Question No. 107:
How may we best help children between the ages of two and twelve, to occupy their time?
Because most children in this Laodicean era are in some respects allowed to grow up like weeds instead of as trained human beings, the question of their properly utilizing their time is very pertinent indeed.
In the first place, all parents should realize the value of having their children so trained as faithfully, intelligently, and courageously to shoulder life’s duties and to meet its problems, if they are not to become parasites or social misfits, just square pegs in round holes. Nevertheless, many parents do let their children drift along unequipped to care for themselves, and indifferent to life’s manifold challenge. Then, when mature these misshapen souls find life a dreary drudgery instead of an excellent joy; at everything they attempt, at every turn in the way, they meet with bitter defeat. Their homes become untidy and unsanitary, unfit to live in; and their families, in turn, become depressed, useless, unfit company for society.
Children thus reared, left to their own devisings, to fritter and dawdle away their time as they will, are like the grasshopper. Playing, singing and sunning himself all summer long, giving no thought to the approaching chill breath of winter, before which the green grass vanishes from the fields, the grasshopper has idled away his time, and now he must starve for want of food, and freeze in the open field. But the ant, who has busily worked the whole summer through, has plenty to eat and a good warm winter home. Only poor judgment and blind love will leave children to them selves to grow up in the grasshopper habit, untrained in the wisdom of doing all their work in the six appointed days so as to deserve a rest on the seventh. Parents who allow their children to fool away time, and thereby laying deadly snares before them; they are unfitting them for both this life and the life to come.
In giving them a right home training, one of the most important first lessons to teach them is always to have a regular place in which to dress and to undress, and at all times to hang their clothes in the proper place, never laying them just anywhere. Thus having a place for everything and putting everything in its place, will from the very beginning of the family not only lighten the housework and keep their home clean and neat and orderly during the night as well as during the day, and incidentally add to the life of both their clothes and their furniture, but will also go a long way toward cultivating a cleanliness and tidiness of person and a well-ordered and organized life.
Among the many useful as well as edifying pursuits for children, are the various home duties such as washing dishes, making beds, sweeping dusting, washing windows, scrubbing floors and woodwork, baking, cooking, and even making simple articles of clothing and furniture.
Then there are the outdoor employments such as keeping the premises neat and clean, gardening, raising poultry, etc., in addition to other practical employments, including the making of purchases economically and in a business-like manner.
And foremost of all, reading and memorizing passages from the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy should be carefully cultivated as a crowning recreation.
To have a fully rounded and integrated personality and character, a child must properly develop the physical and the mental as well as the spiritual faculties. To this end, his training should begin very early in life–just as soon as he is able to walk and speak–because if he is left to squander his time until grown older, he will acquire a zebra-like nature–one impossible to change from doing nothing to doing something.
To avert this character deformity with the virtually irreparable lifetime damage which results, early assign him certain home duties, and when he learns to master one thing promote him to another. The home should be a school, not a playhouse. Neither should he be left to play so much of the time outside of the home as to habituate himself only to life of play and mischief.
And by all means never allow your children to fall into the slothful habit of leaving the morning’s duties for the afternoon, or one day’s work for the next. Dishes should be washed immediately after each meal; never should the food be left to dry and to harden on them. “Six days,” says the Lord, “shalt thou labor, and do all thy work.” Ex. 20:9.
Where there are several children in the home the daily home-duties should be divided among them, and the parents assume the duties of teacher. In this way each youngster will not only keep himself from mischief and bad company but will also become useful and industrious, at the same time building a strong physique, a noble character, and a happy personality. Insured this sort of childhood growth, one will rarely if ever drift into vagabondage of infidelity.
But, allow your child to fall into the wretched habit of getting something done only after you have coaxed or scolded him, and you will surely teach him to hate both yourself and the work. And hence, instead of training him to love a life of industry that will make him happy and independent, you will be driving him into idleness, the very thing that you are trying to keep him from, and even predisposing him to quarrelsomeness. But let him know that what you say, you mean, and he will then be far less likely to think you wrong, and in turn still less likely to contest your word and to think any disobedience to it not only justifiable but even commendable.
Then, too, strive to lead your children to love their work by keeping up their interest in it. Be as God. Teach them in the same manner in which He is teaching you. In it written that “whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth.” Heb. 12:6. He explains the right and wrong sides of life, and plainly warns you of the results that will follow from whichever course you may purse–a blessing from the one and a curse from the other. Do likewise with your children. But be careful that in so doing, you do not turn them against God by threatening them that if they are not good, He will punish them in this way or in that way. Rather teach them that He is pleading with them to avoid the evil course because it, of itself, will lead them to reap curses rather than blessings.
In impressing upon the young mind these two consequences, use simple illustrations. Show for example, that if one fails to remove the food bacteria from his teeth by regularly brushing them after meals, they will become bacteria-eaten, as fruit becomes worm-eaten when the trees are not sprayed and cared for, and the result ultimately will be aches, loss of teeth, ugliness, and expense. From this specific sequence of cause and effect, lead the child’s mind to see its universal application–that violating the laws of God in any respect will naturally result in pain, sorrow, bad character, a dishonorable life, and an untimely death.
To be reckoned with also in this vital and urgent concern, is the ironical fact that children incline naturally toward wrong habits instead of right ones, as carnivorous animals naturally seek flesh instead of herbs. “Foolishness,” we are reminded, “is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” Prov. 22:15. He must be patiently and wisely trained, disciplined, chastened. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6. But if he becomes casehardened and intractable, refusing to be trained then “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” Prov. 19:18; 13:24. Indeed, “withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod and shalt deliver his soul from hell.” Prov. 23:13, 14.
Up to five or six years of age, depending upon the individual temperament, children may be subjected to corporal punishment when other measures of discipline and correction have been exhausted without success. If on such occasions, the rod is properly used, the child may so respond that he will never need it again. If, however, the necessity should again arise, then be exceedingly careful what you do. For such children as require more drastic punishment than the average child, may become incorrigible and develop a fear complex and corresponding hatred of their chasteners. So, while such chastisement is calculated to prevent a recurrence of a major evil in them, it is likely to bring in an even worse evil, unless carefully studied steps are taken to insure against its brutalizing effect. It must be administered with a commensurate and convincing demonstration of such deep-felt love and yearning over the erring one that he will not lose filial affection and respect for his chasteners, and his home-life becomes such a hunting nightmare to him as to drive him to run away at the opportune moment.
Parents “should first reason with their children, clearly point out their wrongs, show them their sin, and impress upon them that they have not only sinned against their parents, but against God. With your own heart subdued and full of pity and sorrow for your erring children, pray with them before correcting them. Then your correction will not cause your children to hate you. They will love you. They will see that you do not punish them because they have put you to inconvenience, or because you wish to vent your displeasure upon them; but from a sense of duty, for their good, that they may not be left to grow up in sin.”–Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 398.
At all costs, they must always be influenced to feel that their chasteners are their best friends, not bullies and enemies.
“The mother may ask, ‘Shall I never punish my child?’ Whipping may be necessary when other resorts fail; yet she should not use the rod if it is possible to avoid doing so. But if milder measures prove insufficient, punishment that will bring the child to its senses should in love be administered. Frequently one such correction will be enough for a lifetime, to show the child that he does not hold the lines of control.”–Counsels to Teachers, p. 116.
But habitually to grab children on any and every provocation, and angrily shake, cuff, slap, spank, or whip them, and between times hold over their heads the threat to strike them, is the most damaging folly, abhorred alike by every consideration of intelligence, decency, and humanity. Its continuance will harden and brutalize, ruin instead of save. It will make its victims vicious little animals instead of noble God-like children.
“Some parents correct their children severely in a spirit of impatience, and often in passion. Such corrections produce no good result. In seeking to correct one evil, they create two. Continual censuring and whipping hardens children and weans them from the parents.”–Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 398.
When, however, you do have to discipline, be serious, mean business, and do a good, sensible job of it. See that you do it so well that you will not have to do it over.
Today, as never before, youth are asserting a premature self-confidence, to such an extent that they even threaten to leave home if they are not granted their every wish. But do not compromise with them at this critical period, or they will finally force things to such an issue that they will eventually have to run away in order to make good their bluff. Do not give in. Assure them that if they want to go, you will help them to get started out openly and honorably, but that they need not shamefacedly and sneakingly run away.
Finally, do not make them lose respect for you or for your religion. They do not need so much of the doctrines at first as they do the simple lessons of life religiously imprinted daily upon their minds. Make them love your religion by helping them to understand it, to see its truth and beauty. Never try to force them to take it; they will only hate it. And never forget that if your course leads them to rule over you instead of you over them, or you to rule over them with force instead of with love, it will eternally ruin them and, yes, you, too. Then when God asks, “Where is the flock that was given thee, thy beautiful flock?” you will be speechless.
Let every parent or guardian, by word and by example instill in the minds of the young the fact that
Time Is Precious
“The life of Christ from His earliest years was a life of earnest activity.”–Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 345.
“Our time belongs to God. Every moment is His, and we are under the most solemn obligation to improve it to His glory. Of no talent He has given will He require a more strict account than of our time.
“The value of time is beyond computation. Christ regarded every moment as precious, and it is thus that we should regard it. Life is too short to be trifled away. We have but a few days of probation in which to prepare for eternity. We have no time to waste, no time to devote to selfish pleasure, no time for the indulgence of sin. It is now that we are to form characters for the future, immortal life. It is now that we are to prepare for the searching Judgment.
“The human family have scarcely begun to live when they begin to die, and the world’s incessant labor ends in nothingness unless a true knowledge in regard to eternal life is gained. The man who appreciates time as his working day will fit himself for a mansion and for a life that is immortal. It is well that he was born.
“We are admonished to redeem the time. But time squandered can never be recovered. We can not call back even one moment. The only way in which we can redeem our time is by making the most of that which remains, by being co-workers with God in His great plan of redemption.
“In him who does this, a transformation of character takes place. He becomes a son of God, a member of the royal family, a child of the heavenly King. He is fitted to be the companion of the angels.
“Now is our time to labor for the salvation of our fellow-men. There are some who think that if they give money to the cause of Christ, this is all they are required to do; the precious time in which they might do personal service for Him passes unimproved. But it is the privilege and duty of all who have health and strength to render to God active service. All are to labor in winning souls to Christ. Donations of money can not take the place of this.
“Every moment is freighted with eternal consequences. We are to stand as minute men, ready for service at a moment’s notice.
The opportunity that is now ours to speak to some needy soul the word of life may never offer again. God may say to that one, ‘This night thy soul shall be required of thee, and through our neglect he may not be ready. In the great Judgment-day, how shall we render our account to God?
“Life is too solemn to be absorbed in temporal and earthly matters, in a treadmill of care and anxiety for the things that are but an atom in comparison with the things of eternal interest. Yet God has called us to serve Him in the temporal affairs of life. Diligence in this work is as much a part of true religion as is devotion. The Bible gives no indorsement to idleness. It is the greatest curse that afflicts our world. Every man and woman who is truly converted will be a diligent worker.
“Upon the right improvement of our time depends our success in acquiring knowledge and mental culture. The cultivation of the intellect need not be prevented by poverty, humble origin, or unfavorable surroundings. Only let the moments be treasured. A few moments here and a few there, that might be frittered away in aimless talk; the morning hours so often wasted in bed; the time spent in traveling on trains or railway cars, or waiting at the station; the moments of waiting for meals, waiting for those who are tardy in keeping an appointment,–if a book were kept at hand, and these fragments of time were improved in study, reading, or careful thought, what might not be accomplished. A resolute purpose, persistent industry, and careful economy of time, will enable men to acquire knowledge and mental discipline which will qualify them for almost any position of influence and usefulness.
“It is the duty of every Christian to acquire habits of order, thoroughness, and dispatch. There is no excuse for slow bungling at work of any character. When one is always at work, and the work is never done, it is because mind and heart are not put into the labor. The one who is slow, and who works at a disadvantage, should realize that these are faults to be corrected. He needs to exercise his mind in planning how to use the time so as to secure the best results. By tact and method, some will accomplish as much work in five hours as another does in ten. Some who are engaged in domestic labor are always at work, not because they have so much to do, but because they do not plan so as to save time. By their slow, I dilatory ways, they make much work out of very little. But all who will, may overcome these fussy, lingering habits. In their work let them have a definite aim. Decide how long a time is required for a given task, and then bend every effort toward accomplishing the work in the given time. The exercise of the will power will make the hands move deftly.
“Through lack of determination to take themselves in hand and reform, persons can become stereotyped in a wrong course of action; or by cultivating their powers they may acquire ability to do the very best of service. Then they will find themselves in demand anywhere and everywhere. They will be appreciated for all that they are worth.
“By many children and youth, time is wasted that might be spent in carrying home-burdens and thus showing a loving interest in father and mother. The Youth might take upon their strong young shoulders many responsibilities which some one must bear.”–Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 342-345.
“It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time.”–Testimonies, Vol. 6, p. 24.