Discipline Of Spiritual Children

"Always treat your children with respect. You will find that they are most easily and successfully governed by gentleness. Do not allow them to disobey, but repress all harshness in yourself; for harshness always arouses stubbornness and resistance. Do not deal with them in a way that will make them more perverse. Treat them as you would wish to be treated were you in their place. How can parents expect their children to be won to Christ when they themselves, claiming to be His followers, are harsh and severe?"

Manuscript Releases, Vol. 18, 123.1

Introduction

Ellen White called for a very positive approach with children that forbade harshness, scolding, striking or shaking. Apparently she still recognized that the rod might be used in rare cases, but it was to be a last resort. She strongly asserted that calm, kindness, confidence, time, prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit was more effective. 

She was unequivocal about the need for children to obey their parents. She suggested, however, that kindness and love would do more to touch a child's heart and bring about the desired obedience than anything else.  In doing so, she spoke of parents needing to calmly communicate without being angry, the need to discipline in private, to avoid striking or shaking, the need to defer communication until the child had calmed down and the need to pray—asserting that successful discipline always included the prayers of the parents for the all important work of the Holy Spirit softening and transforming the child's heart.

Did the method succeed? Yes! Unequivocally yes! As she put it, "It means much to train up children that have not had proper discipline. But I have proved the matter; it can be done. I thank the Lord that I have had success, perfect success, in this line of work." {Ms62-1911}

In reading more than 120 articles on raising children by Mrs. White, I have found this positive approach to be repeated over and over again. Unfortunately, I don't think most parents have understood this approach even though such an approach is conveyed in the compilations on raising children—at least I did not in my own prior reading, and I believe many parents are like me in this regard! Nor are most parents aware that she wrote as one who successfully raised spiritual children who were considered incorrigible by others—not only did she raise her own children, but in obedience to God, she took in children who were being badly mismanaged and turned their experiences around.—Dan

Notable Scriptures on the Discipline of Children

Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) 6 "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."

Ephesians 6:4 (NKJV) 4 "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord."

Colossians 3:21 (NKJV) 21 "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged."

Proverbs 29:17 (NKJV) 17 "Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul."

Proverbs 13:24 (NKJV) 24 "He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly."

Proverbs 22:15 (NKJV) 15 "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
The rod of correction will drive it far from him."

Ellen White's Approach to Discipline

Mrs. White mentions how she raised children—her own and others as she saw the need. Usually the narratives of her raising children are found within a longer sermon or article, and encompassed two or three paragraphs. Having read many articles and letters of her instructions on the subject, it was wonderfully helpful to read specific personal examples of how she applied what she was admonishing. You will find she practiced a mix of inducements, encouragement, gentleness, patience, prayer for and with the child, and as a last resort the rod—though the rod is rarely mentioned she used it in  few cases. This section is highly instructive and provides examples of how she applied her own instructions for raising children.

Sample Articles On Raising Children

This is but a sampling of articles. You can find many more at egwwritings.org. 

Parents Must Be Christlike

"The Lord delights to dwell with those families who cultivate home religion, and with whom the spirit of praise and cheerfulness reigns. His people need to understand the principles that underlie the religion of Christ, and study how to make these principles the ruling element in the life. This will fill the home with sunshine."

It All Begins In The Home

In this article, she clearly shows that the disciplinary issues experienced in schools are often caused by a lack of discipline in the home.

How Shall We Order The Child

"There are many today, standing like Eli in holy office, who are making the same mistake. They read his mournful history, but fail to profit by the warning. In their self-confidence they think they know a better way of training their children than that which God has given us in his word. The earnest, anxious prayer does not ascend from their hearts, “Teach us, how shall we order the child, and what shall we do unto him?” With all their learning and intelligence, the results of their training show the vaunted wisdom of these persons to be but folly. Fond, indulgent parents, they allow their children to grow up from babyhood without restraint; and thus their forward, selfish, disagreeable ways become confirmed habits, rendering them unloving and unlovable. { ST November 24, 1881, par. 2 }

Treat Them Kindly

"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."

This is an excellent article on the gentle and kind ways that parents should treat their children.

Training Is Sadly Neglected

"As children advance in years, and go out from the parental roof to choose their own associates, they often become careless of home rules and family discipline. They come to their father’s house when they choose, but by their disrespect they dishonor their parents at home and abroad. These youth have so long been permitted to say what they please, and go and come when they like, that they have little respect for man, or reverence for God. Human rights are disregarded, and the divine law set aside at pleasure. Parents who tolerate the sin of disrespect in their children are themselves dishonoring God by such a course. Obligations are mutual. It is the duty of fathers and mothers to care for their children, but when the latter refuse to respect parental authority and to observe the rules of the family, they should be left to bear their own burdens in life. Parents cannot enjoy the favor of God while they permit their children to trample upon his law. Angels will not abide in the house where strife exists, where God’s name is blasphemed, and his authority defied." {ST February 9, 1882, par. 11}