Parenting is my passion. So, every conference I find myself listening for good parenting counsel from the leaders of the church. In recent years, strengthening the family and building good relationships has been an important conference topic. We live in the last days, when Satan is attacking us where it really matters–in our homes. He encourages us to be selfish and short tempered. He sets our hearts on worldly projects instead of eternal ones. During these difficult social and economic times we can find peace and joy by focusing our best efforts on our eternal family relationships.
Here is what I learned from conference, about parenting, this year:
Sister Jean A. Stevens
Jean A. Stevens told us to learn from the children. She reminded us that children are born good and usually exemplify good characteristics naturally such as humility, compassion, and believing hearts.
We need to trust in that goodness as we parent. If we trust that our children want to do good, then we can stop ourselves from judging their behaviors and actions. When we judge our children harshly it is usually because we are being selfish. A selfish parent cannot change the heart of a disobedient child. Parenting is really about connecting parents and children on a heart to heart level.
Sister Stevens also said we should follow Christ’s example and “Behold [our] little ones.” She explained that to behold means to appreciate, value, care for and teach. She admonished us to really connect with our children. She suggested that many parents don’t pay close attention to this important connection. She quoted M. Russell Ballard as saying, “…notice he [Christ] didn’t say…occasionally take a look in their general direction…see and appreciate them for what they really are; spirit children of our Heavenly Father with divine attributes.”
If our relationships with our children don’t feel connected, we need to put establishing that connection as a high priority. Talk often with your children. Schedule your day with a purpose to connect and share meaningful conversation and experiences. As we deliberately plan to read our child’s heart each day and ask the Lord for help with that, we will make the right opportunities to encourage a relationship, and heart change.
Elder Quentin L. Cook
Elder Cook reminded women of their divine nature and heritage and joint partnership with their husbands in raising and rearing families to be spiritually prepared for these times we live in. He promised women that even though there are many challenges facing women these days, “The Lord helps faithful women.”
I have found this counsel especially helpful in this selfish world. If we can keep our priorities straight and focus our efforts on our eternal purposes and divine natures, the Lord strengthens us and inspires us with the hardest and most rewarding of all callings; being a parent.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks
Elder Oaks taught us that we desire good things and bad things too. And, no matter if we are going toward our good desires or our destructive desires the process is the same. Desires lead to priorities, which lead to choices, which lead to actions. We should “over-ride” our evil desires with our righteous desires.
As Latter Day Saints, we desire to be good parents and have eternal families. This is a righteous desire which is worth working toward. We can set our priorities in line with our desire. Then each day we can make choices which lead us to the appropriate actions to accomplish our desire.
President Thomas S. Monson
President Monson said parents who have willful or spirited children are blessed.
Even though every parent wants an obedient child, some parents are blessed with children who are more difficult. These children have strengths and special gifts which will be the driving force for them to do good instead of bad if nurtured correctly. I know, because I was one of these kinds of children. I gave my parents many of their gray hairs. But, they never gave up on me. They kept loving and teaching me. And now I use my strong spirit and energies to fight for the Lord and His plan and purposes. Love your strong willed children. Teach them how to channel their emotions and energies. Teach them the communication skills they need for family and relationship success.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
Elder Christofferson told us that we are held to high expectations, but that through the atonement and correction we can become perfect. He said we don’t always get what we want and often times, just as bushes, pruning back wild growth is necessary for our spiritual development. He explained how correction is desirable even though it can hurt.
Elder Christofferson instructed us to correct our children and teach them to accept correction as well. He explained that only after learning how to be corrected, and why it is necessary, can a person get to a point where they constantly engage in self-correction, which leads them closer to perfection.
This counsel is drastically needed in today’s society. Many parents have bought into the idea that children will somehow naturally see the right choice and go toward it. And, that whatever a child chooses must be right. I wish this easy parenting method were true, but it is wrong. It seems organic, but in reality is not.
True organic, from the beginning type, parenting requires nourishing and training. Just like a small seed, a child needs nutrients and stability. You give a seed the best nutrients for proper growth just as you give a child truth, virtues, and exposure to goodness in all of its forms to nourish their soul and inspire them to grow spiritually strong.
Small seedling plants cannot weather large storms without stability and support. Children are no different, and these are times of great storms. Just as a gardener surrounds a small tree with sticks and line to keep it growing strong in a storm, our children must also be braced for the rough weather ahead by learning skills in a supportive, structured environment.
Elder Christofferson mentioned the need to correct children. He did not give specifics on how to do this for obvious reasons; each child and his needs are unique and need to always be considered. However, as a mother who has taken a wide variety of troubled youth into my home I would like to offer a suggestion here.
In my book Parenting A House United, I explain an effective way to correct another person: Make sure you are calm, describe what just happened, explain what was wrong about the choice, describe what the right choice would have been and why, explain consequences earned, and practice doing the situation the “right” way.
Elder Christofferson also mentioned teaching our children to accept correction. This is one of the Four Basic life skills all people should learn for relationship success and happiness. Think for a moment about how many people you know who can’t accept the fact that they have done anything wrong. This is a serious character flaw. Unless a person can admit they’re wrong, they are not able to progress.
It’s one thing to give your child correction and a consequence when they have done something wrong, but it is another entirely to not even allow your child to have the opportunity to begin their consequence unless they have chosen to accept their consequence.
We noticed early on, with the difficult foster youth placed in our home, that consequences did no good unless the person’s heart was in the right place and ready to accept the consequence and talk about what should have happened first.
- Look at the person
- Keep a calm voice, face, and body
- Say “okay” or ask to disagree appropriately
- Follow through with the earned consequence
- Drop the subject
When a person learns these five steps and puts them into practice they are happier, have better relationships, and are on the path to self-correction, which is part of self-government.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins
Elder Robbins asked us a very important question. “To be, or not to be?” or “What manner of men and women ought ye to be?” He explained that “being” is inseparably connected with “doing.”
As parents, we should “be” the kind of person we want our children to act like. If we are the example of what is right instead of just a voice calling things out, we will inspire them to live the way we do. If we live by the spirit and parent by the spirit, then our children will learn to live the same way and govern their relationships likewise.
What does it really mean to be a parent? We need to ask ourselves this question. What kind of person does the Lord intend us to be? What changes do we need to make to become this person?
Hypocrisy is an easy block to stumble over. Talk is quicker than action and takes less will power. However, hypocrisy is a dangerous scene for an innocent child to see. Our inconsistent behaviors and words can teach our children manipulation instead of integrity; selfishness instead of charity, and instability instead of security.
When we know what we want to “be” and then we act upon that plan we have the power to inspire our children to live virtuous, purpose-filled lives as well.
For many parents this requires constant re-focus through scripture and prayer, and daily repentance. Repentance is strength. As we beg for forgiveness and recommit daily we can have the Spirit with us and can also be a knowledgeable voice for inspiring our children to repent too.
Elder Cecil O. Samuelson
Elder Samuelson admonished us to teach our children to repent.
How do children learn to repent? They follow the example and counsel of their parents. As we repent and improve our Spirits, so will our children.
Elder Richard J. Maynes
Elder Maynes told us our eternal families are under attack!
This is true. We all see this battle inside and outside of our homes each day. We see Satan try to get through our doors and into our electronic devices to tempt and try our family members. We see selfishness and lack of priorities. Our families are at war. We are battling in the greatest, and oldest, battle of all time; the battle between right and wrong, good and bad and true and false.
Even though we know which side will win, the fight can still be discouraging at times. Don’t give up. Start by looking at yourself and choose what you can do each day to improve your spirit and family relationships, then begin teaching your children to do the same.
We can change ourselves. It is our right and our power. The same goes for our children. As we live by the words of our inspired church leaders we will find happiness and success in our family relationships during these hard times.
I don’t know about you, but as a parent, I need all the good counsel I can get during these times. And, this past Conference was definitely filled with meaningful counsel for me.
Buy Nicholeen’s Book, Parenting A House United