Man is an intellectual and a moral being. By his intellectual powers he gains a knowledge of facts. By his moral faculties he experiences a sense of responsibility and an awareness of a some relationship between himself and a higher power. Your child possesses an intuitive knowledge and upon this is where your moral training begins. The little brother knows it is wrong to injure his little sister. He does not have to be taught that knowledge, he knows it intuitively by his awakening conscience. This is the foundation for your moral training. Of course, spiritual training naturally hinges upon this, but we shall speak of that later.
The wisest man that ever lived said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) So many having failed, some have been almost persuaded to doubt this man’s wisdom. But the failures arise from the lack of understanding of how to train properly—and the fact that failing to train is most assuredly training to fail.
Moral principles are closely intertwined. Violating one principle makes it easier to violate a second, and the child is carried on until he can do wrong without any reproval of conscience.
Moral training should begin very early in the life of a child. Never allow the voice of conscience to be hushed by repeated wrongdoing. The child who does wrong should be told why it is he feels a sense of guilt—God is displeased. Show him how one evil leads to another, and what will be the awful end. Call to his mind the differences in his feelings arising from wrongdoing and rightdoing. With the one God is displeased, with the other He is pleased. The way then to be happy in life is to always do right.
You must be indefatigable in your efforts. Constant daily training is needed. As one wrong act makes it easier to do a second wrong act, so one right act makes it easier to do a second right act. It is comparatively easy for the child to fall into bad habits. Training, constant daily training is needed to keep the little one from evil ways. Lead him into right action. By repeating a right action it becomes easy to perform it. Do not get discouraged, although it appears so natural for your child to do wrong and so difficult to get him to do right. Go on training anyway, trusting in the promise, teaching, encouraging, nurturing, reproving, correcting, punishing, ever looking upward for grace and wisdom.
Be always aware of your example. It exerts a powerful influence. I used to be quick in actions and words. I never received such a reproving as when one day my little boy under a provocation acted and spoke in the exact manner and tone of his papa. It cut to the heart.
It may seem at times that the voice of conscience in your child is almost stifled—but hope on and continue to labor zealously as the Word commands. “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)
Many parents seeing their young child doing or saying something wrong often think it of not much consequence, because the child is young and the wrong is very slight. But you do not realize the power of habit, and how one wrong, however slight, leads to a greater one. The beginning of a bad habit has been likened to a spider’s web, which can be easily broken, but after continued indulgence it binds its victim as with a strong cable, making reformation almost impossible. The same is true of good and right conduct. At first it may require an effort to perform a certain right act—but after continual repetition it is accomplished naturally and without thought. Therefore be vigilant in training your child to right action, and carefully avoid everything that would lead to evil acts or feelings.
To tease a child is to develop an angry disposition. Some fathers think it quite laughable to hear the little two-year-old say to mama, “I won’t do it,” but he shall afterward pay dearly for his sport. Parents think it “cute” to see their little one shake his little fist at papa and mamma. Through such education the day will probably come when he will shake his fist at you so that it will strike like a hammer on your heart. We have heard many parents laughing at their little children saying “smart things,” little conscious of what these things are leading to.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,” (Proverbs 22:6) comprehends much more than many have understood. It is better to train your child to make reply with a respectful, “Yes, sir” and “No, sir,” or, “Yes, ma’am” and “No, ma’am,” instead of that coarse, disrespectful “uh-huh,” “unh-uh,” which is no language. Remember the first step to child training is to set the example before them in your own life. Frequently we find parents endeavoring to teach their children to say, “Please” and “Yes, sir,” when they in their own speech neglect such politeness. Your efforts will prove fruitless.
Parents have been known to tease their little daughter about some little boy companion, and their little son about some girl companion. Such is very shameful and harmful. It fills the minds of their children with impure thought. Keep your own language very modest and pure and the language of your children the same. Direct them toward pure thoughts. Impure language and impure thought leads to impure and harmful habits.
Be familiar with your child and talk to him about his private life. Teach him of the awful evils in the secret lives of many children and how impure words and thoughts lead to such evil. Parents, see to it that there is a loving confidence between you and your child. Be familiar in telling them how wonderfully they are made and what was the design of God in thus creating them. Teach them what a noble and sacred thing it is to use every part of our body to the glory of the Creator. Teach them of the awful crime to misuse any part. Prepare your children for the changes that will come as their bodies develop, and help them to have a healthy, wholesome view of themselves.
By “precept upon precept” (Isaiah 28:10) and by example, train your child to grow up into a beautiful moral life. In love restrain every immoral tendency in your child. Be zealous in teaching your children good manners. Civility and refinement are beautiful in the life of anyone, and is very closely associated with the morals. Teach your little ones to respect one another, to have a regard for each other’s happiness, to practice self-denial for the benefit of others. By instruction and example, instill gentleness and kindness into their actions. Dear parents, never grow weary in training the little feet of your tender “olive plants” in the paths of virtue.