This is the first of a five part series on Spiritual Solutions for LDS Parents.
Everyday Parenting Problems
How would you like to find a parenting solution that could help, really help, with the following parenting challenges:
- Peer Pressure
- Bad-influence Friends
- Rudeness and disrespect
- Sibling rivalry and jealousy
- Feeling left out or insecure
- Acting out
Well guess what? The best answer or solution is not some parenting method or technique developed by a behavioral scientist somewhere. The best and most lasting solution is a principle—a truth from the restoration that helps both us as parents and our kids to have the kind of understanding and insight which helps them avoid these problems as much as possible and to overcome them when they present themselves.
The first spiritual solution for our parenting challenges is simply to Remember Who our Children really are, and to help them remember too.
The Third Variable
Have you heard the story of the boy who came home from school on report card day and sheepishly handed his not so good marks to his father?
The dad studied the document, and color started rising up his face. But before he could say anything, the boy, with an artful shrug of his shoulders and a palms-up gesture of dismay, said:
“Gee Dad, what do you think it could be, environment or heredity?”
The question for us parents is, “How did our kids become who they are? Where did they get their personalities and their propensities? Why is it so hard to change them?
The world has only two answers: As the boy said, “heredity and environment.” Genetics and training. Nature and nurture.
The problem with that binary answer is that it doesn’t explain the differences. Two siblings from the same gene pool, raised in the same home, yet different in almost every way. Even twins. And it drives parents to distraction. Just when we think we have one child figured out (“I’m all practiced up now for the next one”) along comes another one with whom nothing works the same!
Is there another, third variable? We know the answer of course, and it is a huge one, probably more consequential than either of the other two. The biggest variable is eternity! The missing piece in the puzzle is the pre-mortal life where each of our children began their journey and became who they are.
A Brief Fable in which You are the Adoptive Parent
Imagine that you were given the opportunity to adopt a child.
It was not a child of poverty or an orphan or a child needing help because she came from a dangerous or dysfunctional home.
Just the contrary. This child is the daughter of the King. He wants her adopted because he wants her to experience “real life” in a home where she will experience all kinds of good things and bad things, all of the challenges and choices that will test her and cause her to progress and grow. In the King’s own home things are too easy and she did not face the opposition or the struggles that could help her prove herself and discover the deeper parts of herself.
And you are chosen to be the adoptive parent. You are overwhelmed by the honor, and humbled by the responsibility.
You view the child as your first priority, you work at making her life full and real, you love her deeply and unconditionally, and you speak often to the King as you seek to know her better and to give her what the King would want her to have.
Do you see the elements of truth in this fable? Can we remember that our children are actually the children of the King?
Helping Kids know more about their Spiritual Selves
It’s not just about us knowing more about our kids, it’s about helping them to know more about their own spiritual selves
I used to think I was the only boy who had a mother who, every time I left the house, and I do mean every time, would yell at me “Remember who you are!” I have since learned that it is quite a common parting shot among parents, including Teddy Roosevelt’s mother.
It means a lot of good things, like uphold the family name, make me proud, don’t do anything stupid, be careful, think, etc. But have you thought what it means in the eternal context? Remember who you really are….a child of God, a spiritual being having a mortal experience, a person who has taken upon himself the name of Christ, a Priesthood holder, etc.
And we want our children to remember those things not just so they will behave better, but so they will feel more self worth, treat their body with respect, make good choices, be kind to others, protect themselves and their standards. We could give them continual lectures on all these points, but maybe the best way to say it really is “Remember who you are.”
But to maximize the meaning of that admonition, we have to talk about it. Find ways to communicate with your children about who they are spiritually. A family home evening would be a perfect forum for this.
One good way to get it across is a game that can be played with almost any age. It’s played by simply making a list of every correct answer you can think of to the question “Who are you?” A player can start with his name, and can say things like “a sixth grader” or “a swimmer”, but as the list builds, the most important answers, the spiritual ones, will make their appearance. The second step in the game is to circle the spiritual answers, which will lead to some kind of a discussion of them, especially if you ask the right questions…. “How many people on the earth know that answer?” “How important is that answer?” “How does knowing that make you feel about yourself?”
The Principle is the Solution
By working hard to remember within ourselves who our children really are; and by trying hard to teach them and help them internalize the same truth, we are, in fact, helping to solve all of the problems listed at the first of this article.
- Peer Pressure: Doing what God wants emerges as more important than what friends say or think.
- Bullying: Your child will be less likely to participate in it and more capable of handling it if it happens to him.
- Bad-influence friends: The feeling of knowing who they are makes children feel secure enough to influence more than they are influenced.
- Rudeness and disrespect: Understanding our relationship to God makes us love each other more and disrespect each other less.
- Sibling rivalry and jealousy: Grasping that we each have unique gifts, and that God loves us all equally makes us less resentful and competitive with others in our own family.
- Feeling left out or insecure: Thinking of self as an eternal child of God makes cliques seem less important.
- Acting out: From drugs to pornography and sexual experimentation, a higher opinion of self makes kids less attracted and less tempted.
May we all look to what we know spiritually because in that restored knowledge we will find the best parenting advice that exists anywhere.
Join us next week for installment two in this series which has to do with the spiritual solution of emulating the way that Heavenly Father parents us.
Richard and Linda Eyre are the parents of nine children and, by coincidence, the authors of nine best selling international parenting books. They are frequent media guests and have appeared on shows like Oprah, Prime Time Live, and The Today Show. Their mission statement, developed while presiding over the England London South Mission, is FORTIFY FAMILIES by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, validating values, and bolstering balance. Their new book, now available in bookstores and on line at deseretbook.com is 5 Spiritual Solutions to Everyday Parenting Challenges. They have written extensively for Meridian over the last five years. Visit the Eyres anytime at valuesparenting.com or joyschools.com