What would make the world a better place? Some might seek a political answer. But my answer would be GOOD PARENTING. “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world” (William Ross Wallace). This “hand” includes both parents. Children need mothers whose highest priority is to be in the home fulltime (if at all possible) to teach, train, and lovingly minister to their young ones. Children need fathers who assume their divine stewardship to provide the necessities of life and teach their children correct principles. As parents provide a loving home environment, children will thrive and grow. The Lord has commanded parents to “bring up [their] children in light and truth” (D&C 93:40). This includes teaching them to understand the doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. “Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, to teach them to love and serve one another, to observe the commandments of God and to be law-abiding citizens wherever they live” (https://www.lds.org/topics/family-proclamation?lang=eng).
When parenting our teenagers I used to ask myself: Am I doing enough to prepare them for the challenges ahead? Is our family prayer and scripture study making a difference, when their body language doesn’t always evidence it? Am I loving them unconditionally, teaching them effectively, laughing with them agreeably, and modeling behavior commendably? Consider this example of how our efforts really DO make a difference, even when we can’t measure them immediately from external cues. “People are like hyacinth bulbs. All we can do is make a good place for them to grow, but each person is responsible for doing his own growing in his own time” (Torey Hayden). Sometimes growth is a very silent thing, like what happens when we store hyacinth bulbs in the refrigerator waiting for the planting season. It doesn’t look like growth is taking place at all. Our children are like that. We can’t always tell growth is happening, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t. In fact, providing a milieu of respect, love, and learning in the home is the perfect soil for development. Silent, imperceptible growth is taking place deep inside which will one day unfold into lovely blossoms. Our children will learn from what they see in the examples around them, how much they feel our love, what they hear, and what they experience as we teach and model correct principles.
“Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” (Isaiah 51:1). What does this mean to you? When I think of the word, “hewn” I think of a statue emerging from a block of beautiful marble after the master artisan has laboriously chipped away with sharp tools to create a likeness. Along with all of God’s children, I am “hewn” from divine parentage as a beloved child of God. He is shaping me to be in His likeness. The word “Rock” is often used in the scriptures to represent the Savior Jesus Christ. He is what I strive to become. I have taken upon myself His holy name in covenant, and have pledged to always remember Him. In another respect, I am also “hewn” from beloved earthly parents and ancestors. I want to carry on their legacy of courage and faith. I live in a confused world when it comes to identity. Many people look to find themselves in the wrong places. The right place to find one’s real identity is from God, as His beloved child. Real identity comes from recognizing our divine heritage and purpose. These words from a favorite child’s hymn relate to adults as well: “I am a child of God, and He has sent me here. Has given me an earthly home with parents kind and dear. Lead me, guide me, walk beside me; help me find the way. Teach me all that I must do, to live with Him someday.” Isaiah’s words, “Look unto the rock from whence ye are hewn” remind me of who I am and whose I am.
We were standing in the wind, rain, and cold at the end of a long queue to tour the Payson Temple open house on the busiest of days. Three teenage girls in front of us were shivering in short sleeves and bare legs—jumping up and down to generate heat. Finally, one girl said to her friends, “Ok, guys—enough of acting wimpy. We’ve gotta be tough. We can do this!” It made me smile—because I think she had heard these words many times before. Good parents teach their children to do hard things. They teach them to work, to endure, and to be “tough.” In this context, “tough” means to weather the storm instead of quitting. It means—no whimpering allowed! But how do parents teach this important skill when it’s our natural instinct to swoop down and pluck a child from distress? It’s a delicate balance to minister compassion while giving challenging responsibilities and accountability. A child will gain confidence when a parent says, “You can do this!” instead of rescuing. Does the Savior rescue us from every distress? No. He allows us to grow as we push through hard things, although He guides us to the finish line. He cheers us on and enables us to do what we could not do on our own. When our children were young, we gave them tasks to perform. If they complained—another task was immediately added, without scolding. Lessons were learned quickly this way. I want to be able to say these words at the end of each day: “I have fought a good fight; I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7).
Our main role as parents is to teach our children. But how do we teach them most effectively? We know the lecture format doesn’t work very well. Our monologues are tuned out as we drone on and on. During His mortal sojourn, Jesus Christ modeled for parents, many instructive methods, such as teaching as He went—walking and talking along the way. When my children were young, we spent lots of time in the car driving to lessons, sports events, and youth activities. In an era before electronic devices, imagine this—WE TALKED! Time in the car provided opportunities to share experiences and what we learned from them. We discussed struggles and brainstormed solutions. We laughed over humorous or embarrassing moments in school. We told each other details about our day. We shared goals and dreams and anecdotes. These exchanges also happened while we worked side by side at home—washing dishes, weeding the garden, painting a room. Subtle teaching happened as we went through an ordinary day. And relationships were strengthened. Little seeds of insight and counsel slipped unperceived into fertile soil. Snatching priceless in- between moments to subtly teach values to our children can provide the seedbed of great lessons remembered and lived.
I’m collecting an idea bank of ways to reach out in kindness to others. Here is a list of kindnesses that others have offered to me that I really appreciate: Receiving an unexpected thank-you card or text. Making me feel welcome in a group of strangers. Giving me eye contact while I speak. Carving out time for me when schedules are busy. Praying for me. Telling me the truth when it isn’t easy. Anticipating my need and stepping in to help when I couldn’t ask. Showing me a beautiful sunset that I didn’t notice. Remembering my name. Teaching me a new skill. Forgiving me. Kidnapping me and taking me to lunch. Listening to my problems with empathy. Sharing an uplifting thought that resonates in my soul. Showing me a better way by a shining example. Sharing a good book. Encouraging me when I think I can’t. Giving a heartfelt hug. Helping me see something good in myself. Remembering my birthday. Laughing with me. Dismissing my faults and focusing on my best.
Can you share some meaningful kindnesses that you especially appreciate?
Here is an important question to ask ourselves as parents: What behaviors in our children evoke our greatest applause? For example, do we exult when they exhibit integrity as much as when they win a game of sports? Do we rave over quiet acts of kindness as much as we compliment clothes or physical appearance? Do we praise humility and unselfishness as much as we celebrate certificates and awards? Do we respond with swelling pride over their teachable attitudes and hard work as much as we reward final grades? Our children observe with keen eyes those things we value most. They see our eyes light up. We don’t have to say a word. Here is an example. As a young child, I remember distinctly one summer evening being tucked into bed before it was completely dark. In response to my mild protest, my father began explaining the earth’s rotation, raising objects in the air representing earth, sun, and moon. I asked, “Why don’t things fall off the earth when it is upside down?” He gasped with delight—and exclaimed, “Lois, that is an EXCELLENT question! You are really thinking!” I was shocked but absolutely thrilled at his animated response to such a simple question. I recognized that he valued good questions as a reflection of deeper thinking. It gave me confidence to think deeper, wonder more, ask more, as our sweet relationship developed over the years.
- What things evoke your most enthusiastic response? What values are you teaching this way?