. So it is with children. If the soil of the heart is uncultivated, Satan sows his seeds of anger and hatred, selfishness and pride, and they quickly spring up, to bear a harvest that parents reap with bitter regret. Too late they see their terrible mistake. The wrong they have done can never be wholly undone. Even if the child, by patient, untiring care, is at last won to the Saviour, his character will always bear the marks of Satan’s seed-sowing.
Children left to themselves grow up selfish, exacting, unlovable. Unable to enjoy their own society or the society of others, their lives are filled with discontent.
Aided by the grace of Christ, mothers have it in their power to do a great and grand work. This Satan knows, and he works with all his power to prevent them from doing this work. He seeks to fill the mind with thoughts of fashionable dress. Thus he absorbs the time and strength of even Christian mothers so that they have no time to give to the training of their children or to self-improvement. When the enemy thus secures the attention of the mother, he rejoices; for he knows how much he has gained. He looks on the children as an easy prey; for he has won the mother. She thinks more of display, more of what others think and say of her, than she does of the training of the precious souls in her care. As she sets her feet in the path of fashion, she becomes infatuated. In order to keep pace with the demands of the bondage in which she has sold herself, she works early and late, overtaxing mind and body. She becomes so wearied with remodeling unfashionable garments and making new ones, that she has no heart to read her Bible or to pray. She is too tired to give time to her children. She becomes perplexed and distressed. The yoke that she is trying to bear is very galling; but she imagines that it must be borne, and martyr-like she toils on, struggling under her self-imposed burden. Jesus is calling, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. . . . My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28, 30.] But she does not hear the gracious invitation. The Saviour’s voice is drowned by the clamorous demands of fashion.
Mothers, do not forget that God requires you to give your children constant, loving care. He does not want you to be a slave to your children, but he does want you to teach them to live for him. Day by day give them lessons that will prepare them for future usefulness. One lesson that you will have to repeat over and over again is the lesson of obedience. Teach your children that they are not to rule, that they are to respect your wishes, and yield to your authority. Thus you are teaching them self-control. Give them nothing for which they cry, even though your tender heart would lead you to indulge them. If they gain the victory once by crying, they will expect to do so again, and the next time they will be harder to control.
Children inherit inclinations to wrong, but they also have many lovely traits of character. These should be strengthened and developed, while the tendencies to evil should be carefully guarded against and repressed. Children should never be flattered, for flattery is poison to them; but parents should show a sanctified, tender regard for them, thus gaining their confidence and love.
When children lose their self-control, and speak passionate words, the parents should for a time keep silent, neither reproving nor condemning. At such times silence is golden, and will do more to bring repentance than any words that can be uttered. Satan is well pleased when parents irritate their children by speaking harsh, angry words. Paul has given a caution on this point: “Fathers provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” [Colossians 3:21.] They may be very wrong, but you can not lead them to the right by losing patience with them. Let your calmness help to restore them to a proper frame of mind.
Jesus loves children and youth. He rejoices when he sees Satan repulsed in his efforts to overcome them. Many a youth is in imminent peril through manifold temptations, but the Saviour has the tenderest sympathy for him, and sends his angels to guard and protect him. He is the good shepherd, ever ready to go into the wilderness to seek for the lost, straying sheep.
Mothers, do you sigh for a missionary field? In your home you have a missionary field in which you may labor with untiring energy and unflagging zeal, knowing that the results of your work will endure through all eternity. Are not the souls of your children of as much value as the souls of the heathen? Then tend them with loving care, bringing God into their thoughts.
Who can do this work so well as a God-fearing mother? The work of the mother who has a close connection with Christ is of infinite worth. Her ministry of love makes the home a Bethel. Christ works with her, turning the common water of life into the wine of heaven.
Christian parents, you are charged with the responsibility of showing the world the power and excellency of home religion. Be controlled by principle, not by impulse. Work with the consciousness that God is your helper. Allow nothing to divert you from your God-given mission. Be true to your trust. God will help you. Guided by him, your children will grow up to bless and honor you in this life and in the life to come.
Review and Herald, January 24, 1907.
Ellen G. White (1827–1915) wrote more than 5,000 periodical articles and 40 books during her lifetime. Today, including compilations from her 50,000 pages of manuscript, more than 100 titles are available in English. She is the most translated woman writer in the entire history of literature, and the most translated American author of either gender. Seventh-day Adventists believe that Mrs. White was appointed by God as a special messenger to draw the world’s attention to the Holy Scriptures and help prepare people for Christ’s second advent.