Editor’s Note: New York Times #1 Bestselling Authors Richard and Linda Eyre join forces with their daughter Saydi (an “in the trenches” mother of four young children whose contributions to this article are in blue) to produce this series on the why-tos and the how-tos of receiving the Direct-Stewardship inspiration, guidance, and revelation we need to create strong and righteous families in this difficult world. This is article 9 in a multi-part weekly series which will run here in Meridian every Tuesday. (Click here to read article 1, here to read article 2, here to read article 3, here to read article 4, here to read article 5, here to read article 6, here to read article 7, and here to read article 8.
In today’s turbulent world, and with the challenge of home centered Gospel teaching, parents and grandparents need personal family revelation more than ever before. And since every home situation is unique, this is not a series on what to do generally—it is on how to get divine answers for your family specifically. The series continues today in the midst of the current Pandemic, with the thought that we may all have more need for Family Revelation now than ever before.
Understanding That We All Can Build Strong Families, and that the Church is our Scaffolding and its Doctrine our Eternal Motivation
Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.
—President Russell M. Nelson
“None of us are entitled to revelation without effort on our part. Answers from God don’t just magically appear. If we want to grow spiritually,the Lord expects us to ask questions and seek answers.”
― Sheri Dew, Worth the Wrestle
Even after we understand how to seek and receive Family Revelation, and even while we are working to overcome the obstacles that might block it, we still have to learn to create the Home Centered environment in which Family Revelation can be implemented
What a time we live in! The Gospel has been restored, complete with our Heavenly Parents’ family-centered Plan of Salvation or Plan of Happiness. And now Their very Church is realigning itself to center more in the home and to support parents in teaching their own children and raising them to be believing contributors in Their Kingdom.
But it is also a time of incredible challenge for parents, even a time of fear, because many of us are not sure we are up to the challenge of being our children’s prime Gospel teachers and of knowing how to guide them in these perilous times of materialism, entitlement, and faith crisis.
It’s tempting to want God to give us a simple magical checklist that, if completed, would ensure our kids end up with a solid testimony of everything that would bring them eternal happiness.
And we sometimes just wish the Church would teach our children for us, to give them testimonies, and to tell us exactly what we need to do to assist.
But that’s not how it works, not today anyway. When President Nelson says the Gospel is “Home Centered, Church Supported” he is re-focusing us on the fact that we have the direct stewardship of our children and our marriages and even our extended families—that our homes are our responsibility, not the Church’s, and that the Church supports us in teaching the Gospel, not the other way around.
And that scares us! Because there has never been a more challenging time to create strong marriage partnerships and teach our children the Gospel effectively enough to navigate them through an ever more complex world. The central challenge of our lives is to build strong families.
Are we up to that challenge?
The simple answer is No, we are not. Not on our own at least. We need help. Not just from the guidance and support of the Church, but from the direct inspiration of God. We need personal Family Revelation more than any other parents of any other time. And we need it not just for our parenting, but for our marriages.
Implementing “Home Centered” and Accepting “Church Supported”
Home Centered means not just learning and teaching the Gospel, but deliberately building a Christ-Centered Home that becomes a strong enough culture that it supersedes and has greater influence than the peer culture, the social media culture, the celebrity culture, the material culture and all the other cultures that swirl around us and around our children. This requires the establishing of a “home infrastructure” of family goals, family laws, family traditions and rituals, and a family economy of shared responsibility; and the development of spiritual skills and ever-growing capacity to seek and receive Family Revelation.
Church Supported means more than providing manuals and lessons and classes. The Church provides the doctrinal knowledge and the Plan of Salvation and Exaltation that helps us see the big picture and gives us an eternal framework for our own goals—and the motivation to pursue those goals and make right choices and prioritize the right things.
Even after we understand how to seek and receive Family Revelation, and even while we are working to overcome the obstacles that might block it, we still have to learn to create the Home Centered environment in which Family Revelation can be implemented, and actively accept the Church Supported atmosphere of the Church, and grasp the doctrines of eternity that will keep us motivated.
When President Nelson announced and explained the “Home Centered, Church Supported” it was not a new program but a powerful re-emphasis of an eternal truth. The Church has always put families as the top priority and our doctrine dictates that God’s government is familial and that His kingdom is one of eternal life and eternal lives. But now—with the great and visible re-emphasis of family and the shifting of responsibility and Gospel teaching from Church to family—is a great time to re-examine ourselves and to find new ways to be more effective and more deliberate and more proactive in doing all the Home Centered things that will bring more peace to our hearts and more joy to our families.
While he called it an “adjustment,” it is clear that President Nelson was creating a new paradigm when he said, “It is time for a home-centered Church, supported by what takes place inside our branch, ward, and stake buildings.” Opening remarks October, 2018
Has there ever been a timelier message? Little did we know that is sixteen months we would not be meeting in our branch, ward and stake buildings at all, and would be teaching the Gospel every Sunday in our homes. Would we have been anywhere near as prepared to do this but for our Prophet’s prophetic message?
Elder Cook, immediately following the Prophet, reaffirmed the home as the prime place of Gospel teaching, “…scriptures make it clear that parents have the primary responsibility to teach the doctrine to their children.2 It is the responsibility of the Church to assist…” October Conference, 2018
Elder Bednar made the challenge to teach the Gospel in our homes even more specific when he said
The ultimate missionary training center is in our homes; secondary missionary training centers are located in Provo, Manila, Mexico City, and in other locations. Our most instructive Sunday School classes should be our individual and family study in our places of residence; helpful but secondary Sunday School classes are held in our meetinghouses.
Family history centers now are in our homes. Supplemental support for our family history research work also is available in our meetinghouses.
Vital temple preparation classes occur in our homes; important but secondary temple preparation classes also may be conducted periodically in our meetinghouses. April conference: Prepared to Obtain Every Needful Thing
A paradigm is a framework or a way in which we see the world. To a large degree, President Nelson reminded us of how our world and our framework should look when he repositioned the Church as our support mechanism and put our families and individual homes at the center of Gospel teaching. “Home Centered, Church Supported” is a call to action for all Church members, and a call to new perspectives, new priorities, and new plans for how we will fulfill this beautiful new opportunity.
Understand that Family Revelation is more valuable than “Expert Advice” and that Divine Guidance helps far more than Parenting methods or techniques.
Yes, we write parenting books, and yes, sometimes some experience and tried-and-proven methods can be helpful, but again, your children and your situation is unique, and we all have to be careful of one-size-fits-all advice. We hate being called “parenting experts” because the only expert on a particular child is that child’s parent. (also, as was once pointed out to us, an “ex” is a has been, and a “spurt” is a drip under pressure.). We would much rather be thought of as “fellow strugglers” and to put our faith in individually acquired, tailor-made Family Revelation from God.
One mom sent us this account:
I was a young mother of 5 and my oldest was 9 and my youngest was just a few months old. We had recently moved for Matt’s work which was so demanding that I was basically a single mom most of the time. My two-year-old was unlike my first three children. He was happy and fun and kept our house feeling alive, but he also was into everything, didn’t take no for an answer, destroyed anything he touched, could figure anything out, and life needed to be on his terms. No matter what style of parenting I tried, nothing seemed to reach him. Dealing with him along with a new baby, new area, a husband that traveled all the time, and three older children with school, homework, sports etc. left me feeling completely depleted. I was exhausted. Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a mom. I wasn’t wishing it away, I was just tired and felt like I had no idea how to parent my two-year-old. Something had to change or either I or my two year old was not going to make it. I loaded the kids in the car and went to Barnes and Noble. I got every book sold on how to raise a strong willed/difficult child. I am sure I was a sight to see as I hoisted all ten parenting books up on the counter with 5 kids in tow, but I didn’t care. I needed help.
I read every one of those books. I tried everything they said. There was no improvement. The next time my husband walked through the door, tears just spilled out of my eyes. I had always felt so confident as a mother, but my two-year-old was slowly stripping that away from me. I told Matt that all of those authors were wrong and that none of their “theories” worked. I was frustrated and swore I would never read another parenting book again.
Matt held me in his arms and listened to my woes. He offered to give me a blessing. Up until this point I really hadn’t had to rely on my Father in Heaven for parenting advice. My older three were just good kids and I didn’t have any teenagers yet. Life was still pretty simple for all of them. But my two-year-old, who I had a love/hate relationship with, had humbled me. This blessing quite honestly changed my life. I don’t remember the whole blessing but I do remember what the Lord said directly to my heart. “Allyson, remember that I knew Tyler before you knew Tyler. I can teach you how to raise him. I know the best way for you to parent him.” In that moment tears filled my eyes as I remembered all those books I had bought and all of that time I had spent reading everybody else’s theories. What I really should have been doing was going to my Father in Heaven, who knew perfectly how to help me raise Tyler. My prayers were different after that as I sought true revelation for my child and for my parenting. The answers came and I understood that I had been parenting him the exact opposite way than what my Father in heaven revealed to me. I changed. I asked for and followed the Family Revelation I received. Within a few weeks Tyler was a different kid. He is now an amazing 15-year-old boy and one of my best buddies. I think of that experience often when I look at him and think about how different our relationship would now be without the gift of revelation.
Seeking the Lord’s counsel and listening to his gentle promptings for my children has been the greatest blessing in my life. Receiving advice from friends, family members, and books are all good things, but none of those should come before the counsel we receive from our Father in heaven. Taking time to go to the Lord and to plead for his help brings peace and direction in an unparalleled way. My kids are not perfect. Matt and I are not perfect. We make a lot of mistakes, but personal revelation and yoking ourselves with the Savior has made it so much easier.
Home Centered: Teaching the Gospel in Your Home
The first part of becoming Home Centered is to learn how to effectively teach the Gospel in our homes. Here the “Church Supported” part of the formula is available and obvious through the Come Follow Me curriculum, but it is the Home Centered part that must implement it and put it into practice.
President Nelson said, “The new home-centered, Church-supported integrated curriculum has the potential to unleash the power of families, as each family follows through conscientiously and carefully to transform their home into a sanctuary of faith.” Becoming Exemplary Latter Day Saints Oct. 2018
And he went on, “I promise that as you diligently work to remodel your home into a center of gospel learning, over time your Sabbath days will truly be a delight. Your children will be excited to learn and to live the Savior’s teachings, and the influence of the adversary in your life and in your home will decrease. Changes in your family will be dramatic and sustaining.”
These are remarkable promises. The Prophet used words like “unleash the power” and “dramatic and sustaining.” The promises included children who are excited to learn of Christ and a decrease in the adversary’s influence, and even that our homes can become sanctuaries and our Sabbath days a delight.
Who would not want these promises and blessings for their family? But of course, like all great promises, their fulfillment requires diligent work, and the discipline to stay with it even when the initial results are not quick or easy.
Making it work
Right after President Nelson’s paradigm-shifting “Home Centered, Church Supported” announcement, all of us were looking forward with great anticipation and many questions about how the new 2-hour block would work on Sundays and how we would use the Come Follow Me manual in our homes.
The Church provides the outline and basic structure in the Come Follow Me guide, but as parents we need to become better teachers and motivators and learn how to get our children invested and personally committed to participate actively and to pursue personal goals of Gospel understanding and implementation.
We need to become more skilled not only at applying scriptures and Church teachings meaningfully to our families but also at finding Gospel answers to the specific concerns and challenges we face right now. It is one thing to start with an ancient scripture or a 150-year-old sentence from a Pioneer Apostle and say “Apply this to your life today.” It is something else again, and often more immediately useful, to say “Here is a situation you are in or a problem you have today—and what spiritual guidance or principle can we apply to it right now?”
Let me say a little about the Home Centered paradigm from the perspective of a mother of small children.
The Church has strongly emphasized personal revelation and reiterated that there is not one right or wrong way to approach this new mandate. As a culture though, many of us have had a tough time not falling back into old ruts, ruts of just following a manual or copying others. We’re going to have to work to avoid the inclination to frantically act on every good idea that we see others doing, or that pops into our brain or up on the internet. We need to rely more than ever on Family Revelation—on God’s whisperings in our ears. He will let us know when to simplify and when to do more, when to ask and when to answer, when to stop and listen. Through the Spirit He will help us recognize teaching moments in the mayhem of family life and show us how and when to create pauses where we can feel and identify the spirit with our children. If we carve out a little quiet, God will whisper to us what our family and children need and how the weekly gospel topics can be applied to these needs and bring us, in very real and relevant ways, closer to the Savior and to the joy and peace he promises.
To this end, my husband Jeff and I are less interested in asking God how we can teach our children the principles in the lesson for the week. Rather, we are diligently asking to know how to use the tools of the manual and the scriptures to make progress against the pressing, immediate challenges in our family.
How can we use these principles to help our ten-year-old Emmeline manage her rage? How can these stories help our thirteen year old Charlie be more aware of those around him? How can this teaching help our fifteen year old daughter Hazel to create healthier thought patterns or to help seven year old Peter get ready for his baptism? How can this doctrine help us manage all the back-seat fighting in our car? How can we model the relevance of these teachings in a modern world? How can these truths help us to dig a deeper well within?
“In other words, instead of starting with a scripture or a weekly lesson and looking for where and how to apply it, we want to start with a recognized family concern or need and look for scriptures or lesson principles that apply to them.
We are trying to consider questions such as:
What are our children struggling with this week?
What belligerent attitudes or feelings of entitlement are causing our kids to act out?
What bad habits do we need help in changing?
What thought or behavior patterns are damaging to our mental health?
What negative patterns are undermining our marriage?
What are the principles in this chapter that speak to us?
Why are they relevant in our lives?
How can they help us draw closer to Christ?
An Arrow that points both ways and Family Attitudes that go both up and down
We particularly love Saydi’s idea here about starting with the problems you are having in your family right now. Then as you study, answers may very well appear. This is the idea of “liken the scriptures” with the arrow going the other way. Instead of reading a scripture and trying to find a way to liken it to what you are worried about or are inspired by, think first of a problem that you are having with a child or with a spouse. Then as you read the scriptures you are likely to find inspiration almost popping off the page as you see how what you are reading can apply to your worry or problem.
Like most of us I’m afraid, I always start off with a multitude of ideas, and then, gradually, reality sets in and I try to scale back to levels we can sustain. Here are some journal entries from back when the two hour block began and we were trying to do the third hour in our home: few weeks into the new system:
Our family 3rd hour didn’t go as well as it did last week, probably because I was in charge and wasn’t prepared, and boy is it hard to wing it when kids are constantly either interrupting, making weird humming or drumming noises, raising their hands frantically, getting up and down for food etc. I need to bring my A-game instead of trying to wing it from now on. And we need to whip these kids into better learning/listening form.
Then a week or two later, things were looking up again:
I love the two hour block! I loved the time change and having a more lazy morning last Sunday with the heavy snow sheeting down. I loved having time to prep for our own family third hour in the quiet morning.
Church felt just the right length to me and I wondered why we didn’t move to this schedule sooner. Afterwards we all went home and went straight into our own third hour. The kids were surprisingly attentive and Hazel was very into “being in charge of her own learning.” It made me think that we need to make sure they all feel that responsibility so that they really have ownership. We talked about how this new way of doing this was God’s way of helping us to make sure that the law is written in our hearts. When it is our hearts that are directing us, rather than an outside law, then we want to do the right thing. That is the goal. I think they really got it. I’m so excited about really taking this responsibility to learn together in our home seriously. When I told Charlie to go and get his scriptures, Hazel said “Don’t tell him that Mom, he needs to decide to get them himself—because he feels that he wants to.”
Charlie said such a nice prayer at dinner tonight. He sort of bore his testimony during the prayer that he knows that we have a real prophet and that personal revelation is real. It was sweet and so spirit filled. It was followed by a pretty delightful dinner conversation where the kids tried hard to tell stories without using the word “like” which made us all laugh hard.
Then a few days later during dinner, I realized that the scripture reading we had done had really gone to Hazel’s heart! We were talking about “annoying people” and Hazel said something like, “I used to think a lot of people were super annoying and I don’t anymore.” I asked her what made her change her mind and she just said that it was simply due to her reading the scriptures. I thought this was such a cool way that gospel can change us, lots of times not even through some means that seems connected.
We asked our other children for their thoughts on how they were trying to teach the Gospel in their home. Our daughter Charity who lives in London with her husband and two little boys wrote this when one was 2 and the other a small baby:
We had our first “Sunday lesson” and Moses (2) did a great job listening and participating. It was so fun! Then Ian and I studied together while Moses napped, and that was also awesome. Absolutely loving this new pattern for Sundays.
Our daughter Shawni and her family had this terrific idea. Instead of sitting in the living room to learn, they headed out to visit the earth:
For part of our post-church-family-meeting we took a walk around the neighborhood to check the different kinds of soil, my gardening tools in hand, Bo (their dog) was in Heaven running circles around us. We talked about the soft soil around our flowers as opposed to the harder soil around the neighborhood trees and as the girls dug to check on the softness at random places we talked about how we can soften our own hearts to make room for all the “seeds” we are given to sprout and grow. How can we make our hearts softer? How can we nurture the seeds? How can we let Christ in more?
We held a little focus group with some terrific moms with kids from three to eighteen about what they were learning as they attempted to teach the Gospel in their homes on Sunday: Here are some of their comments:
*Our children did not want to be told what to think. Our best way to engage was with questions.
* We start with our meeting by sharing the positive and negative things that happened during the week
* Food is important. Nothing is quite as enticing as warm muffins at the beginning of our gathering. The kids are so much happier to be there.
* Instead of a totally structured group lesson on Come Follow Me, what worked for us was to have the kids study whatever they wanted for half an hour. Then we joined together to share and ask questions.
*Our teenager who doesn’t want to hear about the church right now, agreed to meet with us for the last 15 minutes of our discussion. We kept it light and easy and he enjoyed it!
*Our children loved hearing the same passages in different versions and translations of the Bible.
*Our older children take turns preparing the lesson. Then they teach and ask questions of their younger siblings.
*We bought a manual for each child and put their names on them.
* Right away we realized that we had to tailor the lessons to our ADHA, emotionally charged young children. We had to keep their bodies moving with songs or exercise 60% of the time. Then we go with the lesson the last five minutes.
* We had to create games to keep their attention. Having them find key words or clues In the lesson worked well for us.
*I learned that our teenagers had an amazing moral compass.
* While the lesson is being taught, we have the younger kids draw the scripture of what we are talking about.
* With lots of young children, we found that the best way to keep their attention was to project the lesson on the TV screen as well as using primary videos and church Bible videos of what we are studying.
* One of our best ways to keep our kids calm is to invite an older neighbor or even a less active or someone not of our faith to join our discussion. Anything to change the chemistry from the usual bickering and sibling rivalry to the feeling of really learning together.
* Often there are things in the lesson that are better taught by being out in nature instead of sitting around the living room.
* We like to relate our discussion to current events.
* It is crucial to remember that home-centered learning is not about OBEDIENCE. It is about CONVERSION! We continually ask our children to share their feelings.
Empty Nesters and Grandparents
*We held another fascinating meeting with Empty Nest parents and discovered some unique ways to incorporate the Come Follow Me lessons, not only with each other but with their extended families.
*One family initiated an adult conference call with their children and their spouses which included one son-in-law who was not a member of the church. At the end of the discussion, that son-in-law said that he had found the discussion very interesting and hoped that they could have these conversations regularly.
*Another family discovered Marco Polo, which is an app that allows family members to stay in touch by recording short videos. At the touch of a button participants can record something at their leisure when they are doing something interesting or have a thought that they want to share with others.
*Still another family says teaching Come Follow Me has been a delightful way to stay in touch with family members with feelings of the spirit. Extended family members at home or half way around the world can send in their main take-away from the lesson in Come Follow Me that week, or just any thoughts they want to share. Not everyone responds all the time, but often what someone says sparks an idea that invites the sharing of opinions and feelings from others.
*Another couple spoke of how the focus on Christ allowed them to include less active and other-faith family members in their Come Follow Me discussions.
*One couple who have a calling in a singles ward, gather a group of those to
whom they minister on Sunday afternoons to discuss that week’s lesson together.
*Several Grandparents found themselves enjoying studying the gospel together in a focused way for the first time since they were young marrieds.
Finding our Own Way
One idea and practice that has actually held for us is to isolate one or two important truths to focus onfrom each week’s material (just a word or a phrase) and post them somewhere for all to see and consider during the week—something pretty simple to write on our chalkboard in our hallway or print out and put on our fridge or on the front door for all to see when they go in and out.
We’re also tried having our older kids memorize a very short scripture or phrase each week. We’re trying to keep it simple, and give them the ownership. We are encouraging them to find a phrase or thought that really speaks to them or to something they’re struggling with and repeat it to themselves as a mantra to stay on track through a difficult week.This has had a powerful effect on their thought patterns, brain connections and behaviors.
The bottom line is that we, each in our own way, grow into the opportunity and responsibility of teaching the Gospel in our homes. How we do it depends on our own unique family situations, and we grow into it in fits and starts—sometimes what we try works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but we all learn and grow from the trying, and we gradually see the fulfillment of the Lord’s challenge to make the Gospel Home Centered.
Home Centered: Getting Inspiration from what other Parents have tried
Even when we know that answers for our own families must come to us individually and be based on our own unique situations and our own personal faith and revelation, we still often need the stimulation of other families and their ideas to prompt our own revelation and the development of our own approaches.
So we are now going to list some ideas that have worked well for other families. The list is based on the most common concerns or worries of Church parents.
This article is not about “how-tos” or prescriptive advice or one-size-fits-all answers. Rather, what is listed here should be thought of only as examples and ideas—not ideas that you should copy or try to implement just as they are—rather that you should think of as a stimulus to your own creativity, or as a trigger to your own personal revelation about your family.
At the same time, there is no need to “rediscover the wheel,” so if you come to an idea or example that your own stewardship-discernment tells you would work for your family and your your children, accept it as one form of personal revelation, and begin to think about how to implement it.
Please use a particularly personal form of discernment as you read the following common concerns and possible solutions…and let your stewardship inspiration tell if they are right for your unique situation. When you come to an approach that you like and that your discernment verifies, delve deeply into it and tailor and alter it to fit your needs and your family.
Top Ten Concerns of Church Parents
Not long ago, a survey was conducted among Church parents and the results tabulated to yield the ten most worried-about challenges that parents face. The results (in no particular order) were:
- Entitlement (work ethic, motivation, initiative, gratitude, etc.)
- Technology, (Screen time, Social Media, On-line Bullying, etc.)
- Discipline (Family rules, respect, obedience)
- Teaching Values (Self-Discipline and development of Character and Testimony)
- Kids Identity and Resilience (Bouncing back from failures and disappointments)
- Bad choices, particularly about sex and substance abuse (anticipating and preventing problems)
- Family Communication (And Conflict Resolution and Sibling Rivalry.)
- Extended family (three generation families, involvement of and relationship with Grandparents)
- Commitment, Security and Family Traditions
- Depression (and Anxiety, Mental Wellness and Suicide)
We have used this list to organize this section. Under each of the top ten concerns, we will try to state the principles that parents are grappling with and then you will find one sample idea or example of how some parents have tried to teach those principles.
The “Church Supported” part of the formula comes in strongly here, as there are guides and manuals with ideas on each of these ten concerns. Think of the list below and the links that expands them as additional ideas and as examples that may prompt your own personal Family Revelation.
Most of these ten ideas will be best implemented and facilitated by a Family Council, so that everyone is on the same page:
Concern 1: Entitlement
Emphasis: Initiative, work, responsibility, gratitude, consequences.
- With material things, we often give our children more by giving them less
- Providing an in-home system of earning, saving, budgeting and giving money will foster initiative, responsibility and gratitude.
The Family Economy
Parents can set up a work and initiative-teaching family economy where kids earn money rather than get handouts. To work well, this kind of system can be much more successfully implemented by way of a Family Council, wherein certain responsibilities are given to each child. A pegboard or chart or a system on the computer is important so that kids can keep track of their daily tasks (not more than three or four). At the end of the week, instead of an “allowance” there is a “pay day” where kids receive an amount from the Family Bank that is directly proportional to the number of their responsibilities that they remembered and completed. After setting aside their tithing money, they then should take the ”buying responsibility” for the toys and gadgets and other things that they want; and should have part of their “earned money” to save in the family bank, which pays interest. For more explanation on setting up a family economy go to https://valuesparenting.com/the-happy-family/family-infrastructure/family-economy/
Concern 2: Technology, Screen time, Social Media, On-line Bullying
Emphasis: Recognizing good and bad, time management, self- regulation.
- In this electronic world, it is crucial for parents to counsel with their children about screen time, set limits, and to teach technology-discernment As a family, decisions should be made together concerning when and where screen time is appropriate so that children feel the importance of limits and buy in on self-imposed regulations as well as consequences for not following the guidelines.
- There should be no cyber secrecy within families. Parents should know all.
The Technology Contract
Families can set up a “Technology Contract” that is signed by parents and kids and that sets forth the principles and rules by which technology will be used in the home and allowed on devices. This contract can contain policies about when the household wifi is off and on, and about things like at what age a child can have a smart phone and guidelines about turning it in at night and what portion of the bill a child will pay.
Concern 3: Discipline
Emphasis: Importance of family rules, respect, obedience, security.
- Children get a lot of security as well as protection from a well-understood family legal system where there are clear rules with clear consequences.
- Children who help their parents create a list of simple family rules along with self-designated and agreed-on consequences will be more likely to obey them. Parents can be more matter-of-fact and consistent with pre-set rules than with ad hoc “discipline.”
The “Family Laws” chart
In a family council, perhaps over several sessions, and with lots of inputs from the children, a short list of family laws can be developed and listed with the consequences on a large chart. The more the kids are involved in deciding what the laws should be and what the consequence should be when each one is broken, the harder they will try to keep the laws and avoid the punishments. The simpler the laws are, and the fewer there are of them, the better. One family developed and discussed and agreed on five one-word laws, each with a simple consequence “Peace” “Respect” “Order” “Asking” and “Obedience.” For more on a family legal system, go to https://valuesparenting.com/the-happy-family/family-infrastructure/family-legal-system/.
Concern 4: Teaching Values
Emphasis: Self-Discipline and development of Integrity, Character and Testimony.
- Children do not learn values by osmosis; they need to be taught—one value at a time.
- Parents who concentrate on one value at a time will have better success than those who try to teach multiple values at the same time.
The value of the month program.
Most parents know that the best protection and the best legacy they can give their children is to teach them good values. Just how to do it is the problem.
A few years back we were privileged to write a book called Teaching Your Children Values which was published by Simon and Schuster. Oprah loved the book, and along with Donahue, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and Prime Time Live, she catapulted the book to #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list–the first parenting book in 50 years to top the list!
The thing Oprah liked, and the thing readers continue to like, is the simple format. It outlines 12 universal values that all parents want to teach their children and gives methods stories, and activities to teach it. But perhaps the most important thing it does is to suggest that families focus on one of the values each month. It’s this focus that makes each value effective!
The key is to focus on one value each month. For a list of the values we suggest and for ideas on how to implement this year long program go to the webpage. To explore the value of the month idea, go to https://valuesparenting.com/vp/value-of-the-month-excerpt/.
Concern 5: Kids’ Identity and Resilience
Emphasis: Family Narrative, Traditions, Rituals, Family and Personal Vision Statements.
- The more information children know about the lives of their grandparents and great grandparents as well as their own parents, the more resilient they will be and the greater sense of identity they will feel.
- Parents can translate “Ancestor stories” into kids’ language and they will become favorite bed-time stories. Stories from their parents’ own childhood are more important than we can know.
The Ancestor Story Book and Family Traditions and Rituals
This is a way of giving your children identity and resilience by teaching them more about the lives and stories of their grandparents and great-grandparents. Studies show that the more kids know about their ancestors, their genetics, their heritage, the more secure they feel and the more immune they are to peer pressure. Write down the stories you know, in age-appropriate language for your kids—put the stories in an “Ancestor Book” and let your kids illustrate the stories. These will become your children’s favorite bedtime stories!
Most families already have family traditions, but we can enshrine them more, put them on posters or calendars, and remember and anticipate them more. We can also re-evaluate our family rituals and modify them so that they teach values and reflect what we want our families to be. For example, we used to have a tradition on Thanksgiving of eating way too much and watching football all day. We met with the kids early one Thanksgiving morning and developed a new tradition that involved long paper rolls on which we made a long, numbered list of everything we could think of that we were grateful for—while we were waiting for the turkey to cook. We got up to 500 that first year, and we try to ‘break our record’ every Thanksgiving. For more on family traditions, see https://valuesparenting.com/the-happy-family/family-infrastructure/family-traditions/.
Concern 6: Bad Choices, particularly about sex and substance abuse
Emphasis: Early intervention with “The Big Talk”, age appropriate explanations of gender issues, and helping children make decisions in advance on this and other issues.
- Recreational sexual experimentation happens at younger and younger ages, and, coupled with growing exposure and addictions to pornography, makes this many children and youth’s most dangerous source of confusion.
- Parents in the Church and out do a better job of talking about drugs and violence and drinking than they do about sex; but each of these areas needs attention.
Decisions in Advance and The “Big Talk” about Sex
So many families have gone through much worry and grief because of a single bad decision that one of their children made. Kids get blindsided by peer pressure that they had not anticipated or prepared for. The best way to prevent this from happening is to work with young children (from about age 8 to 14) on making their own list of “Decisions in Advance.”
Set up a special page in their journal with that title at the top and ask the child what kind of decisions he can make right now, even though she has not faced them yet. Kids will come up with things like “I will never smoke” or “I will graduate from college” or “I won’t ride in a car with a driver who has been drinking.” Before letting the child write down any advance decision, do some role-playing where you imagine a situation a few years down the road where there is a lot of peer pressure regarding that choice. Ask the child exactly what he would say or do in that situation. When she has really thought it through, she can write it down and date it and sign it on her list of decisions in advance.
Having the “Big Talk” about Sex—preferably at the “age of accountability.”
When conducted in a positive and Gospel-centered way, open discussions about sex, chastity, and fidelity can not only prevent early and dangerous sexual experimentation and recreation, but can also help kids develop the positive attitudes toward intimacy that will one day improve their marriages. A whole dialogue for this talk can be found online at https://valuesparenting.com/vp/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-sex/
Concern 7: Family Communication and Conflict Resolution/Sibling Rivalry
Emphasis: Family meetings and councils, Eternal Families, Forgiveness, Empathy.
- Over commitment and social media have reduced family communication to all time lows.
- Emotional disagreements, power struggles and sibling rivalry not only make home life less pleasant, they often destroy long-term familial relationships.
The Repenting Bench and A Secret Code for Family Communication
How do I stop the fighting and bickering? The best method we’ve found is a designated place where kids are sent to resolve their own arguments, discover what they each did wrong, and apologize. This can help to replace sibling rivalry with sibling friendship. We call it “The Repenting Bench,” and you can find out more about it at the link mentioned above.
All parents know how important communication and discipline are within their family, but few seem to manage the clear, calm effectiveness they desire. You might consider a simple “secret code,” built around animal images that kids love, which corrects and reminds children of correct behavior without power struggles or arguments. Humpback Whales, for example, do not interrupt each other, and they sing pleasantly to one another—no yelling or anger. Crabs have an instinct to pull each other down so that if there are two crabs in a bucket, neither of them will ever get out. Unlike the crabs, we want to encourage and lift each other up, not pull someone down. Each animal represents, entertainingly and memorably, one of the key lessons we want to teach our children.
For the animal code images and specific instructions on how to use them go to https://valuesparenting.com/vp/nurturing/.
Concern 8: Extended family, three generation families involvement of and relationship with Grandparents
Emphasis: Three generation families, heritage, traditions and rituals, family identity.
- There is greater opportunity as well as greater need today for parents and grandparents to team up in the raising of children.
- Parents have the stewardship for their children, but grandparents can be a valuable resource and support.
The Family Executive Management Meeting and Ancestor Stories
You are the top management team of your family, and if you can add grandparents and other concerned family members to that team, it will be stronger and more efficient.
Nothing can make you children feel closer to their ancestors than the inspirational stories of their grandparents. When they hear stories of their stories of courage and grit and faith, it will give children strength and resilience during their own hard times.
Concern 9: Commitment, Security, and Family Traditions and Rituals
Emphasis: Eternal Frame of Reference, power of commitment.
- Good marriage relationships almost always spawn better parenting, but the reverse is not as consistently true. Thus, the marriage relationship should generally be an even higher priority than parenting.
- Traditions are the glue that holds families together.
Family Traditions Calendar and a Family Mission Statement
(An expansion of the Traditions overview in concern 5) If we want our family culture to be stronger than the peer culture, the internet culture, the celebrity culture and all the other cultures that swirl around our kids, we need fun and compelling family traditions. Most families have traditions—the trick is to refine them and anticipate them and emphasize them more than ever before. One good way to do this is to make a family traditions book or calendar and let the children illustrate it.
Companies often have vision statements or mission statements that employees have helped craft—stating the overall goal and purpose of the organization. It develops unity and ownership in the goals. Families can do the same. Start with listing the words that describe “how we want our family to be.”
We started with a list of the words that we hoped would one day describe our family, then we winnowed it down to a descriptive paragraph, and finally down to a three-word mantra that everyone felt good about and bought into. The words were “Broaden and Contribute” and a couple of years later our children gave it to us one Christmas as a beautifully framed calligraphy and gold leaf plaque that hangs in our family room to this day. It has brought us together and influenced each of us in our choices and our ambitions.)
Concern 10: Depressions, Anxiety, Mental Wellness (suicide)
Emphasis: With God, “nothing is impossible.”
- Parenting and Family responsibility can be the most joy-giving experience of life, but can also contain periods of severe stress and depression.
- Mental and spiritual help needs to be available via ministering and elastically but also via psychological counseling and therapy.
Five Facet Review and One Parent, One Child “Dates”
How do I nip my kids’ problems in the bud and recognize their gifts in time to cultivate them?
Try having a “Five Facet Review” once a month where you sit down as a couple and go through the five aspects of each child. “How is Tommy doing physically? How is he doing mentally? Emotionally? Socially? and spiritually? Analyze and brainstorm together about each of the five. Take notes. Formulate some need-meeting goals for the month ahead. Make it fun, go out to a restaurant on a date and confine your agenda to your kids!
If you are a single parent, do it with a grandparent or someone else who knows recognize oncoming problems before they are too hard to solve, and can help you notice the gifts and aptitudes of your kids in time to cultivate and develop them.
The most important and consequential parenting is one-on-one, one parent with one child, and Mommy dates and Daddy dates are an awesome way to be sure this kind of individual attention happens regularly (and they’re also great fun!). The basic idea, of course, is to give a child your full attention and focus during a little outing that could range from a special evening together to picking him/her up from school to go to lunch together.
Thanks for joining us again this week in our ongoing discussion of Family Revelation and Keeping our Door OPEN. Next week we will continue to explore this powerful subject, starting with additional implementation ideas about marriage and parenting that may help stimulate the questions you will ask in your pursuit for the specific Family Revelation that will help you with the unique stewardship of YOUR family.