Child Guidance


Section 9—Fundamental Elements of Character Building

Chapter 36—Advantage of the Early Years

Early Childhood Is the Most Important Period—Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of children. The lessons that the child learns during the first seven years of life have more to do with forming his character than all that it learns in future years.1 CG 193.1

From babyhood the character of the child is to be molded and fashioned in accordance with the divine plan. Virtues are to be instilled into his opening mind.2 CG 193.2

The parents’ work must begin with the child in its infancy, that it may receive the right impress of character ere the world shall place its stamp on mind and heart.3 CG 193.3

The Most Susceptible Age—It is during the first years of a child's life that his mind is most susceptible to impressions either good or evil. During these years decided progress is made in either a right direction or a wrong one. On one hand, much worthless information may be gained; on the other, much solid, valuable knowledge. The strength of intellect, the substantial knowledge, are possessions which the gold of Ophir could not buy. Their price is above gold or silver.4 CG 193.4

First Impressions Are Seldom Forgotten—Neither infants, children, or youth should hear an impatient word from father, mother, or any member of the household; for they receive impressions very early in life, and what parents make them today, they will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. The first lessons impressed upon the child are seldom forgotten.... CG 193.5

The impressions made on the heart early in life are seen in after years. They may be buried, but they will seldom be obliterated.5 CG 194.1

The Foundation Is Laid in the First Three Years—Mothers, be sure that you properly discipline your children during the first three years of their lives. Do not allow them to form their wishes and desires. The mother must be mind for her child. The first three years is the time in which to bend the tiny twig. Mothers should understand the importance attaching to this period. It is then that the foundation is laid. CG 194.2

If these first lessons have been defective, as they very often are, for Christ's sake, for the sake of your children's future and eternal good, seek to repair the wrong you have done. If you have waited until your children were three years old to begin to teach them self-control and obedience, seek to do it now, even though it will be much harder.6 CG 194.3

Not So Difficult as Generally Supposed—Much parental anxiety and grief might be saved if children were taught from their cradles that their wills were not to be made law, and their whims continually indulged. It is not so difficult as is generally supposed to teach the little child to stifle its outburst of temper and subdue its fits of passion.7 CG 194.4

Do Not Postpone This Work—Many neglect their duty during the first years of their children's lives, thinking that when they get older, they will then be very careful to repress wrong and educate them in the right. But the very time for them to do this work is when the children are babes in their arms. It is not right for parents to pet and humor their children; neither is it right for them to abuse them. A firm, decided, straightforward course of action will be productive of the best results.8 CG 194.5

When I have called attention of parents to the wrong habits which they were encouraging in their very young children, some parents have appeared entirely indifferent; others have said with a smile, “Little darlings! I cannot bear to cross them in any way. They will do better when they get older. They will then be ashamed of these passionate outbursts. It is not best to be too particular and strict with the little ones. They will outgrow these habits of telling lies and deceiving and being indolent and selfish.” A very easy way indeed for mothers to dispose of the matter, but this does not meet the will of God.9 CG 195.1

Thwart Satan's Effort to Claim Infant Children—Parents, you fail generally to begin your work early enough. You let Satan preoccupy the soil of the heart by putting in the first crop of seed.10 CG 195.2

You have a work to do that Satan shall not gain the control of your children and take them away from you before they are out of your arms. Mothers, you should see to it that the powers of darkness do not control your little ones. You should set your will that the enemy shall not raise his banner of darkness in your home.11 CG 195.3

In Preparing Also for Practical Life—There are but very few who take time to carefully consider what an amount of knowledge both of temporal and eternal things may be gained by the child during its first twelve or fifteen years. Not only should children in these first years of life be obtaining book knowledge, but they should be learning the arts essential for practical life; the latter should not be neglected for the former.12 CG 195.4

Napoleon's Heritage—The character of Napoleon Bonaparte was greatly influenced by his training in childhood. Unwise instructors inspired him with a love for conquest, forming mimic armies and placing him at their head as commander. Here was laid the foundation for his career of strife and bloodshed. Had the same care and effort been directed to making him a good man, imbuing his young heart with the spirit of the Gospel, how widely different might have been his history.13 CG 196.1

Hume and Voltaire—It is said that Hume, the skeptic, was in early life a conscientious believer in the Word of God. Being connected with a debating society, he was appointed to present the arguments in favor of infidelity. He studied with earnestness and perseverance, and his keen and active mind became imbued with the sophistry of skepticism. Erelong he came to believe its delusive teachings, and his whole afterlife bore the dark impress of infidelity. CG 196.2

When Voltaire was five years old, he committed to memory an infidel poem, and the pernicious influence was never effaced from his mind. He became one of Satan's most successful agents to lead men away from God. Thousands will rise up in the judgment and charge the ruin of their souls upon the infidel Voltaire. CG 196.3

By the thoughts and feelings cherished in early years every youth is determining his own life history. Correct, virtuous, manly habits formed in youth will become a part of the character and will usually mark the course of the individual through life. The youth may become vicious or virtuous, as they choose. They may as well be distinguished for true and noble deeds as for great crime and wickedness.14 CG 196.4

Hannah's Reward—Opportunities of inestimable worth, interests infinitely precious, are committed to every mother. During the first three years of the life of Samuel the prophet, his mother carefully taught him to distinguish between good and evil. By every familiar object surrounding him she sought to lead his thoughts up to the Creator. In fulfillment of her vow to give her son to the Lord, with great self-denial she placed him under the care of Eli the high priest, to be trained for service in the house of God.... His early training led him to choose to maintain his Christian integrity. What a reward was Hannah's! And what an encouragement to faithfulness is her example!15 CG 197.1

How Joseph's Mind Was Garrisoned—The lessons given Joseph in his youth by Jacob in expressing his firm trust in God and relating to him again and again the precious evidences of His loving-kindness and unceasing care were the very lessons he needed in his exile among an idolatrous people. In the testing time he put these lessons to a practical use. When under the severest trial, he looked to his heavenly Father, whom he had learned to trust. Had the precepts and example of the father of Joseph been of an opposite character, the pen of inspiration would never have traced upon the pages of sacred history the story of integrity and virtue that shines forth in the character of Joseph. The early impressions made upon his mind garrisoned his heart in the hour of fierce temptation and led him to exclaim, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”16 CG 197.2

The Fruitage of Wise Training—It is a sad fact that any weakness and indecision on the part of the mother is quickly seen by the children, and the tempter then works upon their minds, leading them to persist in following their inclination. If parents would cultivate the qualities necessary for them to use in the proper training of their children, if they would plainly lay before the children the rules they must follow, and not suffer these rules to be broken, the Lord would co-operate with and bless both parents and children.17 CG 197.3

At a very early age children become susceptible to demoralizing influences, but parents who profess to be Christians do not seem to discern the evil of their own course of management. Oh, that they might realize that the bias which is given to a child in its earliest years gives a tendency to character and shapes the destiny either for eternal life or eternal death! Children are susceptible to moral and spiritual impressions, and those who are wisely trained in childhood may be erring at times, but they will not go far astray.18 CG 198.1