The Signs of the Times


February 9, 1882

Among the Churches



Journeying southward from St. Helena, I next visited Napa. Here Eld. Van Horn had been holding a series of meetings, with some good results. On the Sabbath I spoke to the church on the duty of parents to educate, discipline, and restrain their children. There is a sad neglect of this work among those who profess the truth in Napa. I felt deeply the need of a work of reformation in this church, and invited all to come forward who desired that day to become for the first time children of God, and also all who had departed from him and now wished to return. About twenty responded. Earnest prayer was offered in their behalf. Those in Napa who believe in present truth will receive but little favor from members of other churches who trample under their feet the law of God. Only those who make it an individual work to secure eternal life will remain steadfast to the faith. ST February 9, 1882, par. 1

On Sunday I spoke in the Methodist Church, upon the subject of temperance. After the discourse the minister expressed his gratification at what he had heard, and said that some of the ideas advanced were new to him. He thought we had found the right starting-point in commencing the work of temperance at home, and that mothers should be aroused to see and feel their responsibility. Many expressed a desire that I would address them again Sunday evening; but fearing that the effort would overtax my strength, I spoke instead Monday evening, on the duty of parents. ST February 9, 1882, par. 2

On this occasion I dwelt particularly upon the evils resulting from parental neglect. Notwithstanding our boasted advancement in education, the training of children is sadly defective. For this state of things, must not mothers to some extent be held responsible? Are they not generally the willing servants of worldliness and fashion? Are not even those who profess to have renounced the vanities of the world, influenced to a great degree by its customs? It is too true that mothers are not standing at their post of duty, faithful to their motherhood. God requires of us nothing that we cannot in his strength perform; nothing that is not for our own good and the good of our children. He does not call woman to engage in any work that will lead her to neglect the physical, mental, and moral training of her own children. She may not shift this responsibility upon others, and leave them to do her work. ST February 9, 1882, par. 3

Before individuals take upon themselves the great responsibility of parents, they should consider whether they are fitted to properly train and educate children. Those who fill their houses with children, whom they have neither patience to instruct nor wisdom to control, are thereby not only bringing a burden upon society, but are committing a sin against their offspring and against God. The Lord would have parents obey the dictates of reason, rather than the clamors of impulse and blind passion. They should learn to control themselves, and then they are prepared to control their sons and daughters. ST February 9, 1882, par. 4

Children require patient, faithful care. It is not enough for the mother to feed and clothe her little ones. She must also seek to develop their mental powers, and to imbue their hearts with right principles. They should be taught that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Christ should be associated with all the lessons given to children. But how sadly is the highest education neglected! Beauty of character, loveliness of temper, are lost sight of in the eager interest in dress and outward appearance. ST February 9, 1882, par. 5

The mother should not be governed by the world's opinion, nor labor to reach its standard. She should decide for herself what is the great end and aim of life, and then bend all her efforts to attain that end. She may, for want of time, neglect many things about her house, with no serious evil results; but she cannot with impunity neglect the proper discipline of her children. Their defective characters will publish her unfaithfulness. The evils which she permits to pass uncorrected, the coarse, rough manners, the disrespect and disobedience, the habits of idleness and inattention, will reflect dishonor upon her, and embitter her life. Mothers, the destiny of your children rests to a great extent in your hands. If you fail in duty, you may place them in Satan's ranks, and make them his agents to ruin other souls. Or your faithful discipline and godly example may lead them to Christ, and they in turn will influence others, and thus many souls may be saved through your instrumentality. ST February 9, 1882, par. 6

I have heard mothers say that they have not the ability to govern which others have; that it is a peculiar talent which they do not possess. Those who realize their deficiency in a matter which concerns the happiness and usefulness of future generations, should make the subject of family government their most diligent study. As an objection to this, many point to the children of ministers, teachers, and other men of high repute for learning and piety, and urge that if these men, with their superior advantages, fail in family government, those who are less favorably situated need not hope to succeed. The question to be settled is, Have these men given to their children that which is their right—a good example, faithful instruction, and proper restraint? It is by a neglect of these essentials that such parents give to society children who are unbalanced in mind, impatient of restraint, and ignorant of the duties of practical life. In this they are doing the world an injury which outweighs all the good that their labors accomplish. Those children transmit their own perversity of character as an inheritance to their offspring, and at the same time their evil example and influence corrupt society and make havoc in the church. We cannot think that any man, however great his ability and usefulness, is best serving God or the world while his time is given to other pursuits, to the neglect of his own children. Parents, when you have faithfully done your duty, to the extent of your ability, you may then in faith ask the Lord to do that for your children which you cannot do. But if you attempt to govern without exercising self-control, without system, thought, and prayer, you will most assuredly reap the bitter consequence. ST February 9, 1882, par. 7

The study of books will be of little benefit, unless the ideas gained can be carried out in practical life. And yet the most valuable suggestions of others should not be adopted without thought and discrimination. They may not be equally adapted to the circumstances of every mother, or to the peculiar disposition or temperament of each child in the family. Let the mother study with care the experience of others, note the difference between their methods and her own, and carefully test those that appear to be of real value. If one mode of discipline does not produce the desired results, let another plan be tried, the effects being carefully noted. Mothers, above all others, should accustom themselves to thought and investigation if they would increase in wisdom and efficiency. Those who persevere in this course, will soon perceive that they are acquiring the faculty in which they thought themselves deficient; they are learning to form aright the characters of their children. The result of the labor and thought given to this work will be seen in their obedience, their simplicity, their modesty and purity. This result will richly repay all the effort made. ST February 9, 1882, par. 8

God would have mothers seek constantly to improve both the mind and the heart. They should feel that they have a work to do for him in the education and training of their children, and the more perfectly they can improve their own powers, the more efficient will they become in their work as parents. ST February 9, 1882, par. 9

Wherever I go, I am pained by the neglect of proper home discipline and restraint. Little children are allowed to answer back, to manifest disrespect and impertinence, using language that no child should ever be permitted to address to its superiors. Parents who permit the use of unbecoming language are more worthy of blame than their children. Impertinence should not be tolerated in a child even once. But fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts and grandparents laugh at the exhibition of passion in the little creature of a year old. Its imperfect utterance of disrespect, its childish stubbornness, are thought cunning. Thus wrong habits are confirmed, and the child grows up to be an object of dislike to all around him. ST February 9, 1882, par. 10

As children advance in years, and go out from the parental roof to choose their own associates, they often become careless of home rules and family discipline. They come to their father's house when they choose, but by their disrespect they dishonor their parents at home and abroad. These youth have so long been permitted to say what they please, and go and come when they like, that they have little respect for man, or reverence for God. Human rights are disregarded, and the divine law set aside at pleasure. Parents who tolerate the sin of disrespect in their children are themselves dishonoring God by such a course. Obligations are mutual. It is the duty of fathers and mothers to care for their children, but when the latter refuse to respect parental authority and to observe the rules of the family, they should be left to bear their own burdens in life. Parents cannot enjoy the favor of God while they permit their children to trample upon his law. Angels will not abide in the house where strife exists, where God's name is blasphemed, and his authority defied. ST February 9, 1882, par. 11

Parents, you should early begin to teach your children respect, obedience, and self-control. Every exhibition of passion that is not firmly and decidedly checked is a lesson of evil to your children. Your neglect of proper restraint opens the door to Satan, and invites him to control them. This he will not be slow to do. ST February 9, 1882, par. 12

Let mothers be careful not to make unnecessary requirements to exhibit their own authority before others. Give few commands, but see that these are obeyed. Give children but little notice. Let them learn to amuse themselves. Do not put them on exhibition before visitors as prodigies of wit or wisdom, but leave them as far as possible to the simplicity of their childhood. One great reason why so many children are forward, bold, and impertinent, is they are noticed and praised too much, and their smart, sharp sayings repeated in their hearing. Endeavor not to censure unduly, nor to overwhelm with praise and flattery. Satan will all too soon sow evil seed in their young hearts, and you should not aid him in his work. ST February 9, 1882, par. 13

Children must have constant care, but you need not let them see that you are ever guarding them. Learn the disposition of each as revealed in their association with one another, and then seek to correct their faults by encouraging opposite traits. Children should be taught that the development of both the mental and the physical powers rests with themselves; it is the result of effort. They should early learn that happiness is not found in selfish gratification; it follows only in the wake of duty. At the same time the mother should seek to make her children happy. She should give them the time and attention which they really need. Let not visitors be permitted to engross the precious hours that belong to her own dear ones. ST February 9, 1882, par. 14

Unsteadiness in family government is productive of great harm; in fact is nearly as bad as no government at all. The question is often asked, Why are the children of religious parents so often headstrong, defiant, and rebellious? The reason is to be found in the home training. Too often the parents are not united in their family government. The father, who is with his children but little, and has little knowledge of their peculiarities of disposition and temperament, is harsh and severe. He does not control his own temper. He corrects in passion, and with a revengeful, vindictive spirit. The child knows this, and the punishment given fills him with anger. He is not subdued. He comes to feel neither love nor respect for his father. Thus are sown seeds of evil that spring up and bear fruit. The mother often allows misdemeanors to pass uncorrected which at another time, when she is more attentive, she will severely punish. The children never know just what to expect, and are tempted by Satan to see how far they can transgress with impunity. The father and mother should be united in their government. They should study with care the disposition of their children, and together seek wisdom and strength from God to deal with them aright. ST February 9, 1882, par. 15

Great harm is done by a lack of firmness and decision. I have known parents to say, You cannot have this or that, and then relent, thinking they may be too strict, and give the child the very thing they at first refused. A life-long injury is thus inflicted. It is an important law of the mind—one which should not be overlooked—that when a desired object is so firmly denied as to remove all hope, the mind will soon cease to long for it, and will be occupied in other pursuits. But as long as there is any hope of gaining the desired object, an effort will be made to obtain it, and a denial will arouse the worst passions. ST February 9, 1882, par. 16

When it is necessary for parents to give a direct command, the penalty of disobedience should be as unvarying as are the laws of nature. Children who are under this firm, decisive rule, know that when a thing is forbidden or denied, no teasing or artifice will secure their object. Hence they soon learn to submit, and are much happier in so doing. The children of undecided and over-indulgent parents have a constant hope that coaxing, crying, or sullenness may gain their object, or that they may venture to disobey without suffering the penalty. Thus they are kept in a state of desire, hope, and uncertainty, which makes them restless, irritable, and insubordinate. God holds such parents guilty of wrecking the happiness of their children. This wicked mismanagement is the key to the impenitence and irreligion of thousands. It has proved the ruin of many who have professed the Christian name. The restless, rebellious spirit, unsubdued in youth, creates disturbance in the church of Christ. Many of the so-called church trials may be traced to defective family government. Intemperance and crime of every degree are often the fruit from seed sown by the parents. ST February 9, 1882, par. 17

Let none imagine, however, that harshness or severity are necessary to secure obedience, or that a boisterous, commanding tone is proof of authority. On the contrary, I have seen the most efficient and constant family government maintained without one harsh word or look. In other families, commands were constantly given in an authoritative tone, and harsh rebukes, and severe punishments were often administered. In the first case the children followed the course pursued by the parents, and seldom spoke in harsh tones to each other. In the second, the parental example was imitated by the children; cross words, fault-finding, disputes, were heard from morning till night. ST February 9, 1882, par. 18

Fathers and mothers, you are teachers; your children are the pupils. The tones of your voice, your deportment, your spirit, are copied by your children. In the fear of God, seek to know and to do your duty. Take up your God-given responsibilities, and work for time and for eternity. ST February 9, 1882, par. 19

Mrs. E. G. White