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Those Juniors, Part 25: Molding or Crushing?

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: Everyone has innate instincts. These instincts cannot be allowed to run wild, nor can they be repressed without ill consequences. Instead, one must learn how to control them, using the three judges. The Savior Himself will aid us in this. 

The Developing and the Molding of the Will
It is clear now that the developing of the will lies in the development of the voice of reason, the building up of noble heart ideals and the training of the heart and mind to know the will of God, as well as the practice of self-control. By consistent and persistent habits of correction we can lay the foundation for reason. Very small children are able to link cause and effect together. This prepares the way for the exercise of choice. Wise parents can guide their children into the experience of choosing the right things, the right shoes, the right clothes, and every act of choosing wisely develops the will power.

Parents can, like Hannah, have in their hearts a picture of the kind of man their child is to be, and quite early in life can begin to put this picture into the hearts of their little ones. Thus is developed the voice of the heart’s ideal. The words “proper child,” used by Jochebed,1 and the idea of the “family firm”2 have helped many parents to explain why they do not do some things that other people do, and why they do some things that other people do not do, and these experiences all help to elevate and establish the heart’s ideal.

You can play a game with five-year-olds. Tell them about the little voices in the mind; call them Mr. Reason, Mr. Heart, and Mr. Conscience. Tell them Mr. Reason says “good or bad”; Mr. Heart says “yes or no”; Mr. Conscience says “right or wrong.” Then take a glass of milk and ask, “Oh, Mr. Reason, I want to drink a glass of milk.” What does Mr. Reason say? “Good, good,” the child responds. “Oh, Mr. Heart, will this milk make me the kind of man I want to be?” The child will respond, “Yes, yes.” “Oh, Mr. Conscience, I want to drink some milk. Is it right or wrong?” The child responds again, “Right, right.” Play this game, using an apple, then a cigarette, and you will be amazed to see how the little folks can think. “Oh, Mr. Reason, I want to smoke. Is it good or bad?” “Bad, bad,” the child will shout.

“Oh, Mr. Heart, will this cigarette help me to be the kind of man I want to be?”

“No, no.”

“Oh, Mr. Conscience, does God say it is right or wrong to smoke?”

“Wrong, wrong,” the little one will say.

And every time you play a game like this you are molding the will. From food you can go to clothes, to action, to words, to books, to games, and will thus be preparing your child to meet the great problems of life. Self-control can also be cultivated by teaching children to share their toys and their goodies with their little playmates, by playing little games where the honored place is passed around from one child to another, and by example. By giving honorable mention when they have overcome an outburst of temper, by teaching them to smile through their tears and laugh away their disappointments, we can help them develop this very important doorkeeper—self-control—and give them a taste of the sweetness of living and acting and talking contrary to impulse.

This is the way the will can be developed and molded.

Crushing the Will
Now that we can understand just what the will is and how it can be molded, it is equally clear just how it can be crushed. You can see that punishment and correction are tools in the molding of the will, but inconsistency and unreasonableness in punishment and correction confuse the foundation of reason in the child’s mind. Allowing the child to have his own way in everything is marring the picture of the heart’s ideal. And if I fail to teach my child how to choose, if I fail to implant an ideal in his heart, if I fail to teach him how to know the will of God, if I fail to teach him lessons in self-control, what have I done to his will?

We have all known parents whose word is law, with never a reason why, except “Because I said so.” We have all known parents who do all the choosing for their children from the time they are born to the time they leave home. They choose their shoes, their clothes, their playmates, their books, their music, their school, their friends. These are the children to be pitied, for the overruled child, the overdominated child, is the one whose will has been crushed, and he either ends up in open rebellion or with a marred personality.

(Next week: “Willing To Do.”)

1. Hebrews 11:23.
2. Messages to Young People, p. 211.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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