Ellen G. White Writings

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Good Health

July 1, 1880

The Duties of Parents in Educating Their Children

By Mrs. E. G. White.

To all parents, God has committed, in their children, sacred trusts for which he holds them responsible. It is his purpose that they shall so educate these children as to bring into exercise the talents he has given them in the manner best fitted to accomplish the greatest good in the world and reflect back glory to his name. These children have varied temperaments, and parents cannot always give the same manner of discipline to each. There are different qualities of mind, and they should be made a prayerful study that they may be molded so as to accomplish the purpose God designed.

Parents should strive so to educate and train their children as to bring out the energies of the soul by exercise. Perception, judgment, memory, and all the reasoning powers, should have equal strength, that well-balanced minds may result; that the character be not one-sided or deformed. If certain faculties are developed, to the neglect of others, the design of God will not be answered. All the faculties have a bearing upon, and are in a great measure dependent upon, each other; one, in order to be effectually used, must have the aid of all the others, that the balance may be preserved. If one faculty is exercised, and others are permitted to lie dormant, the one becomes unduly strong, while the others are proportionally deficient. All minds are not constituted alike. Children inherit from their parents some strong tendencies. These existed in the parent, and exist intensified in the children. Christian parents must carefully consider all these things.

The mother's influence never ceases. As she looks upon her little ones growing up around her, well may she ask, What is the great object of their education? Is it to be admired and flattered by the world? Is it to imitate and practice the fashions existing in this age? The only safe course of training is for parents to teach their children obedience to themselves, which is the first lesson toward teaching them the higher law,—the claims which God has upon them.

It is impossible to estimate the power of a praying mother's influence. She acknowledges God in all her ways. She takes her children before the throne of grace and presents them to Jesus, pleading for his blessing upon them. The influence of those prayers is to those children as “a well-spring of life.” Those prayers, offered in faith, are the support and strength of the Christian mother. To neglect the duty of praying with our children is to lose one of the greatest blessings within our reach, one of the greatest helps amid the perplexities, cares, and burdens of our life-work. Jesus is the mother's sympathizing friend and counselor. He encouraged mothers to bring their children to him when he was upon earth. He remembered that he had a mother, and his sympathies were with all mothers. He remembered that he was once a child, subject to the trials, disappointments, and temptations of children. If this had not been the case he would not have been the pattern for all childhood, youth, and manhood. Jesus sympathizes not only with the care-worn mother but with her children. And when she comes to him for instruction, grace, and wisdom, it will never be withheld.

The mother's nursery is her kingdom; and the more she cultivates her powers and improves her faculties that she may be fitted for her life-work, the more wisdom and knowledge will she have to rule her kingdom and the better govern her subjects. All the tact and cultivated skill of the mother will be called into requisition if she rules with God-fearing wisdom. She will not turn her children over to hired help, or leave them to obtain a street education. She will store up knowledge to impart to her growing sons and daughters. She will not forget that her children will be what her teaching and training shall make them. She will not forget that her boys are to be men, her girls women; that they are to become citizens either to influence or to be influenced, to sway or to be swayed. She will perseveringly do her work, that they may be educated to use their abilities. She will consider that they may fill positions of trust, that they may sit in legislative councils to make and execute laws; and when in after-years they may go far beyond her in strength and intellect they will look with pleasure and pride upon the mother, for to her is due the influence which they have. They honor the mother whose discipline and training made them what they are.

Mothers, shall our precious time be worse than wasted in work and hurry, in needless stitching for ornament and display, while but a limited time is improved in educating and disciplining our children? Our hands are on the cradle that rocks the world. Shall our children become what they may be, and what God would have them be? Shall we meet God's standard, revealed to us in his word, or shall our efforts be employed to meet the world's standard?

In the education of children and youth they should be taught that the habits of eating, drinking, and dressing which have been formed after the world's standard are not in accordance with the laws of health and life, and must be held in control by reason and intellect. The power of appetite and strength of habit should not be permitted to overpower the dictates of reason. In order to secure this object, the youth must have higher aims and motives than mere animal gratification in eating and drinking.

We see society as it is, with its burden of evil. The youth, from young men to little children, lack sincerity and moral power. They love to dress, to smoke, to chew, to talk cheap nonsense and slang. They frequent places of amusement, lounge about saloons, and drink beer, wine, and stronger liquors. Even those professing to be Christians often appear to enjoy these same amusements, although they may not go to the same extent as the openly ungodly. Precious time is thus frittered away and misspent, and hours which might be devoted to usefulness are spent in desultory reading which fevers the imagination. They ease their own consciences by the excuse that they must have recreation. They misinterpret the rightful significance of this word. True recreation is obtaining fresh vigor of mental, moral, and physical power. This can never be gained by selfish gratification or indulgence. Life was given these youth for nobler purposes. By their habits they are placing themselves among those whom the apostle names as being lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.

I look with sorrow upon the profitless and wasted lives of young men and young ladies, who, as soon as old enough, can think only of courtship and marriage; and I am led to question in regard to their home influences. What kind of education did they receive? Did they have praying mothers? Were they taught that they were responsible for the use and improvement of the faculties God had given them? that they should be a blessing to others, and not only form characters for Heaven themselves, but seek to lead others in the same divine path? The mothers of these youths might have been bending under the heavy yoke of fashion and custom, and for the slavery of fashionable life neglected the training and education of their children. The parents’ neglected work will be seen in the characters of the children.

There are professedly Christian mothers who take an interest in the cause of temperance, but who have not yet learned that temperance in all things is to be taught and practiced in their own homes. The mother should educate her children while young to become workers in the wide field of reform.

The mother may by her example give instruction the most essential to her children, by deeds of kindness to others, in wiping the tears from weeping eyes, cheering hearts that are becoming hopeless and discouraged, and by precept and example strengthening the physical, mental, and moral powers; thus laying the foundation of a noble manhood and womanhood for her sons and daughters.

The word education means more than a course of study at college. Education begins with the infant in its mother's arms. While the mother is molding and fashioning the character of her children she is educating them. The memory of a mother's prayer with her hand laid upon the head may withhold our sons and daughters from yielding to temptation when sorely tried; and the power of love which binds the heart of the child to the heart of the mother has a determined power to hold him on the side of right.

Little does the mother realize that her influence in the judicious training of her children reaches with such power through the vicissitudes of this life, stretching forward into the future, immortal life. To fashion a character after the heavenly model requires much faithful, earnest, persevering labor; but it will pay, for God is a rewarder of all well-directed labor in securing the salvation of souls.

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