Book Title: The Real Home
Parental Discipline
Chapter 8
by: Mrs. Vesta J. Farnsworth

“I wish I could mind as my dog minds me,” said a little boy of his shaggy friend. “He always looks so pleased to mind,” he continued, “and I don’t.”

We all fail when tested on obedience. It was so necessary men should obey that it was the first requirement given in Eden. It is of first importance in the home. Disobedience is the cause of all the troubles we suffer.

Fathers and mothers are partners with God in government. He knows their perplexities.

Notice some of the methods our Father uses in dealing with His earthborn children:

 1. He requires strict obedience. This is of such importance that He declares: “This thing commanded I them, saying, Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be My people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” Jeremiah 7:23.

2. He gives tests and commands. He says, You may do this; you must not do that. (Genesis 2:16,17)

3. Having told His children what to do, He gave them the privilege of choice. When their faculties were fully developed, they might choose to obey or to disobey. He said, “Come now, and let us reason together.” Isaiah 1:18.

4. He promises a reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience. “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebelled, ye shall be devoured with the sword.” Isaiah 1:19,20.

5. He makes His requirements so plain they can be understood; the results of obedience and disobedience are also clearly pointed out.

6. He always keeps His word.

7. He does not ask impossible things. “All His biddings are enablings.”

8. When His children are disobedient, He does not accept excuses. The story of Saul illustrates this. Saul did not obey, and when questioned, said his soldiers were responsible for failure. Samuel, as the representative of God, uttered these stern words of rebuke: “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” 1 Samuel 15:22, 23.

9. Our Father suffers because His children are disobedient. At any cost to Himself, He seeks to save them from disobedience.

10. He loves His children too well to withhold correction when they do not obey; “Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” Hebrews 12:6.

11. The only reason our Father chastens is that His children may repent and choose the right. “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not must rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit. … Now no chastening for the present seemth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” Hebrews 12:9-11.

But the importance of obedience should not lead us to harshness and cruelty in dealing with children. It is, however, the worst cruelty that can be exercised toward any child to allow him to grow up disrespectful and undisciplined.

This is strongly emphasized in the Bible:

 “For I know him [Abraham], that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord.”
 “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
 “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.”
 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”…
 “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.”
 “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”

Notice that fathers and mothers are not told to punish their children. They are told to “train,” “correct,” and “chasten.” Perhaps the word “chasten” is nearest the meaning of the word “punish”; but would it not be better to train, to correct, employing chastisement as a last resort?

 “Parents, in the training of your children, study the lessons that God has given in nature. If you would train a pink, or rose, or lily, how would you do it? Ask the gardener by what process he makes every branch and leaf to flourish so beautifully, and to develop in symmetry and loveliness. He will tell you that it was by no rude touch, no violent effort; for this would only break the delicate stems. It was by little attentions, often repeated. He moistened the soil, and protected the growing plants from the fierce blasts and from the scorching sun, and God caused them to flourish and to blossom into loveliness. In dealing with your children, follow the method of the gardener. By gentle touches, by loving ministrations, seek to fashion their characters after the pattern of the character of Christ.
  “Teach the children to see Christ in nature. Take them out into the open air, under the noble trees, into the garden; and in all the wonderful works of creation teach them to see an expression of His love. Teach them that He made the laws which govern all living things, that He has made laws for us, and that these laws are for our happiness and joy. Do not weary them with long prayers and tedious exhortations, but through nature's object lessons teach them obedience to the law of God. The Desire of Ages p. 515, 516.

Long ago a boy started for school one morning. It was a new experience for the little lad, and his mother, as she kissed him good-by, told him he must not play by the way, but to go and return without stopping.

With lunch in hand, the boy meant to do as mother said. But in the creek he saw a fish. It looked very pretty, and he leaned over the railing of the bridge to watch it swim. Then he saw another and another. But mother said he must not stop, so he hurried on.

Soon he saw a butterfly. It was a beauty. If he could only catch it! He set his basket down, crept toward the butterfly, put his hat over it, thought he had caught it, looked, but it was not there.

“There it is!” he exclaimed, as he looked at a tall weed, and again he tried to capture it. Away if flew, and the race began between butterfly and boy.

Then he began to feel tired. He looked for his lunch, but it was not where he thought he left it. He tried to find the bridge and the road. The sun grew hot, and he felt hungry. Still he kept on till the shadows of afternoon began to fall. The longer he walked, the deeper grew his loneliness, and he felt that he was lost. Perhaps he would never get home.

Mother had taught the boy to pray. He knew that now he needed help. He knelt in the field. His voice was shaky, but he began, “Our Father,” when he heard a voice saying, “Well, my boy, what do you want?”

In a moment he was clasped in the strong, loving arms of his father. On the homeward journey the child listened as father told how he had been thinking of his boy. He wondered if anything would happen while the child was alone. Father had been following him all day. God had sent him to answer his boy’s prayers.

Then the father said: “Our heavenly Father watches you and me like that. When we do wrong, it makes Him sorry, but He loves us, so He follows and helps when we ask Him.”
That father might have scolded his son. He might have whipped him. He might have told how he had lost a whole day following him. Instead, he taught his child a lesson on the love of God that was never forgotten. Was such a day lost?


The story of how another father dealt with his erring son is interesting reading, and emphasizes in a strong way how our Father treats His sinful children:

 A minister, who lived in a New England town, had a son about fourteen years of age, going to school. One afternoon the boy’s teacher called at the home, asked for the father, and said:

 “Is your boy sick?”
 “No. Why?”
 “He was not at school to-day.”
 ‘Is that so?”
“Nor yesterday.”
“You don’t mean it!”
“Nor the day before.”
“And I supposed he was sick.”
“No, he’s not sick.”
“Well, I thought I should tell you.”
And the father said, “Thank you,” and the teacher left.
And the father sat thinking. By and by he heard a click at the gate, and he knew the boy was coming, so he went to open the door; and the boy knew, as he looked up, that his father knew about those three days. The father said:
“Come into the library, Phil.” And Phil went, and the door was shut. And the father said: “Phil, your teacher was here this afternoon. He tells me you were not at school to-day – nor yesterday – nor the day before. And we supposed you were. You let us think you were. And you cannot know how bad I feel. I have trusted you. I have always said, “I can trust my son, Phil.” And here you have been living a lie for three whole days, and I can’t tell you how bad I feel about it.”
Well, that was hard on Phil to be talked to quietly like that. If his father had spoken to him roughly, or had asked him out to the woodshed for a confidential interview, it would not have been nearly so hard. Then after a moment’s pause, the father said, “Phil, we’ll get down and pray.” And the thing was getting harder for Phil all the time. He didn’t want to pray just then. And they got down. And the father poured out his heart in prayer. And the boy knew, as he listened, how bad his father felt over his conduct. Somehow he saw himself in the mirror on his knees as he had not before. It’s queer about that mirror of the knee joints. It does show so many things. Many folks don’t like it.
And they got up. And the father’s eyes were wet. And Phil’s eyes were not dry. Then the father said:
“My boy, there’s a law of life that where there is sin, there is suffering. You can’t detach those two things. Where there is suffering, there has been sin somewhere. You can’t get those two things apart. Now,” he went on, “you have done wrong. I am in this house as God is in the world. So we will do this: You go up to the attic. I’ll make a bed for you there. We’ll take your meals up to you at the regular times, and you stay up there as long as you have been living a lie – three days and three nights.”
And Phil didn’t say a word. They went upstairs, the bed was made, and the father kissed his boy and left him alone with his thoughts. Supper time came, and the father and mother sat down to eat. But they couldn’t eat for thinking about the boy. The longer they chewed, the bigger and drier the food became in their mouths. And swallowing it was out of the question.
 Then they went into the sitting room for the evening. He picked up a paper to read, and she sat down to sew. Well, his eyes weren’t very good. He wore glasses. This evening he couldn’t seem to see distinctly – the glasses seemed blurred. It must have been the glasses, of course. He took them off and cleaned them, and then found he had been holding the paper upside down. And she tried to sew. But the thread broke, and she couldn’t seem to get the needle threaded again. They were both bothered.
 By and by the clock struck nine, and then ten, their usual hour for retiring. She said, “Aren’t you going to bed?” and he said, “I think I’ll not go to bed yet; you go.” “No, I guess I’ll wait awhile, too.”
 The clock struck eleven, and the hands worked around toward twelve. Then they locked up and went to bed, but – not to sleep. Each one pretended to be asleep, and each knew the other was not asleep. By and by she said, “Why don’t you sleep?” And he said, gently, “How did you know I wasn’t sleeping? Why don’t you sleep?”
 “Well, I just can’t for thinking of the boy up in the attic.”
 “That’s the bother with me,” he replied. The clock in the hall struck twelve, and one, and two. Still no sleep came.
 At last he said, “Mother, I can’t stand this any longer; I’m going upstairs with Phil.” He took his pillow and went softly out of the room, up the attic stairs, and pressed the latchkey softly so as not to wake the boy if he were asleep, and tiptoed across the attic floor to the corner by the window, and looked – there Phil lay, wide-awake, with something glistening in his eyes, and what looked like stains on his cheeks. And the father got in between the sheets with his boy, and they got their arms around each other’s necks – for they had always been the best of friends, father and boy – and their tears got mixed up on each other’s cheeks. Then they slept.
 The next night the father said: “Good-night, mother. I’m going upstairs with Phil.” And the second night he slept in the attic with his boy. And the third night, again he said: “Mother, good-night. I’m going up with the boy again.” And the third night he slept in the place of punishment with his son.

It is not surprising to know that that boy, when he grew to be a man, became a missionary for Jesus in the heart of China.

That father is a human picture of God. God could not take away sin. It’s here. He could not take away the suffering; for suffering bears witness that something is wrong in this world. So God came here in the person of His Son, and lay down beside man in the prison house of death. That’s God – our God. And besides that, He comes and places His life beside yours and mine, and makes us hate the sin and long to be pure.

One mother gives this good advice:

 “I’d like to say to every young mother: Begin early and keep in view the qualities you want your children to have, and they will surely have them. Begin before they know that the world contains opinions different from yours. Get ahead of the enemy that sows the tares. Your tiny trees will be all right if you look after them in season. There is nothing hard in bending a tree while it is little. If you keep it in sight afterward and see that it stays straight, that is all that is necessary; it will almost certainly grow up as you started it.”…


One point to be guarded in discipline is to know absolutely that the child is guilty of misconduct. It is wise to get his understanding of the transaction, to learn his motive. This is illustrated by Bobby’s experience.

A penny had been given him to place in the mission offering. His teacher informed the father that he had given nothing. When father met the boy, he inquired:

“Did you put the cent I gave you into the box?”
“N-o.” answered the child.
“What did you do with that cent?”
“Spent it.”
“What for?” questioned the father.
“Candy,” replied Bobby.

The confession was followed by quick punishment.

Later Bobby was called to his mother’s room where she was lying ill. Mother drew him close to her.

“Papa thinks I stole; he does,” whispered Bobby.

“Hush, dear. Now tell mother about that little cent.”

“Oh, you know,” exclaimed Bobby. “You know that little colored boy who lives with all the other children who haven’t any papas and mammas, and wear blue aprons.”

“In the children’s home?” said mother.

“That little colored boy’s mamma was a washerlady, but she’s dead so she can’t do any more washes and buy him candy. The peanut man on the corner had some nice candy – so I bought him a stick all for hisself.”

‘Didn’t you keep even a bite?”

“No,” answered the manly little voice. “I wanted it awfully bad, but I couldn’t take it ‘cause it wasn’t my money. My money was for little boys in Africa. I’ve seen their pictures.”

“Does this little boy look like one of them?”

“He is one,” replied Bobby. “I asked the teacher if he wasn’t, and she said ‘Yes.’ I wanted to give him my penny ‘cause I can’t see those boys in Africa when I put money in the box.’”

What a difference when it was learned why Bobby spent his money for candy instead of giving it to missions! Happily for the boy, the mother looked beyond the act to the motive and explained it to the father. But suppose he had never found out, and the child had long carried the hurt in his soul? What then?

Some parents will deal severely when an accident occurs; a broken dish, a lost tool, the errand forgotten, all these are punished in anger. The offender is scolded, cuffed, and blamed. The father and mother seem to forget that they sometimes break or misplace articles, also that they sometimes forget. A safe rule to follow is never to discipline a child when angry, or when unable to exercise self-control.

 “Those who desire to control others must first control themselves. To deal passionately with a child or youth will only arouse his resentment. When a parent or teacher becomes impatient, and is in danger of speaking unwisely, let him remain silent. There is wonderful power in silence.” Education page. 292.

When children are told that if they disobey a penalty must follow, be sure to keep the promise. They remember such promises even though they seek to evade their fulfillment. The wise parent will “forbear threatening,” will be very careful in stating what consequences will follow disobedience; but when a promise has been made, it must be kept, unless some very good reason can be given for not keeping it.

The child is to be pitied whose parents have tongues like Gatling guns. Before the volleys of wrathful, faultfinding words, children flee anywhere to escape the pitiless storm. Loud, angry tones and threatenings are not in place in the Christian home. …

It is wise to do our utmost to prevent the use of harsh measures in discipline. If the rod must be used, it should never be used publicly. Certainly the parents will suffer with their erring child. They will explain why he must suffer. They will tell of their love for him, their desire that he may be obedient to them and to God. They will pray with and for him. They will accept the child’s repentance and freely pardon him. If in any way they have been wrong, they will confess it. The lesson will thus be deeply impressed, that sin always brings suffering.

Herbert D. Ward tells in the Independent how his father dealt with him on one occasion:

 I love to play, and so joined the “Clan.” This aggregation of boy dynamite was composed of about ten members of the same ages. We were in every innocent mischief conceivable, and the pace was rapidly getting faster. We even got so far as to play pool. … We often played cards, having parties in each other’s houses when the families were out. …
 It was a fine lot of boys, just drifting undirected. One evening late, the majority of the “Clan” were up in my room playing poker with lump sugar for chips. My father was not expected home until midnight, and the party would be all over before then. But as a blind in case of accident, we had a chessboard loaded with men ready to concentrate on when the stairs creaked.
 One of the lads was especially belligerent when he lost his sugar. In the midst of a scene and noise that would not be allowed in a respectable zoo, the door opened and in walked the master of the house. We were paralyzed. Cards were religiously taboo under his roof. He stayed and chatted pleasantly with no reference to the unholy sport. One by one the boys shivered and grew pale and limp. They slunk downstairs and disappeared. I expected nothing less than a good whipping. I had often gotten one before. But this time punishment was not meted out. The offense must have been too serious even for that.
After the dinner was over the next evening, my father spoke up:
 “Berty, will you go up to the attic and bring down my old botany can?”
 Wondering, I went. It was a battered, dingy old can, and very heavy. I had already been taught how to press flowers. The summer before, I had analyzed and pressed over a hundred varieties, but had never used the botany can. My father was sitting alone at the dining room table with a big book, into which he was diligently peering. I was pretty well frightened, and kept still. It was watchful waiting.
 “Open the can,” he ordered, “and take out what you find there very carefully, and spread it on the table.”
 Wondering, I opened the slide, thrust my fist in, and encountered a hard substance wrapped in old newspapers. Then another, and another. Soon each was uncovered, and there was spread out a glittering array of crystals. These specimens were wonderful to the eyes of the ignorant child. This was my first lesson in mineralogy. In a few weeks the “Clan” met and formed the first mineralogical club of Newark, and was under the guidance of my wise father, who transformed a gang of irresponsible boys into an ardent group of collectors. That summer we were as eager a lot of enthusiasts as was ever seen. The situation that was growing serious was saved by a wise direction of waste exuberance, and the pool room knew us no more. Cards were henceforth taboo without any one’s forbidding their use. A greater interest had taken their place.


Let mercy be mingled with justice in all our relationships. “He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy.”

In “Quiet Talks on Home Ideals,” S.D. Gordon illustrates this text with an incident which was related by one of the two boys concerned, after he had grown to manhood:

 Once I saved my brother Tom a promised whipping for leaving down the bars when he went after the cows at milking time, thus giving the young cattle left in the pasture a chance to get out, which they always improved. If they were at the back of the lot when Tom got the cows, he thought it unnecessary to put up the bars; it would be so short a time before the cows would be driven back.
 Father cautioned and reproved him several times, and finally he threatened to whip him if it happened again. Several weeks passed, and he left the bars down again. The young cattle got into the corn, doing much damage.
The next morning Father said nothing, but went about his usual work. Tom was gloomy; there was an air of depression in the house; and I was greatly troubled. I couldn’t bear to have Tom whipped, nor could I blame father. At last I resolved to go and speak to him.
 The sun was shining bright, and he was opening some tumbles of hay in the east meadow. I approached him slowly, for I did not feel sure of my ground, and stood still without saying a word. He finally looked up at me and said, “Well, Joe, what is it?”
 “I have come to speak to you about Tom; I don’t want him whipped.”
 “I don’t see how you can help it, my son. I cannot have my crops destroyed in this way, and I must keep my word.”
 “Father, didn’t you read this morning in the lesson: ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: … and with His stripes we are healed’?”
 “Yes; what a boy you are to remember, Joe!”
 “Well, I will take the blows you intend to give Tom.”
 “I can’t do that, Joe. Tom is the transgressor, not you,” father answered, his face softening. Then looking at me keenly, he asked, “Did Tom send you to me?”
 “No; he knows nothing of my coming.”
 My father stood leaning on his pitchfork, looking down on the ground. At length he said, “Go and bring Tom.”
 I found him on the front porch with a sober face, trying to study.
 “Come with me, Tom; father wants you.”
 “I know what he wants,” turning a little pale. After a moment’s hesitation, he arose, saying, “I might as well go now and have it done with.”
 As we walked along, I thought best to give him a little advice, for he generally did as occasion served him. There was no knowing beforehand what he would do.
 “Now, Tom, you mustn’t flare up. You must be good and answer father’s questions in a pleasant, kind way. You mustn’t talk any; only answer his questions. I don’t think he will be hard with you.”
 Father stood as I had left him. I can see him now, after the lapse of so many years, with his back to the morning sun, leaning forward a little on the handle of his fork, looking down to the ground, one hand above the other and his chin on his hands, and some hay scattered about him. He did not seem to see us. He was lost in reverie.
 “Father,” I ventured timidly, “Tom is here.”
 He looked up at us quickly, then said: “Tom do you remember those words in our Scripture reading this morning: ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: … and with His stripes we are healed’?”
 “Yes, sir,” answered Tom, greatly surprised.
 “What do you think those words mean?”
 “That Christ suffered for us,” replied Tom, his voice unsteady and his face flushing.
 “Well, Joe offers to suffer for you.”
 Tom turned to me with a look on his face I shall never forget, and exclaimed, “No, Joe, you shall not do that!”
 Then, flinging his arms around my neck, he kissed me, and, as quick as a flash, he stepped up to father, and held out his hand, saying: “The stripes belong to me, father; I am ready.”
 Tears were falling down father’s face, and for a moment he could not speak; then he said: “No, Tom, I cannot punish any one now. I do not think you’ll ever forget this day. If you do, remember Joe’s offer holds good. I love my children, and I want to do them all the good I can. But I must be obeyed, and this is one way of doing them good. You may go now.”
 Tom did not stir. He was evidently waiting for me, and yet, for some reason I could not explain, I hesitated. Stepping closer, I said, “Father, I want to kiss you.”
 He caught me in his arms, saying, “Oh, my boy!” and kissed me. Then taking Tom, he said, “God bless you, dear Tom,” and kissed him, with swimming eyes.
 Then with great awe upon us, we went to the house. Tom never left the bars down again.