As I held my new (and third) precious little baby in my arms, was interrupted by a knock on the door from the hospital's lactation nurse. She wanted to talk to me since I was on her list of breast-feeding mothers. She wanted to give me instructions on nursing my baby. I politely informed her I had nursed my other two children for two years, and I knew everything there was to know about breast feeding. A few moments later another helpful nurse came to offer me the opportunity to attend a class on bathing the newborn infant; I declined politely. When the third nurse came to my room to offer yet another class on soothing a colicky baby, I felt I was never going to get any privacy. 1 firmly informed her I did not need classes of any kind, this was my third baby and I was an expert at "The Parenting Thing." Then it hit me, I was a mother of THREE!
How did this happen? I asked myself. Of course, the biological reasons were obvious. But why did l not think this through before I decided to have children, three children? How could I raise them to be the adults God wants them to be? Children today will be the leaders of the future. They will take on the responsibilities in every aspect of life at home, work and church. The way I raise them now will determine how they will turn out in the future. Their lives and their characters will impact not only themselves but so many lives around them. This was the task before me, and I was to accept it knowing that God would sec me through.
The servant of the Lord tells us that if parents draw themselves humbly to the Savior, willing to be led by Him in the education process of their children, they are promised to receive sufficient grace in order to mold the character of their children; just as Mary did with the child Jesus (see Desire of Ages, chapter 7).
The gift of a child is the greatest blessing the Lord can give ("Behold, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Ps. 127:3), yet caring for these little souls is the greatest responsibility we, as parents, take on as stewards before the Lord.
When parents greet their new little one into the world, they do it with such hope for its future. But parents' hope for peace can turn into unrest. Their hope for good can turn into evil. Their hope for greatness can turn into ruin. Their hope of blessing can turn into a curse. Their hope of success can turn into failure. Their hope of happiness can turn into sadness. Parents can be congratulated for their children but they can also be ashamed. It all depends on how parents raise, guide, and mold their children's lives.
The task of teaching children is a sacred one. It is a task that should begin before children enter elementary schools, high schools, or universities. The responsibility does not lie in the hands of the school teachers, the pastors, society, or anyone else for that matter. It is a task that should start early and be done by parents, in the most sacred institution on earth, THE HOME. Parents will have to answer on that day "Behold I and the children, which God bath given me" (Heb, 2:13). A child who did not learn to obey, be truthful, honest, respectful, responsible and laborious at home will not be these things when he or she is at church, school, or any place else. The child will act according to the circumstances that are convenient to him or her and will look for the benefits of any given situation. The child will live to receive and not to give. He or she will live to be served but not to serve.
Parents should remember that to educate is to redeem, to redeem is to rescue, and to rescue is to save. If parents submit themselves to God's will, He will use them to prepare their children for salvation. God wants to save all children. "But thus said the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children" (isa. 49:25).
Parents need to teach their children by precept (theoretic education) and by example (practical education). Children are taught so much more by example than by theory. Parents cannot expect from children what they themselves are not willing to do.
The characters of children are greatly determined by the example seen in the parents. "Happy are the parents whose lives are a true reflection of the divine, so that the promises and commands of God awaken in the child gratitude and reverence; the parents whose tenderness and justice and long-suffering interpret to the child the love and justice and long-suffering of God, and who by teaching the child to love and trust and obey them, are teaching him to love and trust and obey his Father in heaven" (Prophets and Kings, p. 245).
Parents need to teach their children to be good in a world filled with evil, believers in a unbelieving world, truthful in a world of lies, healthy in spirit and body in a sick world, righteous in a crooked world, laborious in a lazy world, pure in a corrupt world, and saved in a world that is lost. Not an easy task by any means, but one surely possible. "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:13).
"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prow. 22:6, KJV). All parents need to work united in this goal, to raise our children for the kingdom.
Someone once said with great accuracy that the mind is not a garner to be filled, rather, it is a garden that needs to be tilled. It is the parents grave responsibility to do the training of these young minds from the ery moment they are born; and there are those who even suggest that it should begin at conception. I am reminded of that wonderful allegory Pilgrim's Progress, where we see the many pitfalls that beset our little ones through their journey in life. It behooves us therefore to heed the warning of the Lord and train our children in the fear of the Lord. As I think of the many dangers that lay ahead, I cannot but ask myself the question: "What would I do if my children had to pass that way alone?" I hope that we all can ask ourselves the same question and as we do, will we take time now and spend it preparing them to make the journey safely? Will we see to it that we become our children's friend, their confidant? Will we be willing to go with them as far as possible? There are quagmires, pitfalls, and countless dangers out there, yet parents allow their children to enter that journey without instructions or help, expecting them in their ignorance and inexperience to get through it as best they can.
As I ponder on all these questions, I begin to realize that what I thought I knew of parenting was probably just the introduction to the course. It is not an easy task, but it is the most rewarding of all. We have the golden opportunity to train our children; let us not leave this sacred task to someone else, Because let's face it, it's not a job anyone is willing to do for us, and I wouldn't want to miss out on this privilege God has entrusted me with.
In closing, I would like to remind all parents that it was into the hands of parents that this gigantic task was given. God says, "take this child and train it for me," and on that training depends the results as seen in the man or woman produced. If the right kind of training is given, then the result will be a positive one. The child will continually bring joy and happiness to his parents, himself, and to the world. On the other hand, if wrongly trained or untrained, he is almost sure to bring unhappiness and perhaps shame. "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame" (Prov. 29:15). The world is full of that. With God's help, I know that parents can make a difference.
As I reflect on all this, I pray to God for wisdom because as I tuck ni y three precious children to bed each night I realize I am no pro at parenting.