When you really stop to think about it, you are incredibly lucky to be able to choose which way you want to parent your children, and which standards you want to follow. It really wouldn’t be that difficult for nosey lawmakers to interfere with us telling our children which music they can and cannot listen to, or what kinds of clothing styles are appropriate for our homes.

Until last week I never realized how quickly I could lose the power God gave me to be a good parent to my children and be replaced by a government institution.

Unhappy Teenagers

Every year my children look forward to attending a week-long simulation camp where they have mock constitutional conventions, simulated legislature meetings, and fabricated scenarios which call for really motivating art, music or scientific inventions to be created.

On the first night of the simulation I met a few youth who were excited to meet me for very unique reasons. Apparently, the parents of these youth had bought my book, Parenting A House United, and had been implementing the principles in the book. The youth had heard my name and had attached some very negative feelings to it.

The Family Standard

In the book I have a section called The Family Standard, which talks about making a family document detailing the family’s dress standards, vocabulary standards, internet standards, media standards, and so on. In this section I also give an example of the Peck Family Standard, which is our personal document, which is based on the standards in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet.

Our family realized that the pamphlet was inspired and was meant to be a great asset to all people in these last days, but we also saw that many LDS families still seem to struggle with the standards in the pamphlet because the youth don’t really own the standards as their own. We knew that if our children could feel ownership of a document that outlined our family’s standards, then they would be more likely to adhere to the high standards we felt were necessary for keeping the Spirit in the home.

We instituted this document before we started doing foster care for difficult teens eleven years ago. We knew these teens would come from a variety of backgrounds and that we would need a way to keep the standards we upheld in our home no matter what background they came from. The Family Standard was born.

Before we taught the new teens the family standard we taught them the Four Basic Skills so that they could be ready to say okay to the changes. One of the four basic skills is learning how to accept a “no” answer. After that skill was learned, we moved on to the Family Standard, and the teens were prepared to say okay when the Family Standard said “no” to some object or habit they had become attached to.

This started us off in the right direction. We didn’t have to keep worrying about secular, and sometimes even evil, distractions to the great changes of heart we were encouraging the teens to have in our home.

Passing a Law

Well, back to the simulation week. The parents of some of the youth attending the simulation week had already started using a Family Standard in their homes and some of the youth were having a hard time adjusting to the changes.

One youth said with a big smile, “Sister Peck, you are ruining my whole life. I can’t get away with anything anymore. Can I have your autograph?” Sweet girl!

Another youth came to meet me and said, “Sister Peck, you are ruining everything. There are so many things I used to do that I can’t do now. I used to be able to go into my room, blare my tunes and drink my Mountain Dew without being bothered for like a whole day. Now I don’t get any of that stuff.”

I looked at this kind fifteen-year-old boy and said, “I know it seems hard to make changes, but these kinds of changes are good. When you were in your room like that, were you very connected to your family? Do you think your family felt very connected to you?”

He looked down for a minute and then said, “No, but is it so bad that I don’t really want to be with them all the time? Is isolation so bad?”

I said, “Oh, you don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know how great it can be to think of your family and play with your family instead of always thinking of yourself and entertaining yourself.

I know it’s hard, but if you go into it with a good attitude then you will allow yourself to feel a happiness you will never want to give up. You can do it.”

We parted after that, but I would meet this boy again on Capitol Hill a few days later. He was in the simulation where he spent the week being part of a mock Utah State Legislature. All of the youth in the simulation were required to come up with bills to try to pass into Utah state law.

On day two of the simulation I found out that this boy and a few other youth who were reluctant to make changes at home for the better made a bill to ban people like me, parenting instructors, from the state of Utah. Actually, I think the bill was specifically directed toward me.

By day three the bill was getting supporters and had created a large stir in the mock Legislature. On the evening of day three I was asked if I would come to the Utah State Legislature Room to witness the proceedings regarding the bill the next day. I couldn’t resist, so of course I consented.

On Capitol Hill

It was amazing to see these youth pretend to know what proper parenting should be. They were advocating for “children who complained about the way their parents parented them” and did it under the “right to free speech, and the right to happiness.”

The bill was discussed and questioned by the mock Legislature made up of twelve- to eighteen-year-olds for an hour and a half before it was finally time for anyone in the room to add their testimonial.

A few parents took the microphone and expressed concern about their children’s welfare if they were not allowed to make standards and if they were not able to learn from parenting professionals. The children were unmoved.

Then it was my turn to address the young state officials. I proceeded to tell them that I was happy they were fighting for freedom of speech and freedom of happiness because that was exactly what I was fighting for too. I told them the whole reason I teach parents how to teach their children self-government was because I know that angry, frustrated, emotional people are not happy. I told them getting what you desire doesn’t make you happy – good relationships make you happy -, so if they destroyed their relationships in favor of trends or “stuff,” then they would never be happy.

I went on to say that only with freedom of speech could a person also have freedom of happiness. I told them that angry, frustrated, attitude problem speech was not free because it was purely emotion-driven. Our emotions only erupt when we are so bound inside that there is no more room for the emotions.

I told them that Samuel Smiles said, “We should be free from wrathful sentiment.” And if free happens when we don’t have wrath, then bondage must happen when we do. The children were listening.

I went on to speak about George Orwell’s book Animal Farm, and how the animals kicked out the proper organization and burned all the farming tools only to find life very difficult and miserable. Life without parents who live by certain standards and govern by certain principles is the same as kicking the leader out and burning the governing principles of the home.

Finally, it was time for the final vote. The bill to throw parenting instructors out of the state of Utah was shot down. Even some of the people sponsoring the bill decided to vote against it in the end. They realized it was ridiculous to keep parents ignorant of ways to improve their families and that Family Standards were good.

Some of the youth came to me and said that they knew it would be hard to make the changes, but that it would be worth it if they became freer. A few of the youth still didn’t want to change the way they used to have it, but over time they will see the wisdom in what their parents are doing. They will have to, or life will never be free for them.

A Peculiar People

Well, it was a close call for all good parents trying to live by socially peculiar standards, but we won by a majority vote and are still free to be a peculiar people. Go ahead make a Family Standard.

The sooner you do, the easier it is for the family to adjust to the difference and the more time you have to feel the increased Spirit of love in your home.

For more free parenting advice visit Nicholeen’s blog

Watch the Peck Family on the BBC