1.19.2014

Sunday thoughts...Good Parenting

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“Bring up your children in light and truth.”...
To me, there is no more important human effort. 
 Being a father or a mother is not only a great challenge, it is a divine calling."
---James E. Faust

Like many parents...I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that there are those harder days when I feel like a complete failure in this job of raising kids.  Days where after I've put the kiddos to bed and finally lay my head down on my pillow ---and despite the fact that I'm completely exhausted-- I can't seem to turn my mind off and fall asleep.  Instead, I find myself replaying the in's and out's of my day with the kids--- stressing about how I could have handled things better.  I often worry if I'm doing enough to meet my children's temporal and spiritual needs--- if I could have been more patient...more attentive...more willing to give of myself...more tender when they needed me to be....yada...yada.... the list goes on. 

Unfortunately, as we all know--- there is no specific training manual for this job.  As parents, we try and navigate our way the best we can day by day...moment by moment...and praying at every turn for help and guidance.  Every child is different and they each have their own unique personalities and challenges---which makes it all the more difficult to parent in the home.

The other day I stumbled onto this great talk given by James E. Faust back in 1990 entitled, The Greatest Challenge in the World: Good Parenting.   I want to share a few gems from his message that hit home for me as a mom ....
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The Lord has directed, “Bring up your children in light and truth.” (D&C 93:40.) To me, there is no more important human effort. Being a father or a mother is not only a great challenge, it is a divine calling. It is an effort requiring consecration. President David O. McKay stated that being parents is “the greatest trust that has been given to human beings.” (The Responsibility of Parents to Their Children, pamphlet, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, n.d., p. 1.)

While few human challenges are greater than that of being good parents, few opportunities offer greater potential for joy. Surely no more important work is to be done in this world than preparing our children to be God-fearing, happy, honorable, and productive.  In my opinion, the teaching, rearing, and training of children requires more intelligence, intuitive understanding, humility, strength, wisdom, spirituality, perseverance, and hard work than any other challenge we might have in life.

This is especially so when moral foundations of honor and decency are eroding around us. To have successful homes, values must be taught, and there must be rules, there must be standards, and there must be absolutes. Many societies give parents very little support in teaching and honoring moral values. A number of cultures are becoming essentially valueless, and many of the younger people in those societies are becoming moral cynics.

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As societies as a whole have decayed and lost their moral identity and so many homes are broken, the best hope is to turn greater attention and effort to the teaching of the next generation—our children. In order to do this, we must first reinforce the primary teachers of children. Chief among these are the parents and other family members, and the best environment should be in the home.

Somehow, some way, we must try harder to make our homes stronger so that they will stand as sanctuaries against the unwholesome, pervasive moral dry rot around us. Harmony, happiness, peace, and love in the home can help give children the required inner strength to cope with life’s challenges.

To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children. As a consequence of this sacrifice, conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior Himself.

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One of the most difficult parental challenges is to appropriately discipline children. Child rearing is so individualistic. Every child is different and unique. What works with one may not work with another. I do not know who is wise enough to say what discipline is too harsh or what is too lenient except the parents of the children themselves, who love them most. It is a matter of prayerful discernment for the parents. Certainly the overarching and undergirding principle is that the discipline of children must be motivated more by love than by punishment.

Direction and discipline are, however, certainly an indispensable part of child rearing. If parents do not discipline their children, then the public will discipline them in a way the parents do not like. Without discipline, children will not respect either the rules of the home or of society. A principal purpose for discipline is to teach obedience. 

David O. McKay stated, “Parents who fail to teach obedience to their children, if [their] homes do not develop obedience society will demand it and get it. It is therefore better for the home, with its kindliness, sympathy and understanding to train the child in obedience rather than callously to leave him to the brutal and unsympathetic discipline that society will impose if the home has not already fulfilled its obligation.” (The Responsibility of Parents to Their Children, p. 3.)

There is often a special challenge for those parents who are affluent or overly indulgent. In a sense, some children in those circumstances hold their parents hostage by withholding their support of parental rules unless the parents acquiesce to the children’s demands. Elder Neal A. Maxwell has said, “Those who do too much for their children will soon find they can do nothing with their children. So many children have been so much done for they are almost done in.” (Ensign, May 1975, p. 101.) It seems to be human nature that we do not fully appreciate material things we have not ourselves earned. it.” (Alma 56:47–48.)

What seems to help cement parental teachings and values in place in children’s lives is a firm belief in Deity. When this belief becomes part of their very souls, they have inner strength. So, of all that is important to be taught, what should parents teach? The scriptures tell us that parents are to teach their children “faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost,” and “the doctrine of repentance.” (D&C 68:25.)

These truths must be taught in the home. They cannot be taught in the public schools, nor will they be fostered by the government or by society. Of course, Church programs can help, but the most effective teaching takes place in the home. Parental teaching moments need not be big or dramatic or powerful. We learn this from the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.

And so it is with being parents. The little things are the big things sewn into the family tapestry by a thousand threads of love, faith, discipline, sacrifice, patience, and work.

--James E. Faust, The Greatest Challenge in the World: Good Parenting, 1990.

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So much of what Elder Faust shares in this message resonates in my heart as a mother.  His counsel and advice (even though it was shared over 25 years ago) is so pertinent to this day and age and the challenges we are faced with as we try to raise our children in an uncertain world.

I'm truly thankful for this season of my life as a full-time wife, mother, and parent...as challenging as some days may be--and as ill-equipped as I some times may feel at this job---I am learning and growing every day.  I know that every moment that I spend with my children truly matters---every conversation and experience we share together is a teaching moment that will ultimately shape and mold their little spirits.  The Lord (and their birthmothers) have entrusted us with them and I don't want to let Him -or- them down.  How thankful I am for my beautiful children...for loving me so tenderly--trusting in me wholeheartedly as their mom--- and reminding me each and every day what is most important in this world.  For there is no question....nothing brings me greater joy, peace and contentment in this world than being a mother. 

xo,
Jennifer

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