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Child Guidance

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    Chapter 48—The Child's Reaction

    To Provocation—Children are exhorted to obey their parents in the Lord, but parents are also enjoined, “Provoke not your children to wrath, lest they be discouraged.”1Manuscript 38, 1895.CG 279.1

    Often we do more to provoke than to win. I have seen a mother snatch from the hand of her child something that was giving it special pleasure. The child did not know the reason for this, and naturally felt abused. Then followed a quarrel between parent and child, and a sharp chastisement ended the scene as far as outward appearance was concerned; but that battle left an impression on the tender mind that would not be easily effaced. This mother acted unwisely. She did not reason from cause to effect. Her harsh, injudicious action stirred the worst passions in the heart of her child, and on every similar occasion these passions would be aroused and strengthened.2Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 117.CG 279.2

    To Faultfinding—You have no right to bring a gloomy cloud over the happiness of your children by faultfinding or severe censure for trifling mistakes. Actual wrong should be made to appear just as sinful as it is, and a firm, decided course should be pursued to prevent its recurrence; yet children should not be left in a hopeless state of mind, but with a degree of courage that they can improve and gain your confidence and approval. Children may wish to do right, they may purpose in their hearts to be obedient; but they need help and encouragement.3The Signs of the Times, April 10, 1884.CG 279.3

    To Too Harsh Discipline—Oh, how God is dishonored in a family where there is no true understanding as to what constitutes family discipline, and children are confused as to what is discipline and government. It is true that too harsh discipline, too much criticism, unrequired laws and regulations, lead to disrespect of authority and to the disregarding finally of those regulations that Christ would have fulfilled.4The Review and Herald, March 13, 1894.CG 279.4

    When parents show a rough, severe, masterly spirit, a spirit of obstinacy and stubbornness is aroused in the children. Thus the parents fail to exert over their children the softening influence that they might.CG 280.1

    Parents, can you not see that harsh words provoke resistance? What would you do if treated as inconsiderately as you treat your little ones? It is your duty to study from cause to effect. When you scolded your children, when with angry blows you struck those who were too small to defend themselves, did you ask yourself what effect such treatment would have upon you? Have you thought how sensitive you are in regard to words of censure or blame? how quickly you feel hurt if you think that someone fails to recognize your capabilities? You are but grown-up children. Then think how your children must feel when you speak harsh, cutting words to them, severely punishing them for faults that are not half so grievous in the sight of God as is your treatment of them.5Manuscript 42, 1903.CG 280.2

    Many parents professing to be Christians are not converted. Christ does not abide in their hearts by faith! Their harshness, their imprudence, their unsubdued tempers, disgust their children and make them averse to all their religious instruction.6Letter 18b, 1891.CG 280.3

    To Continual Censure—In our efforts to correct evil, we should guard against a tendency to faultfinding or censure. Continual censure bewilders, but does not reform. With many minds, and often those of the finest susceptibility, an atmosphere of unsympathetic criticism is fatal to effort. Flowers do not unfold under the breath of a blighting wind.CG 280.4

    A child frequently censured for some special fault comes to regard that fault as his peculiarity, something against which it is vain to strive. Thus are created discouragement and hopelessness, often concealed under an appearance of indifference or bravado.7Education, 291.CG 281.1

    To Ordering and Scolding—Some parents raise many a storm by their lack of self-control. Instead of kindly asking the children to do this or that, they order them in a scolding tone, and at the same time a censure or reproof is on their lips which the children have not merited. Parents, this course pursued toward your children destroys their cheerfulness and ambition. They do your bidding, not from love, but because they dare not do otherwise. Their heart is not in the matter. It is a drudgery instead of a pleasure, and this often leads them to forget to follow out all your directions, which increases your irritation and makes it still worse for the children. The faultfinding is repeated, their bad conduct arrayed before them in glowing colors, until discouragement comes over them, and they are not particular whether they please or not. A spirit of “I don't care” seizes them, and they seek that pleasure and enjoyment away from home, away from their parents, which they do not find at home. They mingle with street company and are soon as corrupt as the worst.8Testimonies For The Church 1:384, 385.CG 281.2

    To an Arbitrary Course of Action—The will of the parents must be under the discipline of Christ. Molded and controlled by God's pure Holy Spirit, they may establish unquestioned dominion over the children. But if the parents are severe and exacting in their discipline, they do a work which they themselves can never undo. By their arbitrary course of action, they stir up a sense of injustice.9Manuscript 7, 1899.CG 281.3

    To Injustice—Children are sensitive to the least injustice, and some become discouraged under it and will neither heed the loud, angry voice of command, nor care for threatenings of punishment. Rebellion is too frequently established in the hearts of children through the wrong discipline of the parents, when if a proper course had been taken, the children would have formed good and harmonious characters. A mother who does not have perfect control of herself is unfit to have the management of children.10Testimonies For The Church 3:532, 533.CG 282.1

    To a Jerk or Blow—When the mother gives her child a jerk or blow, do you think it enables him to see the beauty of the Christian character? No indeed; it only tends to raise evil feelings in the heart, and the child is not corrected at all.11Manuscript 45, 1911.CG 282.2

    To Harsh, Unsympathetic Words—Christ is ready to teach the father and the mother to be true educators. Those who learn in His school ... will never speak in a harsh, unsympathetic tone; for words spoken in this manner grate upon the ear, wear upon the nerves, cause mental suffering, and create a state of mind that makes it impossible to curb the temper of the child to whom such words are spoken. This is often the reason why children speak disrespectfully to parents.12Letter 47a, 1902.CG 282.3

    To Ridicule and Taunting—They [parents] are not authorized to fret and scold and ridicule. They should never taunt their children with perverse traits of character, which they themselves have transmitted to them. This mode of discipline will never cure the evil. Parents, bring the precepts of God's Word to admonish and reprove your wayward children. Show them a “Thus saith the Lord” for your requirements. A reproof which comes as the word of God is far more effective than one falling in harsh, angry tones from the lips of parents.13Fundamentals of Christian Education, 67, 68.CG 282.4

    To Impatience—Impatience in the parents excites impatience in the children. Passion manifested by the parents creates passion in the children and stirs up the evils of their nature.... Every time they lose self-control and speak and act impatiently, they sin against God.14Testimonies For The Church 1:398.CG 283.1

    To Alternate Scolding and Coaxing—I have frequently seen children who were denied something that they wanted throw themselves upon the floor in a pet, kicking and screaming, while the injudicious mother alternately coaxed and scolded in the hope of restoring her child to good nature. This treatment only fosters the child's passion. The next time it goes over the same ground with increased willfulness, confident of gaining the day as before. Thus the rod is spared and the child is spoiled.CG 283.2

    The mother should not allow her child to gain an advantage over her in a single instance. And, in order to maintain this authority, it is not necessary to resort to harsh measures; a firm, steady hand and a kindness which convinces the child of your love will accomplish the purpose.15Pacific Health Journal, April, 1890.CG 283.3

    To Lack of Firmness and Decision—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 lifelong 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....CG 283.4

    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 overindulgent 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.16The Signs of the Times, February 9, 1882.CG 284.1

    To Unnecessary Restrictions—When parents become old and have young children to bring up, the father is likely to feel that the children must follow in the sturdy, rugged path in which he himself is traveling. It is difficult for him to realize that his children are in need of having life made pleasant and happy for them by their parents.CG 284.2

    Many parents deny the children an indulgence in that which is safe and innocent, and are so afraid of encouraging them in cultivating desires for unlawful things that they will not even allow their children to have the enjoyment that children should have. Through fear of evil results, they refuse permission to indulge in some simple pleasure that would have saved the very evil they seek to avoid; and thus the children think there is no use in expecting any favors, and therefore will not ask for them. They steal away to the pleasures they think will be forbidden. Confidence between parents and children is thus destroyed.17The Signs of the Times, August 27, 1912.CG 285.1

    To the Denial of Reasonable Privileges—If fathers and mothers have not themselves had a happy childhood, why should they shadow the lives of their children because of their own great loss in this respect? The father may think that this is the only course that will be safe to pursue; but let him remember that all minds are not constituted alike, and the greater the efforts made to restrict, the more uncontrollable will be the desire to obtain that which is denied, and the result will be disobedience to parental authority. The father will be grieved by what he considers the wayward course of his son, and his heart will feel sore over his rebellion. But would it not be well for him to consider the fact that the first cause of his son's disobedience was his own unwillingness to indulge him in that in which there was no sin? The parent thinks that sufficient reason is given for his son's abstaining from his indulgence since he has denied it to him. But parents should remember that their children are intelligent beings, and they should deal with them as they themselves would like to be dealt with.18The Signs of the Times, August 27, 1912.CG 285.2

    To Severity—Parents who exercise a spirit of dominion [domination] and authority, transmitted to them from their own parents, which leads them to be exacting in their discipline and instruction, will not train their children aright. By their severity in dealing with their errors, they stir up the worst passions of the human heart and leave their children with a sense of injustice and wrong. They meet in their children the very disposition that they themselves have imparted to them.CG 286.1

    Such parents drive their children away from God, by talking to them on religious subjects; for the Christian religion is made unattractive and even repulsive by this misrepresentation of truth. Children will say, “Well, if that is religion, I do not want anything of it.” It is thus that enmity is often created in the heart against religion; and because of an arbitrary enforcement of authority, children are led to despise the law and the government of heaven. Parents have fixed the eternal destiny of their children by their own misrule.19The Review and Herald, March 13, 1894.CG 286.2

    To Quiet, Kind Manner—If parents desire their children to be pleasant, they should never speak to them in a scolding manner. The mother often allows herself to become irritable and nervous. Often she snatches at the child and speaks in a harsh manner. If a child is treated in a quiet, kind manner, it will do much to preserve in him a pleasant temper.20The Review and Herald, May 17, 1898.CG 286.3

    To Loving Entreaty—The father, as priest of the household, should deal gently and patiently with his children. He should be careful not to arouse in them a combative disposition. He must not allow transgression to go uncorrected, and yet there is a way to correct without stirring up the worst passions in the human heart. Let him in love talk with his children, telling them how grieved the Saviour is over their course; and then let him kneel with them before the mercy seat and present them to Christ, praying that He will have compassion on them and lead them to repent and ask forgiveness. Such disciplining will nearly always break the most stubborn heart.CG 286.4

    God desires us to deal with our children in simplicity. We are liable to forget that children have not had the advantage of the long years of training that older people have had. If the little ones do not act in accordance with our ideas in every respect, we sometimes think that they deserve a scolding. But this will not mend matters. Take them to the Saviour, and tell Him all about it; then believe that His blessing will rest upon them.21Manuscript 70, 1903.CG 287.1

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