06) DISCIPLINE: What is the correct manner in which to discipline?

Prophetic Statements

Brigham Young


If we do not take the pains to train our children, to teach and instruct them concerning these revealed truths, the condemnation will be upon us, as parents, or at least in a measure. 1


If the law of Christ becomes the tradition of this people, the children will be brought up according to the law of the celestial kingdom, else they are not brought up in the way they should go. 2


Bring up your children in the love and fear of the Lord; study their dispositions and their temperaments, and deal with them accordingly, never allowing yourself to correct them in the heat of passion; teach them to love you rather than to fear you, and let it be your constant care that the children that God has so kindly given you are taught in their early youth the importance of the oracles of God, and the beauty of the principles of our holy religion, that when they grow to the years of man and womanhood they may always cherish a tender regard for them and never forsake the truth. I do not wish you to lay the stress and importance upon outward ceremonies that many do. Parents, teach your children by precept and example, the importance of addressing the Throne of grace; teach them how to live, how to draw from the elements the necessaries of life, and teach them the laws of life that they may know how to preserve themselves in health and be able to minister to others. And when instructing them in the principles of the Gospel, teach them that they are true, truth sent down from heaven for our salvation, and that the Gospel incorporates every truth whether in heaven, in earth, or in hell; and teach them, too, that we hold the keys of eternal life, and that they must obey and observe the ordinances and laws pertaining to this holy Priesthood, which God has revealed and restored for the exaltation of the children of men. 3


Teach your children from their youth, never to set their hearts immoderately upon an object of this world. 4\


If a mother wishes to control her child, in the first place let her learn to control herself, then she may be successful in bringing the child into perfect subjection to her will. 5


You may, figuratively speaking, pound one Elder over the head with a club, and he does not know but what you have handed him a straw dipped in molasses to suck.  There are others, if you speak a word to them, or take a straw and chasten them, whose hearts are broken; they are as tender in their feelings as an infant, and will melt like wax before the flame.  You must not chasten them severely; you must chasten according to the spirit that is in the person.  Some you may talk to all day long, and they do not know what you are talking about.  There is a great variety. Treat people as they are.  6

David O. McKay


Unhappiness in the child’s life, as in the adult life, springs largely from nonconformity to natural and social laws. The best time for the child to learn these rules of conformity is between the ages of three and five.  If the mother does not get control of the child during those ages, she will find great difficulty in getting control later.  7


Harold B. Lee


We are living in a scientific age when some modern mothers have adopted theories of training their children that forbid sharp corrections and stern discipline lest the initiative and personality of the little child be curbed to his own hurt. I have often wondered just who these teachers are who are masters of the techniques of bringing up children in this age of license and indulgence. Are they always successful parents of successful children who are giving us lessons from their own books of life? Constantly before us are magazine articles and editorials urging strong parental authority as a cure for juvenile delinquency and commenting on the claim that the education of parents is the only solution of juvenile delinquency. From one of these editorials is this statement:

“We might as well argue that the ten commandments given to ancient Israel and the measures Moses adopted to compel observance thereof were not necessary, inasmuch as church leaders could have taught the people to behave without the authority of the law. But of this I am certain that unless some action is taken to induce parents to keep their children within the law there is no other point from which to start development of strong character and good citizenship.”

In the meantime, while we are discussing this issue, millions of pampered or neglected youngsters are being apprehended, lectured, mildly disciplined and, as these children apparently believe, “interfered with in asserting their independence and exercising their budding individuality.”

Remember that our grandparents and parents didn’t do such a poor job in raising their children and as the products of their teachings, you and I may think we have not turned out so badly. If they failed it wasn’t because of their discipline in requiring respect for parents and for the rights of other members of the family. It wasn’t because we were assigned daily chores that made us sense the value of teamwork and a feeling of responsibility in the home, and that put a realization of duty to parents and family before selfish desire and personal comfort. Neither was it because they taught us to make work our pleasure and that home entertainments provided most satisfactory diversions, where father and mother joined with son and daughter in a comradeship that invited intimacies of lasting benefit to both parent and child. They failed when constant parental care was lacking and where attendance at church and punctuality at school was not expected. They failed if they did not teach their children to hold sacred the names of our Father in Heaven and his Son and to be reverent in temples of God and places of worship. They failed if the father did not hold his wife in highest esteem before the children or when the mother became a scold or cast insults toward her husband in their presence. Mutual respect of father and mother breeds respect for parental authority in the home. Old-fashioned fathers and mothers who live for and with their children and who value a successful home above clubs or teas or lodges will have the reward of “a wise son” who “maketh a glad father,” instead of “a foolish son” who “is the heaviness of his mother.” [1]


If a father’s love for his sons is strong, and from their infancy he has taken them into his arms in loving embrace and let them feel the warmth of his affection for them, I believe that such comradeship will ripen with maturity and keep them near when a crisis in the boy’s life requires the steadying hand of a father who understands. The mother who awaits with anticipation the return of her daughter from a late dancing party to receive the goodnight kiss, together with treasured confidences expressed at the height of girlish bliss, will be richly rewarded with the daughter’s undying love that will be an eternal bulwark against sin because mother trusts her.

Parents who are too busy or too tired to be troubled with the innocent disturbances of children and push them aside or out of the home for fear of their disturbing the orderliness of immaculate housekeeping may be driving them, because of loneliness, into a society where sin, crimes and infidelity are fostered. What will it profit a father, otherwise worthy of the Celestial Kingdom, if he has lost his son or daughter in sin because of his neglect? All the pleasurable uplift societies in the world, social or religious, will never compensate the mother for the souls lost in her own home while she is trying to save humanity or a cause, no matter how worthy, outside of her home.

Again the Lord himself has spoken plainly about this preparation for the safeguarding of youth from the dangerous pitfalls that would destroy them. He has placed a serious charge upon the homes of this land. Here are his words:

“And again, inasmuch as parents have children in Zion, or in any of her stakes which are organized, that teach them not to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old, the sin be upon the heads of the parents. . . .And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord. And the inhabitants of Zion shall also observe the Sabbath day to keep it holy. And the inhabitants of Zion also shall remember their labors, inasmuch as they are appointed to labor, in all faithfulness; for the idler shall be had in remembrance before the Lord. Now, I, the Lord, am not well pleased with the inhabitants of Zion, for there are idlers among them; and their children are also growing up in wickedness; they also seek not earnestly the riches of eternity, but their eyes are full of greediness. These things ought not to be, and must be done away from among them.” [2]


It is the responsibility of the Church, in the language of the Prophet Joseph Smith, to “teach correct principles.” Parents and youth must learn to govern themselves.

I am writing this to you, the youth of this land, because you are the parents of tomorrow’s youth, and so I invite you to join in the building of a “fence round the edge of the cliff,” by choosing materials for this building from the Church, a heaven-sent institution which the Lord declared was to be for “a defense and for a refuge from the storm and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth.” [3] [4]

  1. Proverbs 10:1
  2. D&C 68:25, 28-32
  3. D&C 115:6
  4. Harold B. Lee, Decisions For Successful Living, p. 64
  1. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 207; Journal of Discourses 19:92
  2. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 207; Journal of Discourses 3:327
  3. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 207; Journal of Discourses 19:221
  4. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 207; Journal of Discourses 3:357
  5. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 206; Journal of Discourses 14:277
  6. Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 150
  7. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, p. 22
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