Chapter 5—Teaching Self-Denial and Self-Control

Begin With Babyhood—Self-denial and self-control should be taught to the children, and enforced upon them, so far as consistent, from babyhood. And first it is important that the little ones be taught that they eat to live, not live to eat; that appetite must be held in abeyance to the will; and that the will must be governed by calm, intelligent reason.—The Signs of the Times, April 20, 1882. Te 181.1

Teach Principles of Reform—Fathers and mothers, watch unto prayer. Guard strictly against intemperance in every form. Teach your children the principles of true health reform. Teach them what things to avoid in order to preserve health. Already the wrath of God has begun to be visited upon the children of disobedience. What crimes, what sins, what iniquitous practices, are being revealed on every hand!—Testimonies for the Church 9:160. Te 181.2

Teach the True Object of Life—Explicit instructions have been given in the word of God. Let these principles be carried out by the mother, with the co-operation and support of the father, and let children be trained from infancy to habits of self-control. Let them be taught that it is not the object of life to indulge sensual appetites, but to honor God and to bless their fellow men. Te 181.3

Fathers and mothers, labor earnestly and faithfully, relying on God for grace and wisdom. Be firm and yet mild. In all your commands aim to secure the highest good of your children, and then see that these commands are obeyed. Your energy and decision must be unwavering, yet ever in subjection to the Spirit of Christ. Then indeed may we hope to see “our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; that our daughters may be as cornerstones, polished after the similitude of a palace.”—The Signs of the Times, September 13, 1910. Te 181.4

Parents to Blame if Children Are Drunkards—There is a general mourning that intemperance prevails to such a fearful extent; but we fasten the primal cause upon fathers and mothers who have provided upon their tables the means by which the appetites of their children are educated for exciting stimulants. They themselves have sown in their children the seeds of intemperance, and it is their fault if they become drunkards.—The Health Reformer, May 1877. Te 182.1

The food is often such as to excite a desire for stimulating drinks. Luxurious dishes are placed before the children,—spiced foods, rich gravies, cakes, and pastries. This highly seasoned food irritates the stomach, and causes a craving for still stronger stimulants. Not only is the appetite tempted with unsuitable food, of which the children are allowed to eat freely at their meals, but they are permitted to eat between meals, and by the time they are twelve or fourteen years of age they are often confirmed dyspeptics. Te 182.2

You have perhaps seen a picture of the stomach of one who is addicted to strong drink. A similar condition is produced under the irritating influence of fiery spices. With the stomach in such a state, there is a craving for something more to meet the demands of the appetite, something stronger, and still stronger. Next you find your sons out on the street learning to smoke.—Counsels on Diet and Foods, 235, 236. Te 182.3

Highway of Intemperance—In their ignorance or carelessness, parents give their children the first lessons in intemperance. At the table, loaded with injurious condiments, rich food, and spiced knickknacks, the child acquires a taste for that which is hurtful to him, which tends to irritate the tender coats of the stomach, inflame the blood, and strengthen the animal passions. The appetite soon craves something stronger, and tobacco is used to gratify that craving. This indulgence only increasing the unnatural longing for stimulants, liquor drinking is soon resorted to, and drunkenness follows. This is the course of the great highway to intemperance.—The Review and Herald, September 6, 1877. Te 182.4

Moral Powers Paralyzed—Through the channel of appetite, the passions are inflamed, and the moral powers are paralyzed, so that parental instruction in the principles of morality and true goodness falls upon the ear without affecting the heart. The most fearful warnings and threatenings of the word of God are not powerful enough to arouse the benumbed intellect and awaken the violated conscience. Te 183.1

The indulgence of appetite and passion fever and debilitate the mind, and disqualify for education. Our youth need a physiological education as well as other literary and scientific knowledge. It is important for them to understand the relation that their eating and drinking, and general habits, have to health and life. As they understand their own frames, they will know how to guard against debility and disease. With a sound constitution, there is hope of accomplishing almost anything. Benevolence, love, and piety, can be cultivated. A want of physical vigor will be manifested in the weakened moral powers. The apostle says, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.”—The Health Reformer, December, 1872. Te 183.2

It is Somebody's Business—You should study temperance in all things. You must study it in what you eat and in what you drink. And yet you say: “It is nobody's business what I eat, or what I drink, or what I place upon my table.” It is somebody's business, unless you take your children and shut them up, or go into the wilderness where you will not be a burden upon others, and where your unruly, vicious children will not corrupt the society in which they mingle.—Testimonies for the Church 2:362. Te 183.3

Educate for Moral Independence—Parents should educate their children to have moral independence, not to follow impulse and inclination, but to exercise their reasoning powers, and to act from principle. Let mothers inquire, not for the latest fashion, but for the path of duty and usefulness, and direct the steps of their children therein. Simple habits, pure morals, and a noble independence in the right course, will be of more value to the youth than the gifts of genius, the endowments of learning, or the external polish which the world can give them. Teach your children to walk in the ways of righteousness, and they, in turn, will lead others into the same path. Thus may you see at last that your life has not been in vain, for you have been instrumental in bringing precious fruit to the garner of God.—The Review and Herald, November 6, 1883. Te 184.1

Parents to Study the Laws of Life—Parents should make it their first business to understand the laws of life and health, that nothing shall be done by them in the preparation of food, or through any other habits, which will develop wrong tendencies in their children. How carefully should mothers study to prepare their tables with the most simple, healthful food, that the digestive organs may not be weakened, the nervous forces unbalanced, and the instruction which they should give their children counteracted by the food placed before them. This food either weakens or strengthens the organs of the stomach and has much to do in controlling the physical and moral health of the children, who are God's blood-bought property. What a sacred trust is committed to parents to guard the physical and moral constitutions of their children so that the nervous system may be well balanced, and the soul not be endangered!—Testimonies for the Church 3:568. Te 184.2

Children Also to Understand Physiology—Parents should seek to awaken in their children an interest in the study of physiology. From the first dawn of reason the human mind should become intelligent in regard to the physical structure. We may behold and admire the work of God in the natural world, but the human habitation is the most wonderful. It is therefore of the highest importance that among the studies selected for children, physiology occupy an important place. All children should study it. And then parents should see to it that practical hygiene is added. Te 184.3

Children are to be trained to understand that every organ of the body and every faculty of the mind is the gift of a good and wise God, and that each is to be used to His glory. Right habits in eating and drinking and dressing must be insisted upon. Wrong habits render the youth less susceptible to Bible instruction. The children are to be guarded against the indulgence of appetite, and especially against the use of stimulants and narcotics.—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 125, 126. Te 185.1

Prepared to Meet Temptation—Children should be trained and educated so that they may calculate to meet with difficulties, and expect temptations and dangers. They should be taught to have control over themselves, and to nobly overcome difficulties; and if they do not willfully rush into danger, and needlessly place themselves in the way of temptation; if they avoid evil influences and vicious society, and then are unavoidably compelled to be in dangerous company, they will have strength of character to stand for the right and preserve principle, and will come forth in the strength of God with their morals untainted. The moral powers of youth who have been properly educated, if they make God their trust, will be equal to stand the most powerful test.—The Health Reformer, December, 1872. Te 185.2

If right principles in regard to temperance were implanted in the youth who are to form and mold society, there would be little necessity for temperance crusades. Firmness of character, moral control, would prevail, and in the strength of Jesus the temptations of these last days would be resisted.—Christian Temperance and Bible Hygiene, 79. Te 185.3