As my youngest is turning eight years old this month, I find myself reflecting over the last seven years. I am reminded that the first seven years are, in fact, the most crucial and foundational in a child’s life! They, most often, set the stage for the rest of the years to come.
Well, as I look back … I do cringe at mistakes I’ve made and I definitely would do a few things differently if I were given the chance again 🙁 But I choose to focus on the lilies and the pinks and not on the thorns and the thistles! And I “know that all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom 8:28) 🙂 And even though in certain areas I may have some dropped stitches that need to be picked up… with Jesus by my side, I’m up for the challenge!
Too much importance cannot be placed on the early training of children. The lessons that the child learns during the first seven years of life have more to do with forming his character than all that it learns in future years. CG 193.1
Opportunities of inestimable worth, interests infinitely precious, are committed to every mother. CG 197.1
So, if these first seven years are so crucial, so foundational … what do we, as mothers, focus on? As we can see from the quote above, there definitely is training (teaching/instructing) that needs to happen during this time. The quote also mentions that the child needs to be learning lessons during the first seven years. What are these lessons? How are we to instruct our children?
Firstly, it’s pretty clear that, as parents, WE are responsible for our children. We brought them into this world and it is our duty to take care of them and train them up.
Parents should be the only teachers of their children until they have reached eight or ten years of age. 3T 137.2
Parents need not feel that it is necessary to repress the activity of their children, but they are to understand that it is essential to guide and train them in right and proper directions. These active impulses are like the vines, that, if untrained, will run over every stump and brush, and fasten their tendrils upon low supports. If the vines are not trained about some proper support, they waste their energies to no purpose. So it is with children. Their activities must be trained in the right direction. Give their hands and minds something to do that will advance them in physical and mental attainments. CG 35.2
The first seven years parents (especially mothers) are to focus their parenting efforts on three things: bible, nature and character building. Everything revolves around those three things.
A mother’s most important work, a sacred charge given to her directly from God, a work for time and eternity that is more important than even the king’s duties, is to train up and mold the character of her God-given child. To learn more about this responsibility, read I’m a Mom. Now what?
So, HOW do we build good characters? Our characters are made up of our thoughts and our feelings. In our day to day tasks, it is our reactions to circumstances around us and choices that we make. If we are thinking the right thoughts, our feelings will follow suit. Character building is not something that gets taught in a short 15 minute storytime – it’s something that gets built all day long. Character building has to be lived and the lessons need to be constantly reinforced. As mothers, we need to model for our children the characters we want them to have. Let’s be honest: they learn more from our example, than from our instruction.
Parents should begin in season to instil into infant minds good and correct principles. The mother should be with her children as much as possible, and should sow precious seed in their hearts. 2SM 434.2
Obedience is, without a doubt, the most important lesson that needs to be taught. Obedience to parents leads to obedience to God! This discipline needs to be kind and loving, yet firm and unwavering.
From their earliest life children should be taught to obey their parents, to respect their word, and to reverence their authority. CG 82.3
Children will be happier, far happier, under proper discipline than if left to do as their untrained impulses suggest. CG 79.2
A good daily routine can teach orderliness, regularity, cleanliness and self denial. It also keeps us occupied and directs our thoughts: idle hands are the devil’s playground! To learn more about routines, head over to Establishing Routines Part 1: Is it really necessary?
Little children need to be introduced to being useful. Simple, easy chores where they can learn to help mother will teach them that work is good and enjoyable. Include this time in your daily routine. Being a helper and a blessing to others is a character trait that they will carry with them through life.
It is essential for parents to find useful employment for their children, which will involve the bearing of responsibilities as their age and strength will permit. The children should be given something to do that will not only keep them busy, but will interest them. The active hands and brains must be employed from the earliest years. If parents neglect to turn their children’s energies into useful channels, they do them great injury, for Satan is ready to find them something to do…. CT 146.1
Include in your daily routine a special time for reading stories. Let this story time be of good, wholesome books. Find character building stories, nature stories or bible stories. Don’t let foolish or nonsense fiction find a place in your home! Ladder of Life and Rod and Staff have some great character building books for little children.
Lastly, spend quality time with your children. Never be too busy for them. Find a way to bond with them and bind them to your heart whether it’s snuggling on the couch looking at a picture book, snuggling up in bed chatting about the day (can you tell we enjoy snuggling? 🙂 ) or even going for a nature walk together. Quality time isn’t about what you do, but rather getting to know each other a little better. Ask questions about interests, likes and dislikes and gently guide the conversation to build a special mother-child trust relationship.
If there is one thing that changed the course of our family life, it’s when we began to saturate the day in Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!
At breakfast, we would do our bible lesson from the Sonlight Family Bible Lesson. Later in the day we would use our Bible Felts to visualize our bible lesson. We would look for and read our bible story from beautifully illustrated bible story books and enjoy looking at the pictures. Sometimes we would do a craft/activity to help us remember and reinforce the bible story.
At lunch time, we would do our nature lesson from the Sonlight Family Bible Lesson. Afterwards, we would go out in nature looking for spiritual object lessons. When it was play time, we would listen to scripture songs while we played. If we were travelling in the car we would listen to dramatized bible stories. And all day long we would reinforce our character trait we were learning that week.
It reminds me of the verse in Deuteronomy: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”(Deut 6:7) We even wrote our memory verse in chalk on our garden wall! “ And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.” (v9)
The first lesson that children are to be taught is that God is their Father. This lesson should be given them in their earliest years. Parents are to realize that they are responsible before God for making their children acquainted with their heavenly Father…. That God is love is to be taught by every lesson. CG 487.1
From the child’s earliest years it is to be made acquainted with the things of God. In simple words let the mother tell it about Christ’s life on earth. And more than this, let her bring into her daily life the teachings of the Saviour. Let her show her child, by her own example, that this life is a preparation for the life to come… CG 487.4
Click on the links above to see the resources we used, or go to Parenting & Homeschooling Resources for a more complete list. Remember the simple principle: garbage in, garbage out; beautiful in, beautiful out!
Get your little ones out in nature! It’s so easy to enjoy and truly appreciate nature! Let all your senses soak in the beauty around you! See the beautiful colours so easy on the eyes and majestic mountains that demand attention. Hear the songs of the birds, the frogs and the crickets, the babbling brook. Smell the sweet fragrance of the spring flowers. Feel the gentle breeze soft on your skin and the warmth of the sunshine. Taste the juicy fruits in the orchard and the herbs in the garden! All this was given to us for our enjoyment and as a display of God’s love. Nature is to bring our minds back to our Creator and to teach us more of Him.
Learn about nature from nature books or Sonlight Family Bible Lessons. Get field identification guidebooks for your area for birds, trees & plants, flowers, butterflies, insects, mammals, reptiles & amphibians, rocks and even the stars! Start a nature book library. Look for and identify the things you have learnt when you are outside! Look for object lessons in nature to constantly bring your child’s mind back to Jesus and encourage your child to also look for object lessons in nature.
As fast as their minds can comprehend it, the parents should open before them God’s great book of nature. 3T 137.2
Mothers, let the little ones play in the open air; let them listen to the songs of the birds, and learn the love of God as expressed in His beautiful works. Teach them simple lessons from the book of nature and the things about them; and as their minds expand, lessons from books may be added and firmly fixed in their memory. CT 145.3
Help for Weary Mothers!
Children grow up so quickly and it’s impossible to get those baby and toddler years back! Enjoy this very special time with your little ones! Having said all this, the truth is that it can also be an exhausting, trying time. Jesus will help you! He is your best friend in every emergency. Let patience have its perfect work.
Your morning devotions are essential to godly parenting. Stay connected to Christ throughout the day and let Him co-parent with you! It is the only way to be an effective parent. He will give you the strength, guidance and help that you need all day long. He will help you build a happy home – a slice of heaven here on earth.
Remember, children imitate! If you want your children to have a love for the bible, for the things of nature and to display beautiful characters … it starts with you!
Please share with us in the comments below any of your favourite resources for little children. 🙂
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