The GOSPEL TRUTH
THE TRAINING OF CHILDREN ....OR,
HOW TO MAKE THE CHILDREN INTO
SAINTS AND SOLDIERS OF JESUS CHRIST
GENERAL OF THE SALVATION ARMY
1888 - SECOND EDITION
1. What other habit is it important to establish in the hearts and lives of children?
The habit of self-denial; that is, you are to bring the children to such a state of mind that of their own free will and pleasure they will prefer the comfort and happiness of others to their own.
2. Is this possible?
Yes, children can be so trained by you, and so influenced by the Spirit of God, that they shall not only prefer the comfort and happiness of others to their own, but find their enjoyment in doing so.
3. What training should be given to children to create and cultivate in them this habit of self-denial?
(1.) Keep them in subjection from the very first. Let them eat and drink and wear what you think is best, without consulting them, and they will not only accept your choice, but soon cheerfully prefer it to their own. Give them as little notice as possible in company. Only allow them to speak at table, or when strangers are present, when they are spoken to. In short, treat them as children, and they will accept that position and never think of anything else.
(2.) Teach your children to deny themselves in order to promote the happiness of others. Train them to give the preference to brothers and sisters in things that are most pleasant and desirable. If there is a better seat at the table, or in the railway carriage, or in the Salvation Hall; it there is nicer food, or a more desirable toy-teach them to let their brothers and sisters or comrades have it. In short, make them see and feel and prefer the higher gratification which flows from taking the lowest seat and promoting the happiness of others before their own.
(3.) Teach the children to practise self-denial as an exercise profitable to THEMSELVES, apart from the benefit it is likely to confer on others.
(4.) Train children to deny themselves of their little luxuries and toys so that they may be able themselves to minister to the wants of sick and destitute people, or to help forward the Salvation War. Make them experience the luxury of giving to God and humanity that which costs them something, not only for the sake of others, but for their own. You cannot commence too early the task of suppressing the miserly covetousness and selfish tendency born with, and early developed, in some children, or the lavish spendthrift proclivities inherent in others.
Sit on these tendencies in their infancy-snub them, hold them up to contempt, fight and conquer them by establishing and developing counter habits before the former have the strength and respectability derived from age and practice.
It is an admirable discipline to compel children to keep silence in the presence of grown-up people. Nothing is much more calculated to fill them with conceit and self-importance than to encourage them to give utterance to every passing thought and feeling. Teach them to observe, and let them think, and think quietly. It will be good for them, and help to develope that self-possession which is so admirable and so helpful in the making of a strong character.
Nevertheless, it will be good to give them every opportunity in their own play-time, or somewhere in the absence of strangers, to express their convictions and impressions about what they see and hear and learn. At such times converse with them freely; answer their questions and remove their difficulties as far as you can. (See chapter on "Education," further on.)
4. Is not the course generally taken just the opposite of this?
Yes; many children are so petted and consulted as to what they shall eat, and where they shall go, and what they shall do, that they come to think that they ought to have their own way about everything. They want almost everything they see, and tease for it until they get it, keeping on "give, give, give," like the horse-leech's daughters, whining and puling, and keeping the table and the room in a commotion, and the parent's heart in agitation, not knowing what is going to happen next. What pests such children must be to all about them!
The presence of strangers makes such children ten times worse than usual; they will eagerly seize upon such favourable opportunities to press their claims for sugar, jam, and any other choice things they may see on the table. Mother and father may be quite sure that these delicacies are not good for the little ones, but what does that matter? To prevent a scene they have to give them what they want, and thus the self-importance of these little tyrants is further flattered, and they are strengthened for the infliction of more demands and humiliations in the future.
Whereas, if the children knew that it was against the law for them to ask for anything, or to pick and choose as to what they would take, and that their parents would not give way, no matter who might be present, they would sit quietly and eat what was given to them, and be far happier in doing so than ill-trained children are in the enjoyment of all the luxuries they may succeed in getting by their puling and scrambling.
5. Is not such a course of treatment calculated to cultivate in children a spirit totally opposite to that life of submission and self-denial which is the very essence of godliness?
Yes; it is, indeed. Anyone can see how difficult it is for children who have thus been coddled and caressed and fined with notions of self-consequence and importance, and accustomed to all manner of self-indulgence, to be brought to see and feel their own wickedness and hell-deservingness. Of course it is hard to get such to go down and confess it all at the mercy-seat in order to be forgiven.
If parents actually wanted to make it as difficult as they possibly could for their children to submit to God and to follow the lowly Nazarene in the self-denying life He led, they could not take a more likely course to accomplish such an end.
We have seen many sad illustrations of this mistaken training even in professedly Christian families, in young men and women who have told us of their terrible struggles with their own perverse wills, some of them wringing their hands in anguish and crying, "Oh that my mother had subdued my will when I was a child! But I have always had my own way, and now it is so hard to take God's way. Oh, this self-will, this self-will!" Hard indeed do such foolish parents make it for their children to enter in at the strait gate-"to cut off the right hand" and "pluck out the right eye" of sinful indulgences. If you cannot make Salvation easy to your children, don't, for Christ's sake, make it harder.
You have made up your mind that they shall bear the cross and glory in it, so accustom them to enduring hardness in their early days, and not only will they endure that cross when it comes, but welcome and embrace it and so make good Soldiers of Jesus Christ.
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