Restraining Passionate Outbursts



Some Introductory Thoughts 

Researching and grouping the quotes on this page came as a result of a friend—a new mother—asking what Ellen White said about working with infants, particularly when they are crying and wanting to have their own way. Many mothers don't know whether to give in and thus bring the crying to an end, or to hold out. 

I had already been studying what Ellen White said on parenting, so I did additional focused research using various words for infants—infant, babe, baby, babies, etc—paired with words like passion, restrain, crying, scream, etc, and came up with quite a few instructive quotations, some of which are below.

There is obviously more to working with infants than what is listed below. Ellen White took a very gentle approach in her raising of children—raising her own children and working with other children she later took into her home—and spoke of having perfect success. 

Two major components of her success are not always sufficiently appreciated: remaining calm and prayer. Regarding the first, impatient, irritated, parenting only brings about the same in a child. Regarding the second, she strongly looked to the Holy Spirit to work on the child's heart, and thus would pray with the child and apart from the child, for the help of the Holy Spirit. You can read more about her parenting efforts further down on this page and on another page in this section of discipleheart: Ellen White's Approach To Discipline

She was also very strong on bending the will, not breaking the will, believing that a child needed the strongest will possible. Accordingly, read the following, knowing you are only getting part of the approach, finding more on other pages.

Another significant point is working early as opposed to later. Some parents wait for a time to do serious disciplining—I am not referring to harsh measures, but bending the child's little will in gentle ways, etc.—and later finding that a very strong and resistant will has developed very quickly. She accordingly speaks of working from the beginning with the child, while the will is being shaped, because it is easy to shape the will before it has become resistant to restraint.

An Initial Quotation

"A mother is a teacher either of good or of evil to her child. A mother can in no case neglect her God-given responsibilities to educate and train her child while it is a babe in her arms, bringing it up from its babyhood in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. She needs to know what is comprehended in this injunction. She should daily cultivate patience and tender love and never govern in a hasty or passionate spirit. Her love, if it is a pure and holy element, will not be that kind of love which is spasmodic. It is cruelty to her offspring to let it come up with a wicked disposition, a warped character, for this is a manifest neglect of her appointed work and sin lieth at her door." {Ms91-1893.1}

Further Instructions

Divert Their Minds If Possible

“Parents, you know something of the inducements by which Satan tries to lead your children into folly. He is working with all his powers to lead them astray. With a determination that many do not dream of, he is seeking to gain control of their minds, and to make the commandments of God of no effect in their lives. {RH January 20, 1910, par. 6} “He leads them to grieve the hearts of their parents. Never let the parents at such times manifest anger, never strike a blow in passion. While they are too young to reason with, divert their minds as best you can; and as they become older, teach them by precept and example that you can not indulge their wrong desires. Instruct them patiently. Sometimes they will have to be punished, but never do it in such a way that they will feel that you have punished them in anger. By such a course you only work a greater evil. Many unhappy differences in the family circle might be avoided if parents would obey the counsel of the Lord in the training of their children. ‘In righteousness shalt thou be established,’ God declares; that is, in doing the works of righteousness. {RH January 20, 1910, par. 7}

Give Them Nothing They Cry For

"[I]f you took hold of the management of your child, you could make it a success, but this requires more time, more thought, more steadiness of purpose, a more unyielding demand for obedience than you have thought of putting forth. Your child has none too much spirit, but he needs the hand of wisdom to guide him aright. He has been allowed to cry for what he wanted until he has formed the habit of doing this. He has been allowed to cry for his father. Again and again, in his hearing, others have been told how he cries for his father, until he makes it a point of doing this. Had I your child, in three weeks he would be transformed. I would let him understand that my word was law, and kindly, but firmly, I would carry out my purposes. I would not submit my will to the child’s will. You have a work to do here, and you have lost much by not taking hold of it before. {Lt5-1884.4}

"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; as firm, steady hand and a kindness which convinces the child of your love will accomplish the purpose."

"One precious lesson which the mother will need to repeat again and again is that the child is not to rule; he is not the master, but her will and her wishes are to be supreme. Thus she is teaching them self-control. Give them nothing for which they cry, even if your tender heart desires ever so much to do this, for if they gain the victory once by crying they will expect to do it again. The second time the battle will be more vehement. {Ms43-1900.37}

Restrain Passion

"Among the first tasks of the mother is the restraining of passion in her little onesChildren should not be allowed to manifest anger; they should not be permitted to throw themselves upon the floor, striking and crying because something has been denied them which was not for their best good. I have been distressed as I have seen how many parents indulge their children in the display of angry passions. Mothers seem to look upon these outbursts of anger as something that must be endured, and appear indifferent to the child’s behavior. But if an evil is permitted once, it will be repeated, and its repetition will result in habit, and so the child’s character will receive an evil mould. I have heard persons argue that their children were too young to be corrected. They said, “When the children are older, they will be ashamed of their manifestations of temper, and will overcome the habit of displaying anger.” – {ST March 16, 1891 Par. 2} The little ones, before they are a year old, hear and understand what is spoken in reference to themselves, and know to what extent they are to be indulged. Mothers, you should train your children to yield to your wishes. This point must be gained if you would hold the control over your children, and preserve your dignity as a mother. Your children quickly learn just what you expect of them, they know when their will conquers yours, and will make the most of their victory." – {ST March 16, 1891 Par. 3}

"The mother’s work begins with the babe in her arms. I have often seen the little one throw itself and scream if its will was crossed in any way. This is the time to restrain evil tendencies, and to stimulate the mind in favour of the right. The child should be taught self-control, and encouraged in every effort to govern itself." {BEcho January 1, 1894, par. 1}

"Mothers should educate their babies in their arms after correct principles and habits. [They should] not allow them to pound their heads on the floor. A child never straightened in my arms but once. Let the mothers educate them in their infancy. Commence with the songs of Bethlehem. These soft tunes will have a quieting influence. Sing them these subdued tunes in regard to Christ and His love. I have had the care of children and I know what I am talking about. ... Teach them control; teach them that they are to be managed, and not to manage." {Ms9-1893.9}

"The mother’s work begins with the babe in her arms. I have often seen the little one throw itself and scream, if its will was crossed in any way. This is the time to rebuke the evil spirit. The enemy will try to control the minds of our children, but shall we allow him to mould them according to his will? These little ones cannot discern what spirit is influencing them, and it is the duty of the parents to exercise judgment and discretion for them. Their habits must be carefully watched. Evil tendencies are to be restrained, and the mind stimulated in favour of the right. The child should be encouraged in every effort to govern itself." {BEcho September 3, 1894, par. 2}

"Perverse temper should be checked in the child as soon as possible; for the longer this duty is delayed, the more difficult it is to accomplish. Children of quick, passionate disposition need the special care of their parents. They should be dealt with in a particularly kind but firm manner; there should be no wavering or indecision on the part of the parents, in their case. The traits of character which would naturally check the growth of their peculiar faults should be carefully nourished and strengthened. Indulgence of the child of passionate and perverse disposition will result in his ruin. His faults will strengthen with his years, retard the development of his mind, and overbalance all the good and noble traits of his character." – {HR November 1, 1878 Par. 2}

"Few parents begin early enough to teach their children obedience. The child is usually allowed to get two or three years the start of its parents, who forbear to discipline it, thinking it is too young to learn to obey. But all this time self is growing strong in the little being, and every day makes it a harder task for the parent to gain control of the child. At a very early age children can comprehend what is plainly and simply told them; and by kind and judicious management can be taught to obey. 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. – {HR April 1, 1877 Par. 10} 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; as firm, steady hand and a kindness which convinces the child of your love will accomplish the purpose. But let selfishness, anger, and self-will have its course for the first three years of a child’s life, and it will be hard to bring it to submit to wholesome discipline. Its disposition has become soured; it delights in having its own way; parental control is distasteful. These evil tendencies grow with its growth, until in manhood supreme selfishness and a lack of self-control place him at the mercy of the evils that run riot in our land." – {HR April 1, 1877 Par. 11}

"Now is the time to restrain and control your child. Teach her that her will is not to bear sway, but that what you require of her must be carried out. Do not deceive yourself, as many parents have done, by thinking that children when in their babyhood should not be required to obey, that if they are left to follow their own will and way, they will, as they become older, outgrow their wrong traits of character. Those who reason in this way find to their sorrow that as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined. Little pranks and errors may seem to be amusing when the child is a baby, and they may be permitted and encouraged; but as the child grows older, they become disgusting and offensive." {Lt1-1877}

We must take our children from their very babyhood and educate them. How can you educate them from babyhood?—Never to speak a cross word, never to scold them. Why?—They don’t know what you mean? Why, I have seen little ones burst out crying as if their hearts would break if the voice would change. “Why, what is the matter with that child?” [someone would ask]. “Why,” said I, “you did not speak sweetly to him.” The little things recognize a scolding voice, and you must not do it. You must not bring them up in that way. What we want is to be fathers and mothers, to tell them to be converted and take their children from their babyhood and treat them gently, and yet not by indulging them to have everything they want. Say, “No, that won’t do you good.” Repeat that, and they will understand that you mean just what you say. {Ms 164, 1907, par. 20}

Notice How Ellen White Worked With Two Passionate Children

"In Addie and May Walling I had two of the most passionate children to bring up. Their mother kept a whip at the table, and I think there was not a meal eaten, but what that mother used that whip—a rawhide—on those children. I took them in my care, and brought them up. I never struck them a blow except once, and then it was because I could not help it. But I put out every kind of inducement to them. I would say, “If you do not show passion today, your uncle and I will ride out with you, and we can gather flowers,” and so on. Well, I would not say anything more all day. Then I would ask them about it. During the day I would see them throw themselves on the floor, and kick, and scratch, and then they would get their hands together and they would be ashamed. It is a great thing to know how to do, but there is a way. When Satan is in the person, the one in error is to be rebuked right there, and there is to be no passing over the evil. It must be rebuked. {Ms82a-1901.54}

[Notice that she avoided spanking and ongoing outbursts of irritation, choosing rather to use inducements (incentives) to bring about better behavior. Though she was taking a gentle approach, she was still very active in disciplining and not passing over—using her word—"evil." She was instructed that passionate parents only develop passion in their children. So, though she took a gentle approach, it was still a very active approach that required the children to obey. And, as noted elsewhere, spanking was used as a matter of last resort on a few occasions.]