Before I begin, I want to make perfectly clear that nothing I’m sharing is intended to take anything at all away from being a woman and mother. That said, my comments are focused in large part on men and fathers but the counsel is generally be applicable to all.
“Fathering is not something perfect men do, but something that perfects the man.” –Frank Pittman
An acknowledgement; we all feel insecure, we all feel not good enough, we all feel like everyone else has it together better than us. We feel overweight, under appreciated, overworked and misunderstood. We all disingenuously represent ourselves to our families, coworkers and peers so as to make everyone think we’re doing just fine; that we don’t need any help because we’ve got it all covered. We all cheat the rules from time to time; none of us are perfect.
Taking all that into account, we are then instructed by the Lord to teach our children in the way that they should go. Are these things really what we want to teach them? I figure our parents taught us, their parents taught them, and so on. We say that we want our children to be genuine and open and honest and true with us but is that really what they see in us? In our family councils, when times are hard, have we openly talked about where the next meal is coming from, how we’re going to put gas in the car or pay the rent? Do our children actually know of our struggles; our worries? Do these things really need to be secrets?
I’m not in any way saying that we need to have a unloading session with our kids but, good or bad, we are who we are today as a result of the things we learned and experienced yesterday and are experiencing now. How we deal with day-to-day issues and crises matters to us, our families and, most importantly, to our kids. If those experiences and lessons are not shared in an appropriate way then are we really teaching them the way they should go? Kids learn to see through smoke screens and lip service. They ultimately do the same things we do, taking each day at a time, learning as they go. My proposal to you is that we become fellow travelers vice only tour guides. They bring their own lifetimes worth of experiences; experiences that include those they brought with them into this world and, as a result, they sometimes have a completely different viewpoint than we do. We can learn from them.
As part of their development, children most certainly need rules, they need to know what the boundaries are and what the consequences may be if they don’t abide by those limits. They need to understand the limits and that understanding has to change as they age and mature. That understanding is different for each and every child. Without doubt, it will be different than it was for us. They are not us.
“My father didn’t tell me how to live. He lived and let me watch him do it.” –Clarence Budington Kelland
We don’t need to try and protect our kids from each and every unique experience. They are going to walk a path that will ultimately make them who they are to be despite our best efforts at choreography. They are going to sometimes make mistakes, fail and feel bad. Many times their decisions will result in good things. We should educate them sufficiently through our own example so that they know how to make their own decisions, good or bad, and deal with the consequences. We need to help them to recognize long term happiness over that which is fleeting. There isn’t any magical method to determine what these unique experiences may be or when they will occur which is why we need to faithfully go to the Lord and ask his help in raising them.
As parents, we are essentially required to learn on the fly when we need to be more heavily involved. Our children must be taught how to be responsible for their own actions. How and when we teach these concepts varies with each child. I’m grateful I didn’t have to figure this all out on my own but, on far too many occasions, I admittedly tried.
As a child, I feel was fairly free to make my own decisions. It worked for me. That approach may not have worked as well for my younger sister but, even though she required a stronger hand and led a rougher life in some ways, she turned out to be an incredible person, an incredible Mom, with an awesome family.
“Every father should remember one day his son will follow his example, not his advice.” –Charles Kettering
Based on how my parents raised me, I’ve tried to allow my children to deal with the consequences of their own actions and then figure out when and how I needed to be involved. None of us walk the same path, our kids are not us and we will be significantly less successful as a parent if we try to make them us rather than caring for them individually as the Lord understands and individually cares for us.
The Lord treasures agency, we need to teach our children the value of agency. They need to know that their decisions matter and are essential to learning in this life and in achieving eternal life with our Father in Heaven. They need to understand that their actions are not taken in a vacuum and nearly always affect other people. They need to own their decisions and take responsibility when they impact others. We need to teach them to forgive quickly when the actions of others impact them.
It’s not important for our kids to be perfect angels at all times and in all places; it’s more important that they have a relationship with us and with their Father in Heaven. This needs to be a bond that can withstand the test of time and the trials of life. Through this relationship they should learn how to love and care for others. They should learn how to love and care for themselves. They need to know how to communicate with us and with their Father in Heaven.
Do we effectively teach our kids how to tell where they stand with their Father in Heaven? Do they know how to go to their Father in Heaven with an accounting of where they think they are? Do they feel confident He is there to assist them, individually? Will they trust the guidance they receive? Will they recognize it? Do we ourselves know this and do we believe it applies to us?
“The lone father is not a strong father. Fathering is a difficult and perilous journey and is done well with the help of other men.” –John L. Hart
No matter how you look at it; life, parenting, or the safety and security of our families; it’s a teaming effort. The home is the center of the team. We never really become experts and I certainly haven’t always succeeded at this. A lot of my kid’s support was provided by others because I wasn’t always in a position to provide it for one reason or another. Ministering, yesterday, today and tomorrow is about caring and love, is that what we offer to our children? Do we get so wrapped up in everything else that we shortchange our families?
Even with all the challenges they face in today’s world our kids do good things. We need to acknowledge those things. That said, we need to be careful and thoughtful with our accolades. Don’t get so twisted around applause that we cheapen our compliments. When we acknowledge an achievement it should matter, to them. Recognize our kids, not for what we “force” them to do but for the good they “choose” to do, make your praise matter. Focus on the good that resulted from their actions. They need to know that they are capable of achieving goodness through their own choices and decisions and not just through forced compliance.
“Children need models rather than critics.” –Joseph Joubert
We should never amplify our criticisms; a continued string of statements that indicate that they never do anything right simply pushes them away. Just because they don’t do things the way we do most certainly doesn’t mean that what they’ve done is wrong so don’t make them feel that way. We cannot criticize our children into obedience or understanding. If behavior needs correction, do it appropriately and then show love quickly. Through our tender guidance they should feel the tender mercies of the Lord.
If we want them to be genuine with us then we should be genuine with them and trust them. Trust them to make the right decisions. Trust them to accept and offer criticism that is fair and kindly delivered. Teach them their true value and show them their capacity for goodness and kindness.
We want them to be Christlike. We start with simple things like being nice, being good, being obedient and build from there. Tell them why things in their lives are the way they are. Be diligent in our own Gospel study and in our callings. Let them see it. Get them involved in it. Tell them, or better show them, that obedience doesn’t have to mean being boring and unimaginative.
Remember also that we can learn from them – really listen to their thoughts and concerns, consider it customer feedback or customer satisfaction. They need to know that what they have to say matters, don’t cheapen their feedback but instead try to understand it. Challenging, yes; but so very worth it in the long run.
The Lord is on our side, we are not alone in this parenting endeavor and we don’t have to try to figure it all out alone. Just like Him, we’ll have to learn to cope with disobedience and disappointment, so just get over it and deal. OUR kids will not be anymore perfect than HIS kids already are. He knows exactly what your dealing with as a parent.
Don’t be overbearing but earnestly strive to do your best, it will be good enough. Don’t get down because everything doesn’t go your way. Don’t lose faith when disaster happens. Never, ever think that you have been forsaken. Our Father in Heaven is and always will be ready and able to come to your aid – no different than what you would do for your children.
Never lose sight of what is was like to be a child, learning about your place in the world. No matter how hard life gets, no matter how weighty the decisions we have to make, and no matter how old we are, we cannot allow ourselves to forget that a stick can be a sword, a handkerchief can be a cape, and a blanket and some chairs can be a fort or even a castle.
There are miracles happening around us but we don’t always choose to see them. We get so busy “adulting” that we don’t always see the world around us as it actually is. Take time and allow yourself to see the miracles. Most of all, don’t blind your kids to the miracles and the amazing world in which we live. If you need a blessing, get one. If your stressed out, talk to someone. Need a good cry, let it flow. Even as fearless men, slayers of dragons, we must realize that we can’t be everything for everyone all the time.
Relationships matter when attempting to teach human beings—whether you’re a parent, teacher, boss, or friend. We need to have people we trust in this life. We need to trust our Father in Heaven. And we need to be of a proper character that people can trust us. In our quest we must be cognizant of our own condition; physical, emotional, mental and spiritual.
The author and molecular biologist John Medina explains that, quite literally, severe stress can cause damage in brain tissues most likely to help us succeed in life. As a result, it can ruin relationships and push us far, far away from our Eternal Father who does now, always will, and always has loved us beyond measure.
He states that depression is a really disruption of thought processes, including memory, language, reasoning, intelligence, and perception. One of its hallmarks may not be familiar unless you are or have been afflicted with depression – many people who feel depressed feel that there is no way out. They feel that life’s trials are permanent and that things will never get any better.
In contrast, Nephi states in 2 Nephi 26;
25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.
26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.
27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.
28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
No one was sent here to be alone and to fend for themselves. Dads, this means you too. Trust your wives, tell them what worries you. Trust your children, tell them why you worry about them. Whether you know it or not they worry about you when you’re struggling.
We are here together to work together as a team. We need to trust and be trustworthy. We need to love and be loved. We need to care. Our imperfections don’t matter. We need to be genuine with each other and walk along together, towards the brightest of futures, firm in the faith that our Lord and Savior has made our ultimate perfection possible.