This is the second in a five-part series.
Another List of Common Parenting Problems
In our last article we focused on a group of parenting challenges that are solved partly by remembering that our children are our spiritual brothers and sisters.
This time we turn our attention to a different list of commonly faced parenting challenges (or should we say common difficulties or problems that kids have.)
- Whining and complaining
- Being spoiled by Grandparents
- Guilt and Secrecy
- Bad choices and wrong decisions
Rather than doing nothing about these, and rather than relying on parenting methods and techniques suggested by various gurus or behavioral scientists, how about paying better attention to what we know about how God parents us!
Following the Example of the Real Father
While other religions may call God “Father” as a term of respect or a way of subjugating themselves to Him, we have a very different reason and a much more literal meaning when we say “Heavenly Father.”
We mean it exactly literally. He is the Father of our spirits. We were born as His spirit children and lived in His family before this world was.
And what a treasure of parenting truth we have in the way that our Heavenly Father has parented us and continues to parents us!
One of the real tragedies in the world is that bad parenting and the abuse and belittlement of children passes down from one generation of parents to the next. Scripture hints at that when it says that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children for generations, and depicts how the “traditions of the Fathers” can drag families down for hundreds of years.
There are certain parts of the third world where we love to go for many reasons, and yet at the same time hate to go it is an accepted and common part of their culture to hit children. It is the only form of discipline they know and the accepted way to show disapproval. In other cultures excessive entitlement and leniency are nearly as big of an opposite problem.
The fact is that most parents perform their parenting pretty much like their parents did, and thus a parent who changes and really turns away from the bad methods and child-damaging patterns of many generations is a true hero and may start a new and better parenting pattern that will flow down through his posterity.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the patterns we pick up and the methods and examples of parenting that we follow could be those of our Heavenly Father? If we can emulate how He raises us we will become the best parents we can be, and it will cause our children to be the best–and the happiest–that they can be.
Of course none of us will measure up to the perfection of God’s parenting, and you may wonder if we should even make the comparison. It can be daunting, even discouraging to try to follow a perfect model.
But here’s the thing: When we try, He will help! Any time we look to a mentor or model ourselves after someone we admire, that mentor does what he can to help us. How true, in the extreme, this can be when we view God himself as our ideal and work consciously to know and to follow His wise and complete example. Perhaps when we are earnestly trying and yet still fall short, He will lift us up and pull us along toward Him.
Examining how God Parents
So here is a list of some of the things we know about how God, our Heavenly Father parents us.
- Complete, unconditional love. We know that God has a deep and unconditional love for each of us and that His love is individual rather than collective.
- God sees (and treats) each child as a unique and eternal individual. He knows each of us perfectly and loves the uniqueness that makes us each who we are.
- God gives clear, simple laws with well-announced consequences, rewards, and punishments. Our Heavenly Father has never been subtle or ambiguous about His rules. He wrote them in stone.
- God allows His children the chance to repent. Heavenly Father wants none of us to fail. His laws are not negotiable, and He knows we will fall short, so there is a provision for repentance.
- God taught us and trained us and held us close throughout the pre-mortal life; and then He gave us choices and let us go. God, in His marvelous model for parenting, held us close, kept us with Him in his home, and taught us all He could for eons. And then, when further progress required the responsibility, choice-making, independence and families-of-our-own that could not happen in His presence, He gave us our agency and let us go.
- God allows us constant availability to Him through prayer, and suggests regular communication. With God, there are certain set times when we anticipate spiritual communication–when we partake of the sacrament, when we kneel in family prayer, when we have our personal bedtime prayers. These are like set appointments for spiritual meetings that will keep us in tune and in touch.
- God finds joy in his children and in His relationship with them.
God’s “glory” is the progress and eternal lives of His children, and “joy” is the purpose for which He made mortality. We know that he takes joy in our progress, in our learning, and in His individual relationship with each of us.
Thinking about and Applying the Example
Now, with these models in our minds, we can revisit our initial list of common problems and begin to think about how following Divine parenting patterns might impact them.
The more we dwell on Heavenly Father’s example, the better parents we will become and the more our “natural man” reactions will be replaced by the proactive and deliberate parenting methods of God.
Problem List, Revisited
- Entitlement: Having what we want, when we want it, and thinking everything is owed to us was never part of God’s plan for us, nor should it be part of ours for our kids.
- Laziness: Heavenly Father’s approach leaves no room for idleness. Neither should ours
- Dishonesty: The reward for truth must always be greater than the punishment for the deed one has confessed.
- Whining and complaining: They happen more in situations of compulsion than when there is agency and choice
- Being spoiled by Grandparents: Get your parents to buy into your responsibility-giving approach so they don’t become an easier way for kids to get what they want.
- Guilt and secrecy: Children who commit to and are rewarded for truth, and who understand how to repent will not carry around the guilt and secrets that undermine their happiness
- Bad choices: Knowing God’s pattern for making good decisions can trump the peer pressure that is responsible for most bad ones.
Of course nothing is easy, but at least we have a pattern to follow and a perfect example to emulate!
Tune in next article when we will explore the third spiritual solution, that of special, parent-to-Parent prayer
The Eyres recently released new book is 5 Spiritual Solutions for Everyday Parenting Challenges. They are the founders of Joy Schools and of valuesparenting.
com and the authors of numerous best-selling books on marriage, parenting and family.
Their mission statement, developed while presiding over the England London South Mission, is FORTIFY FAMILIES by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, bolstering balance, and validating values.
This article is the second in a series of five on Spiritual Solutions for the Family. The preceding article can be read here. The next three articles will appear over the next few weeks.