Great wisdom is required in the government of children. For parents to properly govern their children they need the wisdom and direction which comes from above. There are so many different natures which must be controlled in as many different ways, making it impossible to fix specific rules for everyone. Yet all these different dispositions among our children must be met. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” (James 1:5)
Many parents ask, “At what age shall we begin to train and govern our child?” Wisdom replies, “From the beginning.” In both feeding and sleeping, your responses are teaching your child. You can condition your baby to sleep sweetly and soundly in their bed—or it can become accustomed very early to need to be rocked to sleep.
Your little babe sees some bright object and reaches out his little hands to grab it. But he might hurt himself with it, so you say, “No, baby cannot have this.” Then baby begins to cry. You try to quiet him. You try to turn his mind and attention somewhere else. But, no, he keeps his eye on the forbidden object and cries the harder. At last to quiet him you finally let him have it, while you hold to one end to keep him from hurting himself. Baby has now learned a very valuable lesson, which he is not going to forget. He has learned that if he cries long enough and hard enough he can get what he wants.
As he grows older he becomes more determined to have his way. When company comes you want your boy to give the rocker to the lady—but no, the little man prefers the rocker for himself. You try to remove him by force—but he kicks and bites and hangs on and cries very loud, and you call him a naughty boy, and give up the struggle. Then you begin to tell the ladies about your boy, how he will have his way and you cannot do anything with him. You lament how you sometimes you even spank him, but it does not do him any good. In all this you are most certainly training your child out of your control.
If you desire your child to obey you promptly and cheerfully, be kind, loving, firm, and consistent. Scolding is never in order—but does great harm. Unhappy and unholy is the home where children obey only through fear. Train your little ones so that obedience is gained through love. So rarely is such obedience obtained that many have concluded it cannot be accomplished. It is natural for children to love their parents, and if parents deal with their little ones in love and kindness they can make home the most desirable place on earth to them.
To rule only by physical force is not good government. It is a most pitiful sight to see a child fear and tremble before a parent’s stern looks and cross words. There is a way, though but few have found it, of mingling tenderness with firmness that demands obedience in respect and love. It brings a joy to the parents hearts to behold their child obeying willingly. By the help of God and great perseverance on the part of the parents such obedience can be obtained. Someone may ask, “Would you never punish a child?” Yes, it is sometimes necessary—but not so often as many have supposed. Thoughtful, consistent training, and not arbitrary government, is what is far more successful.